First a disclaimer: What follows is merely my opinion and reaction. Others will probably have opinions that vary greatly from my own.
A few days ago, I addressed my feelings on what I thought were inappropriate reactions in response to a man who announced he was leaving the priesthood. I did not, however, talk about how I personally felt. What with being an opinionated old lady, here are my thoughts on that.
My initial reaction was shock and sadness. The more I thought about it, however, that reaction changed to one of anger. Anger that so many priests experience all the things this man was but solder on, keeping true to their vows, knowing full well that these feelings were a normal part of being a priest. Anger that in this severe shortage of priests, we were losing yet another one which meant the ones remaining must pick up the additional burden.
I expressed these feelings to a priest. I said these men who were leaving should have known what they were getting into. They had at least eight years to decide if this is the life they wanted, a life of service and sacrifice.
His reply surprised me. He said they did not really understand what it was to be a priest. They had poor formation in the seminary and were ill prepared for the reality of being a priest. The blame, he felt, lies solely at the feet of the seminary faculty.
He, on the other hand, knew full well what his life would be like. His trip through the seminary was (my words, not his) like walking through fire. What he went through would either have broken him and he would have left a long time ago, or, like clay in the kiln, his trials would have strengthened him.
As you can imagine, his words did change my viewpoint somewhat. Actually it scrambled up my feelings so they now resemble what I sometimes feed to my grandson for lunch: a mishmash of eggs, cheese, and shredded vegetables. Everything is jumbled up and I’m not entirely sure what the predominant feeling is anymore. I only know the feelings are not pleasant ones.