“There is no reason to be discouraged as a priest”

On 29 May, ten men will be ordained to the priesthood in the Netherlands. One of these is 34-year-old Patrick Lipsch, who will be ordained for the Diocese of Roermond. The official magazine of that diocese features a profile of the future priest, from which I take the passage below.

Lipsch discusses the attitude with which a young priest enters into his life in the Church in this day and age.

“People sometimes say, as ‘encouragement’: “don’t you mind that you are part of a shrinking Church?” See, I am of a generation that does not know anything else! For the people from the time when Catholic life was flourishing this may be troubling because they are used to something so different. But we don’t have to unlearn anything! I have never known the time that the Church played a prevailing role – also socially – in the parishes. We don’t know any better than that the Church plays a marginal role in modern life. What’s more: we are surprised when a church is full! That is why you don’t check who isn’t there, but who is: the people who have a need for priests who give them hope through their pastoral work. There are plenty of moments like that still, so there is no reason to be discouraged as a priest. The trust you have have in God leading the Church also plays a part. Certainly, His personnel can make mistakes and we’re hearing plenty about that these days, but despite our disloyalty He will also be loyal and He will not abandon us. That is why you must do your best, be happy with the little things and be there for the people who need you. That is our job. No more, but certainly no less.”

I am reminded of a quote by Venerable John Henry Newman: “Learn to do thy part and leave the rest to Heaven.”

Lipsch raises an interesting point. The new Catholic generations, born well after Vatican II and the changes that followed, have a very clean slate. This has both its positive and negative sides, as Fr. Ray Blake points out. One of the positive effects, I would say, is that the ‘little things’ are no longer hidden by social expectations of ‘what should be’ or  ‘what’s normal’, provided that our own expectations are reasonable and founded in a proper sense of our place and function in the greater Church.