Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, or even at their difficulty, as at the love with which we do them. -St. Therese of Lisieux
Day 52 of 365: Fr. Richard Doerr
Feb. 21, 2019– About 10 years ago, one of my holiest friends noticed I was in a dark place. I’ll spare you the details, except to say that she insisted I should meet her friend, Fr. Richard Doerr. Spiritually and otherwise, I was just a hot mess. Like he does all week long, year after year, with countless folks who seek him out or who are sent to him against their will, he used his considerable pastoral gifts to help me find the Lord.
Priests have long been targets of the enemy of enemies. After all, these good guys, (and I promise you most of them are just that), live their lives in heroic service to others. My friend, Fr. Richard, is such a man. He won’t care for this birthday tribute one bit, but I’m stubborn and unreasonable so I’m offering it here all the same. Sorry for your luck, Padre.As a diocesan priest, he’s the pastor of a parish of over 4,000 families. That’s north of 14,000 souls who are in his care, folks. He’s a Purdue grad and so am I, therefore I will offer you this comparison with which to judge the enormity of the task he’s been assigned. Have you ever attended a basketball game at Purdue’s Mackey Arena? The number of souls he’s tasked with guiding towards the Lord is roughly equal to a sell out crowd at Mackey. Think about that the next time he doesn’t respond to your message in the time frame you’d prefer.
He carries burdens too heavy for his people to bear alone. He consoles every day, and despite the incredible work load, he carries the secret grief, the tragic loss, the family crises, and the painful failures. The needy and the poor know the parish he leads is a place of refuge. He’s pastorally gifted, and he seems to exist in a calm, rational state despite frequent episodes without a reasonable amount of sleep. You see, if someone in his flock truly needs him, the hour doesn’t matter. He goes where he is called. His cross is very heavy, and he bears it with love. Sometimes, he’s maddeningly spent. Always, he’s prayerful, and mindful of the grace and beauty of the life he lives.
Because authenticity is my favorite quality in humans, I’ll offer that he’s a genuine and very real guy who has been known to curse when a good cuss word is just the best option available, and he’s got a wicked, sarcastic and hilarious sense of humor which often carries him through the day. That sense of humor definitely makes his homilies accessible and memorable. He can be both joyfully irreverent and shockingly compassionate.
Don’t forget, though, he’s a human being. He’s got his own family, including a mother, sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews on whom he dotes. Just like the rest of us, he’s needed to take mom to her doctor’s appointment or babysit for the little ones now and then. He needs and tries to take the time to be present for his own family. People forget that humanity and expect too much sometimes. It pleases me that he does an excellent job of looking after his physical health and he somehow manages to squeeze in workouts most days of the week.
All my people know I love this guy, and so does he. Keeping quiet isn’t a strength area for me. If I love you, I say so. Here’s the deal. This guy stuck with me when any other mere mortal would have told me to hit the road. I am nothing if not needy and persistent. He attempted to buy himself some oxygen by shoving spiritual books in my direction. I read them ALL. I was a sponge and I cried out for more. I fell in love with the saints, whom I had largely not yet met. I learned the Divine Mercy Chaplet, which I can only pray while singing aloud or in my mind, because it played on an endless loop on a CD he gave me. I was captivated by it’s beauty. He introduced me to Caravaggio’s art, which left me breathless. I’m not even going to tell you about the whole Taize prayer service he insisted I attend. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Well, I was moved to tears. You should find one and go. Talk about ridiculous!
When I take myself and my sins too seriously in confession, he says things like “Get off the cross, we need the wood, Shelly.” He makes me laugh at myself and he texts me stupid memes now and then when he’s had a long week or he sensed the same from me. He presides at reverent, beautiful masses and he sings like an angel. In short, he has been the most selfless shepherd I can ever imagine encountering. I realize his vocation calls for him to often be “in persona Christi”… but this guy? It’s like my husband says. He’s not messing around. Fr. Richard wants us to know and love the Lord. He spends himself entirely in the effort. I am but one of his 14,000. The number of people who have told me similar tales of their own powerful conversion which God orchestrated through this particular instrument would make your head spin.
Frequently, with his extra large heart on full display, he asks me for my prayers for parishioners who are suffering. It’s my deep honor to offer them. Today, I’d like to ask you to pray for him. It’s his birthday, and he does a stunning job keeping Christ in the lives of the people in his care. Please join me in asking God to grant him the same in his own. His life is one worth celebrating in a BIG way. Pray for your priest too– again and again. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, FR. RICHARD!
Today’s Prayer for Priests, Offered for Fr. Richard Doerr:
O Jesus, our great High Priest, hear my humble prayers on behalf of your priest, Fr. Richard. Give him a deep faith, a bright and firm hope and a burning love which will ever increase in the course of his priestly life.
In his loneliness, comfort him in his sorrows, strengthen him in his frustrations, point out to him that it is through suffering that the soul is purified, and show him that he is needed by the Church, he is needed by souls, he is needed for the work of redemption.
O loving Mother Mary, Mother of Priests, take to your heart your son who is close to you because of his priestly ordination, and because of the power which he has received to carry on the work of Christ in a world which needs him so much. Be his comfort, be his joy, be his strength, and especially help him to live and to defend the ideals of consecrated celibacy.