Priests: days off, friends, hobbies or psychologically unhealthy lives rant

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Some people are fickle, you know the kind, who have psychologically inappropriate practices – like being a workaholic, a busybody, a control freak, all that goes along with narcissism, etc. – and they insist that priests, all priests, be mirror images of them, with all the same aloofness, all the same bitterness, all the same… – shall I say it? – all the same hatred of self that they want to project onto priests: “Damn them for taking a day off! Damn them for having a useful hobby! [like tent-making?] Damn them for having friends! Priests should instead ____________ [… fill in the blank…].” Instead, priests are people too, and, as such, priests should do that which is psychologically healthy.

Mass Lourdes Pius X Basilica

Should priests do up good prayer, good penance, good reparation? Sure, all that. They should make hobbies, if you will, of priest stuff, meaning keeping up with, having the virtue of studiosity with all that which defines who they are. For instance, do they know their full rite to which they belong, not only the Novus Ordo but also that which came before the Novus Ordo and is still an active part of the life of the Church? Sure, all that. And I love all that. This provides an ecclesial understanding of the ages in a lived way. I hate to use the word enjoyment with such things, but if one does this while walking in the Lord’s presence, so to speak, it is just that. It’s all good.

But along with all that, should priests have good reading and good practices of appropriately being aware of society around them and analyzing the breadth of history and where we are today and where things are likely going? Sure, all that. I have a blast doing all that. Writing helps me think. I love writing. It’s all good. But…

toyota pickup

Should they also be found at all times and in all places where the suffering are, such as hospitals and nursing homes and rehabs, and also with those who are “shut-ins”? Sure, all that. But for me, this is what I love to do, so much so that I almost feel guilty about it. Should I be having this much fun in bringing Jesus to all and sundry? :-) Archbishop Fulton Sheen said that priests should make people laugh when they pay visits to them in all their suffering. But I see this a different way. I stay with people long enough whereby they figure out a way to make me laugh, and then we do laugh heartily indeed. Maybe some few loudmouthed people are so angry with priests because priests (the vast majority) love being priests, and love Him whom they serve, Christ our God. Or should we say with the fickle that if a priest loves being a priest so much he’s surely not doing his “job,” and should be more alone and more angry and more bitter and more desperate….?

But I think there is more to this. For instance, would it be a bad thing for me, in particular, on a day off, to stop in at the next parish over (the better part of an hour away and conveniently on the way to the hermitage) so as to have what is always a fast moving discussion with a good priest friend just to do it, and then also go to Confession? Is it terribly evil for a priest to have friends, even priest friends? Of course not. But what if those friends are also neighbors to the hermitage, and I end up at the hermitage? Is that bad and evil? These are such good people. They very much encourage me that our Lord is alive and is ever so very good and kind to us. But what if those friends are also down the mountain, where there is also potential for ferocious conversations and really good food? Is that so bad and evil? I think it’s good for priests to go to Confession and to have good friends. We do want what’s good for priests, don’t we, you know, what’s psychologically good for priests? I think so, a thousand times over.

flores-lourdes-grotto-ice-roses

But what about hobbies? Another priest I know does up lots of art. He makes tapestries, losing himself in intensity of creativity of design. Just guessing, but I think Daniel Matsui must be like that. It can be like code-writers going into a trance with a million lines of code all at once in their minds and having to finish off a certain impossible project without realizing that many hours have passed without them realizing it. That‘s the sign of a good hobby: it’s distracting. I remember doing my doctoral thesis on Genesis 2–3. The whole thing was one big mathematical equation. I think I went for ten hours straight on an impossible historical-philology investigation utterly surprised that more than some minutes had passed. For many years I’ve made a hobby of putting up “Flowers for the Immaculate Conception” in all their various editions of commentary. The flowers above burst out in the midst of weeks of ice and snow and always freezing temps.

Right now, along with Flowers for the Immaculate Conception, my hobby is my Glock 19. Sorry, but not sorry. More on that later.

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I looked up priests and hobbies and saw many priests I knew describing their hobbies, including the most impossible things like playing the most difficult instruments in the world, or mountain climbing, like with ropes and such. All good. And these are the best of priests, with honesty, integrity, who speak the truth in charity, and live it. I think doing what’s psychologically healthy helps set the conditions by which a priest can be a good priest. And that’s a very good thing. Anyway, I’m away to buy some dog food. That‘s another hobby. Here’s Laudie-dog a while back:

laudie-dog

And here’s Shadow-dog just a few minutes ago. Note that Shadow-dog, who always has the most amazing shadows, is surely really a donkey under all that wolf-like nature: just look at his astounding shadow):

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Priests as donkeys… Donkeys, if you didn’t know, are put with the sheep just like guard dogs are but with the sheep. Donkeys kill off the wolves. Those from Australia might think that that shadow looks like a kangaroo about ready to box Shadow-dog in the nose. Anyway…

Importantly, priests should have a great sense of irony, a great sense of humor, and love to laugh, and have a joy in the Holy Spirit that is reflective of lives of honesty and integrity, of living as tabernacles of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not aloof, dark, bitter. No! Jesus is risen from the dead, from the entire onslaught of hell, and has conquered.

UPDATE: As one reader just sent in by email:

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

9 Comments

Filed under Priesthood

9 responses to “Priests: days off, friends, hobbies or psychologically unhealthy lives rant

  1. nancyv

    Of course, it’s all about me, but I would really miss you if you gave up your hobbies, especially of writing and flowers for the Immaculate Conception. Who in the heck gives you a hard time for a day off?

  2. sanfelipe007

    Jesus went to weddings, and parties, and…

  3. pelerin

    I do so agree that a regular day off is an absolute necessity for priests. They give their all in their vocation and consequently need to find time for their own hobbies to recharge their batteries.

    My own young parish priest enjoys cycling although unfortunately he recently broke his collar bone after falling from his bike. He has continued to say Mass albeit one-handedly and I do hope his accident does not put him off cycling. Looking after a parish single-handedly (!) in more ways than one must be a daunting task.

  4. Aussie Mum

    The photo of Shadow-dog and the deflated ball in his mouth has me smiling. Together they do indeed cast a kangaroo-like shadow, but it is the deflated ball that brought a smile. We had a dog, quite large like Shadow-dog, who happily deflated (destroyed) every ball that came his way. He relished a challenge and never encountered a ball or supposedly indestructible dog toy that he couldn’t defeat. That was his hobby, I think, and he took as duty the role of protector without any training in that area, patrolling our back yard fence-line and warning off anyone who might be thinking of climbing over. I don’t know if he could be compared with a shepherding donkey but he certainly could be as stubborn as a mule and strong too. We got him when he was just a puppy and he lived with us until he died at 15 years of age. I hope Shadow-dog lives a long life too. A good dog is surely one of God’s blessings.

  5. pelerin

    Last week the Bishop of my diocese did a parachute jump out of a plane in aid of the Lourdes fund! I was relieved when I saw the photo that he was actually strapped to an expert jumper. I am all for priests and bishops having a hobby but I do hope he does not take this up as a hobby.

  6. sanfelipe007

    I wonder if we have any Priests who are former (present?) paratroopers?

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