"I’m So Busy, I Met Myself Coming Back!" A Quick Reflection on the Week of A Priest

When I was a young priest I used to bring communion to an elderly woman who would often puzzle over what on earth a priest would do on days other than Sunday. “You must be rather bored” she’d often say. “Oh, not exactly!” I would retort. “Well, what can you possibly have to do after you say Mass?” “Well, of course I am here visiting you!” “Well, that just takes a few minutes” she’d say. “Well, I do have few other things to do this week:”

  1. The other 15 sick calls I have through the week,
  2. the daily visits to the school,
  3. the evening appointments for marriage prep., marriage counseling, meetings with spiritual directees,
  4. Weekly RCIA instructions,
  5. Weekly Bible Study,
  6. Hospital calls,
  7. Funeral on Wednesday,
  8. Sermon prep,
  9. I have to remember to prepare of class notes for the Adult Education class on Sunday,
  10. 2pm Staff meeting,
  11. 10:00 am Saturday Parish Council,
  12. Finance Council meeting Thursday,
  13. Youth group meeting Friday night,
  14. School staff meeting Friday at 3:30pm
  15. Meeting with CCD teachers to discuss curriculum changes,
  16. Boiler contractor wants to discuss water treatment
  17. Gotta remember to call cleaning supply vendor regarding his proposal.
  18. Looks like the diocesan meeting was cancelled (whew!) but rescheduled for next week (whew!),
  19. The Synder’s want to schedule a house blessing,
  20. The interfaith network is a requesting a clergy meeting for next Tuesday
  21. Mr Evans has planned a meeting of the evangelization planning committee and I have to call and confirm that I can be there briefly to discuss the walking strategy on Wednesday evening before Bible Study.
  22. I should probably mention that there are often walk up appointments at the rectory requesting to see the priest,
  23. 15 – 20 Phone messages a day to be returned
  24. And then there’s those moments where a staff member sticks her head in the door and says, “Oh by the Father, the school staff is upset at the way the Ladies Guild left the stove on again and the principle wants to talk with you about it before the staff meeting.” “Oh, and Father? That strange man is back in the church again and he’s scaring the ladies in the rosary group. Could you go over and take a look?….And, by the way Father, remember to call Mrs. Deale who wants to start Eucharistic Adoration in the parish and wants you to preach more on it and attend an organizational meeting next Tuesday…..”
  25. Oh, I forgot to mention the evening Wedding this Saturday and that I make a daily holy hour and say Mass each day.

“Ah, yes,” I said to her: “Not much to do, really.”  🙂

And this description I gave her was all back in the days before cell phones, e-mail, and blogging!  But its all good; just sometimes too much of a good thing! Yet I wouldn’t have it any other way. And truth be told, we priests are busy, but not so much busier than most people. I think of my brothers who work all day and then come home to homes full of kids and ten thousand, thousand things to do each week. Their wives too, have lists that are endless, and I’ll bet you do as well. Life is full, but also fulfilling, if we find some boundaries, and love what we do by God’s grace.

All this to introduce a very good video that depicts the week of a parish priest. It is a very good production which I hope you’ll enjoy as much as I. The life of a priest is rich, and varied. But please understand that, from time to time when you call, we might not be at our desk waiting to answer the phone. The vineyard beckons!

Photo adapted from a photo at Edublogs

41 Replies to “"I’m So Busy, I Met Myself Coming Back!" A Quick Reflection on the Week of A Priest”

  1. I used your birthday post as an example when speaking to a Protestant cousin for simply the prudence of the vow of celibacy in the priesthood. It was a good debate on if the Church thinks of itself as a big family (I gave him some Dr. Hahn tapes), then why don’t they let priests marry. This is also a very good example. Thanks for sharing Msgr and keep up the good work.

  2. Thank You for serving and showing us the path to peace and joy. Your dedication, as well as other priests and nuns looks like a sacrifice from the outside. However, this video shows a completely different perspective.

