“Father Mike” is not his real name; but he is a very real person. One of my former students, who has now been a Catholic priest for fifteen years. He was a good student: outgoing, exceptionally bright, a likeable and healthy young man. And a zealous young man with deep faith. Nothing goofy or superficial or phony about Mike. For some reason — maybe just the concern of an old professor for one of his star students — I called him last week. I asked him how he was. For a couple minutes we exchanged the normal chit chat. He asked about my wife, and we talked about her as well. Then I said: “BUT YOU…how are you doing in these upside-down Catholic days?” Silence for a few seconds and then I heard him sobbing. Very unlike Mike. “I’m not doing very well…” he stuttered.
Mike explained that he is now pastor of three parishes. That he thought he could handle, because they are small places in the country. What is destroying him right now however is the innuendo; the stares from parishioners, who are now distancing themselves from him; and the accusations of teenagers in his youth group.
It started last week, at a first communion practice. Parents with whom he has worked — and partied — for a couple years, protectively held on to their kids when Mike approached them to get them lined up for a procession rehearsal. He said, “it seems that they are now all looking at me and thinking ‘is he one of them too?'” Then he said he thought he was just being paranoid. But then again….. on Sunday evening, he walked into the youth group gathering and found a group huddled in the corner of the room. They fell silent as he walked in. Then one of the high school sophomores called out: “hey Fr. Mike do you get off on kids and teenage boys?”
Now I was about sobbing. Mike — and there are a great many Father Mikes out there — is a very fine and good and healthy and trustworthy priest.
I will give Father Mike all the support I can. I hope readers of this bog will reach out a supportive hand to your Father Mikes. They need us and we need them!