A little help from my priestly colleagues, friends and parishioners goes a long way in maintaining proper balance in my life. We priests rely on you, our parishioners and staff, to help keep us balanced. “Priest tending” may be a unique way of viewing this responsibility.
The daily Mass and prayer, annual retreat, priest support groups, occasional days of reflection all contribute to the holiness of our priests. Even Jesus took time away for prayer and re-focusing.
You’ll find the effects of these holiness efforts reflected in the homilies and focus of your priest. The call to holiness is reflected in the “job description” of the priest but this important aspect of priestly ministry is often put at the end of the list due to other demands. Do you encourage your priests to participate in these opportunities toward holiness?
When I was in the seminary (during the last millennium) the aspect of good health was rarely mentioned. Those who played an occasional game of racquetball or basketball were considered healthy. Athletic competition is great but actually only part of the truth given daily stress and “poor eating” choices people tend to make these days. Regular exercise is mandatory for the good health of everyone. Priests are no exception.
A recent study indicates that clergy of most denominations have a significantly higher rate of hypertension, diabetes, overweight and other ailments than the general population. Priests put the wellbeing of their parishioners ahead of their own, which is all well and good. But those who love their ministry need to stay healthy so they will be able to keep active and vibrant in ministry.
It’s true for everyone. Scripture does not dwell on specific exercise techniques and programs, but Jesus and his disciples, as well as the prophets and people of the Old Testament, walked wherever they went. What was good exercise for them and should be good even for us today! How can you encourage your priests to get more involved in physical exercise?
“Priest tending” also should include a challenge for healthy eating. Spending time with your priests over a meal, which is usually over a favorite recipe or at a favorite restaurant, is a great idea, but one priest told me once that the “donuts were killing him.” In our health conscious world, how can you help your priest become more aware of healthy food choices? For example, a fruit basket is a better choice for our priests than a dozen donuts or a bottle of his favorite beverage.
Catholics tend to look at priests (and we priests often look at ourselves) as “lone ranger” types. We say that there’s much to do and we try to do it alone. That just does not work. We need one another.
Encourage your priest to a greater sense of holiness. Encourage your priest to be healthy. Work at it with him. Practice these qualities in your daily life. Responsibly “tend your priest.” Neither of you will regret it.