Thursday, 11 July 2013



They don’t make them like that anymore –strict, no-nonsense priests who ‘tell it as it is.’ The one I have in mind would each month remind his country village congregation of eight different ways they could get themselves excommunicated from the Church. (I suspect that few of the present generation have a clue what excommunication is all about!)

No surprise, then, that this gruff cleric would advise priests of recent vintage that there’s no need to tell people about love. ‘They’ve had enough of that already. Tell them about the Last  Judgment!’

All the same, as a host he was a most considerate man. There was a time when the bishop visited his parish. After lavishly dining the Most Reverend Gentleman this pastor suggested it might well be time for him to sleep off his meal. Now, who told the parish cockerel to start crowing at that very moment?!!?

The poor bird did not live long to bewail its folly. “Off with its head,” bellowed our priest to his house-keeper, with all the authority of an eastern potentate.  Problem solved. The bishop slept soundlessly.

You might well conclude there's small chance of a priest’s life becoming boring. Let me tell you about the desperate  love-stricken young man who sent distress signals to this priest I’ve just been describing to you. 'Father, come to my rescue. . I'm going crazy. I'm in despair!'

This was an excellent fellow - handsome, talented, jovial, popular, the heart and soul of any gathering.  He could stand tall in any company, confident in the knowledge that the ladies were leaping fences to grab hold of him. Also he had a flashy car – I vital requirement of ‘him who would a wooing go!'

Already he had made his choice. The time had come when he longed to claim this adorable girl of his dreams as his own, not simply as a ‘steady date’ but as a partner for life.  In many ways, for many days, she had been signaling that she was well-satisfied with him.

And yet, such is ‘the mystery of love,' at the very moment he was about to lay bear his heart to her and plead his cause he’d lost his nerve, lost his voice. His whole being had collapsed into something resembling a wobbling jelly.

Who better, then, to be his advocate than the one man who had never been known to be at a loss for words; the one man who did not know what it was to be timid or shy; who better than this same most intimidating of priests? In the crazy world of sweet romance it was easier for him to ask, beg, this holy terror,  to speak to his lady-love on his behalf than for him to approach her himself.

Wouldn’t most of us think he was out of his mind to ask this rough-spoken priest to do for him the serenading and the wooing? My mind boggles at the thought of what words this crusty priest would have found, what cooing sounds he would have made, to persuade this ‘Princess’ that this young man was just the one for her?

What would his lady-love think of him for being too timid to speak for himself? Wouldn’t she despise him for this? Did he really expect the good Lord to work a miracle that would cause honeyed words to flow from this hard-as-rock ‘reverend?’  And yet, with God all things are possible.  Hadn’t He made honey  flow from the rock for the sake of His people in the desert?

I’m guessing our priest welcomed this outrageous challenge. Anyway, having groomed himself as befitted the occasion he went down on his knees and raised his hands to the heavens. He charmed  this bewildered girl into joyful submission as sweet words flowed from his most-times sour mouth.

And wasn’t she relieved! She had been agonizing about how much longer she would have to wait before her boy-friend ‘popped the question.’ Would she have to propose to him? At that moment she so much admired  her young man's resourcefulness in seeking the assistance of someone who had a ‘gift for words.’

With ecstatic joy she encircled  this proxy-suitor within her arms and placed a juicy kiss upon his cheek. A passer-by might have concluded that, wonder of wonders, this most off-putting of priests had somehow gained himself a wife!

Coward that I am, I’m leaving it to you to tease some spirituality out of this grand saga. I ask myself, ‘What does this say to my approaching the Lord of Lords in prayer? How do I stand in comparison to the ‘wooing ways’ of this priest?’

I dare not think what would have been the outcome if I’d had to assume  the priestly role in this drama?  Mywaygodsway?...No way!!! Please God!!!

Peter Clarke, O.P.

1 comment:

  1. Reminds me of the Communion of Saints. Catholics don't pray to saints like God. They're asking saints to intercede to God for them. Much like this suitor asked the good Father to intercede for him.