Monday, June 24, 2013

Twelve years as an ordained priest

I celebrated twelve years of my priesthood last Thursday, and was given some time out of the hospital to celebrate a Mass in the evening with some familiar faces in the pews.  For this I am so grateful.  I thought that it would be good to list some of the things that I have learnt along the way which have taught me much, and to pen these down as reflection points.  These are not in any order of merit.

1.    There is never a moment that we can say that our work is done.  ‘Type A’ personalities have it tough if they tend to measure success and accomplishment by the projects and targets that they set for themselves.  Priests who are of the ‘Type A’ personality have it doubly hard because deep within, they may know that it is not about targets and ideals, and that the journey is more important than that destination, but may have a real problem living this out in their lives.  Yet the ‘Type A’ personality priest needs to constantly let go of this deep-seated need to reach a final end in all that he does.  It’s a double -edged sword that he is dealt with, and it can make or break him if he is not centered first on the Kingdom of God.

2.    That it is a rare diocese that has a bishop who makes it known to his priests that they are cherished and valued.  In my current diocese, I am richly blessed.  My experiences and encounters with priests from other dioceses in the world have shown me something that I only suspected was true.  Many priests do not feel valued and cherished and appreciated by their bishops.  Even if they are, they are not usually affirmed in this. The bitterness and even (sadly) the resentment that comes out as a result of this is that priests then become somewhat disgruntled in their priesthood.  While it is true that no one becomes a priest because of his bishop, a good and strong relationship with one’s bishop has never been the seedbed and genesis of a priest’s loss of his vocation and priesthood.  A good bishop-priest relationship can help a weak vocation, and can strengthen one’s resolve to become a better, holier and more prayerful priest.  Put a group of priests who have an issue with their bishop in a room together and it is always possible to have them seething with resentment and anger, and this helps no one. 

3.    No amount of preparedness can prevent a newly ordained from the experience of being disenchanted after ordination.  It’s par for the course of being a priest, much like it is for many a married couple entering into marriage.  One always has ideals and dreams about so many things – the perfect parish setting, the perfect parish priest, the model parishioners who make up the parish, the great relationship one will have with his bishop as his leader and guide, that great ministry where things will go smoothly with all on board thinking in the same way, etc.  A little down the road, the shattered reality sets in when one by one, the cracks start to show, with the further reality that the Kingdom of God isn’t what one thinks it should be.  It’s a painful reality, but in hindsight, the more one is aware that this is real, the more one can handle it well when the first crises show their face. 

4.    You may know many priests, but you are so blessed if you have one or two priest friends who you really can call a friend indeed.  Perhaps this is more because priests are such busy people that few have close priest-friends.  It takes time and effort to built a trusted and deep relationship with another.  There are certain things in life that are best broached with another person who has had a similar background and vision of life as well as a spiritual background and foundation.  It’s not that the lay person’s view is incomplete and of less value.  It is often just that – a lay person’s viewpoint.  An issue, especially one that is in itself of a priestly related nature, is best left to be shared and discussed openly with another priestly mind and heart within a prayerful and spiritual setting.  Sometimes, airing this openly with a well-intentioned lay-person could become the beginnings of the loss of one’s vocation.

5.    Like many of the laity, many priests also struggle with making prayer something that is constant and consistant.  While many may know that it is imperative that we pray daily, keeping that commitment is something that is a common challenge.  The easiest cop out is to say that our work is our prayer, and if we are truly honest with ourselves, we will know that our work cannot be our prayer if our work is not first a result of prayer.  A prayer-life doesn’t just happen, just like a good marriage doesn’t just happen.  It takes a commitment and dedication and steadfastness because most of the time, we will not be receiving consolations which make prayer sweet and appealing.

6.    Just like our fingers and thumb on one hand are each of different lengths, so too are there different kinds of priests.  There will be priests who are ‘our type’, and there will be ‘other types’.  As long as there is no moral compromise or issue at hand, sometimes we need to let others be themselves with their own quirks and idiosyncrasies, and sometimes, seeing how they cause a reaction in us show us something about us more than it shows us something about them.  It takes a largess of heart and a truly giving spirit to see someone doing things in ways that we don’t agree with, and resist the urge to ‘change’ them.  Sometimes this is life-long struggle that one has to live with – a bit like a long haul penance.

7.    The laity will always have things to say about us priests.  We need to accept and expect this.  And they will always compare us with those who have come before us.  We will experience this at every change of parish appointments, and most will be wary of us when we first arrive.  How we live and relate with them as sheep of our flock will determine whether we will see tears of joy or sadness when we get our next assignment after that.

8.    Contrary to what some priests think, the laity generally do not have an aversion to a theologically sound homily.  What they have an allergy to is someone simply quoting theological snippets which are left unexplained and quizzical at best to their untrained ears.  Their interest is always peaked when we can give them solid examples of how such matters are extremely important to their faith lives and how relevant this is to their journey toward holiness and sainthood.

