Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 13, 2004
A man for all seasons, reasons
Memories of the family priests of yesteryear prompt hope for today's men of God
A Missionary's Musings
By FR. JACQUES JOHNSON
When I was very young, my little brother had a dislocated elbow. The doctor was not accessible so my parents called on the priest. Low in medical knowledge but high in faith, he prayed for my brother and using the beaten white of eggs he wrapped the little arm in that substance with some cloth which acted perhaps as a sort of primitive cast. That was all that was needed as my young brother recovered without any further trouble.
Another time after we had moved into an old house in our village in northern Alberta my parents soon found out why the former tenants had been eager to sell: the house had been invaded by an army of cockroaches.
Faith in FlytoxOut of resources, my father invited the priest over. Mother put it plainly to him: "This house has been invaded by cockroaches and we don't know what to do. We want you to rid us of this pest otherwise we will have to leave." The priest prayed and asked God to deliver this home of the pest. He also suggested that they put a bit of Flytox around the chimney.
Mother had tried this primitive insecticide in vain but since the priest asked, she was quite willing to give Flytox another chance and so she gave the house the Flytox treatment one more time. The next day she saw two or three insects on the ceiling crawling toward the chimney and then disappear through the cracks. That was the last of them. We lived in that house many years with no more problems with insects.
In my family's experience, the priest has been many things. He acted as a counsellor, forgiver of sins, tender father, healer of relationships, sensitive go-between, a fellow man one can count on. While no doubt carrying his own burdens and limitations, through the love he carried in his heart, through the power of caring he was able to bring about relief, healing, comfort and hope. Through the Holy Spirit's power, he became a healer of soul, of mind and body.
We read in the Scriptures about the many and varied cures and miracles Jesus performed. "Jesus reached the shores of the Sea of Galilee and he went up into the hills. He sat there and large crowds came to him bringing the lame, the crippled, the blind, the dumb and many others. These they put down at his feet and he cured them. The crowd was astonished to see the dumb speaking, the cripples made whole again, the lame walking and the blind with their sight, and they praised the God of Israel" (Matthew 15:29-31).
Christ's healing power is still alive in the Church today. That blessed tradition has not died. "Jesus summoned his 12 disciples, and gave them authority over unclean spirits with the power to cast them out and to cure all kinds of diseases and sickness." (Matthew 10:8)
After Pentecost, the disciples felt empowered to heal the sick and deliver those obsessed by evil spirits. "The many miracles and signs worked through the apostles made a deep impression on everyone" (Acts 2:43).
Probably all priests have been instruments of God's compassion in the exercise of their ministry.
Healing of the soulMinisters of the sacraments of Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick, all priests have no doubt brought about great relief and meaningful healing to their people. We go to Confession and after receiving the absolution, we come out transformed and healed in our spirit and soul. "The sins that you forgive they are forgiven," Jesus promised. And they are!
The Church turned a major corner on the day of Pentecost, when the Apostles met in a room where "they heard a powerful wind from heaven. Something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them. They were filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech" (Acts 2:1-4).
Visions and dreamsThe events of the resurrection of Christ along with the release of the Holy Spirit into our world at Pentecost turned out to be the birth of the Church. Peter explained to the skeptics who thought the apostles to be drunk that an important prophecy by the prophet Joel had been fulfilled: "These men are not drunk, as you imagine. On the contrary, this is what the prophet spoke of: In the days to come - it is the Lord who speaks - I will pour out my Spirit on all humankind. Their sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. Even on my slaves, men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit" (Acts 2:15-17).
And so, through the ministry of the Church, and particularly that of the bishops and priests who celebrate the sacraments, God's people are born, fed, healed and renewed.
Not through the minister's own power or merit, but through the action of the Holy Spirit. In a real way, all baptized and confirmed people are called to share in the priestly ministry of the Church. And like the priests, in spite of their limitations, they too can become healers, powerful instruments of God's love and an important source of blessings for our world.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.