Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Is the priest "burdened" by people's sins and lonely?

The ever-readable Simcha Fisher has an article: Should We Burden Priests with Our Sins? A commenter suggested that lay people shouldn't "burden" priests with frequent confession. Here is a bit of background:
"You might want to give the priests a break," she said. “Instead of dumping your ‘sins’ on them, why don’t you offer them some comfort?”

From the conversation that followed, it soon became pretty obvious that she was perhaps less concerned about poor, overworked priests, and more concerned about reminding everybody that the Church is corrupt, oppressive, homophobic, etc. etc.
Simcha Fisher refers to an article by Fr Mike Schmitz My side of the confessional which says pretty well all I would want to say. When people say to me that it must be terribly depressing listening to all those sins, I reply that in the confessional, the priest is listening to good people trying to be better. An in response to the "What if ...?" questions, you have to point out the obvious, that wife-beaters, child-molesters, and serial-killers don't tend to be in the queue for confession - unless you are a prison chaplain. Psychopaths unfortunately don't feel the need to repent.

One correction I would offer to the article is on the matter priests being lonely, stressed and need companionship. Well we do have particular stresses in dealing with major life and death events, but there are others who share that. Much of our "stress" comes from the mindless grind of the latest bureaucratic requirement of health and safety or whatever. Again, plenty of others share those stresses.

But loneliness and need of companionship? Not so much. Many priests live alone, as I do, but there is always the daily companionship of wonderful parishioners who are trying their best to live the faith. Their receptiveness to the guidance and teaching of the priest is humbling, and the effort to meet the need for sound teaching and spiritual direction is one of the most rewarding things a man could do.

Many lay people live alone and I find it fun sometimes to joke with them about the demands of shopping, cooking, and housekeeping for a one person unit - very different from the advice you get from large families that are buying in shedloads of stuff to feed a growing army. More seriously it is also good to share the insights of living a spiritual rule of life when you have to make your own timetable and have the privilege of a "lonely place" to be with the Lord. That kind of "loneliness" is not a burden but a blessing.
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