I have spent two hours in the company of a Roman Catholic priest, Father Piotr Koczorowski, today. At the end of that time I came to a number of conclusions:
1. If he was allowed to marry and I wasn’t already happily married, I would happily marry him. He was a lovely man.
2. If I had known a Roman Catholic priest like him when I was younger I would probably not have left the Roman Catholic Church. He was a lovely man of God.
There is a kind of arrogance about some Christians where they exhibit very little doubt about things. They are very sure that they are right and everyone else is wrong. They have a very clear list of what is right and what is wrong and everything is either black or white. Some Christians do not strike me as being very warm and affectionate people at all. They come across as quite cold and hard and judgemental. Not so my man today.
Father Piotr Koczorowski was talking to a group of young people about his life, his faith and his vocation as a Roman Catholic Priest. It was obvious that the man loved God. His was not an empty or shallow commitment. He admitted that part of the reason for being a Roman Catholic priest, as opposed to a church minister in any other denomination, or just a man of faith without the ministry, was being brought up in Poland where 90% of the population are Roman Catholic.
We have a tendency to think that our experience of something is the only possible experience and that no one can experience any thing different to what we do. When I think about my own Roman Catholic experience in my younger days I think in terms of being made to feel guilty all the time and it gave me no sense of comfort or encouragement. My husband’s experience was different to my own. He found a joy in the liturgy that I never did, and loved the ceremony and ritual that I found a bit daunting. I suppose no one ever told me why we did the things we did and I found much of it irrelevant.
Some people have never experienced the Roman Catholic Church for themselves and rely on word of mouth testimonies that are sometimes third or fourth hand, or gleaned from a book or encyclopedia. What they have learned tends to be someone else’s prejudices. They are told things in isolation without the context and repeat it back parrot fashion.
The one phrase that he repeated over and over again was that his “job” was to make an invisible God visible through serving the community. Isn’t that our “job” as Christians regardless of the label we stick on ourselves? I wonder what kind of “visible God” people see through our service in the community.
The young people today went away with a different picture of the Roman Catholic Church because they had talked to Father Piotr Koczorowski. He didn’t make any excuses or cover up his doubts. He admitted that, yes, he did swear sometimes but tried not to do so in public. What made him angry was evil in the world that was unchallenged. Sometimes he didn’t want to answer the door and serve someone. He didn’t really enjoy listening to people’s confessions. He wished that people would stop being lazy in their faith and made the sacrifices that God asks of them. He really enjoyed seeing people change for the better and knowing that he was part of that process of change.
It was a privilege to spend time with him.
I wonder if people come to that conclusion when they spent time with me!