The Blessing of Mediocrity

Thank God for the mediocre priests. 

Praise Him for the lukewarm and wishy-washy Church leaders.

Bless Him for the days of half-hearted adherence to Church teaching and the post-conciliar years of the infallible self.

And I mean that from the bottom of my Church/Tradition/Magesterium respecting heart, because God in his Mercy has used these men to bring salvation to souls.

I was speaking with a convert friend recently, listening to her account of coming to the faith.  She was preparing to marry a fallen-away Catholic whose roots were tugging him back for the celebration of the Sacrament of Matrimony.  A heathen whose taste for things spiritual was rapidly becoming a fully-fledged hunger, she was willing to be married in the Church building.

“Whatever,” she thought.

To her, it was the emotion, not the place, that mattered.  A painless concession to old-school in-laws.

But would the priest allow it?

A Big Tent man, he welcomed the couple with outstretched arms.  “Come on!  Of course you can be married here!”  He intoned boisterously.

She didn’t even have to sign the paper saying she’d raise the kids Catholic.  The one my pen almost choked on when it was my turn, a rabid Protestant, to marry a Catholic. 

In she came, and the Sacrament, the outward sign of the invisible grace, became a platform, a foundation, a core for more, and the ultimate result of grace building upon grace, established on the nature of her willingness, propped up by the somewhat lackadaisical approach of the parish priest, is the reason she was eventually baptized along with their children. 

It’s why she is today a Church/Tradition/Magisterium respecting Catholic.

There was another priest in the 1970s – I don’t even know his name.  He must have had a blase attitude toward the stricter norms regarding education required for baptism, and the pesky little godparents detail, because he baptized a whole family – mom, dad, two small children – without so much as a crash course in making the sign of the cross, although perhaps there was a handout on the creation of felt banners.

And clearly, the ancient Church has her reasons for requiring the anchors of education and godparently assistance for the neophyte, because very soon thereafter, the family fell away.  And the baptisms were forgotten.

But the grace of the Sacrament was at work.

Like Tolkien’s Ring of Power, the grace built quietly with the passing of years until one day, the fullness of time came, and the grace ignited a homing beacon.  There followed a strange and unlikely sequence of events that did not involve hobbits, but resulted in one of the children, now Protestant marrying a Catholic, in the Catholic Church.  One Sacrament having attracted another in a hungry soul, the combined grace power of the two was more than the soul could resist.  Twenty-one years after the somewhat improperly imbued grace of Baptism, the soul came home to live in the Catholic Church, receiving the Easter ‘Grand Slam’ of Reconciliation, Communion, and Confirmation’ in very short order.

Then came the phone call to family.

“Oh, and by the way, I became Catholic.”

A long silence, during which the years of Protestantism marched in reverse review until the long-forgotten day of the unlikely baptism was projected on the screen of family memory.

“Well!”  the voice was indignant toward the traitor.  “Well!  I suppose I’m not too surprised since you were baptized Catholic when you were two!”

She nearly dropped the phone.

And then she laughed.

For what God but ours would create time-release grace?

Who, but our God would know how to bring good from the work of those who should perhaps know better than to pass out Sacraments with such a cavalier attitude?

And how could it be contrived, except through His omnipotent omniscience that an invisible, indelible homing device could be affixed to a soul so that despite distance and intervening years, in spite of hours of fishing at the “new religion” pond, a soul could be recalled?

“This one’s mine,” God said.  “See my mark?

And I praise Him for the unknown, and perhaps unorthodox priest who put that mark on me.  Who, more fastidious, might have insisted on proper form, a lengthly process for which my drifting parents would not have waited and my friend might not have bothered.    Our souls would have been left nameless, master-less, vulnerable, without the the latent attraction to the Faith that eventually drew us home.

God bless the lukewarm priests, and the soul-saving power of Christ which can work through them.

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  • Cooky642

    Thank you, Sylvia, for reminding an old teeth-grinder that God DOES “work all things together for good”!

  • http://www.tell-usa.org Robert Struble, Jr.

    Reminds me of my late aunt, Sr. Lois Jean Struble, SMJM — rather a liberal nun herself. Years ago she told me, “God writes straight with crooked lines.”

  • acrn03

    It’s a comforting thing to remember for those (like myself) that can get so frustrated with the “lukewarm and wishy washy” Church leaders. I need to continue to pray for those priests, but remember to trust in God.
    “wonderful are your works, O God; my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:14)

  • SeanReynoldsNZ

    As an adjunct to this, I was watching Ten News tonight here in Shepparton, Victoria (Australia), and saw a banner up with “St.K.F.C.” on it. Has the Colonel been canonised?

