Father Kiesler was in the office reading a copy of The Spirit of the Liturgy by Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI). His mother gave it to him when he visited her on Mother’s Day. He was greeted enthusiastically first by his younger sister, Katja and then, his mother who was beside herself with delight. Then, she excused herself and scurried off. Then, she returned with the book. “I have wanted to give you this for a long time,” she told him as she held it out.
He took it from her. “Thank you. I look forward to reading it.”
“I think you will be blessed when you read this,” she said. “I think it should be required reading in Catholic schools. It would be a very fitting way to honor Pope Benedict. I was so sorry when he resigned although I understood why he did. I admire him very much. He’s one of the Church’s most brilliant theologian and spiritual leader. And he also wrote the bestseller book, Jesus of Nazareth which he said was his personal search ‘for the face of the Lord'”.
“I’ve read both Jesus of Nazareth and Introduction to Christianity. Both are important books which should be read by all Christians.”
His mother had been very pleased to hear that. And she had been delighted when he turned up. “I hoped, prayed that you would come,” she told him, her eyes moist as they met his after they hugged.
“I had to come and wish you a Happy Mother’s Day in person and bring you your favorite flowers.” He held out the bouquet of white lilies.
While his sister, Katja took them to put them in a vase, his mother asked him in a low voice, “Why haven’t you visited us since last year April?”
“I’m sorry, Mother. I’ve been very busy at the church.”
“I guess you have more responsibilities since Father Schmidt died.”
He nodded. “Yes.” He had told her about Father Schmidt’s death but he hadn’t mentioned anything else. Sooner or later, he would have to tell her and the rest of the family about Sister Augustin’s murder, the attempt on Monifa’s life and his own brush with death.
“How are you, Jürgen?”
“I’m fine, Mother.”
“Are you sure? You look like you’ve lost some weight.”
“I guess I have but it isn’t anything to worry about. I’m eating very well and getting lots of exercise.”
“What you need is a good home cooked meal. I made your favorite, Sauerbraten with Veal. And I’ll give you the hot cross buns I baked to take with you. Now, let’s go and join the others. They are just dying to see you.”
She took his hand and led him to the living-room where his father, his older brother, Hans, his wife, Gretchen and their two children were. As he hugged them, he thought at the back of his mind what they would all say if they knew about his relationship with Monifa. Before he had driven here from Hamburg, he had telephoned Monifa to tell her that he was visiting his mother for Mother’s Day. He wished she could have gone with him but it wouldn’t have been a good idea. The last thing he wanted to do was to spoil the day for his mother.
He enjoyed his visit with his family and it was after nine when he left. “It’s too bad you couldn’t spend the night or even the weekend,” his mother had said regretfully.
Spending the weekend was out of the question. He had spent yesterday with Monifa. “I’ll visit again soon,” he promised her before he hugged and kissed her. By the time he got to the rectory, it was 11:45. Tired from a busy day and a long drive, he went straight to bed.
It was Thursday and after the midday mass, he went to the office to finish up some business. When he was done, he got up from the desk, took up the book his mother had given him and began to read it.
He glanced up. “Yes, Sister Paschek?”
“Bishop Haas is here.”
“Bishop Haas is here?”
“Yes, Father. He’s in the sanctuary.”
“But, I wasn’t expecting him until next weekend.”
“Perhaps, he decided that this weekend would be better.”
Father Kiesler closed the book. “All right, I’ll be in the sanctuary if anyone needs me.”
“Yes, Father.” Sister Paschek excused herself and bustled away.
Father Kiesler went over to the desk and put the book away in the drawer. He left the office and headed to the sanctuary, wondering why the Bishop wanted to see him. When he walked into the sanctuary, Bishop Haas rose to his feet. His face broke into a big smile. “Father Kiesler,” he greeted him.
“Eure Exzellenz Haas.”
“You’re looking well, Father, considering what you’ve been through.”
“Yes. It has been a challenge but by God’s grace and with the support of the Sisters and the clergy, I have managed.”
“I suppose you’re wondering why I’m here today when my Pastoral visit is next week.”
“Yes, to be honest, I was.”
“Well, since I’m here today, I think it would make my Pastoral visit this week instead. I hope it’s not an inconvenience for you.”
