Sometimes you get to know one of your parishioners and really like him. Your personalities click; he likes to talk and you like to listen. You laugh with him. He opens up to you and tells you his greatest hopes, dreams, fears, and aspirations. You tell him what you love about priesthood and why you can't imagine yourself ever being happy being anything but a priest. He is one of the few people you talk to who can see that priests and married people have more in common than not. You get to know his family and look forward to seeing them at church and visiting them.
And then their family calls you and asks you to come and be with them as he dies. You wan to be there so you go and are strong with the family, praying the prayers for a good death as everyone breaks down around you.
And then they call you and ask you to do the funeral. You do what you can to make it a meaningful celebration of the life of this man and give people hope in darkness. You walk with them to the cemetery and help them to say goodbye led by the ritual of the church.
And then, as a priest, you jump right back into the rest of your life. Brides still want to schedule their weddings. The next funeral needs to be planned. That one parishioner needs to come talk to you about something of great importance in his church. That other parishioner wants to come and complain because I'm not spending enough time with someone. And all you want to do is sit for a few hours and mourn the fact that your friend died. You want to be sad for his wife and his kids.
There's a part of me that admires the priests who keep a distance from their parishioners. Unfortunately, I don't think I could do that. It's not me. My heart is on my sleeve. It's one of the crazy things about priesthood. We have to be immersed in the life of our people so that they trust us while being separated enough to help them in times of trouble. Please keep us in your prayers.