Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Drunken Priest

Somewhere back in the dark recesses of the Abandoned Mind, perhaps in an unused and forgotten side-tunnel somewhere, I hear the echoes of a story I read once. It went something like this…

In 19th century Russia there was a priest who was a hopeless alcoholic. He was often tipsy during services and frequently drunk both day and night. It became so bad that he could barely function as a priest and began to draw the condemnation of his parishioners. Soon his bishop heard of this and called him into his office. “What is this I hear of you?” demanded the hierarch, “Are you a drunkard?” The shamed priest admitted to his addiction, claiming that many times he had tried to stop drinking, but his attraction to alcohol was simply too strong to overcome. “Then you can no longer serve as a priest in the Church of God” asserted his bishop, who promptly removed from him his priestly office.

That night as the bishop lay asleep in his bed, he had disturbing dreams of dead people arising from their graves and appearing before him saying, “What have you done to our priest? Where is he?” For several nights the hierarch had similar dreams of departed souls haunting him and fervently demanding of him, “Why have you done this to us? Return to us our priest!”

Finally the bishop called the defrocked priest back to his office and asked of him, “What have you been doing? Why are the souls of the departed appearing to me in my sleep and speaking of you?” The priest confessed, “For many years I knew that I was a drunkard and unfit to serve our blessed Lord. In despair I began to go out to the graves and pray night and day for the departed, thinking that at least this one thing I could do, and that they would not object to my shameful presence or my prayers on their behalf.”

When the bishop heard this, he was deeply moved and struck by a renewed awareness of the unfathomable mercy of God toward sinners. He promptly reinstated the priest and told him to continue his ministry of prayer for the departed.

Perhaps the message of this story is that our God is the God of redemption and hope. No matter how diminished, sinful or useless you may feel, perhaps there is yet a way that you can serve God and the needs of others in humility. “My strength is perfected in weakness” promises our Lord. Even in the darkest hour of our lives we can still find a way to serve if we do so with a humble heart and compassion for others. God be praised!


At 2/23/2006 8:33 PM , Blogger Aaron said...

i love this story...i guess i can relate in some way to that priest...though certainly he was more pious than i...or the guest at the wedding who has no garment and fears he will be thrown out.

God be praised.

At 3/07/2006 10:21 AM , Blogger Petros said...

I can relate to this story too.
Being this close to my Chrismation, I know how unworthy I am to be called Christian.

At 3/09/2006 11:20 AM , Blogger Hilarius said...

Thank you for these encouraging words, Father.

At 5/10/2006 3:46 AM , Blogger sorry kari mary lynn said...

this makes my cry.


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