This article originally appeared on Fr. Dwight Longenecker’s blog “Standing on My Head,” and is reprinted with permission. Visit his website, browse his books, and be in touch at dwightlongenecker.com. Fr. Longenecker is a married Roman Catholic priest, with full approval by the Church.
I don’t often mention my wife and family in my writing because my writing is public and I have a private side.
However, people do often ask what it is like being married to a priest. I think I can answer for Mrs. Longenecker and my family.
These are the main questions and answers:
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Q: How does your wife cope with the time demands of your being a priest?
Much like any wife would do who is married to a man with a demanding, but rewarding career. Many wives deal with husbands who are away more than I am. I’m thinking of long distance truck drivers, soldiers, sailors, traveling executives. Others have demanding and irregular schedules–doctors and nurses, emergency responders, fire fighters and police. Furthermore, those wives sit at home worrying that their husband might not come home because his job is not only demanding time wise, but life threateningly dangerous.
A priest’s wife doesn’t face those hardships. Furthermore, although we don’t have weekends, a priest sets his own schedule. If I have to I can re-arrange many things in order to be there for the family in a way other men can’t.
Q: But aren’t priests on duty 24-7…always ready to race off to hospital to anoint the dying?
Ask your celibate priest if he’s available 24-7. No he’s not.
We all take days off and vacations. We have to or we’d burn out. Sure I get up sometimes in the middle of the night to go anoint the dying. But we have hospital chaplains too you know, and they usually cover those duties.
Q: How do you manage financially?
I receive only what the diocese advises all diocesan priests to receive. No more. The pay a priest receives varies from diocese to diocese, but let’s be realistic. There are many families who struggle on low incomes. They get by. Maybe the wife works. Maybe they both drive an old car, make do, buy clothes from the Goodwill and learn to live on a little.
A priest and his wife can do this too and why not? On the other hand, look what a priest receives: 1. housing 2. a car 3. health insurance 4. job satisfaction with no immediate boss looking over his shoulder 5. complete job security 6. retirement plan 7. working expenses 8. retirement housing…and more depending on where he works. I can think of a good number of men and their wives who would jump at the chance to work on those terms.
Q: How do you afford college for your kids, the orthodontist and everything else it takes for kids these days?
How does anybody? We get by. I’m blessed to have extra income from my writing, but we both work hard. We save. We borrow if we have to. People are generous. The Lord provides.
It’s actually an adventure to live by faith. You should try it!
Q: Doesn’t your wife interfere with your work in the parish?
Does your dentist’s wife interfere with his work? Your lawyer’s wife? Your car mechanic’s wife? Of course not. She runs her own business and contributes to the family income.
Q: Are your kids supposed to be especially holy?
No more and no less than any other Catholic–which means I don’t expect to them to be saints, but I expect them to be working on it….like me and their mom.
Q: What about confession. Don’t you tell your wife everything?
C’mon. Would a lawyer or doctor go home and tell his wife everything about his clients? I don’t think so.
Professionals can keep secrets. I don’t tell my wife anything about the confessional and she would never expect me to.
Q: Do you think we should have married priests?
It could work if both the husband and wife are committed to the calling and are prepared to be flexible, live by faith, have a sense of humor and make the necessary sacrifices.
Q: Do you think Pope Francis will change the rules and allow married men to be ordained?
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