Monday, September 13, 2010


I need to evangelize more as a priest.” This was one of the conclusions that we came to on our trip to Canada this past week. We spent a lot of time “talking shop.” “If we are serious about that,” I said, “we could be wearing our collars.” “True.”

Unless I am riding my bike or some such thing, if I am out and about you can usually count on finding me in my clericals. Yet on certain vacations I don’t wear them. I get easily “peopled out” and desire to be left alone and so selfishly don’t wear them.

People find you out however. Going through customs into Canada we handed over our passports (can you believe you need a passport to get out of and into the United States to and from Canada now? That’s like needing a note from your parents to play with your brother) and the customs man asked, “Are you bringing anything into the country?”


“How about Bibles?” We have our collars on in our passport photos.

(Hearty har har.”)

At one of the theaters I was lamenting with the person in front of us during intermission how terrible our seats were for “A Winter’s Tail.” She said that she was a college professor of literature and eventually got around to asking what I do for a living.

“Well that’s very interesting!”

No matter how subtle we try to be in restaurants, people seem to notice when we bless our food. But be that as it may nothing says “PRESENCE OF GOD’S CHURCH” like the Roman collar (or habit) which also attracts people. I know this. It attracts me.

Last year I attended the festival by myself. Walking down the street I saw a man dressed in clerics sitting at a café table on the sidewalk sipping coffee. I stopped and introduced myself apologizing for interrupting his breakfast. I wrote you about him last year. He is from England and was filling in at the local parish while taking in the shows. I had extra tickets since my travel partner was out of commission and was able to share them with him. It was a great experience that would not have happened had he not been dressed in his blacks.

At my core I am an extremely private person in a very public role. My first day back I found myself being cranky because of all the sudden attention and spent much of Sunday afternoon locked in the rectory trying to prepare myself to be around people again. It takes a lot of energy for me. Actually I find most priests make a good show of being outward people-persons but in actuality are very private.

So – I don’t know. These are just my ponderings today with not a lot of direction.


Anonymous said...

"Actually I find most priests make a good show of being outward people-persons but in actuality are very private."

Father, if the truth be known, my husband is the same way. In public, he smiles, shakes hands and is very personable. In the car or at home, he is quiet. I feel ignored and wonder what happened to the man who "won my hand in marriage." He's very different in private. Other people would be surprised to see him that way.

Anonymous said...

Certainly on vacation you should take a break from wearing the black. In our Ohio parish, we are blessed to have a young associate pastor who is always in clerics, and occasionally even a cassock! And, our new pastor (of an older vintage) is most often seen in his collar. We all loved our previous pastor, but he was the king of the sport shirt.

Augustina said...

When out in the public especially, (if not all the time), I truly believe the priests and nuns should be in their clerics/habits.

If I'm taking a walk and notice a man several yards away falling down, maybe a stroke or a heart attack, and there is a priest at opposite ends without his clerics on, how would I know to call him to be there for this man who could be dying? A priest took his clerical garb at his ordination and the people need to see him dressed as such.
Did you ever consider Father entering a monastery or some place where you didn't have to be around the public so much? (just wondering). Today, we have so few Holy priests, and those Holy priests will have their clerics on. And the ones I knew are now deceased within the last few years. You would never, ever, see them without their clerics (cassock), and the one continuosly had his rosary in his hands praying. Agree, we're not all the same, but people need to see Visualy a priest dressed like one. Someone may have a question, or want their confession heard or just some advice. A priest should never back away from God's people, if ever there was a time that we need them, it is NOW! How many Souls are going to hell? If we, the lay people are to pray and be examples for not only ourselves but for others, to help them get to heaven, how much more God's chosen men?
All priests remain in my daily prayers... it is difficult for them today, surely it is, in many ways. And this is why they will always be in my prayers.

melody said...

