I mean, there’s gotta be some priests in heaven, right? As far as I know, unless there has been some recent canonizations which slip my mind at the moment (very possible), there is only ONE, that is, count them all, only ONE canonized parish priest in the history of the Church: Saint Jean-Marie Vianney, the famed Curé d’Ars. That’s it.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m guessing that it’s not easy to be a parish priest! I’m excluding priests who have become bishops, founders of religious orders, martyrs and such like. Just plain and simple parish priests. Just the Curé d’Ars as far as I know.
Of course, one doesn’t need to be canonized a saint in order to be a saint in heaven! But the question seems particularly important:
Why would any priest find himself in heaven?
Having seen more parishes from the inside-out, whether diocesan or religious, whether in the USA or right around the world, in the city or the country, in affluence or dire poverty, I make the following observations:
- A priest who, upon death, would find himself in heaven would be the priest who has learned in the school of fidelity through an unending series of tough knocks, as led by grace, and in no other way, to rejoice that Christ Jesus, his close Friend, has redeemed all.
- And knowing that Mary’s Son has redeemed all, but has nevertheless saved only the many, respecting the free will of all, such a priest will have have been in anguish to be available in whatever way of fidelity to Jesus that he can so as to be an invitation to go to heaven, by his words and deeds, to those who will be saved (he not knowing which one’s, and so being available for all), a kind of Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane experience when faced with horrific, arrogant, aloof and uncaring infidelity.
- In sharing the greatest love of his life, the Triune God, he will have done so in humble thanksgiving, getting out of the way, if you will, of the one and only High Priest of that parish, Christ Jesus, being, therefore, a crystal clear, transparent, purified instrument of Jesus’ priesthood, rejoicing in reverence before the Son of God, watching Jesus go to work through his own fidelity among the parishioners, who will meet charity in all truth, who will in this way meet Jesus, and either (temporarily) reject Jesus or be drawn deeper into the living faith, becoming ever more reflections of that indwelling of the Most Holy Trinity in their own lives.
- The priest who will find himself in heaven will be the one who “wasted time” on earth, praying despite knowing himself to be unworthy, praying precisely because he knows himself to be unworthy, praying because Jesus Himself commands this and makes it possible, praying because of knowing that Jesus Himself know much better than we do just how weak we, His priests, are, praying because we know how overwhelmed we are at the task before us, conjoined with the fright of knowing we have to render an account of our priesthood, of each member of the flock, the good and the bad, the helpful and the difficult, the saints and every last Judas.
- The priest who finds himself in heaven already knew well on this earth that the friendship with our Lord always expressed with humble thanksgiving for all things is the only way, the way we pray constantly, the way we become perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect, the way we know just how much Jesus has enthusiastically done for us and the way to know just how much He wants us to do for His little flock, His parishioners.
- The priest who finds himself in heaven will have been obedient to rightfully expressed authority on this earth, obeying the non-ultra vires requests of his bishop, obeying always with willing, religious submission, the teaching of the Supreme Magisterium of the Church, teaching others the same obedience, the same love for charity and truth, leading others to know his own love of obedience, that is, of listening with open heart and mind and soul to the Church, and of course, to our Heavenly Father, who speaks that one Word, that Logos, Jesus, to us, within us, commanding us to listen to Him, to obey Him… to obey Him who commands us to obey the Church He founded on Saint Peter.
- The priest who finds himself in heaven will have done the one thing necessary: he will have found himself on his knees in the confessional, confessing his own sins, and being absolved, will find the gates of heaven open to him, he knowing full well that the keys of the kingdom of heaven are not found in heaven, but on earth, within the confessional.
- And that priest will, of course, instill in our Lord’s parishioners a great love of the Sacrament of Confession, telling them frequently about his own joyful experience of the friendship of Christ Jesus that he finds in the confessional, encouraging them to go to confession frequently, instructing them how to do it, advertising that he is available for confession with generous times for scheduled confessions.
- A priest who finds himself in heaven in adoration before the throne of God — in that beatific vision – will have had a great love, expressed in adoration, for Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament already here on this earth, knowing that on this earth, Jesus, in His blessed vision of the Father, draws us to Himself, into that life of the Trinity, having us see the Father through, with and in Himself, by the firey love of the Holy Spirit.
- The priest who finds himself in heaven will have a most wonderful, joyous, filial love for the Blessed Virgin, the Immaculate Mother of God, of Jesus, of all priests. He will have gone out of his way to spread devotion to her, to honor her, to share with all his love for her, she, who beheld her Son, The Priest, under the cross, in solidarity with Him, when we priests ran away, she, who, immaculate, with clear vision, with such purity, has seen the full hell of all our sins, and has interceeded for us, miserable creatures that we are, so that we might become good brothers of her ever so good and ever so kind Son. Such a priest who finds himself in heaven will surely have prayed innumerable times: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us, sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen!” Such a priest will surely hear the words of Jesus at his death: “Hey! There you are! My mom really harassed me a lot about you! In fact, I see that you’ve begged her to do just this. Totally cool! Come on in. I’ll introduce you to her personally, right now!” Yikes!
I could go on, but you get the idea… It’s not about lording it over other priests. It’s not about how big a bureaucracy one has had in a parish. It’s about fidelity in the family of faith: Fidelity! Fidelity! Fidelity! And that’s it. That’s all of it.
Also see: Why would a nice priest go to hell? This post has been updated with the research of one of our readers.
- Have you prayed for priests today? Hail Mary…
- Have you prayed for vocations today? Our Father…
- Do you have a vocation? Glory be…
- Have you actively encouraged vocations today? Today’s the day.
Update: Although I’m a fourth degree Knight of Columbus, and although Father Michael McGivney was declared “venerable” by Pope Benedict XVI, he doesn’t count, not being canonized (yet)!