Wednesday, September 18, 2013

overworked & uncommitted married priest, bitter & busy wife, sullen & sinful children- Our Future?

Our eldest daughter is 14 and is now a freshman in high school. She feels discrimination against teenagers; this is her new, strongest pet peeve. Someone asked her, "Do you have a boyfriend?" She said no. The person, an acquaintance who we barely know,  replied in front of me, "Well, you wouldn't tell your parents anyway." When I was caught complimenting my daughter on how she was dealing with her new high school situation (mostly at home, two college classes, meetings and tests with her mentor teacher at the charter school), other colleagues of mine said, "She's only 14. Just you wait until she is 15!" Perhaps this is true, but it just all seems so negative to me. Shouldn't we plan and pray for the best?
There is also discrimination when it comes to the idea of married priests. When 'liberal' ideas come up like Eucharist in hand, girl altar servers, non-Ad Orientem Masses and non-Catholic ideas such as woman priests, you can be certain that someone will also list 'married priests' as one of these abominations.  As I say ad nauseam, I do not have any reason to encourage the Roman-rite to change their discipline on priestly celibacy. I would say that a married diaconate is quite enough change, thank you. But anecdotal evidence in com-boxes prove that married priests (Roman-rite, Byzantine-rite, Orthodox) are not committed to their priesthood or their family or both, the wives are bitter and their children are eventually sinful non-Christians. 
First of all, com-box commenters, please remember that these are actual people living their lives that you are writing about. Please remember that a married priest is striving to give his life to God through two vocations- the priesthood and marriage. No matter what you think of this, some prayers would be appreciated!
Second, please give the married priest you bump into the benefit of the doubt. I don't think that every celibate priest is either a pedophile or an active homosexual (some people do believe this because they cannot fathom a man being celibate and chaste). Please don't assume that the local married priest is neglecting his priesthood or destroying his family. Perhaps he is, but let's take this on a case by case basis, please. And yes, he might be rushing off to have dinner with his family. Celibate priests don't rush off to enjoy dinner? Of course they do! Both categories of priests are permitted to get hungry and have a bit of downtime, are they not? And the celibate priest's cook might be even more upset when her pot roast gets dry as a wife of a married priest who dressed the salad, thinking he would be home at 6 when he really came home at 6:30. Sorry Father! Enjoy your soggy salad!
Enough peevishness, this is getting tiresome. Praise God, it is working for us so far- no one is uncommitted, bitter or sullen, yet. How do we do it?  
1. Have the family work together as much as possible. Com-box-types will call this free labor that will make the wife and children bitter. I disagree. We are together as a family when we help father at church. We are together much more than a surgeon or a business man's family. One way to keep from feeling overworked and bitter- make sure that other parishioners are involved in the activity (music, clean-up, cooking, set-up, etc). Boy serves at the altar and the big girls and I have varying responsibilities with singing, reading, cooking. Baby girl is getting better at staying out of trouble (the photo above is girl #1 in the chancery office when she was a year old). Of course, sometimes we do things apart. A surgeon's wife doesn't hang about the operating room, does she?
2. Learn about and visit the important faith sites. This makes the faith come alive! There's a church near my husband's city that has an altar that is 1,000 years old-amazing. We loved visiting some after-split Orthodox monasteries in Eastern Romania. It was a different feeling than visiting my husband's grandfather's Orthodox church that was built as a Byzantine Catholic church before the war. In any case, seeing the Church in these ways makes the faith real. It also helps keep our faith down-to-earth. When we visit holy sisters who are normal people, it keeps our faith on a normal, positive footing.
3. Have fun! This is doubly important for those with a serious liturgical tradition. We expect ourselves and our children to be holy at all times (how we fail sometimes!). This does not mean that we must go about with solemn faces, planning the next church service. Wasn't it Don Bosco who would juggle for his boys? A bit of levity can go a long way. Along these same lines, I try to limit the exposure my children have to the extra sad part of a priest's life. My children do not go to every funeral. I don't discuss the hospital cases that their father deals with every day. I don't force the grief down their throats. Last week, we went to bless a grave site after the Divine Liturgy. All the children were there. I didn't mention to the kids that we were blessing Mary's mother's grave (over 85) and the grave of Mary's infant son who died before his first birthday 40 years ago. Of course, the older children read, so they knew. I cannot hide everything, but I try and keep it age-appropriate.
4. Always celebrate- Celebrate as a church family, then celebrate as a nuclear family. We can get a bit overloaded with cake, so I've learned to make fruit salads and such for family celebrations after days of sweets at church. Most importantly- cultivate a grateful heart and don't complain if your immediate family holiday celebration needs to be delayed (but don't not celebrate just together as a small family!)- sooner or later, even the children will prefer it this way. We actually celebrate holidays more, and it emphasizes the Catholic view of fasting/feasting seasons, not just a day.
5. Do something besides church stuff- Man fully alive is the glory of God- sometimes this means dancing or singing or baking or taking a walk. 
6. Cultivate a love and respect for the Church in yourself and your children. The children can see your humanity, but if clergy families are corrupt and decadent at home while putting on a good show at church, the children will most certainly be turned off to religion. No one is perfect. Mistakes are made. People, even clergy, sin. But there are limits. Faith is a gift, even the holiest of parents 'lose' children to the world, but parents need to be holy, joy-filled examples of God's love to their children. The future? Only God knows.
Forgive those com-box-types who accuse a priest's wife of 'perhaps having undue influence' on the parish priest. Forgive those who allude that a priest-husband would break the seal of the confessional and that his wife would allow that. Heaven forbid! Forgive those who assume that a married priest would cost a 5,000 family parish too much money while you , clergy wife on a strict budget, choose the best produce from the gleaners and the 25 cent water over the 50 cent water (I'm not complaining! Please! Anyways- it's the economy here and the hospital job, not the missions!) so there's room in the account for Boy's tae kwon do and Girl's braces. 
The theological virtues are faith, hope and love. I live in hope that my family will love their faith! The cardinal virtues are prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude- what a tall, impossible order...please readers, pray that our virtues grow!
My last piece of advice for myself, stop reading com-boxes (even though I love getting comments here...ah well, I am a bit of a hypocrite...)!

