When Monsignor Charles McGlinn retired as vicar general for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas in 2008, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann called him “a great priest” and thanked him for his 14 years of “great” contribution to the archdiocese, the diocesan newspaper reported. On the same page, an Indian priest whom McGlinn had taken under his wing as a young priest fondly remembered how his host cautioned him not to ruin his laundry with bleach.
To the parishioners at Curé of Ars Catholic Church in Leawood, McGlinn, their pastor, is a healer, confessor, teacher and compassionate friend who rejoices with them at happy times and grieves with them at times of loss and injury.
Sitting on a sofa opposite him recently, I couldn’t believe my fortune at being able to write about this well-respected spiritual leader. A few days earlier, I had stepped into the rectory to drop off a few flyers for a benefit concert I was organizing. Seeing him walk into the building, I boldly confessed that I’d like to write about him. He asked me what I’d write about and I gave him this impromptu speech:
“As you know, Monsignor, there have been many negative articles about the Catholic Church and the clergy, particularly those who sexually abused minors. No one writes about priests who follow Christ’s footsteps closely! I would like to write about them! So please share your prayer life and how you maintain your spirituality with readers. By doing so, you can help people like me deal better with the current unfriendly climate toward church.”
It worked! And now I was listening and scribbling on my notepad as Monsignor McGlinn spoke. “One’s priesthood is a gift,” Monsignor said in his usual calm voice. “As such, the vocation comes from God’s grace and help. For this reason, I love being with people and I try to help them in any way I can, like Christ did. By giving, I receive. That’s how God works with us, always filling us with his love.
“This morning, we had a funeral for an 89-year-old gentleman who suddenly died, leaving behind his wife of more than 60 years. The widow was inconsolable. I prayed with her and stayed with her as she grieved, and when she felt better, I felt better, too.”
I asked: “You seem always happy, Monsignor. How do you maintain your inner peace? Don’t you feel grumpy sometimes?”
The monsignor laughed. “I’ve been teaching a Bible study class for adults for more than 45 years, both Old Testament and New Testament. I learned more about God’s purpose for us by teaching, and as a result, I hope I have become a better priest. I celebrate the Eucharist daily, pray the Divine Office and pray the rosary, too. Praying is one way I surrender to God’s love.”
“Sometimes I can’t pray, Monsignor, especially when I feel wronged by others. How could you forgive one who hurt you and you remember every word that person spoke to you?”
“It’s not easy, but with God’s help you can forgive. I advise you to pray for that person who wronged you, that God will truly bless him or her. The act of forgiveness is an act of love. With time, your resentment will dissipate.”
“Then, those priests who sexually abused youngsters, did they deliberately turn away from God?”
Monsignor paused briefly, then said, “Think about Judas! He was one of the twelve Apostles who loved and followed Jesus for years. Yet Satan entered him, changed his heart and tempted him to betray his Master. For 30 pieces of silver, he handed Jesus over to his captors who showed up with swords and clubs! And what about Peter, who declared to Jesus at the last supper, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I’ll never deny you?’ But he did, three times. These examples show that Satan can tempt us to turn away from God. That’s why we must pray daily, asking his protection to shield us in his everlasting love.”
My final question was personal: “How would you advise an older person like me who asks you, “How should I prepare for my end?”
“I’d say, ‘Pray as much as you can, receive the Eucharist often, and be kind and loving to the people you meet every day.’” He then walked to his desk and brought me three CDs. “These are some of my Poem Prayers recorded by a parishioner. See if these poems help.”
I thanked him. On my way home, I listened to one of the CDs:
Speak to me within my heart; whisper what you want of me.
Call me in the stillness of the night; point your way that I might see.
Retired musician and freelance columnist Therese Park has written three novels about Korea’s modern history.