    Thus, Enjoy Father, and please do take rests and make time for recreation. 🙂

  3. Epistle 211
    My some thoughts about “the homily” of Msgr. Charles Pope are here below:
    Firstly, in the homily, Msgr. Charles Pope enumerated a list of 25 Father’s works in a week.
    Secondly, now permit me to enumerate a list of my works in a week hereafter:
    I am 59, a Catholic, a Doctor of Socialist Political Economy, a civil servant of Vietnamese Government and University of Economics Ho Chi Minh City -UEH, South Vietnam.
    All ten years long (from 2000 to this day), I don’t work at UEH but at my home as a sinecure man.
    List of my works in a week is:
    From Monday to Friday:
    From 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.: I go to UEH to read two local newspapers to evaluate home situation.
    I can make suggestions to my colleagues on matters I concern. We often criticize on economic and political situation of the country such as relationship between Vietnam, China and US.
    From 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.: I go to the local market to buy some foods for my families. I like to go the local market because I can know prices of foods to rise or to fall. For me, buying and selling are an economic research.
    From 10 a.m. to 12 a.m.: I do the cooking. I very like foods I cook myself.
    From 12 a.m. to 14 p.m.: I take a nap after lunch.
    From 14 p.m. to 22 p.m.: I read and comment on a homily on blog of Msgr. Charles Pope. I read and translate BBC’s English articles into Vietnamese language. I also read BBC Vietnamese and other English articles on internet.
    From Saturday to Sunday: I read Holy Bible, Catechism of the Church, Social Doctrine of the Church, attending Mass on Sunday morning and attending a class of Social Doctrine of the Church on Sunday afternoon.
    In brief, my daily jobs are reading, writing, and translating. I love Holy Bible, BBC and Wikipedia./.

  4. Dear Msgr Pope – this is a very good expose. It also reminds us of how happy we can be when we don’t count the cost. In other words, we don’t realize that we are over-taxed when we, stoked with the Grace of God, are simply focused on the happiness we have when serving others. 🙂

  5. People often speak about the busyness of the priest — the meetings and emails and funerals and complaints — either to show the difficulties of the priestly life or to minimize them (since, as you said, many other people are similarly busy with very important matters). What both groups miss is the fact that the greatest trial and suffering of the priesthood is not in his active endeavors and responsibilities but rather in his being conformed to Christ Crucified in the depths of his very being, that mysterious, indelible mark of the sacred Victim forever on his soul. This, of course, is also the greatest grace of this most sacred vocation.

  6. Dear Msgr Pope,
    To summarize the Soul of the Apostolate: Do less. Pray more. Accomplish much more.

  7. You say, life is “fulfilling, if we find some boundaries, and love what we do by God’s grace”. I’m sure this doesn’t apply to you, Father, so please don’t feel defensive, but all too often I or other family members have requested a priest when we’ve been in the hospital (e.g., before surgery or, even worse, when a family member is dying) and the hospital staff only sent a lay (sometimes non-Catholic) chaplain. A few times, when they called the local priest (this was in Bethesda, MD), he said it was his day off!

    I know you fine priests are tremendously busy, especially w/ the priest shortage and all – and I also appreciate that you recognize we laity are also very busy (my wife and I have 5 kids 11 and under), but as far as “finding boundaries” I think some priests draw them too strictly. If they’re feeling like they’re going to have a break down because they’re being called to the hospital too frequently, they need to take their name off the hospital chaplain’s list. In a family, we can’t take our name off the list to get up at 3am to care for a sick child, a child with nightmares, etc.

    A priest’s relationship to his parishioners ought to be like a father’s to his children and even moreso as the bond is supernatural. I guess it’s a matter of whether we all (priests *or* laity, either way) see our states in life as a “job” so that “boundaries” would mean “it’s my day off – period!” or as a “vocational identity” so that “boundaries” would mean “I’m about to snap, could you (the other spouse for married, other priests for a priest) take my turn with (the kids, the sick visits) and I’ll owe you one”.

    Anyway, good post. Thanks.

