Monsignor Joseph Konrad: A Gentleman and a Priest

Monsignor Joseph Konrad

My soul clings to you;
your right hand holds me fast.
– Psalm 63:9

Not that the two titles are mutually exclusive, but who is more entitled than Monsignor Joseph Konrad to be honored as the gentleman and the priest he is? The occasion, of course, is his sixtieth anniversary of ordination. But, even more importantly, it is the right time to celebrate with Father Joe the gift of the priesthood of Jesus Christ.

A gentleman and a priest! A man of peace and a man of humility. The German language has not lost the significance of the connection: that the man of God is also the man of all the people. The title "Herr" is the proper address for all gentlemen, not only lords and masters, as the origin of the word might imply. It brings a certain dignity to all human discourse – even with God, traditionally invoked as Herrgott (Lord God) – by affording to all the benefit of a certain presumption of human dignity in God’s presence. Interestingly enough, Germans still address their priests and ministers as "Herr." And we can be equally gracious to one another because the God of Jesus Christ is a "gentle" man – one who is kind to us humans. After all, the true priesthood of Christ subsists not in an elite class of lords, but only in a humble corps of gentlemen.

To be in the presence of Father Joe is an experience not only in being accepted as a human being, however, but also in feeling unburdened and free. His gentleness takes up so little space and makes so few demands, that there is plenty of room to explore with him the mysteries of the Lord he so loves. For all his years, Father Joe has never lost the childlike sense of wonder in the beauty of God’s creation and the mysteries of God’s universe. Much could, should and will be said in thanksgiving for his versatile background, his broad learning, his sharp intellect, his legendary green thumb, his resourceful pastoral skills and his marvelously engaging idiosyncrasies. However, if there is any true mark of his priesthood, it is certainly that gentle, humble manner of his model, the shepherd of souls who gives his life so that all may live in God’s peace. Peace, Easter reminds us, is Christ’s gift to us. It is the gift which Father Joe’s priesthood so reflects for us who, in his presence, are at peace.

It would not be discreet of me to compromise any further the good example of his humility, which I have taken the liberty to do by beatifying Monsignor before his time. But we are grateful he is with us in our time, when we so hunger for role models, particularly for a Catholic priesthood that has been mocked and tarnished of late by the horrendous predations of a few wolves in sheep’s clothing and the predatory opportunism of so many more. At the eye of the storm, the calm presence in our midst of a gentle man of God is balm for our souls and hope for the future of Christ’s priesthood. A reminder to us that a vocation committed to a God who is a gentleman – a gentle, manly Christ – is not a chain or a chore, but a way of being free.

– Msgr. Ed Scharfenberger

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