Even though he wasn't permitted to hear confessions, Fr. Solanus Casey heard thousands of sorrowful stories as he ministered to those who came to the door of the Capuchin friary. And though he was often a catalyst in bringing about healing or the resolution of a problem, there were times when he simply had to sit and "be" with people in their pain.
Msgr. Richard Henning once wrote a beautiful passage on this aspect of the priesthood which bears repeating: "...you might imagine that witnessing the many kinds of suffering that afflict humanity must be a cause of sadness. I suppose it is partly that. I believe that is part of the priest's calling to exercise compassion, literally to 'suffer with' others. And we have the sacred duty of intercessory prayer for the Church, the world and all who suffer.
"Having said that, I can also attest that being a witness to suffering is also a tremendous grace. To draw near to the suffering is to begin to perceive the mystery of the Cross. I would never wish suffering upon any of my brothers or sisters, but I can attest to the beauty of their faith, hope and love on the darkest days. My faith is never more alive or strengthened than on those days when I witness a faithful disciple of the Lord who loves in the midst of fear and pain."
True grace! On this Friday before Advent, let us all take some time to pray for our faithful priests who stand beside us, who pray with us, and who love us for Christ's sake. May we show them our love in return.
Ven. Solanus Casey, pray for us!