Last Sunday Janet and I had tears in my eyes as we watched a new priest celebrate Mass for the first time. He was one out of five priests ordained this year in our diocese and he is a member of our parish — Christ the King in Ann Arbor, MI. He gave much credit to two solid priests in love with Jesus and the Church who had influenced him years ago. One of them was the priest who received us into the Church 11 years ago – Fr. Ed Fride and the other a Londoner and good friend Fr. Pat Egan.
I sat and watched this new priest celebrate his first Mass full of joy and excitement — fulfilling his dream. He is solid, orthodox, and ready to serve the people of God. At the reception for his ordination we met a number of other young new priests. Some had booming voices; others had softer, more contemplative tones. Some were obvious theologians and others administrators. But what they all had in common was a love of God and the Catholic Church. You could see it in their eyes and sense it oozing from their pores – they were glowing. This was the real things and they knew it.
There are a lot of older priests who are terrified of these guys. They have worked their whole lives to “modernize” the Church – trying to make Her acceptable to feminists, liberals, and renegade liturgists. They have succeeded to some degree. But these new priests (and the newly evangelized lay people) will have none of this rebellion. They understand the Church, have rediscovered the Fathers and following John Paul II they understand celibacy, the theology of the body, and the firm resolve to obey and teach the truth. The Church is like a roller coaster zooming through the centuries. There are high points and low points. The Church is always reforming and always in need of reform. I am so thrilled to live in a point in history when we are on an upswing. The more problems in the Church, the more grace God pours out upon his people and these new priests are great gifts from God.
The new priests are ready to restore the local churches to their former beauty and obedience. They are ready to call the faithful to evangelism, holiness, and orthodoxy. They are ready to lay their lives down for the Lord and for Holy Mother Church. They love the liturgy as it is supposed to be celebrated. They remind me of a scene from one of my favorite movies: The Shawshank Redemption. Andy Dufresne had never given up hope while in prison. He finally escaped by crawling through a 500 yard-long sewer pipe. He says something like “I crawled through 500 yards of foul excrement and have come out clean.” Many of the seminarians have gone through seminaries less than faithful to the full teaching and practice of the Church. Many seminaries have been dominated by less than faithful modernists who have tried to create these seminarians in their dissenting image and yet they have come out clean. (Side note: there is hope here too since some seminaries are turning around and faithfully serving the Church – Sacred Heart in Detroit is a good example.)
But many new priests have gone through problem seminaries with dissident instructors but by the grace of God they have come out clean at the other end. Janet and I were witnesses to this blessed action of the Holy Spirit last weekend as we rejoiced in the faith and obedience of these new priests. I think our bishop likes them too. Bishop Mengeling is a convert and a good example of what a bishop should be. He is appointing them to important posts and giving them significant parishes. He is working from within to restore the Church.
I thank God for these young men and never fail to encourage them, hug them, and support them in every way I can. You too should welcome them with open arms and support them as they struggle — and they are struggling — to resist the old guard and restore your Church!