Some years ago, a lively dinnertime conversation about the priesthood led to a discussion about what makes for a really good priest. Here, edited for teenage slang, kindergartner lisp and excited rants, is what emerged.
How to make a great priest
— Pray without ceasing. The effectiveness of your priesthood rests upon your intimacy with God.
— Get away regularly for vacations and retreats. It’s one of the best investments you can make in your priesthood.
— Shave before Mass (13-year-old).
— Tithe. It’s easier to live on nine-tenths of your income than it is to live on ten-tenths.
— Don’t be discouraged by uninspiring priests around you. Like marriage, your priesthood does not have to be monotonous. God did not design mediocrity. We did.
— Doing God’s work creates fertile ground for selfishness, so go to confession often.
— A priest should try to do a good homily that is interesting, with stuff we’d want to hear about and that we don’t already know about (six-year-old. Yeah, 6.)
— Tell the story of your call to the priesthood frequently. This will remind you why you said “yes” to God, which, in turn, will keep daily annoyances in perspective.
— Practice forgiveness. The more you practice, the better you get.
— Exercise. You’ll feel better, live longer and be able to have seconds on dessert.
— Be thankful for what you have (8-year-old).
— Don’t get caught up in power plays. If submission is appropriate, submit. If speaking your mind in love is called for, do so. God wants priests to be beacons of light in a desperate world; don’t jeopardize this for the sake of pride.
— Keep your face clean (8-year-old).
— Laugh a lot. It’s good for the blood pressure, increases longevity and it’s one of God's best gifts to his people.
— Don’t sweat the small stuff. Save your energy for matters of eternal significance.
— In a typical day, you’re called upon to console the bereaved, work wizardry with finances and bring peace to contentious meetings, while simultaneously fielding complaints about everything from a priest’s foreign accent to the temperature in the church. Only someone very holy can navigate these waters with joy, so ask God to make you holy, whatever the cost.
— Spend time with your friends. It puts you in a good mood. Priests need other people to tell their troubles to and share their joy. People need other people (11-year-old).
— Most lay people think you have no problems and can be in two places at once. Debunk these myths. The truth is good for everyone.
— Always have children in your life. Their faith is refreshing and they keep us humble. Children are God’s way of saying that the world should go on.
— Take a day off every week, whether you can afford the time or not. The 8-year-old explained it best: “God doesn’t like cranky priests.”
— Expect seasons of your priesthood, just like seasons of life. If you go through a dry patch, even one that lasts a long time, don’t despair. If God can breathe new life into us, he can do the same for your priesthood.
— God called you by name into the priesthood, and you are an incredible gift to us. If you ever forget, read this again.
— The 11-year-old’s sage advice sums it up: “Spend a lot of time with Jesus. Make sure to pray every day. That’s what makes a great priest.”
M. Regina Cram is a writer, speaker and author. She and her husband live in Glastonbury and have four children and seven grandchildren.