How to Support Your Priest

You can better help your priest by understanding this one thing

Parish priests feel pressures that are found in no other profession. The type of man that generally is drawn to the holy priesthood is one who has a heart for serving others. Priests are often expected to do far more than is humanly possible. Priests, as fathers to their people, are expected to be superhuman, and judged if they are not.

Over the years I’ve heard terrible stories of parish priests having to cancel vacations at the last minute because of sudden deaths in their parishes, requiring them to cancel airline tickets, leaving both they and their families without the much needed time away. One priest told me how his young son had been looking forward to a camping trip and cried when his dad had to tell him they couldn’t go, because an important family in the parish requested that only he could do the funeral, rejecting having another priest step in.

Countless priests have to put in long hours, missing dinner with their families because of wedding rehearsals, hospital calls, counseling sessions. The average priest gets Monday off, yet is expected to forgo his only day off if someone needs to see him, or a parish council decides to have a meeting that evening. They demand their priest be available whenever they need him, regardless of the time of day, or the needs of his family.

One priest told me about having performed a baptism of a child for a family that rarely came to church, only to have them walk out immediately following the service, leaving him to mop up the spilled water, while they and their friends ran off to celebrate at a restaurant. He was given such a pitiful stipend for his services that he just dropped it in the poor box. They didn’t even invite him to join them at the restaurant. He said he wouldn’t have had the time to join them, but the invitation to do so would have been nice.

Most clergy receive a very small salary and are expected by their parishioners to be happy with what they have. The stipend is thus very important to the priest, yet I know of countless clergy who travel many miles from their rectory, bless the home and receive nothing for their services (the normal stipend for extra services like this is one hundred dollars).

Like all children, priest’s kids need time with their father. Normal jobs allow dads to leave their job at work, giving themselves plenty of time to meet the needs of their children, but not in the case of clergy. Being on call 24/7, the families of priests often have to forgo planned meals, outings and family affairs because of the demands of their people. Most priests have such a strong desire to be in service, they simply can’t say no.

The children of priests, as well as their wives, also must suffer the undo scrutiny of the parishioners, expected, as they are, to be perfect. Given all this, is it any wonder the children of priests often wouldn’t think of becoming priests themselves?

Please, whatever you do, don’t criticize your priest in front of his family. How often I’ve heard priest’s wives and children lament having to put up with attacks on their husbands/fathers by people who don’t think he’s doing enough! People airing their grievances at parish meetings, with the children and wives of the priest having to hear it all, is unconscionable.

I share all this with my readers because most of you are unaware just how difficult a job your priest has and how much is demanded of his time. Most of you love your priests but are just unaware that he rarely gets his own needs met. I remember one priest in Detroit, who lived in substandard housing, while all his parishioners lived in nice homes. No one made any effort to make sure their priest (single in his case) was living in medium income housing, somewhere in the middle of all his people (the norm for most protestant churches).

How can a priest take care of the education of his children when his salary is at the poverty line? One horror story I remember hearing was of a priest who’s parish council gave him an increase in salary that put him just over the line so he’d no longer qualify for food stamps, since this made the parish look bad. The priest and his family ended up with less, rather than more!

All of the above could be said for bishops as well. We really need to start taking care of our bishops, making sure they have adequate compensation, days off for restoration of soul and proper rest, and a whole lot less criticism from their people.

Love your priests and bishops, just as they love you. Give them your support. Show them you care by sending them a little gift on their names day, or emailing them on occasion, letting them know you care about them. Tell them when you’ve liked their homily, invite them and their families to dinner on occasion, and let them know you care about them. Remember your bishop and priest with a thoughtful little gift, or a check, on Christmas and Pascha. Let them know you care about them. Make sure the parish council knows you think your priest should receive a proper salary. You’d be shocked at the average income of most protestant clergy compared to what most Orthodox priests receive.

The life of your priest can be greatly extended if you don’t allow him to work himself to death. Make sure he does take at least one day off. Tell him to turn off his cell phone on those days. Call the rectory before knocking at the door. You have no idea how many priests evenings with their families are derailed with a knock at the door.

I’m sharing all of this with you because I know your priest will not. He loves you and he loves Christ whom he serves. Make him pace himself and you’ll have him around to baptize your grandchildren. Don’t expect him to be perfect. Most importantly, pray for your bishops and your priests. Honor and love them, and refrain from judging them.

