The invisible Corona virus has made many things visible; rather it has exposed many things. It is helping people to open their eyes to new realities. It is slowly sinking in that many things they held close to their heart are subject to change; it is dawning upon them that they had only a blurred vision of things that are core to human existence. Every section of society is under the spell of this realization. This issue of Indian Currents focusses on what should be the impact of this realization in Priests. To start with, they can take a leaf out of the book of Ezekiel chapter 34 which succinctly puts it: “The Sovereign Lord says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally.”
Presently, most churches remain closed. Sacraments are not being administered as it used to be. The Covid has changed priests’ priorities and convinced them that there is life outside the ‘church’ and they cannot turn a blind eye to it. A return to the life of Jesus, who spent more time among the people rather than in temples, is the call of the time. A heart throbbing with compassion towards the suffering flocks is the need of the hour. But all is not well in the life of priests as is evident from the misdemeanors reported from various corners. A few things need unadulterated attention of the hierarchy – a relook at the protracted training imparted in seminaries and formation houses; a review and monitoring of the life of priests at their work places; and heed to the feedback from the ground and act upon it.
A two-minute video going viral these days can sum up what should be the attitude of a shepherd to the flock. A small insect is seen carrying a much bigger dead insect which belongs to a different species. After a few seconds of scrambling and crawling along the way, we see the former digging a hole in the ground, depositing the latter in it and covering the mouth of the ‘grave’ with sand. What a touching scene of a brotherly act in the midst of human beings, including a priest, refusing to attend the burial of their own fellow human beings.
Annual retreats and daily meditations will be like a line drawn on water if priests fail to humbly accept their brethren and help them out. There seems to be a misconception on priests’ mission. In many cases, it is limited to institutionalism; conducting rituals and festivals; and a craze and race for constructing huge places of worship. Making matters worse, there is lack of transparency and accountability in what they do. Covid seems to have given the Church (read priests) an opportunity to reorient priorities. Many in the hierarchy including bishops, priests and religious, have been in the forefront of reaching out to the people during these troubled times. While holding the needs of the world in the heart, it is equally important to give a thought to contemplative life, a life lived in silence, introspection and prayer. It is here the real spark of priestly life emerges.
(Published on 22nd June 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 26)