Encouraging our Priests
By Kathryn Marcellino
When was the last time we told our pastor or parish priest that we appreciate all the hard work and service that he's given the parish? Wouldn't it be a nice gesture to remember our priests and religious for all they do for us and to take time to write a thank you note or some sort of verbal encouragement or even a gift to our priests?
We tend to take all our needs to the priest, but who do priests take their needs to? We as their congregation are like their family. Just like parents in a family, priests can sometimes be taken for granted, overworked and under-appreciated.
If we stop and take a moment to think about our priests, they are being bombarded on every side in a human way. Even though most priests are hardworking servants of God, they have lost some respect due to the child abuse scandals. Plus pastors and priests are overloaded with more work to do than ever with a shortage of priests. Just do a little math by dividing how many parishioners per priest in your parish to see how many people they have to serve to get an idea of the enormity of their job and with little support from most of the parish.
Some people have the idea that all priests have to do is to write a homily and say Mass on Sundays, but their job involves so much more than that and most take only one day off per week. They say daily Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, attend meetings, answer phone calls, hear confessions, counsel and instruct people, preside at weddings, funerals, baptisms, etc. etc.
Just one example of the many sacrifices priests make is that recently in my sister's parish the pastor's brother died. There was no one to cover for him because of the shortage of priests, so he stayed at the parish rather than taking the trip to go to his brother's funeral. We don't see all the sacrifices they make.
Parishioners have a tendency to complain when things aren't going the way they think they should, and write letters to complain, but not too many take the time to thank or uplift their pastors and priests. Studies show that bishops, for example, say that most of the mail they get is negative, critical or complaining. They say the people who are satisfied rarely bother to write and some people who do can be hyper-critical.
Some Gallup polls have said that around 88 percent of Catholics approve of the job their priests are doing but it seems that approval isn't expressed.
Perhaps it is time to give our priests some encouragement and voice some appreciation to them. We can honor them to make up for the contempt they are getting from the media and for the complaining angry letters they get from others. We can say something like, "I just wanted to thank you. I really appreciate what you are doing for me and the parish and all the hard work you put in. What would we do without you?"
Priests after all are human beings like everyone else. Whereas God is our main source of love and acceptance, God does build into us a need for human love and support as well.
Even Jesus, during his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, asked that some of his apostles pray and keep watch with him and their response was that they fell asleep! Let's not snooze when our priests need our support most. Now at this time of crisis in the church because of the scandals in the news instead of just being scandalized by the actions of a few, perhaps now is the time when our good and faithful priests really might need some encouragement from us.
So in that line of thinking why not take a moment to write a thank you card to your pastor or priest, especially a priest who might be overlooked or not appreciated that often.
Another idea is to volunteer to help at the parish or ask if there is something you can do to help make your parish a better place instead of wishing or asking that the priest would do more. If you see something that you feel the Church is lacking perhaps you can volunteer to organize or help get it done. It might even be that God is asking you to do something to help build up the Church if you see the need for it, as we are all part of the Church, not just the priest.
Also let's remember to keep all our priests, nuns and religious in our prayers... even the ones who have fallen short in some way, as they are the ones who need prayers the most. And the next time we are tempted to criticize or complain, let's think about all the things that the priest and sisters have done for the parish and offer our suggestions in a humble spirit of love and service.
As Christians we are to love and build up one another, so let's remember to be thankful and to pray for our priests and religious who have given their lives to serve Jesus and us. As Archbishop John Vlazny said in the June 2006 Catholic Sentinel, "We priests are only human. The more welcome and supported we feel, the more effective we will be in carrying out our ministry."
Kathryn Marcellino is a member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites (OCDS). She is the author of How to Pray the Rosary as a Pathway to Contemplation. She offers instruction and resources on the Catholic faith through her website at www.CatholicSpiritualDirection.org as well as offering spiritual direction and answering questions on the Catholic faith via e-mail. She is married to author, speaker and musician, Dennis Marcellino.
Catholic Spiritual Direction
http://www.CatholicSpiritualDirection.org OR, US
Kathryn Marcellino - spiritual director, 503-650-88 650-8840
priests,church crisis,parish,supporting priests
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