Thursday, July 09, 2009

Why your priest may find it hard to move.

I'm not moving this year. I'm going to be in Ames for at least one more year, maybe longer. But, I was thinking about something this morning.

Most priests are introverts. This doesn't mean that they are loners, although some are. It just means we tend to need time by ourselves. Most priests are very social in large groups but it's not something they look forward to doing. Being an introvert means that I want to form strong friendships with a small number of people and tend to get drained by multiple "professional" relationships that aren't very deep. I think this is why most priests (myself included) hate staff meetings. The relationships formed in staff meetings are necessarily shallow. The main concern is to make sure one person isn't getting into the space of another person.

The real challenge of ministry, however, is realizing that you will form deep relationships in parishes and then have to leave those relationships behind as you enter a new parish. There are some priests who make sure they don't form friendships with parishioners in order to make sure that they never have to say goodbye. To be honest, there's something to be said for that attitude. I know that, in my short time as a priest, I've been accused of "taking sides" in a disagreement between two people because I was closer to one of the parties than another. I came into priesthood thinking that I would keep a distance between me and my parishioners and have consistently failed miserably in this endeavor. It's too hard for me to minister to a group of people and not get to know them. The relationships I see in the gospels and in the letters of Paul point to me to the need to be "in relationship" with people.

I don't think I'm the only priest who has ever made friends with parishioners. I think most priests do. And, if they're like me, they need them to be effective preachers and teachers. We learn what people are struggling with from the people we interact with the most. This next Tuesday, my current pastor will move to a new assignment. He's been here for 16 years and has many good friendships here. His replacement was here and left. When he was here, he had my job of working mostly with college students. Please pray for these men as they have to say goodbye to old friends and start the process of making new ones.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

No Homily this weekend

As a priest, I have few weekends that I have totally "off". The Code of Canon Law, the official "law book" of the catholic church seems to envision that a priest would only be away from his parish three weekends per year. AND there's a way of looking at it in which the code wants us to be gone during the week and back for the weekend. Most priests don't view it that way, however.

I was gone to Wichita, Kansas for a wedding on Saturday. I concelebrated on Sunday at mass but didn't have to preach, thank goodness. That's why there's no homily. However, I do have the beginnings of a homily that I will preach in the future...

The wedding was for a former student who has become a very close friend in the past few years, both while he was a student and after. I've been priveliged to have the situation happen a few times in this campus ministry assignment where a young man or woman and I have such great experiences together and work so closely that we want to keep in touch after they leave and it develops into a pretty deep friendship. That's what happened with Jeff, the groom. In fact, I was a groomsman in the wedding because of our friendship. He said that there would be sufficient numbers of priests so he wanted me to be closer, to be a groomsman. I was flattered so I accepted, something that I'll likely never do again despite the fact that it went really well this time. It wasn't weird to wear a tux because it wasn't really all that different than wearing my dress clerical clothes. It wasn't even all that weird to participate in mass as a part of the congregation instead of as a concelebrant. The weird part was having a woman on my arm as I entered and exited a room. I haven't done that for a very long time and it just wasn't symbolically right. I'm not supposed to be in a "couple" situation. I have forsaken that for the sake of the Kingdom. On the one hand, it's good to know just how deep my celibacy is felt in me and it's good to be able to explain that to people in the future why I don't feel comfortable doing this.

I've learned that I am a person that often has to learn things "the hard way." I should be able to see how things will play out before I do but I often don't and end up wishing I would have done something different. It's just who I am. I hope it makes me a better confessor. I know people make mistakes. It's not like we plan them. There are times when the lesson that was learned from the mistake was "worth" making the mistake in the first place.