It was Lunch time during one of the gatherings of priests and lay people. I fell in line to get my lunch. A group of noisy young girls were behind me. Suddenly, they became silent when they recognized me. One of them said: "Ay, si Father pala. Akala ko tao" (literally: Oh, it's father, I thought a human being). I told myself "Am I not one of you?" I am also a human being. However, I understood that what she meant was that she cannot just put a priest in an ordinary category.
I remember our professor, Bishop Teodoro "Ted" Bacani, who once told us that before the implementation of Vatican II, priests always wear the cassock or habit. Consequently, he asked a tailor to make him five clerical polos since they were already allowed to use it. As chaplain of the school, he went one day to his ministry wearing the clerical polo (and not the usual cassock).
Suddenly, a young girl cried and went home immediately. She told her mother "Mama, mama, father is a man!" You see, for her, a priest is neither a man nor a woman but simply a priest.Yes, father is a man; not just a man, but a man of God.
Priests are respected because we are shepherds of God's flock. But such position must lead us to humility and responsibility. We must not fail the laity in our life and ministry. We must strive to be holy for the One Who called us is.
I would like to underscore that all of us, whether priest or lay faithful, are called to be holy. Before the great St. Pope John Paul II passed away, he canonized many lay persons. This only shows that all of us can be close to God and all of us has the opportunity to become saints.