Life as a Priest
“The role of a priest is to remind people that God loves them.”
Fr Patrick Sheehan
“When you take Jesus seriously in your life, not just fixing problems or getting through exams, or getting a job, he will not disappoint. In fact he is the only one who will always support you through life.”
When celebrating the sacraments the priest, as ‘another Christ’, opens the channels of grace enabling people to experience the love and compassion of God.
As a man of prayer the priest intercedes for the whole world through the Liturgy of the Hours and the Mass. In offering Mass he unites himself to our Lord who is both priest and servant. The priest makes himself, his entire life and ministry, an offering to God for the salvation of souls.
His spiritual fatherhood is really the first two items put into action; just as a good father is present in the life of his family, he must be present in the life of his parish.
The sum of these three things is what a priest is: a living witness to the goodness, love, and mercy of God. He in turn shares what he has experienced: the joy of a living relationship with God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Are most priests happy in their vocations, their lives, and in their work for Christ?
Most priests are very happy. This is especially true for those who give all of themselves without reserve to the work of the Father and maintain a life of prayer. There are some unhappy priests but there are people who are married and equally unhappy. One priest of our diocese of Down and Connor once said, ‘It’s a great life; a wonderful life’. There are countless elderly priests who fight ill health and physical weakness to continue their priestly ministry because of the joy they find in living their priesthood.
Will priests ever be allowed to marry?
Let us consider what the implications this might have on the Church. Our Lord said ‘No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.’ (Matt. 6:24)
Fatherhood is a vocation just as the priesthood is. The question then comes up: Who comes first, the children I have as a man or the children I care for as a priest? Celibacy is not a dogma of the Church but a discipline and as such can change, but the great witness of celibacy is lost. Celibacy points to the mystical union that awaits us all in heaven. Priestly celibacy is also a sign of the union of Christ and his Church; our Lord is considered the groom of the Church and the Church is his Bride. The priesthood is a supernatural gift which points to supernatural realities and therefore requires strong witness in every day.
Will I be lonely as a priest?
Loneliness is experienced by every person in every state of life at some point. Many priests have support groups and great friends in their brother priests, with whom they travel, recreate, and do many other things. Priestly retreats, days of recollection, clergy conferences and other spiritual events allow priests to gather and celebrate the great joys and wonder of the ministerial priesthood. Every person will feel lonely when the desires of his heart are not properly ordered and focused toward our Lord. When we have learned to always be in union with God then we know we are never alone and rejoice in having his presence among us always.
Do priests get paid?
A priest receives a monthly income which allows him to take care of his needs and to save; this is a modest but adequate sum. A priest also receives room and board so he has a place to live and a means for buying food and necessities.
If a man discerning priesthood is worried about debt, such as a student loan or mortgage or other ongoing financial commitments such as the support of dependent family members, he should be open about these with the Diocesan Vocations Director, who will be happy to offer him advice, guidance and support.
A priest will never be a millionaire but his treasure isn’t measurable in pounds and pence. The gift of belonging to everybody, the joy in sharing life with so many people, that is where a priest’s earthly ‘reward’ is to be found. When a priest hears the words ‘well done my good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master’s house,’ he has his eternal ‘reward’.
The Scriptures remind us of the value of the wisdom which comes from God.
“Happy the one who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding!
Her profit is better than profit in silver, and better than gold is her revenue;
She is more precious than corals, and no treasure of yours can compare with her.”
Can priests do anything they want for recreation and fun?
The only limitation a priest has is that his hobbies must be in accord with the Gospel and his position as a priest. Priests enjoy the same hobbies as everybody else: sports, music, theatre, opera, plays, outdoor activities, the list goes on and on. St Francis de Sales provides valuable advice:
We must occasionally relax the mind, and the body needs some recreation also. Recall St. John the Evangelist, sitting, caressing a partridge: “I recreate myself from time to time, in order to return more vigorously to contemplation.” It is a great mistake to be so strict as to grudge any recreation either to others or to yourself. Walking, enjoying nature and games of skill are good. One must avoid excess, either in the time given to them or in the amount of interest they absorb, to prevent them from becoming an occupation, which far from resting and restoring the body, have the opposite effect.