It’s not umcommon to hear Catholics say it: It’s not abaout the priest.
And it’s not. Not, really. That’s one of the fundamental beauties of the Church– and, yes, “Church” with a capital C when used in this manner. Theoretically, the priest doesn’t matter. The Catholic Church is steeped in ritual and tradition and having a different priest in the building really doesn’t change what you can and should expect.
The readings will be the same.
The gospel will be the same.
Reconciliation will be offered.
And, above all, the Eucharist will be present.
So, at the end of the day, it’s not about the priest.
* * * * *
That much is true. The Church is not about the priest. It remains the Church no matter how many different priests come and go. This is true even about the Pope, in case you were wondering. The Church carries on even without a new pope until a new one is chosen. Because it’s not about any one man. Ever. (Well, unless that man is Jesus. But I digress…)
* * * * *
None of this, however, could prevent the fat tears from streaking down my cheeks when, two Sundays ago, I learned that Father Larry will be leaving our parish.
One year ago, during Lent, Father Larry was away for almost three weeks. I was reminded of this when TimeHop sent me an email recalling my Facebook status, “I’m going through Father Larry withdrawal!”
And I was. It was hard not having him there when we were all so very used to seeing him a few times a week.
And now I’ve learned that he’s heading back to Canada.
And I cry.
My chest feels tight.
I’m already feeling a little lost and he’s nowhere even close to gone just yet.
I feel kind of silly about it, to be honest. I hold my head high and repeat, along with other good Catholics, “It’s not about the priest.”
And then A. says from the backseat, “He’s walked beside me as my faith grows. He taught me how to serve at the altar. I don’t know what to expect without him.”
I gaze in the rearview mirror and murmur, “I know, buddy. I know. And he’s the only priest your sisters even remember.”
A. looks out the window. The trees fly by. I flip my left turn signal and hear him again.
“But he’ll be closer to his parents, and that’s good. And we’ll get a new priest and we’ll make him feel very welcome.”
I smile. He continues,
“And maybe, one day, I’ll write him a letter and you’ll bake him those lemon cookies he thinks are amazing and when he gets them in the mail, he’ll think of us and smile. You think?”
Yes, sweetheart, I do.
I thnk that’s just exactly right.
And I think the Church will be just fine.
And, eventually, we will be, too.