I received the following e-mail:
Maybe this is a dumb question, but in a recent survey in our diocese, the priests stated that one of the most stressful problems for them were what the survey question called "expectations of the laity". Apparently, the stress is from either unreal expectations, or demands which seem impossible owing to a priest shortage.
However, one of the questions this raises is "Can the laity expect their priests to be holy, have courage and show leadership?" Are these unfair expectations? Just wondering what your opinion is of expectations from those of us in the pew.
People ought to have realistic expectations about their priests.
But think about the following:
There is an old adage that people get the priests they deserve.
Frankly, I hope we all get better than that!
People have the obligation to foster vocations and be positive about priests in their families with their children, and how the speak about priests and treat them.
Sometimes I get the impression that many people think everything they want from the Church can be expected or demanded without reciprocal cost.
Ministry of priests included.
If people want their priest to be courageous, they can help him be so by being courageous in their vocations. If they want him to be faithful, they must support faithfulness. If they want him to be priestly, treat him as if he is a priest.
Two things now pop into my head.
I am thinking of a sermon of Fr. Ronald Knox, I think for a first Mass, about expectations for priests and their own way of seeing their vocations as the years past. He talks about the priest being, for example, during Holy Mass, a worker, just a priest saying Mass. He gets about his work in a journeyman-like way.
Perhaps some people think that the priest is supposed to levitate or shoot light from their eyes. They should let him be a priest, not an angel.
Finally, I am reminded of an old chestnut about a chain letter:
The Perfect Priest
The results of a computerized survey indicate the perfect priest preaches exactly fifteen minutes. He condemns sins but never upsets anyone. He works from 8:00 AM until midnight and is also a janitor. He makes $50 a week, wears good clothes, buys good books, drives a good car, and gives about $50 weekly to the poor. He is 28 years old and has preached 30 years. He has a burning desire to work with teenagers and spends all of his time with senior citizens.
The perfect priest smiles all the time with a straight face because he has a sense of humor that keeps him seriously dedicated to his work. He makes 15 calls daily on parish families, shut-ins and the hospitalized, and is always in his office when needed.
If your priest does not measure up, simply send this letter to six other churches that are tired of their priest, too. Then bundle up your priest and send him to the church on the top of the list. In one week, you will receive 1,643 priests and one of them will be perfect. Have faith in this procedure.
One parish broke the chain and got its old priest back in less than three weeks.