Thank You, Holy Father Francis
As the end of this precious Year of Mercy drew to a close, we older priests, many of whom have spent more than forty years working in the vineyard, decided to express our deep sense of gratitude for the insight you have given us in our twilight years.
Even though we worked without any lay help: no Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, no Readers, no lay people to take Holy Communion to the hospitals and Nursing Homes, no deacons, no parish councils, no liturgy committees – in fact, no one but our poor selves, we worked often until we dropped, but we do see now, it was all meaningless. You, dear Holy Father, have made clear to us now the reason for this: We did not have any mercy. We humbly ask pardon for our lives; thank heavens the priests who come after us won’t make the same mistakes we did.
You see the problem was, Mercy, as such, was unknown in the priesthood, until you enlightened us. We, foolish blind guides, just worked and worked, unheralded, largely unknown, suffered unknown, had no female or male partners to comfort us, and thought we were following Christ and living as He wanted. How stupid can you get? But then, at last, you came to the throne, Holy Father, and showed us how wrong we all were. You set us right! Thank Heavens for that!
We are so grateful to you. It means that when we faced as many as four or five long rows of people waiting for each and every session of Confessions, we obviously did it all wrongly. We counselled against sin as we thought that was a work of mercy. Again, wrong! You have shown us that we must not judge in any way. We thought we were being merciful, not judging, but you have made it clear how wrong we were. Please forgive us for our stupidity; we got all that wrong.
I think all of us always found the constantly interrupted sleep to do emergency calls to Hospitals and Nursing Homes when a person was dying, very difficult. So many of us usually had to be up bright and early for the first Mass of the day which usually had a very large crowd of workers trying to fit in an extra Mass before going off to work. Now, we see – through your enlightening teaching – that we were wrong. You have revealed to us, at last, that all that worrying about the Sacraments was, in reality, the opposite of mercy; it was really being judgemental. We obviously thought that the person was not in a fit state to stand at Judgement. Thank God, you have shown us we should have stayed in bed; we were obviously not motivated by mercy.
I suppose, in some sort of self-defence, we could say, we thought we were merciful, but it is true we did worry about sin a lot; we thought it was because we didn’t want our parishioners whom – I speak for all of us – we actually loved, and we didn’t want them to end up in Hell. (I beg your pardon, Holiness for mentioning that word; it offends people today, I do realise that now.) Again, Holiness, you have shown, even in relation to that ‘location’, how misguided we were, for you have made it clear that there is no real sin at all – except, perhaps, not believing in Christ whose words and teaching continue to evolve with time.
We thought – so naïve we were – that such a view was Lutheran and that it was wrong, but you have made it clear that they were right, not us. It makes sense, of course, when you think of it. They were called the Reformers, weren’t they? So they must be right.
We, in our dull, cruel, pitiless way, actually were so benighted as to think that anyone who didn’t live according to Christ’s words in their daily lives was in danger, but you have indicated that all that is necessary is to be ‘spiritual’ and ‘inclusive’. We, being so old now, find it hard to understand just what these terms actually mean. As there are practically no Christians practising their faith now, we ponder the meaning of these words as we shuffle along in our walking frames. The fact that we are trying to understand must mean, Holy Father, that we are not without some hope, doesn’t it? Please say it does!
We did pray a lot, Holy Father; prayed for our people, for all their problems, but that was obviously not a merciful thing to do either. We can only apologize for that; we knew no better. Please, Holiness, intercede for us at the Judgement for we have been badly misled. The fact that most of us have severe knee problems, and re-structured knees, as a result of our foolishness, is a fitting punishment for our wrong-doing. I see now it a judgement of God on us.
We prayed for our glorious Religious, too, but, strangely, they – the few that are left – turned against us, too. We must have been wrong about them as well. We praised those wonderful nuns who spent most of their lives in horrible places, even leper colonies, often contracting many tropical diseases themselves; I thought they were heroes but, judging from what Religious now say about all that previous work, obviously those old nuns and other Religious were wrong as well. We actually thought that the taking of the holy Religious Habit was a glimpses into the glory of Heaven but, through you, we have come to realise that Religious life itself is of no importance at all, unless it is teaching Marxism to the uninformed – in designer-label clothes and expensive coiffures.
