At this point please let me interject that Father Juan is as kind as they come, a gentle and holy soul blessed with an infectious smile and true spirit of joy.
Somehow he landed squarely in the sights of another priest, whom I will henceforth refer to as the Angry Priest. In front of the assembled group, the Angry Priest dressed down Father Juan and insulted him in an extremely vulgar fashion. Apparently the attack besmirched Father Juan's mother and used some of the most offensive words possible. This from one priest to another. To add insult to outrage, the profanity was delivered on holy ground, as they were congregating near a shrine.
Father Juan, humble soul that he is, was very hurt by this verbal assault.
A few days later another priest who had witnessed the exchange came to speak privately with Father Juan.
This priest was also very hurt by what he had witnessed. He knew this decidedly unpriestly behavior on holy ground had offended not only Father Juan, but it had offended God.
So this priest, who I will call the Holy Priest, did something about it. The Holy Priest did not confront the Angry Priest. He did not gossip about the Angry Priest’s outburst or harbor unkind feelings toward him.
Instead, in a selfless act of love for Father Juan, for the Angry Priest and for God, the Holy Priest did penance for the Angry Priest’s actions.
There is a town more than an hour's drive away from where Father Juan lives. The terrain is mountainous and the unpaved roads are hot and dusty.
The Holy Priest walked barefoot from this town to the town where Father Juan lives, praying the entire time, as an act of penance for the behavior of the Angry Priest. He told no one except Father Juan. The Holy Priest wanted Father Juan to know that the Angry Priest’s behavior had not gone unnoticed or without reparation.
This is a true story, and I hope you will share it.
I pray the next time I witness or suffer an injustice I will be inspired to follow the example of the Holy Priest.
To offer penance without protest out of love for his fellow man.
For those many miles, the Holy Priest truly walked in the footsteps of Christ.
* Not his real name