Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

"Let the priests weep between the porch and the altar." Joel 2:17

IT'S SAID THAT WOMEN cry on average fifty times a year while men cry ten times annually. So maybe the Prophet Joel was on to something here when he said, "Let the priests weep between the porch and the altar of the temple." Pope Francis recently suggested that priests pray for the gift of tears and that a priest who can no longer cry has failed. 

But weep about what? There are three kinds of tears: the tears that keep our eyes lubricated, the tears that wash our eyes from irritants like onion and dirt, and the tears that express deep emotion. 

It took 600 years to build the cathedral at Cologne, Germany which was hit by allied bombs during the later part of the Second World War. Here is a photo of some American soldiers attending Mass inside that bombed cathedral. The priest is bending low at the Consecration. Perhaps he is whispering the sacred words of Jesus over the bread the moment the picture was taken:"This is my Body." Maybe he spoke those words through tears. And priests today...

for the immolated and beheaded,
the sufferers of domestic violence,
for the sins that are rationalized and justified.

over evil un-acknowledged,
 hidden, brushed under the carpet,
quickly forgotten,

for scenes too awful for words,
abortion, infanticide, genocide, 
over the evil of sexual exploitation,
the enslavement of children,
nationalized sin
and our insatiable thirst for drugs.

over policies that victimize the weakest and the littlest,
 profits made off the backs of the poor and desperate,
for our raped planet ~ the destruction of air, water, plants and animals,
 for the sins of war
 and the huge money made in war preparations,

racist, prejudicial, spit-cursing hatred,
cruel neglect and torture,
the brutalizing evil that occurs in prisons,
human indifference, greed and lies,
cheap excuses and
the eagerness to blame victims.

the crimes of religion,
righteousness and piety masking scorn,
institutionalized secrets,
the love of money and power.

and penthos ~ the gift of tears for my personal error,
weakness and waste,
pride and ignorance,
the sins of my youth.

But the Prophet Joel lived many centuries before Jesus. For the Christian then, there is more ~ so much more! Here is a painting by Geralamo de Romano, titled Christ Helping Adam to Rise. 

Look, the doors which keep us locked in the lowest place are smashed and off their hinges. In his dying Jesus has gone down into the experience of our deepest un-doing and decay, our so very wrong choices and rebellion, our awful ignorance, indifference and loss. And grasping us by our chained hands, he lifts us up in great courtesy to all that is new and of God in the fullness of our humanity. 

So I would suggest the verse, "Let the priests weep..." suggests also weeping for joy in the Death-Resurrection of Christ. A bright-sadness. We might arrive a little early for our next Lenten Mass to enter this inner place before we even catch sight of the priest approaching the altar. 


  1. Are speaking of symbolic or internal tears? I have never seen a priest weep any tears at all.

    1. No, I think we're talking about real tears - wet tears. I know of priests who have caused others to cry, but I haven't seen many priests weeping themselves. A priest who buried a couple killed on their wedding day wept. I've seen a priest cry a bit during the burial of his mother. But the pope seems to be aware that priests need to pray for the gift of tears. He references those priests who have lost the ability to cry over the world. But this isn't just about priests, is it?

    2. We all have lost the ability to cry for the world Father. It is as if we have turned to stone. Not just the priests, but people everwhere. We need to really look within ourselves and find the strength to speak up for the abused and hungry and oppressed and poor. But It is also true that many priests need to lead more by example than what they say to do. In today's world, we need our priests to direct us more.

    3. To be sure. The priest is supposed to signal for the people what is true for all of us. Thinking of the little dictum of St. Francis of Assisi to his brothers: "Preach the Gospel everywhere, and if necessary, use words." And the psalm: "If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts." A Jewish rabbi said to me once about Catholicism: 'There's so much to believe." And I understood her. Believing is one thing, but heart- transformation is quite another.

  2. Very nice! Thank you for sharing it! ~ Theo

  3. We shall all weep together for these sorrowful things. Amen.

  4. I grieve for those afflicted by loss and those who are suffering at the hands of malignant evil. May they find inner peace, oh Lord.

  5. Such feelings of remorse coming from everywhere. Fill us with your peace, Lord.

  6. If I were pope - (little laugh) I would make it a rule that when a priest or bishop or cardinal comes to Rome for any reason, he must at some point during the visit walk the Scala Santa on his knees in the name of the Church and his nation. The Scala Santa are the holy steps Jesus walked outside Pilate's headquarters after being released for crucifixion. How did those stairs get from Palestine to Rome? Wherever there are human beings there is sin.