From a reader…
I have worked for the Catholic church for over 30 years in various capacities. I taught Religion and worked as a Parish Secretary, as I do now. I have worked for some pretty fabulous “Old School” priests who did not seem to mind that were in the confessional 5- 6 days a week, providing the Sacrament of Penance or that on some days they might say 2 or 3 Masses and maybe more on Holy Days or when needed to say a funeral Mass or wedding Mass. They offered Baptism every Sunday in the parish. Now I see the younger generation of priests always making sure that they have their days off each week…which I do not begrudge them, but if they are called on to maybe meet with a struggling family, then they will take a half day somewhere else. I don’t understand today’s call to vocation! ! In addition to my call to be a wife and mother – from which one does not get a day off. I am on duty to be a wife and mother all the time. What has changed that todays’ priest sees his vocation as a apart-time job? It bothers me greatly.
Wow. Lot’s of issues here.
Before anything else, I wonder how many people who are against time off for priests also tithe. Just an initial thought.
That said, yes, there are some priests who should do more priest stuff. There are also priests who have taken on too much and who burn out.
The individual situation of each priest must be considered.
Priests are not assembled from spare parts, or cut out of homogeneous dough with a shaped cutter. They have different talents, backgrounds, capabilities. Some are super high energy and really smart. Some are not very smart and are more lethargic. Some were formed by really great priests and seminaries, others not so much. Some have come to the priesthood later in life, some earlier.
Priests are also men of their age and environment. They, too, are influenced by society around them.
Priests are human beings. To be at their best, they too should by allowed their interests and their rest. We want our priests to be at their best, right? Right? I am making an assumption that you wish the best for priests.
Priesthood is primarily oriented to sacrifice. They are ontologically alter Christus (who occasionally went apart from people). They are not mainly administrators or office sitters.
Priesthood is an ontological, not utilitarian reality. And yet people want to “use” priests.
That’s both fair and not fair.
Priests are ordained so that people can have teaching, governance and, above all, sanctification. People are right to expect these things from priests. Hence, a priest’s main activities should be people oriented. However, priests are also ordained for themselves, because God wants them to be priests for the sake of their own souls. Back in the 5th c. Augustine of Hippo wrote about his struggle to find otium in negotio, “time free from busy work in the midst of daily tasks”. He didn’t want “time off”, but rather time for deeper things, such as refreshing meditation on Scripture, etc. There’s a tension present in all of our lives.
If people treat priests as if they were any other service providing professional, like their dentist, then they probably shouldn’t gripe if the priest has a day off.
If people treat priests as if they are, spiritually, ontologically, “Father”, then one will have different expectations.
Moreover, Father will begin also to have different expectations of himself.
Should priests be allowed a day off? Should priests be allowed to retire at 65?
It seems to me that Catholic life, including how priests live, how they interact with other priests and lay people, is an immensely complex Gesamtkunstwerk. And the Enemy is also working relentlessly to interfere in this totality.
Finally, this made me think of an old chestnut, 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.
By the way… it might be a good idea, when you find yourself thinking about a priest – either positively or negatively – to stop yourself and PRAY for him.
Do you pray for priests? Do you pray for your particular priests?