The discussion in one of my previous posts reminded me of something I’ve wanted to mention for a while:
I cannot describe how much I appreciate our priests. Every time I see a Catholic priest I’m filled with a sense of hope and closeness to God. The concept of devoting one’s life to God, being open to that call and heeding it when it comes, forgoing marriage, kids and being in control of your own life, all for the sake of God, is so inspiring to me.
These guys don’t hedge their bets. They’re betting it all that God exists. Unlike most of the rest of us, if the Catholic Church has it wrong and God as they describe him does not exist, then they’ve sacrificed pretty much everything for nothing. Even though I’m sure many priests experience periods of doubt, they’re still living their entire lives for their faith.
This has always been stunning to me. I was pretty sheltered from Christian thought growing up so I didn’t realize until I was older than priests really couldn’t get married and really did live their whole lives for the Church. I was shocked. As a person completely immersed in secular society, I just couldn’t figure out what was going on. It was almost like…they really believed.
In all the years I spent badmouthing Christians, I would always shut up when the topic of Catholic priests came up. Even as an atheist, I admired their faith. It was like nothing I’d seen in the rest of society. I was intrigued and impressed.
I remember a few years ago, before my spiritual journey had really begun but when my heart had softened from loathing Christians to just having a vague dislike for them, I was having lunch by myself at a restaurant. It was a beautiful day and I was sitting out on a large tree-covered patio. I’d brought a magazine to look through but found myself annoyed with all the garbage in it. It was full of cynical diatribes, scantily clad women, glitzy ads for overpriced crap that nobody needed. I wondered how our society had spiraled this far down the toilet as I set it aside. I thought to myself that more and more it seemed to me that something is very wrong with our world and I didn’t like what I saw. I felt a vague aloneness, not just in the restaurant but in the world.
Just then I looked up to see a priest, also sitting by himself, at a table near me. As I looked at him, a strong feeling came over me to go talk to him. I wanted so much to run over to his table, pull up a chair and ask him why on earth he was devoting his life to this God business, what had convinced him? What made his faith so strong? If God is so obvious to an intelligent-looking man like himself, why can I not see him?
But, fearing looking foolish and possibly offending him, I remained in my seat. As I returned to my lunch tears stung my eyes a little bit as I thought, “Thank God for priests.”
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