Every now and then when I listen to our priest’s (absolutely amazing) homilies I see signs of frustration. He occasionally makes spontaneous, passing comments about people being incredibly inconsiderate of his time or how often people come to him expecting many services while doing nothing to support the parish in return. Considering what a patient, loving, faithful man he seems to be, I had a hunch that he must feel an incredible amount of pressure to even let those sorts of borderline bitter comments sneak into his sermons.
So when I made the dinners for him and the other priest last month I included a simple card for each of them letting them know how much our family appreciates them. When I mentioned the cards to the Meal Ministry coordinator she gushed that they were going to just love the cards. I was surprised, figuring that they must be bombarded with people telling them how wonderful they are every day. But she told me that this is not the case, that in fact Fr. J just told her the other day the he receives far more complaints than compliments.
Then, last week, I had the great honor of meeting our bishop at a reception. I told him how overjoyed I was to be in the process of joining the Catholic Church and thanked him for all the good things going on in the diocese. When I made some comment assuming that he hears that a lot, he laughed, “Oh, I pretty much deal with complaints all day long. It’s what I do.”
As a convert, this is absolutely shocking to me. Coming from my background of hedonism and atheism, the concept of someone devoting their entire life to God and obedience and service is mind-boggling. It seems like fellow believers, especially fellow Catholics, would fall all over them every day, thanking them for profusely for devoting their lives to doing God’s work. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that every time I see a priest I almost get teary-eyed and want to run up to him and say “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
I know I’m being naive, that the Catholic Church is like any other large institution and therefore it’s inevitable that the people who run it are going to have a lot of drudge work to deal with; that even faithful, devout parishioners need to let their priest or bishop know if there’s something wrong. But, for what it’s worth, the perspective from this wide-eyed, brand new Catholic is that our priests are amazing. Sure, there are a few bad apples in there (as with any organization consisting of humans), but all the priests I’ve met seem to be extraordinarily humble, faithful, caring men. They are rare examples of selflessness and sanity in our decadent, selfish culture.
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