Monday, February 9, 2009


About ten years ago I was invited with another priest friend to a rather swank reception. Someone had the horrendous idea to have assigned seating (something that should only be done by the most seasoned of professionals) and so we were two priests separated from people we knew and loved and forced to sit with three couples who were the best of friends but, for whatever reason, had not seen each other since high school. They had a lot of catching up to do. A lot. A whole lot. Before the cake was cut we knew how dilated each woman was with her first child and how to control your husband after he has just tarred the driveway.

Glancing over at my comrade in arms he gave that ever so slight crinkling of the eyebrows that signaled, “Help!” and so I glanced at my watch and exclaimed, “Oh my! Look at the time! We’ve got to get back to the parish!” I wonder if they even noticed if we were gone.

I met three leaders of congregations this week. Two were married and one was a visiting priest. Now that I sit back and reflect on the conversations I laugh at how different each one was. One was non-Christian and we talked much about his family and how the particular congregations that he has served effected his family. (That was interesting in and of itself. I often think of the effect of a minister’s family on a parish, not the other way around. Guess there can be lots O’ stress.) The second was a non-Catholic clergyman and our conversation came much closer to that which I would have with fellow celibate priests but still much of the conversation was about family issues and how it effects ministry.

Then I met an out of town priest. Our conversation was typical of that which I have when meeting another priest. I suppose it would be equivalent to normal conversations of, “What do you do for a living.” It was more along the lines of, “So what is your ministry? How did you end up there? What is your vacation story?” And then from there it went on to topics that I am sure would be as fascinating to the three couples mentioned above as theirs was to us.

There is no value judgment here, just something interesting enough to mention. However it may give insight as to the reason that sometimes priests want to relax with other priests. It is not that they (necessarily) are cliquish or secretive; it is simply that there are things that only another priest would be interested in or that it would be appropriate to talk about. This is especially true in these days when more and more rectories are lucky to have one priest let alone three or four. Priestly community is important as fellowship is for any given group of people. It is not absolutely necessary but it does make life a lot easier. That is not to say that a priest does not cherish being with other people and talking about what is important to them. It is, simply, from time to time, a treat that is becoming more and more rare (until there is this great influx of seminarians that I am predicting will come soon and after ordination take care of me in my old age.)


MJ said...

Kind of like moms getting together with other moms. No matter what age your child/children is/are, there are things that only another mom would find interesting or be able to relate. And you are right, I still very much enjoy my friends that are single or married without children.

Warren said...

I would be very interested in hearing priest's vocation stories. And their vacation stories too, for that matter.


Anonymous said...

I imagine some of the vacations stories would be a hoot! Vocation stories, moving.

Hey, everybody likes to talk about themselves to somebody who understands because they're there, too.

uncle jim said...

Vocation and vacations stories I'd like to hear:
I suspect there are many who missed their 'call' to priesthood or religious life - they became distracted / enamored and found a themselves caring for a wife and children. God still cared for them, no? If such a one subsequently thinks he missed the boat, raising a family can remind him each moment of how much God truly loves him, allowing the grace of that sacrament to work for the good ... even though he blew it when God asked him to not do that.