Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My Kind of Priest

Father Patrick McCarthy is a parish priest at Our Lady Queen of Peace in New Dorp on Staten Island. We started going to OLQP after the death of Father John Comiskey from St. Anne's, about whom I wrote in an earlier blog.  One of the first Masses we attended was celebrated by Father McCarthy  a young man of around 40 with thinning hair, a Van Dyke beard, and horn-rimmed glasses. He has a very distinctive way of speaking, one I found very difficult to understand. At first, Lord forgive me, I tended to tune him out because of this. I have since amended my disrespectful ways after listening to a number of his wonderful homilies. Now I strain to hear him.

Let me give you an example. In today's homily his subject was humility, which for me ranks right up there after charity as a highly desirable Christian trait. There's an appalling shortage of it in the world. Father spoke about when he trained as a seminarian in Europe, and how periodic fund raising dinners would be held to benefit the school. Usually a few well known types would be invited, presumably to raise the profile of the events and hopefully draw more people. Father McCarthy smiled shyly as he told us that his job for these affairs was to stand outside in the dark holding a lantern and to guide the cars of the arriving guests into the parking lot. He recalled that on one cold evening he was amusing himself by trying to guess the status of arriving invitees by the kind of car they drove.

On this particular evening, the seminary was expecting members of the Hapsburg family, Europe's most powerful royal family. They supplied the continent with a nearly uninterrupted stream of rulers for more than six hundred years. With only one exception, the Hapsburg family also ruled the Holy Roman Empire from 1438, when Albert II was elected, until 1806. Father McCarthy imagined that such dignitaries would surely arrive in an expensive luxury car "like a Maserati", after all, people of importance like the Hapsburgs surely would travel in an automobile that suited their exalted place in life. Much to his surprise (and delight) their party pulled up in a Chevy Malibu! "How democratic they must be" he thought.

He then tied up this little story with the observation that Jesus lived a life marked by humility. He repeatedly told those on whom he worked miracles not to tell anyone what had happened. He refused to rise to the bait when Pontius Pilate asked him if he was a king, and said instead that His kingdom was not of this world. I guess we would all like to roar through those pearly gates in a shiny red Maserati, but maybe we'd have a better chance in a Chevy Malibu. These are the simple but profound lessons I like to take away from attending Mass. I don't need to hear about sinners being punished on Judgement Day...I know I'm far from perfect and I'm working on it. Talk to me of hope and redemption, tell me  forgiveness is possible, even for the weak like me. 

If you look around at the congregation for a typical Mass, the average age I'd say is about 60. That does not bode well for the future. If the Catholic Church is to survive for another 2,000 years, it needs young people. More priests like Father McCarthy not only talking about humility, but living humbly, would be a good start toward bringing them in. 


Children's Craniofacial Association

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