Hooking up PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 22 December 2015 15:35



I know that the expression, “to hook up,” now has acquired a bad connotation. The all too liberal and permissive atmosphere of many Western countries has turned what otherwise is a good expressioninto something bad and awful.

But I would like to recover its original dignity and refer it more to that delicate task we, priests, do, especially when we hear confessions and give spiritual direction. For us, to hook up is to know how to enter into the mind and heart of the persons concerned so we can guide them properly.

It’s a very challenging duty. There are many things to consider and to contend with. In the first place, all kinds of people come. There are those the priest can have some easy, natural affinity.

But there are those who are so different and difficult for one reason or another.

A priest truly has to learn how to listen well, how to empathize, how to win the person’s confidence. Yes, one has to be a friend and even a father to the penitent. But he should also be a judge and a doctor, since there obviously will be judgments and decisions to make, as well as illnesses to cure and unhealthy conditions to take care of.

For all this to happen, a lot of things have to be done.

One really has to be genuinely interested in others. He has to learn to discipline his own biases and preferences if only to accommodate everyone.

He should learn the art of quickly and correctly reading  the minds and hearts of the people. This will take a lot of training.

He has to know where people are coming from spiritually and morally in order to put his pieces of advice in context. So, the gift of discernment is very much needed here. He should be very sensitive and attentive to the different nuances of people’s spiritual and moral conditions.

More than all these, he has to love them truly, which can only mean that he has to burn with the love of God which is the only genuine kind of love that can handle everything and everyone.

It’s the love that can make one be all things to all men, as shown by God himself who became man and ultimately assumed all the sinfulness of men by dying on the cross. He is the very standard of empathy and compassion, justice and mercy.

As St. Paul said, Christ himself was even made like sin to save all of us. “For our sake he (God) made him (Christ) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5,21)

In other words, the priest should be willing to get dirty with the people without getting dirty in what really matters. Heshould not be scandalized by anything that will be presented to him.

Of course, this is only possible if one is truly identified with the suffering Christ.

From here we can deduce that the priest has to wage a continuing and severe ascetical struggle himself, knowing that he also has to his weaknesses and other issues that he has to resolve himself.

He also has to feel the need for repentance and forgiveness.

To the extent that he sincerely struggles in his own spiritual and moral life would he be effective in helping others in their own spiritual and moral struggles. He will understand them and know how to help them, in the tenor expressed by the Letter to the Hebrews: “He can deal gently with the ignorant and the wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.” (5,2)

But all these considerations about mercy and charity should not detract from our need to meet all the requirements of truth and justice. A priest should know also how to inspire people truly  repent their sins, recognizing the gravity of their sins and the need for atonement and reparation.

A priest would be distorting the true face of divine mercy if he neglects the importance of truth and divine justice. As mentioned earlier, a priest is not only a friend and a father, ever gentle and compassionate, slow to anger and quick to forgive. He should be a judge that renders good judgments and also a doctor who has to perform sometimes painful interventions.

So, a priest has to be an expert in the doctrinal side of the spiritual and moral life of people. This should be a permanent object of the priest’s ongoing formation.

It is in these that the priest can truly hook up with the people.