Mercy, Revealed Through John Paul II
By Br. Leonard Konopka, MIC (Feb 19, 2007)
O Jesus, give us fervent and holy priests! Oh, how great is the dignity of the priest, but at the same time, how great is his responsibility! Much has been given to you, O priest, but much will also be demanded of you ...
— Diary of St. Faustina, 941
In an article entitled "The Priest, the Beggar and the Pope," written by K. D'Encer, the author powerfully reveals the real-life direct intervention of God's mercy upon a priest. Mr. D'Encer writes about a young man who had a vocation to the priesthood and how his bishop sent him to study in Rome. After his ordination, the priest served in his diocese for several years. Then, his bishop sent him to Rome again for further study.
During this second period of studies, the priest would visit a small church in Rome to say his office and to pray. At the door of the church sat a group of beggars seeking alms, and one of them made him feel uneasy for some inexplicable reason. So the priest went to him and asked, "Do I know you?"
"Yes," the beggar replied. "I studied for the priesthood with you here in Rome, and was ordained." The priest was shocked. "Whatever happened to you?" The beggar said, "I encountered crisis after crisis in my life and eventually renounced the priesthood. I had my priestly faculties taken from me. I lost everything and am reduced to begging."
The priest could not get the beggar out of his mind and prayed constantly for him. The study course he was attending was drawing to an end, and the students were invited to receive individual blessings from Pope John Paul II. They were forbidden to speak to the Holy Father personally. However, as the priest knelt to receive the blessing, his mind was so full of thoughts of the beggar that he blurted out: "Holy Father, please pray for 'X' who sits begging outside a church in Rome. He was ordained a priest, but has resigned from the priesthood and had his priestly faculties removed."
He hardly had time to finish before he was hustled away by the indignant attendants.
A few days later, the priest received an invitation, and he hurried to the small church and found the beggar. "Come quickly," the priest said. "We are to dine with the Pope."
"Impossible," replied the beggar. "How could I visit the Pope in this state?" The priest insisted and helped the beggar to tidy up. Then, together, they set off for the Vatican.
They crossed St. Peter's Square and passed through the great gates, where Monsignor Dziwisz, the Polish priest who was then the secretary of Pope John Paul II, met them. He conducted them to the dining room, where His Holiness was awaiting them. After they had been introduced, they sat down to a lovely meal.
When it was time for the dessert, the Pope signaled to his secretary. The secretary rose, beckoned the beggar to follow the Holy Father, and together they left the room. After about 15 minutes, the Pope and the beggar returned, and the meal concluded normally. Nothing was said about what had transpired during their absence.
It was time to leave. As the two crossed St. Peter's Square, the priest, overcome with curiosity, asked eagerly what had transpired while they had been away from the room.
This is what the beggar told him. "When I was alone with the Holy Father, he turned to me and said, 'Father, please hear my confession.' In great confusion and distress I replied: 'I cannot do that. I have renounced the priesthood. My priestly faculties have been taken away from me. I am no longer a priest.' He looked at me with loving compassion. Then he raised his right hand and, wagging his finger at me, said, 'ONCE A PRIEST, ALWAYS A PRIEST.'
"After a long pause he told me: 'As Bishop of Rome and head of the Catholic Church I can restore your priestly faculties to you ... but you would have to ask.' I was overwhelmed and close to tears as I said simply: 'Please, Holy Father, please!'
"Then he heard my confession and restored my priesthood to me. Afterwards he repeated his original request and I heard the confession of Pope John Paul II.
"After a pause for prayer and meditation, the Holy Father said, 'When you leave here, I want you to go to the church where you have been begging and seek out the parish priest. I am appointing you curate in that parish, with special responsibility for the beggars who seek alms at the church door.'"
I can only hope this true story reaches every priest who has left his ministry and is seriously considering the possibility of returning to the benevolent graces of his Bishop. Equally important, we can all hope and pray it reaches the countless souls who feel they cannot be forgiven for some act or a lifestyle that God could not condone.
Our Lord specifically told St. Faustina: "My secretary, write that I am more generous toward sinners than toward the just. It was for their sake that I came down from heaven; it was for their sake that My Blood was spilled. Let them not fear to approach Me; they are most in need of My mercy" (Diary, 1275).
Now that the Lenten season is upon us, we can look upon the cross and, out of love for what Jesus specifically accomplished for each of us, we can confess our sins and seek His
mercy. Coincidentally, St. Faustina wrote: "Today is Ash Wednesday. During Holy Mass, I felt for a short time the Passion of Jesus in my members. Lent is a very special time for the work of priests. We should assist them in rescuing souls" (Diary, 931).
With St. Faustina we pray:
O my Jesus, I beg You on behalf of the whole Church: Grant it love and the light of Your Spirit, and give power to the words of priests so that hardened hearts might be brought to repentance and return to You, O Lord. Lord, give us holy priests; You Yourself maintain them in holiness. O Divine and Great High Priest, may the power of Your mercy accompany them everywhere and protect them from the devil's traps and snares which are continually being set for the souls of priests. May the power of Your mercy, O Lord, shatter and bring to naught all that might tarnish the sanctity of priests, for You can do all things (Diary, 1052).
* * *
Brother Leonard Konopka, MIC, is on the staff of the Marian Seminary in Washington, D.C. He also provides spiritual direction, retreats, and seminars. Brother Leonard has a leaflet available that has a series of meditations on the five wounds of our Lord. The meditations are intended for use while praying the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy. Click here to order Contemplate My Wounds. He also has a CD available with the meditations on the five wounds, interspersed with the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy. Click here to order A Musical Interlude.