Saturday, April 21, 2012

Understanding Lay Christians

The Korean custom during the  weeks before Easter is to visit the different parishes in a deanery for confession with the other priests of the deanery. It's a time for prayer and hours in the confessional, but also time for camaraderie among the priests, with good food and table conversation.

Writing on spirituality in the Catholic Times a priest talks about what was discussed during one of the meals. Each priest had much to say about the time they had spent in the seminary, their pastoral work and daily life--all interesting and enjoyable. There was also a touching admission by one of the priests who had left the priesthood, temporarily, because of serious conflicts in his life and worries that were too much for him to overcome. He opened a sandwich shop for over a year, he said, and learned a great deal about life, and big changes developed which continued after he returned to the priesthood.

He saw the life of the layperson differently. Selling sandwiches, he soon learned that there was going to be little income to live on. He wondered about the life of the Catholics who also had limited incomes and yet were asked to support the church. He was very thankful for what they were giving to the church. It was, he said, after hitting bottom, that he could  appreciate the life of the layperson.

The other priests, after hearing the confession of their comrade, saw with different eyes the service of the women who were preparing the meal and the refreshments for the priests during their breaks from the confessional. They were all moved by the words of the priest, which helped them to make an effort to live more simply and humbly. 

There have been interesting accounts of priests who have decided to spend time during their sabbatical year working, and one interesting  example was the priest who took the time to work as a taxi driver to learn about the life of the lay folks. It was an eye opener, he said, in many ways. The abuse and the kindness he experienced as a taxi driver helped him in dealing with his parishioners in a way that books would never be able to do.


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