We grew up marinated in tales of priestly heroism, from ancient times to the modern day, telling of priests who risked all to bring the Word and the Sacraments to the Faithful. Tales of these martyrs strengthened us and inspired us, since what besides a supernatural Faith could make these men do what they did?
After all, to be a priest is a form of sacrifice, giving up family and friends for Christ, explicitly offering one's life for Him, no matter the cost.
Yet today our priests have fled to the hills in fear of the flu, taking the Sacraments with them. The demoralizing effect of this can hardly be imagined. In the aftermath of this crisis, it might perhaps be quantified in the number of people who have left the Church after it abandoned them in the hour of need. Indeed, the Pope's own secretary said the same thing.
Why?? The larger issue, which I've been pondering ever since the disgraceful silence of the clergy during the St. Patrick's Day parade debacle, is what kind of men are becoming priests these days? I don't think these men are made of the same stuff as an St. Edmund Campion for instance. We'll leave that for another day. What I want to explore now are those historical examples of Catholic priests who risked their lives to say the Mass and bring the Sacraments to the flock despite the presence of disease and plague. A martyrology of priests who showed courage in the face of persecution and certain death is one thing. After all, we Staten Islanders have the example of Father Vincent Capodanno to inspire us. But in this time of fear and disease, let us look to the past to learn how we should act.
I will follow up this post with examinations of historical examples.