This past week I was rather swamped with what seemed like an endless stream of administrative work. You may have noticed posts coming out later and later. (And there are no cartoons today.) It was a little disheartening because it can make a priest feel as though he cannot do that which is ordained to do – shuffling paperwork and attending meetings instead of those things we tend to think of priests doing such as sacraments.
Retired priests talk about this every now and then. “I can go back to really being a priest now.” By this they mean that they no longer have to give over large chunks of their calendar to worldly matters. Not too long ago there was a meeting of priests in the diocese and one of the priests stood up and said that we should consider relieving priests of administrative work so they can focus on sacramental and pastoral work. There was a smattering of applause and grumblings of approval. I was not among them, but last week I would have been.
There are many administrative things that a priest does that people in most jobs (or even parents and home owners) have to face so it is hardly unique. There is so much that I would like to accomplish (and perhaps there is a sin of pride there) but there is so much that must be done in order to get around to the things that I want to do: teacher contracts, staff reviews, new budget matters, diocesan mandates (not the least of which is the diocesan capitol campaign) and the like. Working on that I started feel resentful for it was a perfect storm of almost having no time for anything but this kind of work for a spell. (It is not always like that.)
Fortunately I had a visit from a priest friend this weekend who set me straight. We did not take vows as priests only to do pastoral and sacramental work. We were ordained to sanctify, teach, and shepherd. It is the role of the priest to do some of this “shepherding” work – it is not an ugly, evil-of-necessity chore that gets loaded as an extra onto the priest’s plate, but part of who are ordained to be.
There was something in the remembering of that call that made it seem as though the sun came out today (well, actually it did) and made these demands which will lessen in the summer to not seem so burdensome but part of who I am and all the ordained are called to be as priests.