A priest writing in a diocesan bulletin mentions visiting an elderly priest relative he greatly admired. He lived a very organized life, following the guidelines to holiness he had learned in the seminary. Before the time of the Second Vatican Council, he remembers hearing in seminary that "those who live within a rule live in God." Which seemed to him a perfect description of his priest relative.
Many Christians at that time felt that the goal of religious life meant only saving your own soul. Rules and regulations were there to protect us from sin and to keep us from succumbing to temptations. After the Second Vatican Council, this emphasis is beginning to change.
He remembers a course he took in the Philippines a few years after ordination. The professor said to the class he regretted not stressing the Gospel message of love more rather than some of the other areas of the Christian message. The order of priority of the teachings was not clear, he said, when he looked back at the way he had taught in the past. He felt he was like the lawyers of the law Jesus had difficulty with during his three years of public life.
He recalls the words of a French bishop who said he had, unfortunately, lived the teachings of the Old Testament more than he had the New. Jesus had stressed the importance of having a deep and wide love and of working to establish his kingdom but, instead, the priest said he got lost in the regulations.
We should always question what we believe, he reminds us. All of us believe a great many things that we have never bothered to examine carefully. This is not only in matters of religion but in all facets of life. We accept too quickly when someone we trust has said it, or because it is the common understanding or because we learned it in school. "Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have, but do it with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15).
The writer mentions how a sacristy priest is often described: A priest who limits his pastoral work to the Mass and Sacraments. These are, he says, very important but when we forget the works of love and have no interest in the problems of society something is missing. At times there is a lot of criticism of priests who seem to be too concerned about social problems, but we hear little about those who stay in the sacristy.
"The truth will make us free" (John 8:31). We should be searching for this truth in the will of God and by doing the works of love. Not only to save face and be concerned with regulations, but to be a responsible person before God and a mature disciple.