Friday, December 23, 2011
The Trust that Brings Me Joy
The other day, as I was standing in the back of church, a parishioner came up to me and handed me an envelope and she said, "Father, same thing as last year." And by this, she meant that she and her family have decided that instead of exchanging gifts this year, they would all make some donation to the needy. There are a few other individuals who do the same thing. They hand me some money and they say, "Father, please give this to somebody who needs it." Besides the joy that comes from witnessing the generosity of these individuals, this occurance brings me joy for another reason. It sheds light on the life of a priest and how the Faithful look at the priest.
Firstly, they simply trust me with their money. They hand over to me some gift and will never question what has happened to it. They could easily donate the money to an organization. Instead, they hand me money and trust that it will go to the poor. There is something beautiful about that trust.
Secondly, it brings me joy because these persons trust that the priest knows the flock entrusted to his care. He knows the needs of particular persons. They trust that the priest has such an intimate bond with his people, that he can easily identify who is need of assistance. (Unfortunately, we are all too aware of the great need that is out there). The Catholic people sense that the parish priest encounters the poor, the broken, and the needy on a regular basis. There is something beautiful about that.
Thirdly, it brings me joy to mediate this charity in the name of the Church. The recipients never know the givers and the givers never know of the recipients. It is all mediated through the priest. All the recipients ever know is that they were helped by "the Church."
Lastly, I realized that part of the joy of this process involves the fact that people know that the priest lives a life of guarding the secrets of others. What do I mean by that? I mean that the world will never know who those donors are. The only man who knows is me. And, I carry with me a knowledge of the great sorrows and needs of many souls. The Catholic Faithful understand that the priest knows more than what he speaks. Today, as I was sitting in the parking lot of a store, a young mother and her son got out of their car, waved with big smiles, and said "Hi Father Barnes." The little boy's face lighted up in awe. I think he was fascinated that he saw a priest someplace other than at the church or school. I smiled and waved back.
What they didn't know was that I was on the phone trying to contact a family whose situation is desperate and tragic. And yet, in some way, the Catholic people do know and love that much of what the parish priest does is hidden from the eyes of the world. And, even if he writes a blog, the blog never comes close to revealing the magnificent moments, encounters, and confidences that fill much of the priest's life. Catholics have Faith that God has placed the most important realities into the hands of priests. He has entrusted his Word, the Body and Blood, the Keys, and the flock into the hands of priests. This Faith enables Catholics to place into the hands of the priest their confidence. This trust should make all of us joyful.