  • momof5kids

    Beautiful! Thank you! God is so GOOD!!!!!!

  • bambushka

    And once again the tears stream down my face as I read this reminder. Two of my six are away from Holy Mother Church, one is faithless,so he says, one is apostate, seeking another god. Saint Monica is my hero. My prayer is that Jesus has called these two children by name, that He will continue to call them by name, and that their patron saints will keep calling them. My husband and I dedicated them to the Lord in Baptism and He has left His mark on them.

    I pray for all our children who have walked away, may the time-released Grace of the Sacrament and God’s faithfulness bring them home.

  • Dave

    I do not doubt God’s wondrous works, but to say they came about because of liberal and lukewarm priests is quite a stretch. At their judgement, these inadequate priests will have to give account of how many souls were lost because they chose to do their own thing instead of following the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church.

  • http://www.lpl.com/david.milavickas DMilavickas

    Let’s make sure we count all of the lost souls that are lost because of those DRE’s, Priests, and Religous who approach the laiety like the “Soup Nazi” from “Seinfeld”. When people are hungry, literally starving, you don’t get all caught up in their manners and whether or not they are using the proper silverware. YOU FEED THEM! You don’t make them jump through “hoops” because somebody on a committee came up with a bright idea that “THIS IS HOW IT SHOULD BE DONE!” I’ve seen more people disgusted with the Catholic Faith because of how the “church” BEAURACRACY says this is how you need to do this. No explanation of why. No respect for where people are spiritually. Ask a question and get plenty of condescension. “Oh goodness, you just don’t know how this works!” Is it any wonder why people walk away? Sometimes, the attitude is “Just shut up, do what you are told, and you can have the Sacraments.” In my opinion, the Church needs to step back and re-examine the process they put people through. It’s not an assembly line. It’s not cookie cutter. Quit trying to run it that way. It’s a soul, created uniquely by God.

  • http://www.lpl.com/david.milavickas DMilavickas

    I guess my comments were too harsh.

  • Warren Jewell

    “It’s why she is today a Church/Tradition/Magisterium respecting Catholic.” One example of overcoming near-fallacy in leadership does not a parish make.

    As Dave noted, and DMilavickas perhaps unconsciously alluded that the biggest problem is ‘poor catechesis’, I remind that the late Bishop Sheen referred to the laity as the ones to correct the off-course bishops and priests, not celebrate their errors. How many of our children (GOD’S children) have and will pay the ‘ultimate (eternal) price’ for low-quality, squishy-comfortable, unlearned and unchallenging Catholicism from misleading authorities and ‘personal’ pulpits?

  • gadjmljj

    Bishop Sheen also said that when say we believe in the Catholic Church we are saying FIRST that we believe in the Person, Jesus Christ, and only secondarily in the teachings. Because if He did not say it, we would not believe it.
    Catholics must see Christ and the Church as one in the same.
    So all the rules that we have to follow for the sacraments, DMilavickas, are HIS orders. Yes, God can bring good even out of abuses in the practice of the sacraments, because He is always Merciful. But putting down the need for “How things should be done”, is downplaying our need for obedience to what Christ said (through His Mystical Body, the Church) should be done.

    Who knows if those people who came into the Church by a less than orthodox priest..might have been better Catholics all along if they had been educated better from the start. I wouldn’t say it was a “blessing” that they were brought in by lukewarm priests, although I see the point, as I said, that God can bring good out of our disobedience. But how much MORE of a blessing could be brought by a priest’s obedience!

    Pray for our Priests!!!

  • goral

    There are mediocre priests and bishops as there are mediocre parishoners and other professionals.
    In fact I just read a classified ad for a “mediocre” teacher,
    ah… Not!
    Let’s not celebrate mediocrity nor make excuses for it. God works wonders inspite of the lukewarm slugs out there.
    “Because you were neither hot nor cold, I will spew you out of my mouth”,
    is a little celebrated quote that comes to mind.

    Ms. Dorhan makes the classic error of assuming that it rained because the sidewalk is wet. As a tongue-in-cheek piece, I like it.
    Pray for our Priests indeed!

  • liturgylover

    Following up on Dave’s comment. I suggest Ms. Dorhan read, beginning with the twenty-fourth Sunday in ordinary time through Saturday of the twenty-fifth week in ordinary time from the Office of Readings, St Augustine’s sermon on Pastors. I’m sure St Augustine would not agree with her praise and thanksgiving of mediocre, lukewarm and wishy-washy Church leaders that half-heartedly adhere to the teachings of the Church.

    Perhaps in her next article, Ms Dorhan can flaunt the joys of being married to a spouse who only half-heartedly adheres to the covenant of Marriage.

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