Priests of the Future? Fathers Pat and Gerry Reynolds

There’s a moving tribute to a priest in today’s Irish Times, written by a chaplain, Michael Commane, who encountered Fr Pat Reynolds during his final days in Our Lady’s Hospice, Dublin.

Commane’s reflections on Reynolds’ last days remind us that while the institutional Catholic Church seems to have let so many people down, there are still brilliant souls within it. These are people who have provided hope for the hopeless, love for the unlovely, and served others selflessly.

I was alerted to Commane’s article because I am currently writing a biography of Fr Pat’s brother, Fr Gerry Reynolds. Fr Gerry was also a Redemptorist, and spent most of his years at Clonard Monastery in Belfast. Regular readers of this blog will know him for his work for Christian unity and reconciliation.

Over the last few days, I’ve been reflecting that Fr Gerry was the sort of priest that is needed in Ireland’s Church of the Future. I never met Fr Pat. But it sounds like he was that sort of priest, too.

There is an excerpt below from Commane’s article, or you can read the whole thing by clicking here.

Thinking Anew – a Grace Filled Privilege by Michael Commane

Pat had that wonderful ability of listening to you. Every single time I spoke with him I felt he was genuinely interested in me. We shared our life-stories. He had been many years in the Philippines. He came home to Ireland at one stage and was appointed director of students. When he told me that, I was able to joke with him and tell him I had no time for clericalism. He smiled and told me that they had no-one else for the job and that his predecessor had left the congregation and priesthood to marry a woman.

On hearing of Pat’s death, a nurse asked me when the funeral was as she would like to go to it and another nurse was on the verge of tears. Some days earlier, on the day he left our hospital, I saw a nurse express such sadness that he was leaving us. She said: “What a dote of a man, I’m going to miss him”. Remember, these are nurses, who deal with sick and dying people and yet they had been “blown over” by the kindness of this man, who happened to be a priest.

I have no real difficulty saying it but I have major issues with the hierarchical church. I’m angry, bored, annoyed, saddened, enraged by the actions of some priests. I can’t take the pomposity, the arrogance, the “I know best” attitude that sits so easily with so many priests. And then the silent ones too, who hide behind anonymity. Maybe it has something to do with my DNA, but that’s simply the sort of person I am. I think I understand why the institutional church is where it is today. I refuse to blame secularism or some raging enemy who is out to get the church. Instead people are sick to their back teeth with how the institutional church has behaved, and indeed still behaves. It seems to me the institutional church simply does not get it. But fortunately there is far more to the church than its clergy.

During the weeks Pat Reynolds was in our hospital, I never once heard him talk about the evils of secularism, nor about transubstantiation, canon law, gay marriage, Catholic schools, never once.

And yet he was a priest who has left an indelible mark on me. I feel certain there was not a member of staff he did not inspire. Why? Because he showed his love for God through his humanity. No stuff and nonsense, no posturing, no game-playing.

In tomorrow’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah, God says: “Console my people, console them”.

And in the Gospel, the first words from St Mark speak about the Good News of Jesus Christ. Pat Reynolds consoled and brought good news to people.

He lived the Gospel and people saw that.


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