Thanks so much for sharing your perspective, Father. I can appreciate some of what you are saying from a different perspective. I am a mother by vocation and there are many times (daily) when I am "touched out" and feel overwhelmed by the noises and movement and constant needs of my little crowd. It never ends. Sleep is no retreat because it is so often disrupted as well. Sometimes, I find it necessary to hide out for a few minutes (bathrooms and closets work well!) and very occasionally, my husband and I get someone willing to babysit 5 kids (soon to be 6) and have time alone together. Even more rare is time absolutely to myself even for an hour of adoration. Babysitting gets used up for doctor appointments and "practical" concerns. I was an only child and find the constant busyness different from my natural inclinations. I love quiet time. Alone time. My vocation perpetually calls me in a different direction.

I just want to encourage you in your thoughts and let you know what a blessing it is for lay Catholics to see that collar of yours. I know we must be a burden to you at times when you just want to be left alone. In this diocese, I can't remember the last time I randomly saw a priest in his collar in public. I do recall seeing one recently at the mall in sandals and and shorts. I wondered if we should say hello but thought it looked like he wanted to stay "hidden" so we just pretended we didn't see him. I was unsure because I didn't want to give odd messages to the kids, as if Father is "off the job" now, you know? But I wanted to respect his space and needs, too.

I don't think a priest should absolutely have to wear his clerics everywhere, but I do wonder if you all really know what a blessing, comfort and encouragement it is to the lay faithful to see you walking visibly in your vocation. I don't know how to properly express what it means to me personally to see it. I am lifted up in my own vocation...encouraged to embrace my own crosses with a little more love.

Thank you for taking the time to think these issues through so carefully...and for being willing so often to stretch beyond your comfort level for the love of Christ.

Here's an article I found a couple weeks ago and thought was very interesting on the same topic:

Anonymous said...

i loved this column/peersonal confesion---it can't get much better in THIS life than to be a priest---may all the minds of the vigorous laypeople be still---suck it up DEAR REVERAND FATHER---you are different from us--i am certain a father/st.padre pio or father/st.john vianney would have been seen in clerical garb at all ---the yearn to blend in, not ne recognized,be part of the people,yikes father, just to be more comfortable,must be GREAT--maybe it is even part of the "STRUGLE" to be a Saint---notice the two priests i mentioned started as PRIESTS--get my drift--i know, "times they area changin" but has being a Holy Priest also changed? my heart goes out to you --you and your parochial vicor have already made such a changes in the lives of your flock--keep agoin--i fear this is the greatest Full marathon that is ever run on this side of the vale---sending you much love--one of your flock--p.s.the bells are FABULOUS--last week they were madly ringing before the one oclock hour and the Holy Rosary was being prayed with very loud voices--it was a Powerful Moment--i was moved to tears and JOY---it was a moment of BEAUTY---just as seeing you in your clerical garb is---you do indeed become more beautiful--not in a wordly way, but in a Heavenly Way--again thank you both for all that you do for us.


Cracked Pot said...

Father, we all have to die to ourselves. It's not pleasant. Thank you for doing so, as part of your priesthood. You give us an example and encouragement to try. If you can overcome your natural preferences, so can we.

Margaret Comstock said...

As a newcomer to St. S. I must say that I never would have suspected that you are not naturally "outgoing". You have been most gracious and it is appreciated. Keep up the struggle!

Anonymous said...

sounds like "True Confessions" to me.


STEPHEN S. said...

Dear Father,
Even Jesus went into the desert to get away from people and to pray for awhile. When was the last time you took a 40 day sabatical? When you wear your collor and when you do not is between you and Jesus.
God Bless and protect you.
Happy and grateful
Stephen S.

Anonymous said...

dear melody---i just read your comment---i commented yesterday--as is my pattern i never read other comments before i try to get something down--your comments for me were informative and deeply moving---you explained this journey we all take so very well--thank you for taking part of the precious little time you Mothers have--i admire you greatly---you remind us all of our calling to be just like the Holy Priest--i.e. the call to Sainthood---you are in my prayers--

melody said...

Anonymous-I generally don't read posts after I have posted...keeps me from getting entangled too much in online affairs. However, I broke that rule today to come and see what other responses Father got from his worthy post. I'm so glad I did because I received your timely encouragement and kindness. The moment you took out of your day to write that was a blessing greater than you know. Deo Gratias!