Rev. Fr. Rommel Molina Arcilla
The lockdown placed all of us in a very abnormal situation and way of life. We are still suffering the inconveniences of this lockdown up until now. Our movements are so limited and even those important errands that we need to do every day were drastically affected. We can only pray and hope that this feeling of being unfree be over soon.
On the other hand, for some of us, maybe this lockdown gained positive results. Those who used to complain about not getting enough rest and quality time with their beloved ones, the lockdown may be considered as an answer to their prayers. Still, for the vast majority, the effects are so heart-breaking and unbearable. One of the sorriest events that may happen is losing a loved one during this time of crisis. The dead person needs to be buried within 24 hours and there is no given time for the usual wake and to be with, at least, the body of the dead for a longer time.
Now, if an ordinary citizen gets affected by the negative effects of this lockdown, priests are affected also since they were not created differently from the rest of humanity. They feel as you feel, think just the way you think, and they also feel hunger and pain just like everyone else in this world.
The only peculiar reality about the life of a priest was the impression that only a priest can understand a fellow priest. It was with this principle that two priests decided to visit another priest assigned in a remote parish on the 6th of April 2020, Monday. This was the first significant move and the purpose was just to visit the priest and talk about “anything under the sun”. It was a move aimed at bringing awareness that, as priests, they were never alone in their joys, pains and sufferings for they have a brother priest (or priests) who were always ready to lend out a helping hand or just simply listen to their sophisticated (complicated) life stories.
The following week, April 13, another priest joined the group in their reaching out efforts to other priests assigned in other parishes. Slowly, this group realized that what they were doing was something that they should have done long ago as a plain apostolate of presence to their brother-priests. It was during this second visit that they decided to make it part of their schedule, at least, during Mondays of every month, which are considered rest days for priests.
The following two weeks, the third and the fourth visits, the Bishop supported their apostolate by letting them use his service vehicle and assuring the group of his prayers and support. This was a sure booster for the group because, as part of the presbyterium, they cannot really do anything worthwhile if apart from the bishop, the Father of the Diocese.
So far, the group was able to visit at least 10 parishes of the Diocese already and they are so hopeful, with God’s grace, that what they are doing will help priests of diocese realize that they belong and will forever belong to the One Priesthood of Christ, where they are an important part and they play an important role.
Oftentimes, a simple “tap on the back” is what we need to continue pursuing our own goals in life. Priests are not angels and priests are just like anybody, who is so much prone to commit sins and mistakes and be traitors to their noble vocation. However, before we point our fingers to blame who and who, let us first try to understand all the whys in their life story.
Priests are looked up to as Pastors, as leaders of the flock. But who understands them when they are crying deep within them, when they are lost and despairing, when they feel like they were abandoned? Only a priest understands the life of a fellow priest.
I was once a priest lost in the darkness of my sins and egotistic mentality. I thought I can have the best of both worlds. I thought I do not need anybody else in my pursuits and ambitions. I always believed then that I was on the top of my own imaginary world. I have all the reasons to believe that I had it all except for that one thing that I knew I had none… the grace of God at work in me. I will never go back that kind of hell again because I realized that I can be a real priest only if God is with me and I in Him. From my end, I am very much willing to do what I can in my limited capacity to help other priests and other people who may have lost their mind and heart to worldly things and ambitions.
I had my needed help and I am so grateful that God grabbed my hand when I was sinking in that sea of darkness. I thank my bishop who did not lose faith that I can still be saved. I thank my co-responsible partner who is still here with me guiding me through. Now, I want to extend that help to others who may need the same kind of help and understanding. Priesthood is a brotherhood with Christ as the head. Priests, then, should be brothers to one another imitating Christ, the High Priest, by serving His flock through the holiness of their lives.