I just had a conversation with some parishioners about the pastor at our parish. They were talking about seeing him at different parish functions and they pointed out that they always see him walking around and talking to people but never actually sitting down and eating. They were kind of joking and kind of not when they said, I wonder if he ever eats? At this point I piped in and said, yes he eats – of course he eats. I just had lunch with him today in fact.
It was a funny little encounter but I think it points to a larger issue that I’ve noticed between priests and the people they serve. For some reason, the very fact that a man has been ordained and given the power to say Mass and hear confessions seems to make people think that priests aren’t human in the same way that you and I are human. There is rightfully a sense of respect that people have for priests, an awe of the divine I think that they see in a priest, but it almost goes too far. People have this impression that priests are above normal human interaction, that priests are just better, more holy, too good for us little normal people. This is so not true. Now I’m not saying priests aren’t holy – because I know some awesomely holy priests – I’m saying that priests are people too.
They have to brush their teeth every morning just like we do. They eat, get tired, struggle with family and friends. Priests are first and foremost sons of God, just like all men are. They make mistakes just like the rest of us. Even the Pope goes to confession! So where did we get this idea that priests are so much above us? That priests aren’t people? That they can’t do normal things and act like normal people?
Working in a parish office gives you a totally different perspective of priests. Although, I think I figured out the fact that priests are human too before I started working at a parish. But regardless, seeing someone on a daily basis for a long period of time reveals their strengths and also their faults. Priests struggle just like the rest of us do. They get overworked and burned out just like all of us in ministry. We put so much pressure on them to be perfect and I just think it’s crazy. People are so afraid to even have a conversation with a priest because they are scared of saying something wrong. It just doesn’t make any sense!
The man who serves as your priest was born and grew up as a normal boy. He went to school and lived in a house. He maybe even worked a regular job before entering seminary. He’s had real experiences in the world of love and loss. He is literally just like the rest of us. Except, he’s been ordained and chosen by the Lord and given power to bring Jesus into the world through the sacraments. But deep down inside, a priest is just a man.
All that being said, I feel like I need to point out the other side of this whole analysis. Sisters and nuns are humans too! The same stereotype is held by people about sisters as well. I’ve encountered them even within my own family hearing their expectations of my future life. When I say something a little out of whack or act in a weird way they point out that a sister would never do that. But the thing is, a sister would! Just because the Lord has placed this desire on my heart to be totally His doesn’t mean I am going to be any less myself. It actually means I am going to be more myself. If the Lord is truly calling me to this vocation, then He literally created me with it in mind and so I will just be becoming who the Lord made me to be.
I’m not going to enter the convent and immediately become a quiet, boring, strict, serious woman. I am going to enter the convent and stay Erin. I will change, like we all do, but I will just be perfecting the personality and gifts that the Lord has given me from the beginning of my life. I will always be myself. I hope I can help people understand how much sisters and priests are really just people who are longing to be loved and love just like everyone else.