9.    We will see the evil of jealousy around us, and priests are not exempt from this evil.  Our friendship with some members of the laity can sometimes make others jealous.    Our talents and gifts used for God’s kingdom may also cause our less gifted brother priests to mumble beneath their breaths.  We will be tested time and again about how truly secure we are in our dependence on God and not on the affirmations of man which can often blow like the wind.

10.There’s one of you, and there’s a whole parish out there.  This fact affects so many areas of one’s priesthood in various ways.  It’s going to be almost impossible to remember everybody’s name.  Some will take offence that you forgot their names but only remembered their faces, and some will be forgiving for your absent mindedness.  Everyone appreciates your going the extra mile when they are in times of need, and this is going to apply across the board, from the poor to the rich.  When preaching on a Sunday morning, you may have prepared your homily so well, but always be aware that each person out there has a unique and personal situation that often affects how that message is heard.  Some will hear what you said, but not feel what you tried to impart.  Some will want to hear what you did not say, and get themselves in a tizzy over something that was not even intended.  But happy are you if they heard a hard message of gospel truth, took umbrage because it pricked the conscience, and they told you they didn’t like your homily.  Treat these moments as graced moments because you were prophetic without being fearful. 

11.Love is a decision.  If only it were that everything that we do as priests comes automatically as a result of love, and is obviously loving.  Most of the time, it is not.  A lot of our actions seems to be just that.  Actions.  What a prayer life does is that it remind us throughout the day that our lives become meaningful and our actions become Godly when we knowingly do them with a decision to love.  The more we are aware of this, the more the areas of our service will become centres of God’s love where charity and kindness prevail. 

12.Take a day off a week for some ‘me’ time.  I was advised to do this by my Spiritual Director from the days of my Diaconate.  Unless an emergency comes up at the last moment (and they do), we may need to be uncompromising about this necessary day of rest.  It enables priests to recollect themselves and ready their minds, hearts and souls to minister to other minds, hearts and souls.  


  1. Another milestone.Congratulations Thank you for your generosity in answering God's call. And thank you for your candidness. We are blessed to have priests like you.

  2. Congrats on the 12 year anniversary as priest. Thank you for the beautiful writing. It has inspired me as lay person. I'll pray for you :)

  3. Congratulations on your anniversary! You remain in my prayers, with St. Raphael interceding for you.


  4. Dear Fr. Luke,

    Happy belated 12 year anniversary of being a priest of Jesus Christ! Thank you for sharing your reflections here. I especially found light in your words "being prophetic without fearful." This is a grace I need to be praying for.

    God bless, and keep your light shining!

  5. Priests come in all shapes and sizes - and personality types. Usually, one finds that one can relate better to a certain priest than to another. It's just a matter of chemistry, I suppose. Sometimes not-so-good chemistry. I've often come across parishioners who are angry with their parish priest because he did not live up to their expectations (whatever that may be). Sometimes they even go off in disgust and worship at another parish (worship in disgust?). Or worse still, they stop coming for Sunday mass altogether. I want to shout out, "Grow up!" But of course I'd never do that; it might make matters worse. It's a far better thing to pray for those involved, don't you agree?

    I often think that it's much, much more difficult to be a priest than (to be) a husband and father. After all, we (married men) only have to tend to one wife, and our children (discounting in-laws, of course. Ha ha!). A priest, on the other hand, has to tend to a flock that could number in the thousands.

    There is one thing, though, that all priest have in common. The devil absolutely HATES priests. he will do anything in his power to bring them down. That is why we must pray regularly for our priests. As it is written in Zechariah (13:7): Strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ The evil one wants us to be scattered (for divided we fall): and a truly good priest is a unifying force within his parish.

    Congratulations, Fr. Luke on your anniversary. I pray that God grant you an indomitable spirit, while at the same time, a child-like faith, rooted in absolute trust in He who is love itself. God bless.

  6. Dear Fr Luke,
    Congratulations on your 12th Anniversary. Thank you for your beautiful words through these years. Indeed they are inspiring, lovely and well crafted. The accompanying visuals are great. Such creativity in presentation and the meaningful content has kept me coming back here week after week and I look forward to more. Keeping you in prayers always.
    God bless you.

  7. Dearest Fr Luke,

    Congratulations on your 12th Blessed Anniversary. And blessed are we to have benefited so abundantly from your vocation. Thank You for giving your life to Christ and His church.

    Thank You also for sharing with us your personal heartfelt insights on your priestly vocation. Many a times, the faithful will lament how difficult it is to live a Christain life in the secular world and that priest and religious must have had it "easier" without worldly temptations to be "holier"... and so may develop unrealistic expectations on them to be "superhuman". (hmmm)...

    We all have our saint-makers as we are called to love one another as Christ loves us. I sincerely believe God planted every single individual in our lives to teach us about love. ;}

    Thank You Fr. Luke. For being our priest.

    Praying for you always,