At the end of Mass this past Saturday our pastor announced that a priest recently assigned to our parish was placed on administrative leave due to theft of tuition payments in our parish. And just like I do whenever I need to sort out something, I write ...
A few months ago a new priest was assigned to our parish, and the first time our family met him was during confession one Saturday evening before Mass. As a family, receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation is something we do periodically; it is said that confession is good for the soul, but it also does wonders for the family. When we are out of sorts with each other, or going through a period in which the hectic pace of our schedules interferes with basic kindnesses in the home, a good confession puts us right with God, and with each other.That evening, as we sat in line waiting our turn, I was in a bad place. Our oldest was about to leave for college, and I was having conflicting emotions about him going away. In recent weeks he had been moody and taciturn; the same son who would come up behind me and give me a hug, now spoke to us only when necessary. What was going on? Why was he being so difficult? Would he take away to college all the lessons on faith my husband and I tried to instill in him, or would he forget it all? I was also angry with him -- and by him I lumped together my son, God, and even (for no reason whatsoever) my husband. In short, I felt flawed! I made so many mistakes! I could have been so much better!
I entered that confessional a complete and total mess.And I presented all this to our new priest. Because I was mindful of others waiting in line, I didn’t go into great detail, but he amazingly sorted through my emotions and went straight to the heart of the matter. His words swept away all the clutter until I could see clearly again. He gave me a suggestion, he said a prayer.
When I finished, I knelt in prayer in the church and, after a few minutes, my husband came out of the confessional and knelt beside me, followed by son #1, then son #2, and finally son #3. We all were filled with grace that evening.
My point in telling this story is this: As I was sitting in the stunned silence of the church this past Saturday night, I again found myself sorting through emotions. Betrayal? Yes. Disappointment? Most certainly. Sorrow? Definitely. There were some tears. But I also knew that I could not and would not judge him. Nor would I summarily dismiss him as a bad person. There are so many levels of guilt and culpability, and add to that the fact that life is complicated -- that humans are complicated – there is just no way we will ever be able to understand it all while we are on this earth.Sometimes good people do bad things. I’m not talking about the kind of evil that festers and burrows deep into the soul, or the kind that smiles to the world during the day and then does terrible harm in the darkness of the night. No, what I am I’m talking about is when good people stray.
Am I condoning what this priest did? Absolutely not. Am I defending him? No. What he did was wrong. But I am choosing not to be judgmental. I don’t know his story and I don’t know why he did what he did. The only thing I do know is one Saturday evening he was the instrument of grace for my entire family and, for now, I’ll hold on to that goodness.Because it was there.