    1. Yes, I am getting ready to run to the hospital. It’s not only tough because there are fewer of us but also because people don’t usually go to neighborhood hospitals anymore. The hospital I am about to go to is clear across town. Will probably take 40 minutes to get there and another 40 minutes back. You are also right that some of our chaplains are less than stellar in terms of availability. I often make an emergency call to a pager or cell phone only to be directed to a voice mail and Lord knows if the message has gotten through. In addition, there are so many different hospitals, specialty hospitals and nursing facilities, that we just don’t have enough priests to serve as chaplains at them all. Here in DC we only have chaplains at the larger regional hospitals. It presents tough challenges to a parish priest: should I cancel two appointments or a bible study to go to the hospital or stay at my post? All of them are my people. The Sacrament of the sick is not supposed to be “extreme unction” except in sudden emergencies like a bad car accident or sudden thing. Usually people are to be “up to date” on their sacraments, so a priest is supposed to balance all this and there are real conundrums. I sometimes get word, go into a class of over 30 people that a parishioner has been taken to an emergency room. Does this mean I should leave the 30? It is not clear. I usually teach and then go in the late evening. Usually I am aware that the person was just at mass this past week and is up-to-date on sacraments or not. And, though anointing is surely helpful, it is not necessary for salvation. But again, not everyone thinks this way but often think of anointing as the magic touch or as absolutely necessary for salvation. Even confession in dying moments should not be thought of as magic. If a person needs a priest and a priest cannot be reasonably found in time, it suffices for the person to make an act of contrition – no one who calls on the Lord will he ever reject. If a person is unconscious, a priest saying absolution over them will only have effect is they had some contrition and openness to receive the sacraments prior to the unconscious state.In all these cases, even when I rush, I am still not always on time. In such cases, we have to trust in God.

      Any way, all these things go through a parish priest’s mind when emergencies come in and many things and needs have to be balanced. It is clear that we need chaplains, especially at hospitals with shock and trauma units where the most serious and urgent cases are brought in. In places like that, the diocese simply must have a plan to make priests more urgently available.

      All that said, a priest who has such duties still needs time off and thus there should be backup on his day off. While its true that a priest is a father, what earthly father has many hundreds of children living all over the city sometimes 30 – 40 miles apart some of whom are in six or seven different hospitals, nursing homes and their own homes. There are physical and spiritual limits that just set in after awhile.

      Sorry for a long response. In the end I agree, we don’t want boundaries so strict that we are not generous. But there are necessary choices that mediate the truth that the urgent cannot always eclipse the important.

  8. Dear Msgr. Pope,
    With fewer and fewer priests the workload is getting heavier, I see it around here.
    We need all of you priests so much, and always remember what your kind words do to a person in need.
    Now who in the world can tell me that priests should be able to marry. Very few women could possibly
    share you with all you do, and the salary would never stretch far.
    Know, we are all your family. Stay well Msgr. Pope

    1. Yes, it is a full time vocation. I respect marriage and fatherhood too much to ever say I could do those things in my spare time, for they too are full time vocations.

  9. A friend who is a parish pastor told me one time that he wakes up every morning at 4:00 AM and prays the entire Holy Office for the day. He acknowleges that it’s not the ideal but experience taught him that he could not do it without interruptions otherwise.

  10. Dear Msgr. Pope,

    Take care of yourself, you will be no good to us (me) if you don’t. I am amazed of the volume of blogs you produce and still run a parish! Your blogs have given me a greater insight about my faith, therefore I read you before my morning coffee/ I am on the west coast so I read the meditations early in the morning before mass, thereby having a “Mass of Anticipation”.
    God bless you in your ministry.

  11. I used to think that priests do not have anything to do in between weekends; not anymore after being acquainted with a couple of them and being active in church ministries!

    When a see a priest these days, I always think of Romans 10:15 And how can people preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring (the) good news!”

    Father, thank you and all the beloved priests who serve us everyday!

  12. Truth be told, parish priests can be as busy or as slothful as they want to be. Parish priesthood can be a refuge of the lazy, who conduct their scheduled liturgies and hospital calls and little else. I like to think that the majority of parish priests are along the lines of Msgr. Pope, who are present to the pastoral needs of their parishes in a multitude of ways. God bless you Monsignor for your priestly ministry!

