Saturday, December 16, 2017

A day in the life of a parish pastor

Fr. Eduard Perrone, "A Pastor's Descant" (Assumption Grotto News, December 10, 2017):
What's on a pastor's mind?

As I suppose it to be for everyone, I would rather do the things I most like doing. I would rather not be exceptional in this> For me, the desirable things to do would be what are called the works of leisure, that is to say, things that are not of practical necessity. Yet I, like most of you, am restricted in my desire to pursue those more delightsome things by the duties that demand my attention.

These necessary things for me are primarily pastoral and administrative. Preparing each week to teach my three or four classes sometimes takes a good chunk of prep time. Following through, I must teach the classes for for which I have prepared. There's also a Sunday sermon to write which has a whole week's period of gestation in my daily prayers where -- presumptuous or foolish to admit it -- God gives me the substance, if not the very words, of what I should deliver to the people. And then there's the writing of the weekly pastor's column, the Descant, which is a duty to which I am resigned. Some pastors don't write a weekly column for their parish papers but I, following the lead of my predecessor, have remained faithful to this weekly chore, sometimes even less ungrudgingly. Thus far my "literary" duties of the week.

Administration of the parish is another mental pressure. So many areas of parish life require decisions of all kinds which depend on the pastor's judgments. Finances, utilities, meetings, the physical plant with its innumerable necessities never escape the mind during the day, during the night, in conversations, and into prayer.

Pastoral work is the thing for which I was ordained and the active form of work I most relish. Here are saying Mass, reciting my daily Divine Office, directing my people in the spiritual life, caring for their sacramental needs, hearing confessions, visiting the sick. The precious time alloted for this must be shared with my literary and administrative activities and so is sometimes cut short and only the minimal gets done in a given week Alas!

At the end of the day I sometimes wonder where all the time has gone. Eating and sleeping, driving, occasionally cooking a meal, and such inevitable gobblers of anyone's time leave me without much of that desired free time, the leisure time to do the things most enjoyed. Now it may sound pious or self-righteous to you for me to say it, but my personal prayer time is my very favorite thing to do. I manage to do this in the early morning hours most days, long before the work of the day begins. Here I can speak to my God to my heart's content about all that's on my mind. In some unexplainable ways I know that He hears and answers me in those quiet hours, often spent before the Blessed Sacrament. Finally there's reading books, playing the piano, and spending social time with relatives and friends. But, like the dessert after the big meal, the sweetest part takes the shortest time. Such is life for me and no doubt for you.

This reflection on the parcelling out of time in my week is not meant merely to let you know what's on my mind and what I do all week long. It's to indicate that for most people life's time consists of things that must get done as opposed to the pleasurable things one would rather do. This imbalance will be redressed, I believe, in the next life when there will be no more 'things that have to get done' but only things that are most delectable: enjoying God and His largely unknown gifts which must certainly be innumerable and delectable beyond what words can say.

In this valley of tears the all-important thing is to do what God expects us to do. Much of that is what we might rather not be doing if we had the choice. Yet He, in His goodness, gives us just enough of the good things of life, even the most simple of them, as a consolation for carrying out our daily tasks.

Perhaps you feel as I do that there are many, many more advantageous things to be grateful for in life than things to complain about. I wholeheartedly love the holy priesthood and the work proper to it. For the rest, I do what I must, sometimes even cheerfully, while I await those fewer moments when I can go about doing what's most pleasing. I hope you find your vocation in life to be equally satisfying in the larger sense, even though its demands may at times seem burdensome. In the end I am compelled to admit that life's not only worth living but, except for sin, good and fulfilling.

Carry on, Christian soul, in your daily life's work. As Saint Paul said of the athlete, he keeps his mind on the end of the game so as to win. This is hope and its season is Advent.

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