Priest appreciation

October 8, 2006 | Conversion | 9 comments

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.

9 Comments

  1. Kiwi Nomad 2006

    On a slightly different tack, I am a teacher. It really means a lot when at the end of a school year, or at a parent interview , a parent tells me how glad they were their child was in my class etc. One year I got a very beautiful letter from a grandmother expressing appreciation. It gives me a real spring in my step to know someone is glad about what I have done.

  2. Milli

    You’re absolutely right, Jen!
    People get all too little compliments, especially priests, pastors, servants of the Lord and so on. We do not se all the good things they do, but we are often quick to tell them when we are not happy about something. On top of human stress, I think they are also in a spiritual battle, and they need our prayers.

  3. Joanne

    There was a time in the not-too-distant past when most people believed that priests could do no wrong. Since it has come to our attention that priests really are humans, and even sinners like the rest of us, the pendulum has swung to the opposite extreme. It’s sad and I wish we could achive a more balanced (and acurate) attitude.

  4. Anonymous

    My girls and I frequently thank the priest (at whichever parish we are attending that day for daily Mass) for Mass and, especially for Big Girl and I, for the Eucharist. One priest made extra time to hear my confession and Big Girl’s, too, and we thanked him. He was nearly embarrassed! The next day we thanked him for Mass, and he said, “Why are you thanking me?” I said, “For Mass! For Jesus! You brought us Jesus!”

    We need to thank our faithful priests and show our appreciation for them. 🙂

  5. Anonymous

    I agree that we need to be more consciously grateful to our priests … but let’s not forget where it starts. Go thank your mother today.

  6. Lynne

    Mothers get you to Earth, i.e. give birth to you. Priests get you to Heaven. (I’m a mother).

    This is beautiful.

  7. Adoro Te Devote

    OK, first of all, I think the Holy Spirit is moving among us…the other day I posted on Priest Appreciation (different topic, but same basic idea….love our priests!). I took the post down because I wanted to work on it a bit–something wasn’t right and I couldn’t put my finger on it. Now I come to your post, and I realize I need to finish the post and POST it!

    Our priests and bishops do indeed need to hear how much we love them, how much we appreciate their sacrifices, and how much we’re praying for them. I LOVE the priests at my parish and ALL of them are devoted, ALL are wonderful people, and they do a great job of making each person they speak with know the love of Christ. They are awesome role models and I want to hug them all, too, saying, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

    So no, you’re not being naive. Yes, the Church is an institution full of sinners, which is the whole point.

    Thanks for the reminder to get my own post up, and thanks for bringing this important topic up to us all!

  8. Tim

    Quote: “As a convert, this is absolutely shocking to me.”

    Ahh, Jen, your fresh outlook is refreshing to all of us.

    Thank you for being so open.

  9. baddest-wolf

    What a great point of view. This being the year of priesthood, I decided to write my priest a thank-you letter for all that he does. I couldn't think of quite how to say everything I wanted to say, so I looked online for ideas, and came across this. You are SO right!! I've been going to my parish since I was born, and my current priest has been at the church since I was about 9, and I've never thanked him. I truly appreciate him, and I've often thought about how lucky I am to have him, but I've never thought about going up to him and telling him! I thought he would already know, and since I am rather shy I probably wouldn't have done it (hence, the letter writing… heh, still too shy to do it in person). Thank you for writing this, because it is so true!!

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