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To my brother priests

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Dear Father, it has not been easy, but through it all, you have remained a carrier of divine love, a true believer and a spiritual leader in the battle against Satan, who goes about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Keep depending on the Lord's strength, and all will be well.

Father John
Catoir

After 56 years of the priesthood, at age 85, I want to say a word of thanks to my brother priests, who have sacrificed so much to bring the good news of God's love to our troubled world.

Years ago, the priests of my diocese elected me to be their clergy personnel director, a job which helps the bishop in the assignment and placement of priests. Eventually, it led to my becoming president of the National Association of Church Personnel Administrators.

My respect for priests is therefore based on years of experience working with them and for them. They have all chosen a life of altruism, based on a deep faith in God's love, and so it is fitting to offer them this tribute of gratitude:

Dear Father, please know that you have the heartfelt thanks of millions of Catholics for all you do, and have done over the years, to carry out the mission that Jesus assigned to you. Your generous service includes: offering the holy sacrifice of the Mass, baptizing babies, hearing confessions, assisting the dying and comforting the afflicted. It also encompasses your hidden life of empathy for those who come to you with their problems and emotional pain.

As a priest, you have had to face a lot of turmoil in your life: stress coming from the backlash of the child abuse scandal and anger from anti-Catholic bigotry. With it all, you've managed to persevere, holding on to your dignity.

Jesus faced far worse, even to the point of dying on the cross. When he said, "Take courage, I have conquered the world" (Jn 16: 33), he was aware of the feelings of loneliness and inadequacy you have endured from time to time as you carried out the duties of your vocation.

Like St. Paul, you've always known that God's grace will sustain you. He said, "If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness" (2 Cor 11:30), because his weakness reminded him that the strength he needed came directly from Christ.

You, Father, have lived through turbulent times. The exaltation of exaggerated individualism has caused many problems. As the baby boomers now begin to retire, all of us need to consider their legacy. They were caught up in the sexual liberation movement, and many of them rejected the religious values of their parents.

Sexual promiscuity, smoking pot and experimenting with drugs all contributed to a soaring divorce rate. The human misery that followed has been disturbing the peace in our culture ever since.

Dear Father, it has not been easy, but through it all, you have remained a carrier of divine love, a true believer and a spiritual leader in the battle against Satan, who goes about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Keep depending on the Lord's strength, and all will be well.

P.S. We priests send our sincere thanks to the laity for all the love and support you have so generously bestowed upon us year after year. God bless you, always and forever.

Father John Catoir is a columnist for Catholic News Service

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