A fresh point of view

I received this message from a priest who was studying in Rome whilst I was in first year philosophy in 1985-86. It would be improper to reveal the identity of this priest, but he has wonderful suggestions here. Comments would be most welcome.

* * *

I came across your blogs again today, after a long absence of keeping up with them, and was particularly struck by your “New Goliards.”  Thank you for setting this up — it is a delicate, easily misunderstood, but very necessary outreach.

I continue to be a Roman Catholic parish priest, content in my vocation and my place, but painfully aware of the situations of friends known to me and brother-priests near and far, who are suffering greatly in the situations of limbo or worse which you write about so eloquently.

In my own small way, I have tried to do what I could for several of these men; for some, it is the simple offer of hospitality for a meal or a “clerical visit.”  for others, it has taken the form of moral and financial assistance for those who have been cut off from all support and have found themselves treated in ways supremely inhuman as well as unchristian.

I do these things while still considering myself irrevocably (pace, Victor
Hugo) Traddy and constitutionally very conservative and orthodox — but with that rather odd sense of humour (perspective?) that you may remember from our Roman days — an attitude shared by many of our friends during those Roman years; and one which I tend to realize now was the incipient sign of the survivor. . .

I write this letter rather hastily, since I sense that you need encouragement to keep the Goliards blog up and running.  Most emphatically do I offer that encouragement:  KEEP THIS WORK GOING!!  It may take a good deal of time to reach even a small number of the priests who can benefit from such a “communion of sacerdotal vocations”, but it is very necessary.

You are casting your net for the benefit of RCs, Anglicans, Old Catholics, etc; it may take a while to find a “voice” that will be inviting and accepted by all, and even more time for such men to find their own voices.

But it would be so good. . .

There are too many independent traddies, both RC and other, even in my liited experience,  who are staggering under the weight of very heavy crosses but who, despite great darkness around them, know themselves to be absolutely and everlastingly, priests.  This is their first, last and comprehensive self-definition; and it has been granted them “forever” by the Church. . . But many find themselves in situations in which there is little or no support or validation for their vocation; or, indeed, they have found themselves, separated, estranged or dismissed from ministry. These men (and all of us) need to be inspired, supported, strengthened and accompanied on their journeys.

As you may remember, I have always been particularly struck by the example of the Church’s saints.  As the years have gone on, I have made it a particular study of mine to devote myself to those whose sufferings — and I dare say, their limitations — make them peculiarly “accessible” to us when we find ourselves in similar situations.

I think that the Blessed Martyrs of “Les Pontons” the priests imprisoned in the slave ships at Rochefort would be particularly important intercessors for your Goliards.  Not only were they priests condemned to a living death of being forgotten and declared “non-persons,” but they found themselves having to support and care for one another in their most extreme human needs and spiritual distress.  The records show that 829 were deported and condemned to this imprisonment, but only 274 survived.  547 died in less than two years; only 62 have been beatified, since we do not have records or descriptions of the deaths of the others.  We do know that while most of the original 829 were non-juring priests who remained loyal to Rome, there were actually others who had accepted the Civil Constitution, others who had apostasized and even some who appear to have married.  They shared the same lot as the others; perhaps some remained “estranged” and isolated; but surely others found the support of a fraternity which allowed them to live their last days in Christian charity and die the death of true martyr priests.  We will only know in Heaven. . .

Among the records they left behind is a moving testament, a pact in which they swore – should they survive – not to seek redress, not to condemn their captors or the state, and not to reveal the faults of any of their number.

It is remarkable. . . Perhaps more spiritual and overtly “holy” than the term “Goliards” might connote, but faithful to the spiritual experiences it seeks to comprehend.

In any case, I am attaching a few things about them that might interest you and provide you with material for another posting or two.  In the future, perhaps I could contribute something.  I think that the contributions of priests themselves might strengthen the bonds of friendship and support.

One suggestion I might make, in order to increase your affiliations and calm the sensitivities and misgivings of the more scrupulous among us:  open your “membership/affliation” to priests who are “on the job,” in good standing, part of the mainstream, etc. — but who want to stand with and among their brothers who are struggling to hold on and would be glad of the strength and friendship of others to support them through silent prayer, sincere communication, and the sharing of burdens, memories, spiritual thoughts and laughter. . .

I look forward to sitting down and reading all the postings at leisure.

In the meantime, dear Anthony, I feel very glad to be back in touch with you again and call on the prayers of our mutual friend, Francois (Fr François Crausaz 1958-1994, a Swiss priest and dear friend), to intercede for you and for all our brother priests who share in the solitude of vocation and seek the Face of of Him who alone can hear our prayers.

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