On Holy Thursday we celebrate the institution of the Eucharist and also the institution of the priesthood. With that in mind, I would like to ask each of my readers to take some time out to thank their priests this week.
Priests are often taken for granted. They are often not given a second thought, until something happens and we call on them to celebrate the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick or a Funeral Mass. Many priests give from themselves until they have nothing left to give, often to their own physical, spiritual, and psychological detriment.
In my years of ministry, both in parishes and in other means, I have worked with hundreds of priests. I have seen priests go without sleep for several days because they were at fire scenes comforting families who had lost their homes, and staying up all night with the dying. The next day, they had a full schedule of Masses, appointments, and other obligations to fulfill. All on no sleep.
These are things that parishioners are usually unaware of. Many priests also have obligations and duties outside of parish ministry. They may serve as directors of diocesan offices, or as pastor of more than one parish. In addition, to these responsibilities, they have familial obligations as well. Many priests have elderly parents who they are at least partially responsible for caring for. Parishioners are also usually unaware of these personal responsibilities. Priests are also responsible for their own personal health and well being. This requires time off for rest, exercise, spiritual care, and personal friendships. I have lost count of the number of times I have been out with a priest and heard people make rude comments to him such as, "Shouldn't you be praying for people, or something".
In my former job, we used to joke that we were the priests counseling service because so many priests would stop by just to sit and chat. They would laugh, joke, vent, and even cry with us. In that job, we were able to see the priest in a way that people often do not realize. We could see him as human.
This morning I was talking with some young people about the priesthood and one boy couldn't understand that priests had parents. I mean, he was completely confused by the idea. He seriously thought that priests we just placed on earth by God just as we see them. While I think all adults know that priests did not come about that way, it is often easy to forget that they are not a subspecies of human.
As Catholics, we expect the priest to minister to us. Take some time out this week, to minister to them. Do something nice for you priest. Remind him how much he is loved and appreciated.