  13. Two things in the list really stand out for me. In #24 I would wonder if the “strange man” who was in the church during the time of the rosary group was me except that I’m on the other side of the continent and in another country. I really do mean to dispense with the ponytail and get weekly haircuts……..someday. And I’m there because love the Rosary.
    The other thing which stood out was most noticeable by its lack; “delegate” Some of us really want to help by doing more than throwing money in the appropriate box. I’ve done a lot of volunteer work for other organizations that involves taking minutes, editing documents to make them clearer to the average reader, writing letters on behalf of someone who insists on reading the letters for approval but churches often seem to see volunteering as ONLY washing dishes after an event, mowing lawns, raking leaves, vacuuming, etc.
    Brain sweat can sometimes be just as fulfilling to a parishoner as the other kind.

    1. Yes, I do have a good cadre of helpers. For example, Now that I am a pastor I have to rely more on the Eucharistic ministers and deacons to visit the home bound. I stress the hospitals more. Further, I no longer have a school but when I did and became a pastor, I had to rely more on the principal to conduct school staff meetings. I only attended the really critical ones.

  14. Msgr Pope,
    Am I this old woman that you talk about? Let me explain, I am very active in the Parish, I lead the Rosary, Teach RCIA, attend Mass 2-3 times per week (I work for a living) and generally am what my neighbor calls me “a pillar of the Church”. So I personally think I have a pulse of what our Priest does. Maybe not though, in looking over the list I see our Priest only taking care of the Sacraments, doing sick calls, and the finance meetings, other then that I have often wondered just how he spends his time. I like to think he is a very Holy Man. You see he very rarely comes to any functions he is invited to and does not have the personal touch with individuals I would think a Priest should have. My neighbor also said once that (you have to understand, the only reason Father X is here, is to raise money to build a Sanctuary and fund the Bishops need for a new cathedral). Please tell my I’m wrong and that he has simply embraced the spirit of Vatican II in that the lay people of the parish should and will accomplish most if not all of the ministries

  15. Several years ago my daughter c had to wrap her mind around the concept of priests existing outside Mass at Church. She was waiting in a middle-school hallway while my husband C and I were taking a class. On the way home:

    c: I saw someone who looked just like Fr G.
    me: It probably WAS Fr G (the middle school is just around the corner from the Church)
    c: But he was dressed in basketball clothes, and they weren’t even BLACK.
    C: Fr G likes to play basketball
    c: *blink*
    me: He’s ALLOWED to play basketball
    c: (grudgingly) OK but I think he’s still supposed to be in black.

  16. Dude is the exception, not the rule.

    Who ever sees a priest out wearing clerics, or in the public? Usually hiding out in the rectory, or doing “ministry”.

    And when does any of these guys do spiritual direction, apart from crisis management? “oh oh, Father, my husband and I have been contracepting for years and don’t understand now why our marriage and family are falling apart……oh no, father…….I’ve gambled all my family wealth away….can you help?….oh father…..my boy has been in a gang for 10 years and now he is looking at a 30 year prison sentence….can you help me?”

    So father has to try and deal with these appalling situations and can’t help out the quiet consecrated virgin who wonders if a more ascetical life is for her, etc, or if she should fast 3 days a week for love of God, etc………

    This video was interesting, but so uncommon as to be bizarre.

    1. Your reply is an example of one that, though it does have some valid points, is so cynical and arrogant that it turns off even your supporters. Why do you have to cop the rude attitude and be all superior and stuff? blah!

  17. Is type A personality a reqirement for the priesthood now days.

  18. Monsignor,

    Thank you so much for your generous gift of self to Christ and His Bride! I am so grateful for priests who give so much to bring me the Sacraments and the loving presence of a spiritual Father.

    Priests in my parish are also very busy, of course, and reading this post made me wonder: is there anything we parishioners can do to help? I mean obviously we can’t administer Sacraments or anything, but I would love to do anything to help my Father spend more time with his children who are in need of his care and his presence. What do you think? Are there any kind little favors that would be particularly helpful?

    Blessings to you, and thank you again for your sacrifice.

    Pax et bonum,

  19. I am extremely grateful for all that you do. Though I have been unable to get to church as much as I would like, you all have been in my thoughts and prayers. You need your days off – if I’ve learned anything from my own job in serving others, you gotta be healthy before you can help fix others. Thank you for your sacrifice to help all of us who have need, and God Bless You!

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