Earlier this week in the Diocese of Tulsa, a newly ordained priest and a seminarian were killed in a car accident. I didn’t know either of the men, but my heart goes out to their parish. This, combined with a personal battle my wonderful, wonderful parents are fighting at home has me thinking about the practical role of priests in our life.
I know the theological implications of priests vs. Protestant pastors is vastly different, but in practice it’s all very, very similar. I bristle a little on the inside whenever anyone implies that my father’s exceptionally difficult role as senior pastor was any less challenging than the role of priest – particularly since he did it while raising nine kids. All this to say, while I haven’t been around priests for very long, I’m pretty sure I have a good idea about how difficult trials can be for them.
I’ve always made an effort to go out of my way to show any pastor and his family I come across that I respect their sacrifice for God’s kingdom, regardless of our doctrinal differences, and that they have my prayers.
But it’s honesty time, guys. I have failed miserably about doing the same for the priests in my life. I think it’s because, for the first time in my life, I’m church-member-only. I’m not on staff of any kind. And it’s been an awkward transition for me. I don’t know how I’m supposed to relate to these awesome men of God that have devoted their lives to His church.
But the church gossip, the stingy giving, the woman whom it seems finds her way to the front row for the sole purpose of rolling her eyes at every given opportunity in his homily, the flaky families that offer support out of one side of their mouth and dismissal out of the other, the parents who treat church like daycare, the betrayal from staff members you trusted….it all happens on this side of the Tiber, too. And while pastoring and simultaneously providing for and raising a family has its challenges, for the vast majority of our Western Rite – and many of our Eastern Rite priests – they’re facing these issues without the support of a family, which is another challenge on its own.
So this week, why don’t we try and make an effort to show our priests that we stand behind them (no ad orientem pun intended…)? It doesn’t matter if you hate their homilies, if you think they’re too liberal, too traditionalist, don’t have enough personality, will never be as good as Fr. Whoever (talking to me, here) – they’re still human men who have made huge sacrifices for us, and they need our support and our prayers. And while we’re at it, it wouldn’t hurt to pray for the Protestant pastors out there. It’s a hard place to be.
You never know when an opportunity to say thank you will be your last.