Praised be Jesus Christ! Did you know that Father Barry is the 5th priest I’ve lived with since coming to Saint John’s and Christ the King in 2011? And that doesn’t include the three international priests that spent time here too. Over the years I’ve watched the associates drag their feet as the time inevitably came for them to pack up and move to their next assignment. When it’s something we’d rather not do, it’s impressive the ways we find to procrastinate. For example, Father Sedlacek was intently poring over old parish directories and he was happy to share with me a page he found titled “Call Your Pastors.” It lists 7 times when you ought to at least consider calling your parish priest: 1) When you are facing a serious problem, 2) When someone is interested in the Church, 3) When there is illness, 4) When there is death, 5) When you must make an important decision, 6) When there is a wedding, and 7) When someone desires to become a Christian. These are generally very good reasons to call the priest. You know that we were ordained to serve and by the help of God and the support of your prayers, we’ve even been caught serving joyfully on occasion. In all seriousness, it would be desirable to complement the above list with a page titled, “When not to call your pastor.” Such a list could include the following: 1) When the Brewers or Packers are playing and it’s a close and exciting game, 2) When your cat is sick and is in need of the last rites, 3) When it’s after midnight or before 5:00 a.m. and you just feel like talking to someone, and 4) When it’s Christmas eve and you’re not sure what time the midnight Mass begins. Okay, by this point maybe you realize this is a light and frothy column that is meant to bring a smile to you and healing for me. Before I actually write something substantial, there is one more list I’d like to compose, namely “When to call the Associate Priest:” 1) When you’re angry with something or someone in the parish and just need to take it out on a priest, 2) When you’re certain that the Masons have infiltrated the Vatican and are brainwashing everyone, 3) When you realize you’re all out of holy water and it’s 3:00 a.m. on Friday the 13th, 4) When you have a crazy plan for bringing your fallen away relatives back to church and it involves a wild goose chase for the priest, and 5) When you need to know how to make beer. Now what you might not realize is that we are on-call pretty much all of the time and we do our best to respond in a timely fashion. And while I rarely answer the phone at night anymore (due to the bizarre nature of many of those calls), I always get up and check to see if a voicemail message was left. Moreover, we’re on call if there’s an emergency at the hospital – the folks there call our cell phones and we split up the days so that everyone gets a chance to help out. Typically I cover weekends at the hospital. Given the volume of phone calls, sometimes it does become a burden to answer the phone because doing so can completely alter the rest of the day. That’s why your prayers for priests are really important – we need your spiritual support so that we have sufficient patience and charity to do our job. Finally, allow me to conclude with one last list: “When to call your parish secretary:” When you’re sick and tired of all these silly columns and want to lodge a complaint!
May God help us serve generously and find joy in His service! Your friend in Christ,