I had been brought up in Catholic traditions, catechized by very good people – but for me God had been rather an idea than a person. I was about 18, when God became somebody close to me. There weren’t any special, extraordinary circumstances or happenings – rather a quite slow process of discovering new dimensions of the faith. My religious experience was developing and at some stage a new thought came to me: the thought of serving God and people as a priest. There was one thing that I certainly knew: I was not going to be a diocesan priest. A religious order was the only option. In my eyes diocesan priesthood seemed to be unattractive and spiritually poor. A priest in my home parish tried to convince me to be a secular priest. But much as he tried I was more and more convinced not to be a secular priest. Then I went to a city much bigger than my home town to continue my education. I joined a students’ group in the Cathedral, led by a diocesan priest. I came across several diocesan priests and a diocesan bishop. In their ministry I saw a completely different image of priesthood than I had experienced before. Surprisingly all of them respected my decision to be a monk. Finally I applied to the diocesan seminary and eventually, as you see, I became a diocesan priest.
This Sunday is called Good Shepherd Sunday and traditionally is a day of prayer for priests and vocations to priesthood. In the light of the present scandal about abuse even to think of encouraging men and women to sacrifice their lives as priests or nuns looks like recruitment to organized crime. That was my feeling when I saw that the scandalising behaviours were so widespread. I’ve been ashamed, devastated and helpless. But at the same time I know there is just one way for me to handle this: to do my best, to be a priest who speaks about God and his love more by acting well than by words.
In the course of history there have been some particularly dreadful moments of deep crisis. God always has answered by calling people who reformed and renewed the Church, like Saint Francis and Saint Dominic in thirteenth century or Saint Ignatius of Loyola in sixteenth century. Our times demand new saints, people called by God and responding to him generously. People who can clearly see and understand current problems, but instead of complaining and blaming, which achieves nothing, do their best to renew and reform their community: the Church.
Nowadays as a community of faith we are standing at the bank of the Red Sea. Behind us are people happy to take advantage of our current weakness. Today more than ever we need holy priests, nuns and lay leaders; leaders who will help us to cross the sea of immorality and to find new hope, coming from a pure and honest heart.