Lessons from the priesthood about jobs

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Opinion: Sometimes we too easily or quickly choose one of several paths without considering what the best way forward truly is.

I am not a member of the Roman Catholic Church. It would be very hard for me to own all of the elaborate rituals and detailed dogma of the Catholic community. Nevertheless, when it comes to the core beliefs of that church, I am as Catholic as anyone.

So, in thinking about “jobs” this week, I was interested to read what Joseph Palma, a Catholic Archbishop in the Philippines, had to say about becoming a Catholic priest (Priesthood Not a Career But a Vocation, online at Cebu Daily News). As long as we are thinking about jobs, why not consider what the Christian priest, minister, pastor, or chaplain who you may know does with their life?

It might be that you are perfect for the priesthood or ministry. Perhaps you feel called to help improve the lives of the people in your community. Maybe you sense that faith in God is the greatest key to living well.

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You might believe that God has a very real stake in how your life unfolds. And perhaps you have noticed that you enjoy helping with worship, Bible study, or reaching out to people to help grow their faith.

Archbishop Palma in 2017 offered advice for new priests. First, “Priesthood is a gift — a very precious gift from the Lord. We are not worthy, but God makes us worthy of this gift not because of the qualities one possesses but because God qualifies us.”

This seems to run counter to everything we teach ourselves about creating a resume. In resume writing we typically talk up our “worthiness” for the job we want.

But when considering leadership in the Christian Church, it is not our abilities that are the main consideration. It is our dependence on God for the strengths we will need to face the challenges of the future and to help carry the burdens of other people. (Church leaders do have abilities and are vetted to help ensure they do. However, God’s strength and guidance are more important.)

Then there is prayer. Archbishop Palma again: “We pray that we do not receive [the opportunity to serve as priests] in vain. The priesthood is not a vocation to make a living but a vocation so that others may live as Christians and as children of God.”

Here again, we find something that runs against the grain. Typically we are in too much of a hurry to pray. However, prayer is conversation with God.

Palma, I believe, is saying that that conversation will help a priest — or minister, pastor, chaplain — to resist seeing their work mainly as a way to financial and material security (though most are paid, even if modestly, sometimes minimally, but sometimes not at all). A person who helps lead God’s mission and his people is mainly responding to a summons from God to do so.

Palma spoke about a third dimension of the priesthood, “Meditate on the law of God, believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.” This is a summons to integrity.

Here again, there is a challenge to conventional thinking. We typically wish that we were consistent in our words and actions. But often we casually settle for something less.

Sometimes we too easily or quickly choose one of several paths without praying and considering what the best way forward truly is.

However, a person who wants to lead people as God wants them led has a very great responsibility, greater than most, to live consistently with his or her beliefs. There is no room for careless choices that damage that person’s integrity. He or she must work hard to know the ways or laws of God, to take them to heart, to teach them clearly, and to shape their actions according to those laws.

Seeing your work as a gift from God. Prayer to work without excessive regard for reward. And integrity that holds knowledge, belief, teaching, and action together. A tall order.

But is that tall order only for the priesthood? Many Christians think that that tall order applies to all people in all career paths. Perhaps if every person regarded their work as a Catholic priest is taught to regard his work, our communities and the world would be more just, beautiful, and hopeful.

Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.