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Sunday November 4, 2018 / October 22, 2018
23rd Sunday after Pentecost. Tone six.
The Kazan Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos, commemorating the deliverance from the Poles in 1612.
Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Abercius, bishop and wonderworker of Hierapolis (167).
7 Holy Youths (“7 Sleepers”) of Ephesus: Maximilian, Jamblichus, Martinian, Dionysius, Antoninus, Constantine (Hexakustodianos), and John (250).
New Hieromartyrs Seraphim archbishop of Uglich and with him German archimandrite, Vladimir, Alexander, Basil, Alexander priests and Martyrs Herman and Menas (1937).
New Hieromartyrs Nicholas, Nicholas priests and Martyr Gregory (1937).
Martyrs Alexander the bishop, Heraclius, Anna, Elizabeth, Theodota and Glyceria, at Adrianopolis (2nd-3rd c.).
“Andronikos” and “Jacobshtad” (17th c.) Icons of the Mother of God.
Venerable Lot of Egypt (5th c.).
Venerables Theodore and Paul, abbots, of Rostov (1409).
Venerable James of Luga and Omutch, disciple of Theophilus of Omutch.
St. Mellon, bishop of Rouen.
Martyr Zachariah (Greek).
Venerable Rufus of the Paradise (Greek).

The Scripture Readings

Matthew 28:16-20

The Great Commission

16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore andmake disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Ephesians 2:4-10

4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Luke 16:19-31

The Rich Man and Lazarus

19 “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. 20 But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, 21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

24 “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. 26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’

27 “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ ”

Abbot Tryphon

About Abbot Tryphon

The Very. Rev. Abbot Tryphon All-Merciful Saviour Monastery on Vashon Island, Washington. The Monastery is under the omophore of The Most Rev. Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America, of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. Situated in the heart of a beautiful forest, surrounded by the Salish Sea, the monastery is reached by ferry from either Seattle, or Tacoma, Washington.

8 comments:

  1. In Christ’s parable in Luke, the brothers would not have believed Lazarus anyway. They probably never looked at Lazarus, to know who he was anymore than the rich man did.

  2. Father, thank you for this article. If I may add one thing that I personally find helpful and spiritually re-invigorating: be an active participant in the parish – come to non-Sunday services, Bible studies, ask questions, suggest study topics.

    I have been blessed to serve in parishes where the salary has not been an issue. With that in mind, interest and participation in the faith has been the thing I have looked for the most from the parishioners.

  3. Thank you for this. We are fortunate to be at a parish that provides for us at our archdiocesan standard, but the lack of time with my husband (because of all the demands on him) is a struggle for my family. We used to get notices from our town because he couldn’t even get a couple hours to mow the lawn! It is worth noting that part of it, though, was our reluctance to make firm boundaries. This is an issue with two sides.

  4. Thank you for your wise comments, Father, and for reminding the faithful that their priests are people too who need love, kind words, encouragement and proper financial support. Your comments about the priests over-working themselves is true but it not only results in a shorter lifespan but burnout. Sometimes it is physical, but other times it is spiritual. Many priests leave the ministry because they are exhausted, feel unappreciated and depleted, while others fall into sin. There have been many clergy scandals recently. The strain often affects marriages. We have seen many clergy divorces in recent years, something almost unheard of in the past. The other thing I would like to mention is the enormous spiritual and psychological burden the priest carries. He knows about the troubles and worries, illnesses and problems, of countless families. Others in the parish often have no clue that a family is struggling with finances, drug addiction, mental illness, family violence, etc. The family looks “fine” from the outside, but the priest knows the reality. Very often only he knows. This weighs heavily upon him. The laity only have to think of, care for or worry about their family and relatives. But the priest cares for, prays for, serves and worries about everyone in the parish. In addition to that burden, he cannot relieve himself of it or even talk to anyone about it because these matters are often confidential. And that is something most people never realize. Parishioners have no idea what their priest really does because they only see him on Sundays. So thanks for giving a little insight and I hope some of the faithful will take your advice. Your blessing, Father.

  5. Many priests do all this in addition to working full time secular jobs.
    Unfortunately, the people who need to read this never will; but those who are already vigilant and dutiful will read it and redouble their efforts to the glory of God and the upkeep of the Church.
    Thank you, Fr Tryphon, for your very kind words.

    1. One OCA bishop asked for my blessing to reprint this article in his diocesan newsletter. This article, like all my articles, can be reprinted and passed around. I give my blessing.

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