The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

One priest’s day off

Catholic News Service is running a series of reflections for the Year for Priests, and this caught my eye: one pastor’s brief outline of his “day off.”

Take a look:

This, in fact, was how yesterday went. It started at 8 a.m. at a board meeting of our local Catholic hospital, where the discussion is always spirited (and often lengthy). The hospital is building a quarter-billon-dollar addition, so there are financial issues surrounding that. It is also in the process of merging with a secular hospital, so there are ethical dimensions to address.

Finishing the meeting at 10, I drove to our parish office to draft a report on parish consolidation. The five Catholic parishes in our area this year are merging into three because of population shifts and the scarcity of priests. Lots of questions are on the table — new staffing patterns, revised Mass schedules, shared religious ed. programs, sale of vacated properties — and we have the next few months to figure it all out.


As I was writing that report, I was at the same time fielding phone calls: final arrangements for weddings (11 of them over the next few weeks) and baptisms (four this weekend); the ever-present calls from people with certain needs (the lonely woman who calls frequently simply to ask if it’s “all right if I call you tomorrow”; the man beset by scruples who calls most days, and many nights, to ask if I will “place your hands on my head, put the scapular around my neck and sprinkle me with holy water”). The challenge is to remember that “God is in the interruptions” and that a priest, like Christ, must always be kind.

Then it was off to the hospital and a local nursing home to visit parishioners, back to the parish for a wedding rehearsal, a 20-minute respite to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, a supper-sandwich wolfed down at a local deli before repairing to the rectory desk to write a funeral homily. Soon it was 10 p.m. and time to fall asleep while watching the television news.

Read the whole thing. And then go tell a priest you know to enjoy his day off — if he gets one. (If you can, tell the deacon to take it easy, too. All work and no play makes Deac a dull boy.)

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posted June 30, 2009 at 9:44 am

I did go read the whole thing, and was pleased to find a bit of balance in his life with the Red Sox, but I am having a hard time being sympathetic. Two concerns this reflection raised for me:(1) vocations, what will my son think of this of this description of a priest's life as he discerns his vocation? Bleak came to my mind, soul deadening. I didn't hear much joy (though to be fair, I understand the limitations of a short reflection!)(2) prayer? we might imagine that a flock looks to its pastor to see how to integrate prayer into our lives – few of which are likely to be very "monastic". How do I find time for a communal celebration of the Office in the morning, meditation and the Office at night and still run a household (shop, cook, clean, transport kids, take a walk with my husband), teach full time, advise graduate students, work for the parish and write a weekly scriptural reflection (the equivalent of a homily)? And at any moment a teen-ager – child or student – may drop in and say, "can I talk?" These are questions many of us struggle with, not just Father, not just the Deac. But we look to Father and the Deac in particular to set an example, the one here feels to me depressingly minimalist.

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posted June 30, 2009 at 2:30 pm

Diddo to what Michelle said above. Even God rested. As a priest for 29 years, I value my day off as a high priority. For me, it is almost a mortal sin not to "enjoy" this God-given life. There is much more to life than priesthood. Self-care is a must in order to be truly pastoral. Besides, it is God's church! So go slow, breathe and smile. This way priesthood is indeed a gift and a joy! Just for today.Lastly, try taking "Good Leader, Good Shepherd" Institute. :-)

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steve p

posted June 30, 2009 at 2:55 pm

Amen to the above. It's quite a schedule, obviously, but he's not helping anyone by working himself to death. I sympathize, but no one is going to change it for him if he doesn't wake up and do it himself. (And I know that his story is typical of way too many other priests and leaders.)

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posted June 30, 2009 at 4:17 pm

Who are these priests who complain about all the work?In all my years working for the church (60) outside the country I never heard of any complaint of doing too much—missionaries work 30hrs a day and don’t complain. That applies to sisters and brothers—I never heard of a priest here in the states being awaked in the middle of the night to travel by jeep through the bush to help save a young pregnant mother from losing her baby because she was malnourished and traveling back from the bush to sister doctor at the hospital—no days off—no complaints—because LOVE and FAITH in God thru Jesus Christ was the reason for ordination in the 1st place—A day off in the bush if there is such a thing means going to bring communion to those who were missed during the week and by the way the official dress of a priest in the missions is what ever he can find to dress so as to be dissent and covered up—So fathers be happy that you live in house with hot and cold running water and a real roof over your head—Jesus did not even have that.

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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted July 1, 2009 at 6:42 am

I would just note that the charism of the missionary priest is different from the diocesan parish priest. I wonder how some holy and hard-working missionaries would contend with the bureaucratic headaches and administrative nightmares that now beset parish priests — men who set out to save souls, but who now find themselves spending most of their time dealing with parish politics, clerical ladder-climbing and ambition, diocesan backbiting and cluster turf wars. Not to mention dwindling collections and a constant barrage of bad press. I know priests who have become dispirited and cynical and complain, ruefully, "This isn't the cruise I signed up for." Dcn. G.

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posted July 1, 2009 at 7:59 am

them are the demons of the day–

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posted July 1, 2009 at 9:51 am

I'm pretty sure that St. Paul saw his share of ambition, politics, turf wars and bad press – so I'm not certain that this should come as a shock to anyone signing on to work for God. I hear the working conditions can be tough, the pay awful — but I have to say the boss is a great guy.In all honesty and seriousness, I do worry — and pray — about priests in this boat. One of the comments on the original article notes that some priests should consider delagating a bit more, even if the quality of minisitry would not be as good. I wonder, too, if this is not one of the roots of the problem — the assumption (by Father AND his parishioners) that Father is the best person in the parish for all these tasks, and to delegate is to accept second best. I'm not sure this is a valid assumption. The resources that a priest and his parish bring will vary, but I suspect in most parishes there is more help than we think.

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posted July 1, 2009 at 12:54 pm

Michell;Greg; and all;I’m afraid that to-day when men apply to the priesthood no one has explained to them that they as a singular person do not exist anymore. It is like a husband & father sharing with the family, they must share their lives with the people of God—that is their family…and they have an easy job because deacons not only must share with the people of God but equally with their family which is their prime responsibility—So………….men get with the program or bail out—

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god googler

posted July 1, 2009 at 1:17 pm

I would add here that in the 9 years I've worked for the Paulists I often say that I'm on vacation every day because I often really love what I do. I get antsy on vacation and wonder what's going on in the office.But lately, I've also tried to balance that with other activities in my personal life. I got a dog who demands that I'm home to walk him and play with him so he doesn't get lonely or depressed.So while a filled work schedule is often a "good problem to have" I also think that balance with activities and time away can be healing and help one to focus more on our intentions in ministry to serve the needs of others.

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St Edwards Blog

posted July 3, 2009 at 8:09 am

God rested on the 7th day. Why shouldn't father?In the diocese where I live and work, most churches have one priest, who is the pastor. He needs his day off, although he often doesn't get it.Have we not all been on an airplane? One must put the oxygen mask on oneself before one can help others. So it is with priests and I feel very sad when people do not find them human enough to need healthy boundaries and time at rest.I think the lack of those things brings forth that whole "not the cruise I signed up for" thing.Fran

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