I`ve noticed lately a fury of the civil society against the clergymen but what`s more terrible is that the Orthodox Christians do the same thing. It shocks me that almost nobody, neither clerics, nor laymen, has any reaction of defense or at least a direct approach of the matter. I know I will open a Pandora`s box but if no one else does it what`s to be done?
We see sometimes, unwillingly, some negative cases of priests and we don`t go into any details, because there are others who take so much care to do this. And it is automatically created the impression that we are lost as a Church, because `if the priests are the way they are, what to ask from a layman? The Church lost ground
Stop! Let us be realistic! And when I say realistic, I don`t mean to be like the ostrich, who buries his head in the earth, but to see the things as they are, meaning to assume what it is true and what cannot be contested but to see as well the other things from the shadows.
At a priestly conference – and the details have no importance here – a very nice priest held a speech and at this chapter he said that he had met someone who was very angry on the priests and who told him, the priests are so and so, these priests are sinful etc.
`Tell me, man, how many of these priests you are talking about do you know or have you heard?`
`Let`s count them.`
`Well, it`s that one who did that thing…that one who was in the news and so on and after six or seven he didn`t know any more. So there are very strong exaggerations.
No matter what would be reporting things at the total number of priests the percentage of those with real problems is insignificant
Many times they don`t take into account many aspects. We see the news as it is but we don`t know how the priest reached that situation. We know he has made a mistake but can we know the whole spiritual path which led him to do that thing?
We know that from a spiritual point of view the devil attacks the man gradually and many times he succeeds in making the man fall. But we don`t see neither the context, nor the stress, or the family problems, the temptations, the actions of the evil one which made him fall. But what`s more important we have no idea if after the fall he didn`t get back on his feet again. Didn`t it cross your mind the idea that maybe even the apparition in the media was the only way by which a priest could correct himself in a certain respect and God in His wisdom uses this situation for lifting his shepherd who has become a lost sheep?
Beside this aspect let us take into account that, no matter what, there is a good side of the matter when these unwanted things happen. Christ doesn`t He say that we are all a body, limbs one for another? (I Corinthians 12, 27)?
A healthy body when it becomes infected throws away the pus. For instance one who is sick of cancer has a hidden tumor and when this is found, many times it is already too late. Is it good so? The society punishes and eliminates the elements which are not in accordance with its rules for not being destroyed. The wound doesn`t have pus to kill the body only to cleanse it. Of course it hurts. It hurts us too when we see a member of the Church who doesn`t walk righteously especially if he is a priest since if you hurt your finger all your body suffers. So let us glorify God that things are the way they are.
In another order of ideas, how does it happen that some priests don`t behave like priests? It`s simple. At least when I was in the seminary there were some colleagues of mine who were there only because their parents wanted that. They didn`t like it but their parents wanted very much to see them priests and they may feel they are in the 7th sky when they have a child who becomes a priest. Some of them gave up when they entered the college others didn`t do that. They went there automatically not from the heart. If they graduated from a seminary, from a college of theology where else to go? And then of course they don`t fulfill the mission they assumed with all their heart.
Beware that the priests don`t grow up in trees ! You don`t make any nursery of priests in a sterile environment, you put only what`s good there and when they are ripe, you pick up the priests and send them to parishes
The priests grow up in normal families. They are born and educated as their mother and school educates them. So in the end the priests are what society is itself. Society gives the priests.
The way it is, this is how the priests are. Do you have a percentage of good people and there are others who are less good or worse? Then the same percentage is applied to the priests. If the society had had some more spiritually evolved men in other ages then the priests were that way too. Now in fact we are exactly as we see them, they are like us, they are some of us. They did not descend from heaven and they did not grow in trees.
Another decisive factor in creating the image and sometimes even the character of the priest is his wife. Even if you want an austere and modest life what do you do if your wife doesn`t share the same views with you? Now you all those who want to lapidate the priests what are you going to say now? Here it`s not a matter of saying simply Yes or No and nothing else. It`s a matter of family and the priest is one. The rest of the family members are common people. They may even go to divorce. Well, you may say that he chose her that way. But that`s false cause many times the people change in time. What to do when you want to buy a cheap car and she wants an expensive one when you don`t think it`s good to go on vacation to the fanciest restaurant and she wants that, even if with the price paid there means to make debts?
