Mary Hyphen's letter of June 18, headed "Why some priests leave the Church," spotlights an already muchpublicised problem, but fails to reveal its basic causes.
First of all, the apparent decrease in reverence for the priesthood sterns not from unworthy or inadequate priests, but from a decline in reverence fur the Blessed Sacrament. One does not have to be a theologian to realise that without the priesthood there would be no Blessed Sacrament, and that as one's appreciation of and devotion to the Real Presence deepens, so one's reverence for the priesthood deepens correspondingly.
Secondly, Mary Hyphen completely disregards a fundamental point: that a priest must be, above all, a man of prayer. If a priest for any reason does not maintain and cherish a deep, personal and solid prayer-life he must inevitably fall farther and farther behind our Blessed Lord's supreme example of the priestly ideal.
But before anyone accuses any modern priest of failing to sustain his prayer-life, let me hasten to lay the blame for any such failure fairly and squarely at the door of the laity. Anyone who has the slightest idea of the pressures and duties which are the lot of today's priests can only be surprised that more of them do not fail by the wayside from lack of prayer, and this applies particularly to parish priests.
The serious shortage of priests caused by the drop in vocations, coupled with the general ten dency of lay people to regard religion as an "accessory", has forced the modern parish priest to become administrator, financier, chauffeur, gardener. decorator — in fact a jack-of-alltrades.
While it is always true that "the priest is not his own", from this premise surely follows the fact that he "belongs to his people", and thereby has a fundamental right — not just a casual claim — to their prayer. care and co-operation.
We all take so much from our priests: their time, their sym pathy, their energy — their whole life. Surely it's time we realised that if we gave a little instead; if we showed more care, more consideration, and prayed for them more, then — and only then — might we possibly win the right to criticise, and they in turn might begin to catch up with their prayers and thereby obviate the need for criticism.
(Mrs) Ivy K. Murphy 32 Ryde Lands, Cranleigh, Surrey.