There is certainly more than enough controversy surrounding the priesthood these days, and I do not want to add to it. I simply want to reflect on the role that priests play in our Catholic faith.
The parish I belong to has been blessed with some wonderful pastors over the years. When my husband and I were going through the adoption process, our then-pastor was such a wonderful support to us: praying with us and for us. He gave me the Anointing of the Sick before a major surgery, and the peace that brought me was immeasurable.
Our current pastor is celebrating 40 years as a priest this weekend. His sense of humor is enough to make us love him, but when our family was in crisis several years ago, he was an absolute rock of faith for us, really going above and beyond what we expected in supporting us and our children.
When I was teaching full-time, I would often ask my high school students what they thought a priest did all day. "Pray" was the answer. Yes, many of them really thought that a priest sits in church and prays all day. Many priests I know would love to do that, but rarely have time! Do you know what a parish priest does all day? Visits hospitals and nursing homes, gives spiritual counseling, meets with staff on various programs, studies ways to implement the new Roman Missal, answers phone calls and emails, meets with grieving families, sits on various committees for the parish and the diocese, prepares homilies, prays the Office, says Mass, meets with engaged couples....well, you get the idea.
It is a tough time to be a priest. The media and often parishioners look down on priests. It is certainly not a "job" that warrants a lot of press or recognition if it is done well. It can be down-right disheartening, because priests receive an enormous amount of complaints and criticisms from all sides. They are on call 24/7, and often are with people during the worst times of their lives.
Pray for our priests. Thank your priest for the ministry he provides and the work he does. Let him know he is appreciated. It will mean more than you know.