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A Priest Story

I remember, years ago, when I was in my home parish, a priest who was assigned there for several years. I don’t recall many details about him, except that he kept getting my place of work confused with someone else, and I was always correcting him. I never brought it up, but each time we would meet, he would inevitably ask me a question about working in this specific place, for some unknown reason. Perhaps it resonated with him (or he wanted me to work there!); perhaps he was just a bit muddled.

He was a very, very nice person. I want to clarify that because people, being who and what they were, were unkind when describing him. They poked fun at his sunny disposition, his cheerful demeanor, and mild manner. I have no clue as to why this causes unkindness from others, and I should, since I was one of them, at the time.

Maybe it was just easy.

Perhaps he illuminated something we lacked?

In retrospect, he was the much better person. As a priest, that should have been a given, but we all know that it is not necessarily so.

His sin? He always saw the glass half full. Heck, completely full, when it wasn’t. He saw the goodness and brightness, and I guess, the Light of God, in everything. Even disastrous situations. Which, could another reason he was ridiculed.

“Oh, what a beautiful day it IS!”. He often began his homilies this way.

Which led the fusspot congregants (mostly women, if the truth be told), to proclaim rather smugly: “Why, Fr. Smith could be standing up to his kneecaps in a basement full of flooded water, and he’d STILL say…Oh, what a beautiful day it IS!”

How dare he? Sure, he was in a position to be eternally cheerful: He didn’t have bills to pay, kids to raise and lawns to mow. (Just irritating parishioners, I see now.)

Okay, but still not good enough reason for anyone (particularly, CHRISTIANS) to denigrate his perpetually sunny outlook. It was pretty mean-spirited, and everyone, including me, lost the translation.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about Fr. Smith. I wish I knew him better. Because he had something we all chase after, in many different ways. Some not good for us at all.

He had faith. He had hope. He had…yeah, God. And he was sure of his God. So why NOT look at the inherent good, even if the basement was full of water? Why NOT proclaim How Great Thou Art, then and there?

I know, it’s easy to say, but believe me, I’ve seen people with tremendous burdens who manage to stay hopeful, positive…and kind. Maybe he was one! And we just didn’t know…or didn’t chose to know.

How unChristian of us, huh?

So, now looking back, with more wisdom and gratitude for each day, and each new experience, I recognize that Fr. Smith really did have the better attitude. And the stronger faith.

What’s wrong with wanting to “Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side…”?

Nothing. In fact, emotionally, it’s way better than seeing that glass half empty…or not there, at all.

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