July 14, 2009

The Holiness of Ordinary People

I guess I've been kind of down on stuff lately; I can see it in all of the ponderous posts and mystifying of my frustrations in my writing. It's true that the parish priest trade--the life in which I now find myself--can be tiring and difficult. The hours are terrible, someone is always mad at you and calling you a rotten priest, wedding paperwork is tedious, sacrilegious "eulogies" at funerals poison your heart with boredom. You have to get up early and work in the evening. Nothing ever seems finished and there are always more fires to put out and another wedding or funeral coming in.

So it all begs the question: why do it? What keeps a person going? Well, the first answer is certainly a desire to love God and to serve him as best you can, responding to the vocation which is a such a gift and so wound up with God's merciful Providence in your own life. But day to day, on the natural level, what keeps me going and what helps me stay positive is the simple holiness of ordinary people.

It's the devotion of secret saints. People of all ages who would wouldn't think of going through a day without Holy Communion, or a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, or the afternoon rosary. Thank you. I see you in church and you are my teachers. It's you in the confessional who are working your particular ascesis much harder than I'm working mine. Thank you for your encouragement and good example.

It's the beautiful practices of charity. People who save box tops and can wrappers in order that money be donated to some worthy cause. People who make secret donations to the parish food pantry. Folks who visit and check on their elderly neighbors.

It's the tremendous sacrifices of ordinary Christians. Adult children who give up opportunities, up to and including families of their own, to take care of sick or aged parents and siblings. Poor folks who pay the church's heat bill by the crumpled bills they stuff into the votive light boxes. It's the parents who work so hard because of the opportunities they want their kids to have. May my celibacy never make me ignorant of your sacrifice.

So as blue as I can get sometimes, and as heavy are my own temptations to arrogant criticism, I am humbled and grateful for the chance to work as a servant of the saints.


Qualis Rex said...

Brother Charles - I believe it was either our blessed St Ambrose of Milan or Gilligan who once said, "it's the little things in life that hurt; you can sit on top of a mountain, but you can't sit on top of a pin." It sounds like you've had a very FULL day (and have accomplished more by 8am than most of us have by the time "Dancing with the Has-beens" comes on). So, don't sweat these little petty irritating thoughts. A good night's sleep may help too : ) And regarding anyone calling you a rotten priest, the bar is pretty low these days to begin with so just have fun with it (nyuck nyuck nyuck).

Yes, thank God for the living saints among us that give us inspiration. God is good and He knows when to point them out to us, doesn't He? So, as they say in Motown, you just get on witcho' bad sef. And get a good night's rest.

pennyante said...

I am a parishioner in a small parish so most of us know each other fairly well. But what we often don't realize is how much good is done by these people we see every Sunday and inbetween.

We just happen to hear about these acts of charity by others accidently because we simply go about our business and do the things that we need to do for a family member or someone else - it is just part of living our lives as Christians.

I am continually inspired by the sacrifices ordinary people make; the giving of themselves even when it is inconvenient. It inspires me to stop complaining about things I have to do and urges me on to imitate their actions. There are several parishioners to whom I owe very much, who have helped further my own spiritual growth by listening and watching how they live their lives.

I am grateful to be in this small parish community and wouldn't trade it for any other.

4narnia said...

hi Fr. C!
sorry to hear that you've been "down on stuff lately" as you put it. i can understand how tiring and difficult the "parish priest trade" can be. although i'm not a priest, i am active in 2.5 parishes and know the feeling of it being tiring and difficult. this post of yours inspires me because just this past year, teaching religious education to second graders seemed to tire me more this past year than the previous years i've been teaching and i was thinking to myself that maybe i could skip a year just for a break. but, then i thought more about why i do that and all the other things i do and the answer to that is because i do love God and the people and i have a deep desire to serve Him in the ways He has called me to serve. yes, there are many holy, ordinary people in the parishes,and,like you, they're an inspiration. your "parish priest trade" and also your particular order of the Capuchins (particularly your Province of St. Mary) inspire me to just keep serving God. (being a part of the bereavement ministry, i know what you mean about "sacrilegious eulogies" at funerals - this can be difficult.) so, please try to cheer up - you're a great priest. thank you for your inspiration and kindness. PEACE! ~tara t~

Jeanne said...

Not a day goes by that I don't visit your blog, Fr. Charles, or check out your posts elsewhere, because I learn something from you. So I just want to say that no matter how discouraged you feel please know that there is someone out there who really gets a lot from what you have to say. And I'm not mad at you. Never :)

I'm a writer and marketing consultant by trade. Freelance writing is also very hard. You get rejected daily. One day I opened my email to see three rejections in a row. I had to shut my computer and go have a good cry and pity party for a bit, then get back to work. I think it happens in every profession - priest, writer, doctor, teacher - whatever you do, there are days you just want to hide your head in the sand for a bit. Or perhaps sit on the sand with a tropical drink with a little umbrella sticking out of it.

We are all human...having people mad at you, having hatred (for priests, for the church) slung at you without warning, boredom, dealing with your fellow brothers as well as the general public (ie, your parishioners) is draining.

Keeping you in my prayers. You do more good in this world than you know.

Paul A. Zalonski said...

Friar Charles, You raise good points for reflection. As far as I can see, it's the daily witness of God's people to cross and resurrection and their humor (most of the time) that keeps me going. If you don't laugh you'll cry, as the saying goes. Of course, this all makes sense if we have a companionship. In my context I struggle to see how the secular priesthood lives a companionship with other priests/deacons when radical individualism reigns.

Brother Charles said...

Wow. Great comments! Thanks everyone!

Anonymous said...

In real estate, the rule of thumb is that 20 deals will fall through before you bring home the dough on a sale. What keeps me going is playing the law of averages. After the 15th rejection, you psych yourself into thinking, I'm due one. I can imagine the same can apply to the priesthood. You are after all fishers of men. For as many heathens as there are out there, everyone once in a while you'll reign in a good catch that will thank you for life. I, for one, thank God every day for stumbling upon your blog.

Anonymous said...

Now this was a good, ordinary post. I find myself encouraged when I read such insights. God bless you brother.