“No, it isn’t an inconvenience for me at all, Your Excellency. I’m completely at your disposal.”
“Very good. I wanted to discuss something with you beforehand. I want Pastoral ministers to get training on how to deal with dementia. It is important for our parishioners and their families.”
“I think that’s a very good idea,” Father Kiesler said. “My maternal grandmother suffered from Parkinson’s before she died.”
“I know many old and dear friends who have dementia and have seen how tough it is on them and their loved ones. They need the church’s support.”
“Yes, they do.”
“After leaving Hamburg, I will be going to Berlin where I have an interview on the Catholic news channel, Faith of Fire to share my concerns about the German Church’s synodal path. We cannot have our church following a path which “the Synodal Path which is more submission and obedience to the world and its ideologies than to Jesus Christ who is Lord and Savior.”
“I’ve heard about this. They want blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples and the ordination of women as deacons or priests.”
“Yes. They want married men to be allowed to be priests. And their view on sexual morality contradicts the Catholic Church’s view as stated in Humanae vitae. They want homosexual sexual acts within same-sex unions/partnerships to be theologically accepted and not classified as a sinful behaviour. This is contrary to the Catechism’s teachings on sexual ethics and the Bible’s teachings as well.”
Father Kiesler had always been strongly opposed to homosexuality, same sex unions and relationships and women being ordained. He also believed that priests or clergy who were suspected of sexual abuse should be forced to resign. And if found guilty, they should spend the rest of their lives in prison where they couldn’t hurt anyone. However, until he met and fell in love with Monifa, he had been against married men being ordained as priests. If only he could marry her and still be a priest. “I remember reading an article some years ago which said that there’s no compelling biblical reason why priests have to be celibate and that ordaining married men today would not be good.”
Bishop Haas shook his head. “Married priests in our Church? God forbid! Celibacy is a special gift of God and it allows those who practice it to follow more closely the example of Christ, who was chaste. When a priest enters into service to God, the church becomes his highest calling. As St. Paul rightly said, He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord but he who is married cares about the things of the world—how he may please his wife. Men ordained to be priests ought rather to please the Lord and care about the things of the Lord and that means living a life of celibacy which is the greatest act of self-sacrifice a Catholic priest is called upon to make. It is important to remember that celibacy was advocated and practiced by St. Paul and Christ.”
Father Kiesler was tempted to say that Christ never taught that people should forgo marriage and remain celibate. Just yesterday he read in the Gospel of Matthew where the disciples said, ‘If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry’ after He said that if a man divorced his wife for any other reason except for sexual immorality and remarried, he commits adultery, Jesus told them, that not everyone could accept that except to whom it was given. Celibacy wasn’t for everyone just as marriage wasn’t for everyone but it all boiled down to choice. Paul knew that and that was why he said that it was better for those who couldn’t live a life of celibacy to marry rather than to burn with lust. Instead, he said, “Christ didn’t come here to marry and to have a family. His purpose was to serve God and to offer His life for us.”
“That is true. Likewise, a man once he becomes a priest, he should not think about marriage or children. His purpose is to serve God, to offer his life as a sacrifice for Him and for the Church.”
Father Kiesler didn’t answer. He had decided that he could be married and still serve God.
“Marriage will not exist in heaven. For Jesus Himself said, that when we rise from dead, we will neither marry nor be given in marriage, but will like the angels in heaven. Celibacy is the more desirable state for us to be in because it is eternal, heavenly.”
“It makes sense that marriage will not exist in heaven because its soul purpose was for mankind to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth.”
Bishop Haas glanced at his watch. “Father, I have taken up enough of your time. I must be going now.”
“I’ll walk you out, Your Excellency.”
They left the sanctuary and to the front of the church where a car was waiting for the Bishop. “I will see you tomorrow at 8, Father,” Bishop Haas said, smiling. “Goodbye.”
“Goodbye, Your Excellency.” He watched the car drive away and then went back inside the church.
Sources: Amazon; Expatrio; Catholic News; Fantasy Name Generators; Vatican News; The B.C. Catholic; Wikipedia; Peterborough Diocese; MacLean’s; The Economist; Catholic Answers; The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; Catholic Answers