Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As a priest, sometimes life can be a challenge. Now, don’t get me wrong; I love my life and I am so grateful to God for my priesthood. But honestly, it’s not always the easiest path of life. People will occasionally guess what is difficult though they’re often wrong in their assumptions. To be honest, it’s not loneliness, or having to cook
for myself, or even ministering to the sick and dying that prove to be the most challenging. Rather, it’s feeling ineffectual in ministry that is the hardest thing to deal with.
I admit, ineffectiveness is a broad topic and it includes many things. On the one end, it can be frustrating to invite an individual into a deeper relationship with both God and the Church, only to realize that they are not going to make much, if any change in their lives. I don’t mean to point out any specifics, but it can be disheartening to know that in certain situations I can and often do bend over backwards to work something out for someone, and once it’s taken care of, there’s no movement or change on the other person’s end. Put differently, lots of effort, little results. But I recognize that such a thing is not unique to the priesthood. Talk to anyone who works in retail or deals with other people as customers and it’s the same story all over.
What is perhaps a different and bigger challenge is when I must confront an issue with a parishioner to which there is not a real solution. Certain situations are bigger than any one person or priest could be effective in solving. Accompanying those who are dealing with the loss of a loved, being a sounding board for those going to a spiritual or personal crisis, praying for the sick while only a miracle can bring total healing. These are the moments that a deep challenge for any individual and especially felt in the priesthood.
But even though either of these moments might be a challenge, it’s far from the end of the story. Yes, sometimes there’s a small question in the back of my mind “Is this making a difference?” But there’s also a louder answer reminding me of two things. One, it doesn’t matter how effective my efforts are, only that I’m making the attempt. Two, what doesn’t seem to be effective in the moment does bear fruit in certain times and places, even if I’m unaware of it.
And so, my dear brothers and sisters, while the tenor of this letter might seem to be a bit of downer, I assure you, I mean to inspire hope and invite us to draw strength from God. If you find yourself challenged by ineffectiveness, in you or others, trust that the Lord is always good and brings goodness into our lives.
Peace and Goodness,