From a reader..
I have a particular devotion to the Priesthood and priests and would like to start visiting retired priests who are no longer able to live in residence in a rectory and have had to move on into the nursing home for priests this Lent. There’s a bit of a problem, though. I’ve never visited elderly people, let alone elderly retired priests who likely don’t have much longer in this world. I’m also an introvert and not particularly great at making small talk with strangers, and notoriously great at saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, or saying something that sounds great in my head, but comes out completely wrong or gets misinterpreted and somehow offends someone. As a result, I’ve always shied away from this kind of work and stuck to cleaning priests’ bathrooms.
Do you (or your readership who may have done this before) have any practical advice or tips for going about doing this?
This is a good thing. Thanks for thinking about this. Many priests are pretty much alone in their lives, even though they are surrounded by people. That gets worse as they get older. I suspect that that is what awaits me, as a matter of fact, given my circumstances.
Every individual situation is going to present different issues. Sometimes just being there is good enough. Sometimes conversation is what is needed. Some people are talkers and some listeners. You’ll have to figure it out as you go.
It may be that some priests will tell stories about decades past, which could be pretty interesting. They have lore about the diocese that will be lost with their passing. Seminarians, too, should listen to the stories old priests tell. Sometimes I think that, with their consent of course, their stories should be recorded.
It may be that Father has a hard time talking, but he can listen. Perhaps he has a hard time reading. You could read aloud to him.
Visit and assess. Talk to the people taking care of him or who know him well. Figure it out.
You have your own inclinations, you write above. However, remember that true charity involves sacrificing one’s own inclinations for what is truly good for the other.