Many times the priest marry girls who later become doctors, judges, lawyers or I don`t know what else, with good salaries which allow them to afford an expensive life. Can you force your wife to live in an austere way only because you are a priest? But it`s not only about that. Why do we see only those who have money? I tell you that the media talk only about the exceptional cases. Why the press doesn`t speak about the multitude of priests who have a life of privations, the priests from the poor villages who are so many? I know personally a priest who has three children and who told me: `During the fast I eat only cheese and milk! I was dumbfounded. Then he added: this is all I have from people who gave me alms. I can`t afford to buy food for fasting.
How many people know that more than a half of the priests don`t have a house of their own, they live in the house of the parish which is temporary. Why nobody shows them on screen too?
And the press needs news and seeks the sensational. It is nothing sensational if a priest shelters in his house a mother with her children taken from the streets, if he helps I don`t know how many poor, if he convinced I don`t know how many young people not to suicide themselves, if he reconciled families who were about to divorce, if he gave meaning to the life of someone with his words, if he convinced someone to give up on alcohol or drugs… if this or that. It`s sensational only if he committed something wrong.
Our Savior says if the life of a man were only a day he would fall into sin even in that situation. Why having such pretenses from a priest? Have you heard anyone who says he is without sins?
Then many people have no idea about the emotional and psychical stress and temptations a priest has to face. I don`t want to seem childish in thinking but if we were to compare a situation from a battle field when it is more likely to be lost the fight by the adversary? When the commander or the general falls. At chess you can take as many pieces you want but when you take the queen it doesn`t matter anymore who took more pieces. In the same way the devil knows that his greatest victory is when a spiritual shepherd falls. The loss is enormous for the flock. That is why the temptations are huge for a priest. Not all of them resist in the same way, there are some who fall. Important is to get up again and we know that God waits for us till the last moment of our life.
Talking about temptations I will relate to you something very personal, very real which happened to me.
I was a newly ordained deacon at the Metropolitan from Iasi and I didn`t know how to do my ministry properly. When the Holy Liturgy ends usually the deacon is the one who consumes the Holy Eucharist left in the chalice after the believers have communed.
While eating the Holy Ones I had some terrible thoughts with many images and uncontrollable temptations, like a storm attacking my psychic. I was quite devastated and I hardly found the power to call my spiritual confessor, with my mind and soul disturbed. The problem is that when you get temptations to sins you committed with your mind or in deed this is from your fault, from your sinful inclinations you haven`t stopped yet but then there were things I had never had in my mind, thoughts which had never had echo in me.
My confessor comforted me and told me: `These are the sins of the persons you mentioned and for whom you prayed at the Holy Liturgy. These persons are symbolically found in the pieces you consume beside the Flesh and Blood of Christ. For those who don`t know these are the crumbles of bread which during the Holy Liturgy are taken out from the prosphoron for those mentioned on that day at the holy service. They don`t compose and are not transformed into the Body of Christ, only represent us and those who are mentioned for being forgiven their sins by washing them with the Blood of Christ.
Thus I became aware that although Christ forgives the sins because the priest is co working with Him at the salvation of the man, He many times gives him to drink from the cup of pain of the cross of that man or those men Christ helps by His intercession as a priest.
That`s why we should not judge the priests. It`s easy to be a bystander and throw with the stone. I was in both situations, meaning that I was once a layman and now I am a priest. And now it is much more complicated.
Another example with which I`d like to end, although there are many things to say: at confession many times it happens to me to feel a stone in my back, a kind of claw which presses me psychically and even physically sometimes. When I get up it remains as a burden. Although other times I speak with the people for hours and this doesn`t happen. But when I listen to their confession it does. This goes away only at the Holy Liturgy after I commune.
Other times I get up after the confession feeling the temptation faced by other people since you hear them and can`t ignore them and I tell you it`s not easy at all. The priest sometimes practically carries the burden of sins of the people. And sometimes he even falls. Let us not judge him! Let us pray for him!
priest Mihai Marian Macuc
Article taken from the portal ortodoxiatinerilor.ro