In these back ridges of Western North Carolina, I never know quite what the day will bring. The other day, I had the privilege of meeting some of the best priests one could ever hope to meet this side of heaven, some who have suffered for both you and I, some of whom are high up in their local hierarchies, some hailing from near, some from far, from many dioceses and states.
We took an unnecessarily circuitous route to a gun range which I pass by all the time, the group making sure one particular priest would ride with me, a young priest, perhaps one of the best theologians we have in these USA. We discussed my thesis in detail, he having already plowed about 1/3 of the way through it.
Late that evening, at one of the rectories in the area, we discussed some controversial points of points of canon law, with quite a number of these priests being canon lawyers.
Meanwhile, at the gun range, conversation turned to some tools. Our instructor was a USMC sniper for ten years, who then graduated to teaching his fellow leathernecks how to provide overwhelming force to unjust aggressors. He brought the three tools you see in the pictures above, some parts of which are legally personally hand tooled. The others were brought by a couple of the other priests.
The reaction of some of the readers, I know, is that sniper priests give the priesthood a bad name, you know: “All priests are always and everywhere extremists and probably terrorists, and we should let the FBI, CIA, USAIC, NNIC, DHS, DOD, DOJ, BATFE et alii know about them!” Whatever. The ol’ bolt action below is hardly a weapon of mass destruction. I was happy to hit the edge of the .25 cent sized center-of-target at 54 yards out (the scope not being readied for that short distance. Our jarhead friend had to be able to hit a quarter consistently in adverse conditions at a 1000 yards out. The farthest target he put out that evening was 108 yards.
Other readers might know that my parish includes the famous Slick Rock free-for-all hunt wild boar till you drop sports area. If you drop a 1200 pound wild boar, or even a 700 pounder, you have enough bacon for a year. For the cost of a well-placed bullet, that’s a pretty good deal the way I look at it. And so the reaction of other readers might be: “Hey! Pass the bacon, please!” Indeed, this makes for a new kind of “Bacon priest.” In times to come, I think that this will be a very important part of a priest’s ministry, a new kind of soup kitchen. And it’s not just bacon. There’s also bear, and dear and elk in this neck of the woods, for all of which you’ll want a powerful gun. There’s not only not anything wrong with that. This is prudence. And yet, I’m not at all prudential, what with my mere Glock 19 Gen 4. Heck, I don’t even have any personal defense ammo, just mere full metal jacket, an annoyance. But that’s just me. I’ve no finances for anything else. I have no adverse judgments at all for those who own and get trained up with such tools.
More than this, I have to say that this was an occasion for priestly support. The meal we had after, prepared by some of the better chefs among the priests, was out of this world. I’m used to institutional food, or better, dumpster food! But this was amazing. I think that this was important for me personally as a priest, a good times of the good ol’ days kind of thing, priestly solidarity being a real grace.
P.S. I am reminded of a polish priest I knew in the northern reaches of the Archdiocese of New York. He said he had a meat grinder in the back of this little van he would drive around. He would pick up any road kill he would see, instantly rip the meat from the bones and fur, throw what he could get into the grinder, and then pass the sausages he made out of the window of his van! So, using a bullet is better, right? Fresher, and just better!