Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Not all that long ago the family house was sold. Nobody lived there anymore and the large Georgian Revival structure that became a century home this year did not lure any family members into buying and living in it. The house is not the family, selling it cannot take away your memories, but there is still a sense of loss to this day. In fact, I still dream about that house. At one time I toyed with the idea of buying it just to keep it in the family but I am glad I did not. I would have been broke and even more insanely busy than I am. It was the right thing to do to sell it.

My sister and I took a walk past it not too long ago. The front door was damaged, the lawn was not well tended and there was junk in the back yard. We knew we could never go down that street again. It is alright to wish that things were different. And it is Okay to be sad. And it is also good to accept that which is and move on for here was not an injustice, just an unfortunate happenstance.

I cannot imagine that this much different from people who will be experiencing parish closings soon. A lot of people. No, “Church” is not buildings. Closing a church cannot erase your memories. But it will be unsettling to be a stranger in place in which very intimate aspects of your life took place.

My home parish of Sacred Heart, the original building, was sold when I was still very young. It was a small but grand English Gothic structure. I was as comfortable there as I was in my bedroom. It was our building. And it hurt when it closed and we moved to the new structure down the street. I went back to visit it and had to ask strangers permission to look around.

It was only recently, now that day is actually coming and I have spoken with some priests who will have to face the prospect of the parish which they have served is closing that I have taken to heart what it is they must be going through. The parish at which they acted as “father” will be gone. The office in which they counseled will be closed. The home in which they lived will be sold. It is one thing to have a new assignment, it is another to have a new assignment because your previous assignment has been obliterated.

It is absolutely true that we cannot keep so many parishes up and running. We do not have the priests, we do not have the resources, and quite frankly in many cases we do not have the need. (I thank God that I am not the one making these decisions. No matter what is done – or not done – those men trying their hardest to make it go as best as possible will have people very angry with them no matter how honorable their intentions are.) And yes priests should have the apostolic spirit to pick up and move and do whatever kind of service that is expected of them (and they will for they are good men!) but they are also human and I imagine for many this will be very hard.

The diocese is already preparing to help in a special way these men who will have to face these difficult futures, but keep them in your prayers. They will need much spiritual help too. It may be understood intellectually that this was long in coming, but that does not always translate into a won heart. May their hearts be healed.

This was given to me by a parishioner. “Father Bruno’s PRAYER FOR PRIESTS” 1925

O almighty and eternal God, look upon the face of Your Christ, and for love of Him who is the eternal High-priest, have pity on your priests. Remember, O most compassionate God, that they are but weak and frail human beings. Stir up in them the grace of their vocation which in them by the imposition of the Bishop’s hands. Keep them close to You, lest the enemy prevail against them, so that they may never do anything in the slightest degree unworthy of their sublime vocation.

O Jesus, I pray You for Your faithful and fervent priests; for Your unfaithful and tepid priests; for You priests laboring at home or abroad in distant mission fields; for Your tempted priests; for Your lonely and desolate priests; for Your sick priests; for Your aged priests, for Your dying priests; for the souls of Your priests in purgatory.

But above all I commend to You the priests dearest to me: the priest who baptized me; the priest who absolved me from my sins; the priest at whose Masses I assisted and who have me Your Body and Blood in Holy Communion; the priest who taught and instructed me or helped me and encourage me; all the priest to whom I am indebted in any other way, particularly . . . O Jesus, keep them all close to Your heart, and bless them abundantly in time and in eternity. Amen


Adoro said...

Speaking of prayers for's Father Schnippel's birthday today. :-)

On church's heartbreaking just to hear about it. I'm a sentimental type (yes, shocking, I know), and if my parish closed, I would be very sad. Not angry...just sad and maybe a little bereft.


frival said...

I love that prayer, Father. Would that we all would pray it more often.

I've never been through a parish closing, thankfully. I have, however, had to watch as the church in which I was brought into the Church, in which I was married and in which both of my children were baptized be torn down. To drive by and see parking spaces where I once received the Eucharist is an odd feeling indeed. In this case, however, all I have to do is look a few hundred feet away and see the beautiful new church which replaced it. Still, no matter how beautiful the new church is it's not quite the same. Change is hard, but not always bad.

Anonymous said...


Good Lord, I'd never thought of it from the priests' point of view! I will, now.

I must admit that some words are better than others, like "clustering" instead of "closing." We had three parishes-in-one in RCIA a few years ago..Until then, tho', we were so cliquish (something the early Church was not!) that if we didn't attend St. Suchnsuch, we--a city of only 27,000--might not even know the priests' names over there! We invited all three parishes' priests to come and talk to the catechumens and candidates, and we held a Rite of Scrutinies at all 3 churches..hence, we also got to know fellow Catholics in town (or at least got to see them). Best of all, it was an even grander support base for the fledgling Catholics-to-be. Easter Vigil was always held at my church, tho'. (Sorry, that just slipped out.)

That pre-clustering wasn't painful, just awkward at first. It wasn't done from necessity, and yet, the reason is the same, isn't it? The Church is ever cradle, Table and hearth. A movable mom. We'll all be ok.

Anonymous said...

Oh gosh, Happy Birthday to Fr. Schnippel!!

MJ said...

The second and third paragraph of the prayer, starting with O Jesus, I have on a prayer card and have been saying everyday for quite a while.
I like Carol have never really thought about parish closings from the priest's point of view, only from the parishioners. I definitely have a different perspective now.
Thanks for the post,

Liz said...

thanks for posting the prayer for priests. it is wonderful!