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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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Gone Fishing: Called Out into the Deep Water

When Jesus called me to be a priest, it was as if I were one of the fishermen in the boat with Peter and I heard him say, “Put out into the deep water.” Never having learned to swim, the prospect of such a literal action would be very frightening to me. But, the spiritual enactment of these words was no less daunting. There were many hurdles and risks. A psychological test was required. A number of people thought I was a bit off; did I want to risk confirmation that I was crazy? There was the medical examination and the physical challenges. I was a lifelong asthmatic with poor eyesight. My back had been bad from my youth. If accepted, there would be eight years of education; did I have sufficient grey cells to properly know the faith and to teach it to others? As a child when my mother tried to place me in parochial school, the good sister rejected me as too sickly and stupid. Later, in public school, I would fail first grade. The teacher told my mother that I was “retarded” and needed to go to a “special” school. Mother argued and thankfully another teacher stepped in and made a difference. Facing the prospect of years in formation, was I spiritually prepared and able? I went to Mass every Sunday and said my prayers but had done little in the way of church service. I had been kicked out of Sunday CCD early in high school. The teacher said there was nothing he could teach me. I had always behaved myself, but the eventual promises of perpetual celibacy and obedience also weighed on my mind. I was a good kid but sometimes got into fights. Whatever mischief my brothers and I engaged, my father always pointed to me as the “ring leader.” When it came to girls, I had many romantic thoughts but found them infinitely mysterious. Nevertheless, I came from a large family and knew that not having one of my own would be a terrible sacrifice. Of course, that was the whole point about the priesthood— sacrifice. Lastly, there was the question of money. My family was poor. If the Church wanted me as a priest, then the Church would have to pay for it. My family made sacrifices, but this matter worried me to no end. If I failed, then all the costs for seminary education would fall on my shoulders. It would mean years of debt for an education that would not easily translate into any successful secular occupation. A friend of mine who left was so plagued by the expenses that he enlisted in the army to defray them. Part of me was fairly certain that my application for seminary would be denied. Two weeks before starting at a regular college, I got the word. I had been approved. Every year after that I felt sure the faculty or bishop would catch on and dismiss me as unworthy. It was this that fueled my surprise when I stood before the archbishop on the day of my ordination. Oh my goodness, I thought, they’re actually going to it! The Church was going to make me a priest. I could not shake the notion that the Church must be pretty desperate to want me. But, for what it was worth, I would employ my poor gifts for the good of God’s people and seek to give God the glory.

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