You Can’t Be Serious – Frontline workers and our last line of Defence…I read recently where somebody said; ‘if there are angels in heaven, they are all nurses!’ Any of us who have ever spent a night in hospital will certify to this. As well as clinically doing their job, it is the incredible kindness and empathy shown to their patients that all medical staff and health workers are remembered for. This same ‘mega thank you’ applies to our local GP’s and their staff.
The medics and health-care workers are the ones who first spring to mind when the word ‘frontline workers’ come up – but there are others. This hellish pandemic has placed an inordinate additional burden on all those wonderful people out there who keep us safe and serviced.
Can you just imagine all the extra time and effort that goes into rigging out in protective clothing – and how much more awkward it is to work wearing protective gear?
The Gardaí are out there doing their job – and mostly with good humour and great patience in this surreal world of today. The Fire Service (not sure if you can say ‘fireman’ these days!) can be called upon to do just about anything and they never balk, whatever the task up ahead.
Postal workers (I nearly said postman!) continue to deliver a vital service – as do all retail staff. Shop workers are really at the coalface and their Covid contraction rate is higher than any of the above. I hope that their valiant service will be remembered when the next pay-talks comes up!
But there is one group of frontline workers that I haven’t heard mentioned at all. When the applause and plaudits are being dished out, these men (I can say ‘men’ this time!) seem to be overlooked: And in the final analysis, they may be most important of all. Theirs is the most demanding of jobs and more often than not, the man is on his own. The more tragic the situation, the more he is needed. It is probably also the loneliest job in the country. I refer to the parish priests and their fellow clergy of all denominations.
The priests I know today are all wonderful human beings. A priest friend, of a friend of mine, quietly spent his entire Christmas Day feeding the homeless in Galway City. Yes, I agree that it wasn’t like this up until the recent past. Too many of them were pompous authoritarians – and that was even before we get to talking of the bad priests.
The wonderful priests of today are as much the victims of that gang as are those lay people who suffered through it. Strangely, we don’t judge doctors on Dr Shipman, nor any other profession on their worst ones – but we blame all clergy for all their ‘Judas’s?
Like I say, the parochial house must sometimes be a lonely place. Most of the flock only contact the priest to do one of three things: “Match, Hatch, and Dispatch.” (Marriage, Baptism and Death. The last one is where we need him most … the last line of defence for us!
If we picture where I live as the centre of a triangle, I know three great priests at each of the three points. Father Donnelly is in Collinstown.
Pat is only a young fellow, but blessed with the energy of his father, he does the work of two people and is always there when needed; and with holiness and compassion – as well as practicality.
Delvin’s Father Heaney runs the largest parish in the diocese and does so with great dignity, goodness and serenity – and never a complaint.
Father Monks is in St. Camillus Nursing Centre – and if there was a ‘Westmeath Person of the Year’, (why don’t we revive that??) he would be in contention every year.
The Lads would have a good laugh about me being a ‘Fidei Defensor’, but we must give due credit to our greatest frontline workers and comforters.
A friend of mine took his ailing brother to live with him when the brother became terminally ill. Sean was anti-church and could quote text and scripture all day to dispute and contradict everything the church stood for. He had no time for priests and hadn’t spoken to one for forty years. ‘I’m cutting out the middleman’ he would tell my friend every day.
Three days before he died, Sean asked to see a priest! ‘There are no agnostics in the trenches!’
The good priests I know, ask for very little from anybody, but give much to their people. So maybe next time you see a clergyman in the supermarket, buying a small sliced pan and a packet of sausages; why not go up to him and ask, ‘how are you today, Father?’
They are our frontline workers – but also our last line of defence!
Do unto others as though you were the others.