overworked, isolated, etc.
December 11, 2019
A NEWS item recently from
the US reported that many American priests are stressed out, burned
out due to the load they carry, and that many of them feel isolated.
To top it all, they are assailed now by a lot of scandals ranging
from financial mismanagement and sexual abuses.
My immediate reaction to
this item is, of course, to pray for them. Let us hope that both the
concerned Church authorities and the priests themselves would find
some effective solutions to these problems.
I also felt that there
must be some relation between these problems of overwork and
isolation, and the consequent scandals that now stain the image of
priests in the US. When one is tired, exhausted, feeling isolated
and uncared for, I believe we have a terrible mix that makes one
most susceptible to all kinds of anomalies and disorders.
What also came to my mind
is that more or less the same problems beset many of our local
priests also. At least the few I know complain about having so much
work that they can hardly cope and that they want to have someone
who can listen to them and share their plight. They want to vent out
some bad air that is compressing in their heart.
These problems are always
a challenge to the Church authorities who should come up and animate
appropriate programs, structures and networks. More than these, they
should find ways of how to go to the personal level of each of the
priests in their care.
The care for priests
should step out of the impersonal bureaucratic mold. The relation
between bishops and priests and among priests should be fraternal
and friendly. If this atmosphere is missing, something drastic and
immediate should be done to resolve it.
One idea in this direction
could be the promotion of priestly societies that would foster
priestly fraternity that is vivified by a particular charism or
spirituality. All priests should be encouraged to join these
societies. These societies can help eliminate or at least minimize
that dangerous situation where priests would feel isolated and
The practice of spiritual
direction, confession or just friendly chats where issues, problems
and difficulties are brought out should be constantly encouraged. It
cannot be denied that many of the priests have the tendency to keep
to themselves, not wanting to open up to anyone.
In that way, they do not
become transparent which is a condition the enemies of God and of
our soul like so much. Priests should learn to be brutally sincere
about the condition of their spiritual and priestly life. They have
to call a spade a spade. Hiding things that are significant in
priestly life would be like keeping a pact with the devil.
It is when priests have
spiritual direction, confession or chat with a friend that they can
be better helped in their life of prayers and sacrifice, so
indispensable in priestly life and ministry. It is undebatable that
when a priest’s life of prayer and sacrifice is not in order, his
priestly life and ministry will simply collapse sooner or later.
In spiritual direction,
confession or chats, priestly problems and issues can be better
sorted out and given appropriate solutions, suggestions and action.
I know that dioceses hold
for their ongoing formation for priests regular annual retreats and
monthly days of recollection. These means of formation are always
good, except that many priests attend them mainly for compliance
Hardly anything about
spiritual conversion or growth and enrichment is achieved. How to
have the proper effects of these means of formation is indeed a
great challenge for everyone! But no matter how daunting the
challenge is, both Church authorities and priests themselves should
just persist in finding the appropriate solutions.