I have to admit that in this post I am borrowing a page from John Corapi’s own work; an audio series entitled “The Father’s Love.” Three Father’s Days ago (or three years back) I ordered copies of this set from Santa Cruz media and gifted them to my husband, brother and father. One talk in particular focused on the attack on the family coming in the form of an attack on the priesthood.
“An attack on the priesthood is an attack on the family.”
“Strike the shepherd, scatter the sheep.” I can hear John Corapi’s fiery voice resounding within my mind as I write this.
And now he’s left the priesthood, and the announcement, made on Father’s day weekend, has sparked an array of reactions, predominantly negative. But how is the ‘average’ Catholic household to express the sense of loss we may feel in this case, where we now grieve the departure of a good priest? No, a great priest. One of the best.
Simply, we do so by remaining faithful to our vocation as families. The truth is, life still trudges on for us on the domestic frontlines doesn’t it? I’m not trying to sound the victim, please don’t misunderstand, what I mean is that we are truly used to priests ‘going away’ in current times, aren’t we? On a parish level, we consistently experience the rotation of priests in and out of their diocesan or religious order assignments. And while we miss them when they leave, we also welcome their replacement with open arms and hopeful hearts at the prospect of having our children baptized by them, our receiving absolution, and, of course, the Eucharist from them. But not so commonplace is having to say goodbye to a priest because he leaves the priesthood. The shift from having an “M” rather than an “F” before the lowercase “r” is a more difficult one for people to wrap their heads around. We grieve even in that circumstance much the way one mourns a leader stepping down from office or retiring. In this case there will be no replacement surfacing in the same capacity. Ever. How could there be? There will never be another Fr. John Corapi; the "Black Sheep Dog" or any other title won't ever attain to the same reverence vested in the former.
Not that I think that Corapi is claiming that his new emergent identity is on the same level as a priest. A sheep dog functions differently to the shepherd and that's probably why he chose it. However the emphasis on his new role as an auxiliary herdsman of the flock, a role entrusted to that of the canine variety, augments the great gulf existing between the two vocations: as a layman, he will never be a priest again much the way a sheepdog will never and can never be the shepherd.
And so it will take some time for my family to ‘get over’ this news; there is some grieving we have yet to do. But not too much more of it, I’m hoping.
Families who attempt with humility to abide by the Faith tend to be resilient units of grace and so we will indeed move on with life as we always have. We must because there is still just so much living left to do. And so the ripples of sudden change go the same way as gradual change: they fade with time, the great equalizer, and eventually the landscape looks much the same as it did before any disturbance occurred.
We are grateful for John Corapi and always will be. Whatever the future of his ministry as a laicized priest holds, we pray that he will remain faithful to the Church he loves and defends so eloquently. We still need good priests, the life of the Family depends upon it, and so I can only end this post with the same verbal exhortation that concludes the aforementioned audio series (and can’t you just hear the passionate enjoiner in your mind?):
“Pray for your priests. Love your priests because your priests love you. God bless you. “