From my friend, Father Frowin, I learned of this tragic news:
On my mind and
in my heart I have been thinking a priest who died on 3 July at his own hand.
Father Paul Archambault, 42, priest of the Diocese of Springfield, MA, had his demons with which to struggle in this
life; his struggle is not unlike the rest of humanity, that is, a struggle to
live with great humanity tensions between grace and sin. I didn’t know Father
Paul; I am nonetheless moved by his hasty act and struck by his death at this
young age, one that I share with him. Father Paul’s desperate act of suicide is
bewildering and saddening. My reflections lead me to say that sometimes we are
consumed by sin (or some other weakness) and forget that there is Friendship
beyond all others really cares for us. Nevertheless, Christ is present to
sustain us when we can’t remember that He’s offered us the Hundredfold.
John Lessard, former pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Holyoke and
friend of Father Paul, delivered the words noted below at the funeral at Saint
Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Northampton on July 12.
What is our response to
this tragic end of a priest? First, I would suggest that we beg the Holy Spirit
to preserve us from nihilistic temptations. Suicide is a mis-understood act
that many are tempted, even priests. In a week’s time I know of one other
priest who attempted suicide and lived. And over the years, I have known four
priests to have committed suicide. Second, cast an eye of mercy on those who
struggle with the temptation to permanently end their pain and suffering. What
are the distinguishing characteristics of Christ’s presence in these events?
Third, pray for priests. Fourth, be a good friend to others, particularly
Let us help each other see the Face of Christ. Let us also pray for
each other, and at this time all those who mourn Father Paul Archambault. Also, I would also caution against defining a person exclusively by some of his or her actions. We are more than one or two actions.
are a few paragraphs. For the rest of Father Lessard’s address, you may read it
So, it is with the Sacrament of Holy Orders of the Priesthood. Grace. Not magic.
And a man who enters into this unique and tremendous Sacrament, much like
married people, does not become immune to anything but rather can count on his
troubles to increase as the evil enemy fights with all his might to take down a
priest. The Sacrament of Holy Orders does not prevent sickness or illness of
any kind, does not cure what was already there. And we must understand that
true sickness, whether it be of body or of mind is sickness; it is not
chosen. A couple of years ago, a dear friend was diagnosed with breast
cancer. Would it possibly ever cross one’s mind to blame her for her cancer? Of
course not. If we are to love one another, care for and about one another as
Christ not only asked us to do but commanded us to do and tells us our
salvation rests largely upon fulfilling that command, we must put aside any and
all silliness and ignorance that prevent us from seeing illness for what it is,
no matter what that illness is. Would we blame a man with Parkinson’s disease
for his chronic illness? Of course not. Do you blame the child who
develops leukemia? The thought is absurd and ludicrous, isn’t it? And as
with cancer or any other malady of the body, so with illness of the mind
sometimes treatments cure, sometimes they are very successful for a number of
years, sometimes they are partly and briefly successful, sometimes they fail
The Congregation for Clergy published an examination of conscience entitled “The Priest, Minister of Divine Mercy: An Aid for Confessors and Spiritual Directors” which hopes to reinvigorate the priest’s spiritual paternity by a recovery of the sacrament of Confession by penitent and confessor. Here is yet another aspect of the new evangelization called for by Blessed John Paul II and now Pope Benedict: the renewal of priests and people through Reconciliation.
“The Priest, Minister of Divine Mercy” is the fruit of Pope Benedict’s Year for Priests. As Cardinal Piacenza notes, this “is a measure of authentic faith in the saving action of God which shows itself more clearly in the power of grace than in human strategic or pastoral initiatives which sometimes overlook this essential truth.” A sobering statement for one who works in a parish.
On the surface it seems that this text is exclusively for the clergy. Don’t be fooled into putting it aside. I would recommend it to the laity as well. Be acquainted to the sacrament of Confession, the theology and practice of the Church and what the Church expects of her clergy. We have to help each other see Christ’s work among through concrete manifestation of Divine Mercy.
Consider the ideas found in the introduction (the link to the full text is at the end):
“It is necessary to return to the confessional as a place in which to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but also as a place in which “to dwell” more often, so that the faithful may and compassion, advice and comfort, feel that they are loved and understood by God and experience the presence of Divine Mercy beside the Real Presence in the Eucharist”.
With these words, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI addressed confessors during the recent Year for Priests, indicating to each one present the importance and therefore the apostolic urgency of rediscovering the Sacrament of Reconciliation, both from their viewpoint of penitents as well as that of ministers. Along with the daily celebration of the Eucharist, the availability of the priest to hear sacramental confessions, to welcome penitents, and to accompany them spiritually when they so request, is the real measure of a priest’s pastoral charity. By their availability, priests give joyful witness and in a certain sense take upon themselves their true identity, redeﬁned in the Sacrament of Holy Orders and not reducible to a mere functionality. The priest is a minister, which is to say that he is at the same time both a servant and a prudent dispenser of Divine Mercy. To him is entrusted the serious responsibility “to forgive or to retain sins” (cf. John 20: 23).
Through him, and through the power of the Spirit who is the Lord and Giver of Life, the faithful are able to experience today in the Church the joy of the Prodigal Son, who after a life of sin returned to his father’s house in the manner of a servant but was welcomed with the dignity of a son. Whenever a confessor is available, sooner or later a penitent will arrive. And if the confessor continues to make himself available, even stubbornly so, sooner or later many penitents will arrive! Our rediscovery of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, both as penitents and as ministers, is a measure of authentic faith in the saving action of God which shows itself more clearly in the power of grace than in human strategic or pastoral initiatives which sometimes overlook this essential truth.
Responding to the appeal of the Holy Father and expressing his profound intent, this aid is intended as yet another fruit of the Year for Priests, to be a helpful instrument for the ongoing formation of the Clergy and an aid in rediscovering the indispensible value of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and of Spiritual Direction. The new evangelization and the ongoing renewal of the Church, semper reformanda, draw their life blood from the true sanctiﬁcation of each member of the Church. It is clear that sanctiﬁ cation must precede both evangelization and renewal, for it lays claim to and forms the necessary precondition for every effective apostolic effort, as well as for the reform of the Clergy.
In the generous celebration of the Sacrament of Divine Mercy, each priest is called to experience for himself the uniqueness and the indispensability of the ministry entrusted to him. Such an experience will help him to avoid the “ever-changing sense of identity” which so often marks the existence of some priests. Instead, his experience will cultivate within himself that sense of wonder which ﬁ lls his heart, for through no merit of his own he is called by God, in the Church, to break the Eucharistic Bread and to forgive the sins of others.
Here’s “The Priest, Minister of Divine Mercy: An Aid for Confessors and spiritual Directors”: Examination of Conscience for confessors and spiritual directors.pdf