In his homily this morning, His Holiness Pope Francis spoke again about priests, this time highlighting the good that so many of them do:
“But, Father, I have read in a newspaper that a bishop has done such a thing, or a priest who has done this thing." Oh yes, I read it, too. Tell me, though: do the papers carry news of what great charity so many priests, so many priests in so many parishes of the city and the countryside, perform? Of the great work they do in carrying their people forward? No? This is not news. It is the same as always: a single falling tree makes more noise than a forest that grows. Today, thinking about this anointing of David, it will do us good to think of our brave, holy, good, faithful bishops and priests, and pray for them. We are here today thanks to them.Priests very often hear from people who are upset with them for any number of reasons, some of which are legitimate and some of which are not, but they do not often hear from those who are grateful the work they do, for a decision they have made, for a homily preached.
As Pope Francis reflects interiorly on the good of priests in so many parishes, it is a fitting time for us to think of the priests who have impacted us in a positive way, who, in the Holy Father's words, "have passed on the teaching of the faith, have given the sacraments: [in a word], holiness."
We would do well to take the words of the Holy Father to prayer. Is there a priest who has inspired and encouraged me to deeper holiness? Have I thanked him for his efforts and devoted service? If not, should I sit down this week and write a brief letter or note to him, thanking him for passing on the faith, for administering the sacraments, for fostering holiness.
Each of us enjoys reading grateful and uplifting letters; priests are no different.
While we're at it, it might be a good time to write a similar letter to someone else who has helped us to grow in holiness and to consider in prayer how we help others grow in holiness. We have to remember, as His Holiness Benedict XVI reminded us in his encyclical Spe Salvi:
Our lives are involved with one another, through innumerable interactions they are linked together. No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone. The lives of others continually spill over into mine: in what I think, say, do and achieve. And conversely, my life spills over into that of others: for better and for worse (48).