11 comments:

  1. Great post Priest's Wife ! I'll, once again, state the obvious: keep The Faith. Bon voyage to Fr. C. and M. on their trip to Chicago. You and your family are prayed for daily.

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  2. I find myself having to order myself verbally to step away from the comboxes as they can be near occasions of sin for me. :)

    If Catholics want to know how to make a married priesthood work, ask a Lutheran pastor's wife or an Byzantine Catholic priest's wife. We're making both work and while it can be a struggle, there are opportunities that we're given that we wouldn't have otherwise. This city girl has gotten to ride around in farm equipment that is more technologically advanced than the iPhone 5s. (My father the engineer is sooooooo jealous!) I can talk shop with a variety of people because I asked questions about things like protein content in wheat (btw, gluten is a protein so this is useful knowledge), how to can meat, how to order meat from a rancher, and how to fallow a field.

    My $0.02.

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    1. Kh Jen- I thought your comments on Simcha's blog were perfect...it was nice that YOU did the heavy lifting ;)

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    2. I have no problem being the lightning rod of hate for people. A couple of them like to troll my comments on Patheos so it was nice to be in a position of strength for a change.

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    3. I have no problem being the lightning rod of hate for people. A couple of them like to troll my comments on Patheos so it was nice to be in a position of strength for a change.

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  3. This very topic came up as a weekly discussion on CatholicExchange.com earlier this week! (The editors moderate so posters have to behave with their responses) Readers can visit to see what the responses were.

    All I can say is that I believe the discipline for priests in the Roman and Eastern rite Churches should be maintained and respected.

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  4. Oh, people always have rotten things to say about teenagers, and I LOVE mine. I don't just love them because they're mine; I love that they're nice, honest, hard-working, ethical, interesting people. They have their moments like anyone else, but overall this is my favorite stage, really.

    My oldest daughter and I have had interesting conversations over the years about encounters just like the one you describe. The night before she turned 13, for example, we were at a party where I was more or less the only parent present, and she was the only child. All these people had charming things to say, right to our faces: "Just wait, she'll have a tattoo by the end of the week" was our personal favorite, though there were also the obligatory remarks about how she *seemed* okay now, but would wake up a monster. On the way home she said, "I didn't think any of that was very nice." All I could say was, "Well, I don't really see any of it happening, myself . . . " And it didn't. She's almost out of her teens (20 in January) and still one of my five favorite people ever.

    I don't know why people feel they have to say these things. They're just kind of dopy. And I don't know why they assume that the young person *standing right there* doesn't have ears, or understand English. Maybe they have the kind of personal amnesia that makes them think that they've always been 45 years old. Or maybe they think they've got to get back at you, the parent, for . . . something. Not being an evident screwup, which comes across to them somehow as a kind of inherent self-righteousness? I really do not know. But generally when people do this "Oh, no, just you wait" thing, my response is to smile and say something non-committal like, "So far so good," or "Well, really, this is my favorite age." Or, "Well, you know, I've spent my life raising people I would enjoy being around." And then I reassure the teenager, who has been standing there being discussed in the third person, that that other person knows only the stereotypical teenagers on bad sitcoms, whereas *I* know *her* (or, now, him, too). Thus far my experience has been that when you treat young people as if you assumed them to be *good* people, that's generally how they are. Not perfect, but good.

    Also, not reading comboxes is the path to sanity. Usually. I make the occasional exception . . . :)

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  5. That is, *later* I reassure the teenager. I don't typically talk about other people in the third person in their presence.

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  6. Sally- you sound like a superb mom- and your daughter is lucky to have you! I feel the same way about my teens (14 and 13)...so far, so good

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  7. Great post. From what I've learned it's those that don't want to go against their "precious darlings" when it comes to saying "no" and thus they have what turns out to be a less than wonderful teen for the most part. It does take work, but more than that, time and loving to be around the children that God gave us as a gift. Not seeing them as this gift makes the children try and find love and acceptance with others which can mean real trouble. More "trouble" than the initial sacrifice of saying no to give guidance and hearing their sobs.

    Your children are fun to be around, great conversationalists and very bright. Great job.

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