The four priests were "great" friends. They met religiously every Monday for golf and afterwards enjoyed a friendly evening in each others company. When they parted it was understood that all would meet the following Monday "on the tee" unless sickness or holidays intervened.
It was an excellent arrangement that worked happily for years until one particular Monday morning when only three of the companions turned up. After making enquiries from his housekeeper the three priests were shocked to discover that their great friend and golfing buddy had left the priesthood. He had given no indication that he was having difficulties. It was only then that the golfing trio realised that they were not real friends to each other otherwise the fourth member of the team would have given some indication that he was experiencing difficulties and wished to discuss his problems with someone. Why did he not turn to them for help?
Sadly, in this busy world some of our priests depart and leave no forwarding address whilst others thankfully inform their bishop well in advance who then makes adequate provisions for their departure.
When the laity learn that Father has gone they immediately wonder what was the cause of his departure. Then speculation takes off, was it because of a woman? Did he disagree with some of the Church's teachings? Did he have a row with the bishop or just feel all alone and neglected? Was he overworked?
Many are called
The story is told of a woman who went to the sacrament of reconciliation and confessed that she had undergone an abortion some years earlier. Her confessor listened to her story and then gave her a most unusual penance. He told her to go home and look into the well that was at the end of her garden and when she had done so to return and relate what she had seen.
Some time later, as instructed the penitent returned and informed her confessor that when she had carried out her remarkable penance she had seen the image of a man in a white cassock in the water at the bottom of the well. It was then that the priest informed her that the figure she had seen was a special manifestation. He told her that had she permitted her son to live, Almighty God had decreed that her child would one day have been elected Pope.
Knowing that the Lord will call us to account for the responsibilities entrusted to us, for the good and bad we have done to our brothers and sisters perhaps it may be prudent for each and every one of us, bishops, priests and laity to look into the well of our own hearts to discover if through any act of ours whether of omission or commission we might be personally liable for terminating a potential vocation, or, God forbid a number of vocations, in those souls entrusted to our care.
If every priest took a little time to foster vocations, we would be well on our way to greater numbers in the seminaries, and the priests themselves would find greater satisfaction and contentment, decreasing their stress and frustration as they see the presbyterate being renewed.
Failure to Act
Vocations Guide to Priesthood
Exit Interview with Priest Leaving Ministry