One of the Fathers of the Holy Cross at Grotto recently said (paraphrased) that his job is to lead people to Christ, not to himself - a very simple, yet profound statement. He aims to bring people to God, then steps back quietly so as not to overshadow the One who matters most. It then becomes our job to allow him to fade, taking the lessons and principles he teaches us in order to discover that intimate bond with Our Lord. Pilots-in-training know that someday they will need to fly solo, but for those who believe, God is the ever present Co-Pilot.
When we manage to find a solid priest who knows just the right way to reach us - driving us to want to avoid sin and build virtue, it is difficult to let go. Perhaps this is the very reason why God gave us priests and it is why we call them "Father". It's not easy to let someone "in there" in the first place - to tinker with our ways and behaviors. When we finally find the humility to let them influence us, something happens - they are reassigned, they retire, or die right in the saddle.
I've had to ponder this because of the many fine priests we have working in, or through, Assumption Grotto. I pray for them all daily, along with the religious, and I thank God for their presence in our community. Along with asking God to give them strength and wisdom so they can move us closer to God is one that asks Him to protect them. It then becomes my job to trust that God knows what he is doing, even if externally, it seems like a bad thing. I also pray that the Lord helps me to remember that they are all instruments of God, to be played as He wants, not as we wish. The developmental needs of the priest, or the developmental needs of some other group of people who stand to be influenced by our beloved priests, are only known fully to God. Who are we to question His judgment, no matter how it looks? In the end it all serves God's plans in ways we may never understand.
Spinning off on what the Holy Cross Father said, we all need to reflect on whether we are so attached to any one priest that we take our eyes off the ball and forget Whom we truly seek when dealing with them. Our relationship with the priests should be aimed solely at discovering God and getting closer to Him.
Like many of the priests of Assumption Grotto, Fr. Altier has taught the faith, from the pulpit and the airwaves, in fullness and without sugar-coating. That is what we all loved about his talks and it will be missed while he is away. But, I'm with Fr. Zuhlsdorf in this regard - Fr. Altier has no control over the matter. It is truly in the hands of God. I'm convinced that someday, Fr. Altier will emerge from his work at the nursing home and will have so much more to teach others - be it in another parish, or back on the radio. In fact, he is teaching us right now by not putting up a protest and humbly accepting what God has sent him.
How about we do the same?
In a July 17, 2004 post at the blog, "The Inn at the End of the World" the Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne have something to teach us in this regard. Their death was surely a bad thing, but as we look back at history, they did not lose their heads in vain.
"Yet there must have been a growing public unease not evident in this letter.
Something in the sight of the nuns being executed seems to have affected even
the hardened Parisian crowd, accustomed to cheering loudly each fall of the
guillotine blade. Within ten days, by July 27, 1794, Robespierre and the
provisional revolutionary government were finished."
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