All of us are so sorry, Holiness, it is too late for us to start again; you should have arrived earlier to lead us on the right path – we all, obviously, had no mercy at all and had no care for the outcast, the sick, the dying, the poor and the stranger. We were totally wrong in everything. We just want you to know that we have certainly listened to you intently; that is how we have discerned our terrible errors and want to publicise them so that the young ones won’t fall into the same errors as we did.
We also thought that our missionaries – priests, nuns and brothers – were the front-line troops in the war for souls but you have pointed out, very forcibly, that to proselytise is not an act of mercy; it is a SIN! Please, please forgive us, we didn’t know that! Francis Xavier should have been excommunicated, not canonised, the wicked man!
You have, rightly, I’m sure, railed against our lack of mercy in regard to the refugees, the migrants. Holiness, at one time, many of us did struggle desperately to learn some words of the language of the Italians, Greeks, Maltese, Germans, and all the rest, who came to our land. We wanted to do this so that we could speak a few phrases to make them feel welcome, but these refugees were mainly Catholic, so I don’t think that would count as mercy, would it?
It is true that we find Islam frightening, but we’ll try our best to change our attitude to that faith now, since you have assured us that it is a ‘Religion of Peace’, and you show your preference for Muslims even sharing your plane with them. That is so nice of you. I do hope the Middle Eastern Christians, as they flee from their homelands, appreciate your wonderful example – and try to imitate you.
Holiness, we want to mention money for a moment as we know you are constantly urging us to be like the poor. We, priests were really like the poor then, and received a mere pittance in salary in those, bad, terrible days, and it was very difficult to find the money for all the people who came to the door of the presbytery, but we did try, Holiness, we did try. We actually thought that that was an act of mercy; apparently, we were wrong again. It’s so difficult to know what is right or wrong isn’t it?
On a personal note again, I, personally, did try to fix up hundreds of legal papers, including marriages, for the poor Vietnamese who were rescued by Australia when South Vietnam was overrun by the Communists. The poor people came here to this country with no papers at all. I suppose, though, that didn’t count: I did not have any mercy towards these people; I was just being legalistic, trying to get them a marriage certificates so they could get employment and welfare! I will know better if the situation ever occurs again, Holiness, I promise you.
We, poor senile idiots, in our time, actually thought that abortion was a most terrible crime, and it was a good way of trying to prevent women from taking this course by pointing out that the Church regarded the crime as so grave, that it required a bishop to absolve the sin as it involved the killing of an innocent child. Thank Heavens, Holiness, you have made it clear that it’s not a serious crime at all and that any priest can now absolve it.
Similarly, with a priest soliciting sexual partners in the confessional; we thought that, too, was a fearful sin, but you again, have shown us the true path to Righteousness. Thank you again for this great insight, Holiness and forgive us our lack of compassion to these sex-starved priests. It is wonderful that any priest can now absolve from this sin now. I understand that it is only supposed to be one of the 1,000 Missionaries of Mercy who can absolve these special sins, but as no one has ever seen these priests, obviously, then, any priest can absolve the sins. Thank you for that; it is real mercy and a tremendous relief to the paedophiles.
We often, Holiness, I’ll tell you this truthfully, struggled desperately trying not to let slip – by the slightest hint – of what we heard in the Confessional, as we thought that was a most dreadful sin and a lack of mercy to the sinner, but now, you have relieved us of worrying about that. If we do blurt out a juicy bit of scandal, then we can now feel free not to worry about it; any priest can fix that up. That’s mercy to us and no mistake; I’m a little worried, Holiness as to whether it is mercy to the sinner though? You could make that clear to us during your press conference, on your next plane trip; we’d be very grateful.
Most of us are in our eighties now and can’t have much time left. I thought of that when I decided to write to you. You are such a busy man with a positive carousel of meetings with exotic religions. I thought I might fall off the twig before I relieved my conscience and expressed my gratitude to you for your inspired new insight into Christianity and our Catholic Faith itself.
I hope I have not offended you by mentioning the ‘Catholic’ Faith; I meant to be inclusive not divisive – I trust you, in your mercy, will pardon me for the slip. I am a very old man and we get quite silly when we get old, you know. You see, we oldies, once thought that the Catholic Faith was the greatest gift of mercy in the whole world. However, we now know we were completely wrong; you have made that so clear to us, Holy Father. For that, and all the other things you have done, we thank you… Please, Holy Father, have mercy on us.
Fr Senectutus (retired)
Father Senectutus was good enough to submit a few more of his articles, which will appear in the Print/E-edition of The Remnant over the next few months.