"When the Bishops of the world gathered in Rome for the Second Vatican Council in
the 1960s, they issued a document which encouraged everyone to be holy: not all in
the same way , but in ways which were appropriate for our lifestyles", says Monsignor
Peter Fleetwood in another of his reflections for the series 'Why Bother? Staying
Catholic despite it All'.
In this reflection Monsignor Peter goes on to remark
how people often proclaim triumphantly that priests have been knocked off their pedestals.
Adding how from his experience of trying to become a good priest they often perch
there precariously because they are put there by other people .
"I am sure",
he then says, " that it has always suited people , from the most primitive tribes
to the most complex civilisations, to be able to shift the burden of relationships
with the gods on to a few professional "holy people". It is like having a guard dog,
if you feed him regularly , he will bark at the appropriate moments and protect
you , and stay in his kennel at other times....in times of national grief or disasters,
the clergy are very welcome , but they are hardly noticed at other times. If a priest
or a nun appears in a doctor's surgery or in a bar, or worst of all, in the close
confines of a lift , people become very uncomfortable. "
Monsignor Peter then
concludes this reflection by explaining how in a society which treated priests like
this he was shocked into reality by the words of a Jesuit priest who came to give
a retreat at his school and told him something he has thought about ever since :
"You know boys , my job as a priest is to become obsolete: I have to live in such
a way that other people want to love God". Commenting how this is probably the most
powerful reason he has ever had for becoming a priest : not to do things for people,
but to enable them to change by his example...