Saturday, June 19, 2010

Sometimes the Collar is Heavy

Gabe and Eli

I have two younger brothers, each of whom is the father of two sons (The next younger and his wife are expecting.  We should know the sex relatively soon.).  That brings me currently to the grand total of four nephews.  I love them very much, and look forward to every opportunity to be with them.  Most recently, I was able to join my next younger brother's wife and sons along with my parents as they shared a Mexican meal at one of Rapid City's better Mexican Restaurants.  As an aside, El Sabor, on East North Street is the most like the cuisine I enjoyed when living in Mexico for ten weeks, and is thus my favorite, even though it is little more than a hole in the wall.  But I digress.

As I entered the restaurant where my family was already seated, I tripped on the rug at the door.  The time it took me to turn around and flatten the rug was sufficient for Gabriel, now five and the oldest of my nephews, to leap from the table and run to me and grab me around the legs.  "Uncle Tyler!" he exclaimed.  "Gabe!" I cried back to him.  As I did so, I was looking around the restaurant.  Who was seeing me with this little boy?

After lunch, our whole caravan decided we needed to stop by Cabelas.  I wanted a backpack and some socks.  My sister-in-law wanted to look at tents, while my dad wanted to look at air rifles and the like.  Gabe and his younger brother Elijah accompanied us into the store and immediately ran off like mad men, but only far enough that they could look back and see us.  We found the backpacks and socks quickly enough, and the tents that were supposed to be on sale were not.  As a result, we had some time to kill while Dad examined the air rifles and smaller shotguns and fancy trap throwers.  Along with my mom, the boys, and their mother, I went to look at the live fish display where the boys ooed and awed over the trout and other indigenous swimmers.  From there, we went to see the large display of taxidermy creatures from the Black hills.  Within that display is a small area of running water and there are, of course, more fish.  The boys were too short to see them so I lifted them up and held them on the railing so they could look too.  Again I looked around to see who was watching me with these boys.  I let them down and then took Eli by the hand as went in search of Grandpa.  Again, more quick glances.  Who was watching me.  Later, I was driving the cart now full of things we absolutely had to have.  There was a large box on top, so Eli decided to ride on the rack below the cart.  We took off and lost Grandpa and Grandma who were distracted by something shiny in one of the cross isles.  Gabe and his mother had already gone to the car because Gabe was naughty.  Now, I was alone with Eli without another caretaker in sight.  I stopped and waited nervously until Grandpa and Grandma arrived, wondering the whole while what people were thinking to see a priest by himself with a toddler.

I hate this.  I am sickened by my own fear and insecurity.  I am not about to take my collar off in public simply to avoid the shame that some of my brothers have brought to it.  I am also not about to deny the love and affection a child deserves from his uncle for fear of what people might think of it.  At the same time, I do not want to be a source of scandal for people who don't know me or my family.  I do not want to be the impetus for the lurid speculation of unsympathetic observers who have already made up their minds about priests and children.

These are the moments when the collar gets heavy.  These are the times when I realize that part of the penance priests must do is to carry the shame of their brothers who have abused children and ruined lives and who now live secluded existences, anonymous when they enter a restaurant or Cabelas.  it is a burden priests now bear each time they leave Church property in a collar.  It is a burden they must -absolutely must-bear if they want to give witness to the truth of the Paschal Mystery.  If love can conquer sin and death, we cannot run from the sacrifice love demands. 

It is always the cross that makes us holy.  It is always the cross the destroys the power of evil.  To overcome the darkness of the sin that now swirls about the Church, priests must not lay this cross down. 


  1. Amen!

    Of all the sacrifices a Priest must go thru' because of his calling, this seems to me the hardest to bear. But we will all be stronger for going thru' it.

  2. Lay people like me don't know what burdens priests carry; how very sad for you to have your family time overshadowed by the sins of others. As for what people might be thinking-stand up straight and look them in the eye; don't worry about what they think for God knows what is in your heart and the beauty and truth of His love will shine through you; might even make people ashamed of judging every priest by the actions of those who have done evil.

  3. Thank you for your willingness to carry that burden. I know many priests who refuse to wear their collars in public. I will pray for you as you take up that cross. Be not afraid!

  4. One of the things all of should do as Catholics is to educate and prepare ourselves to defend the priesthood. You good men deserve our vocal support!


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