Being a good pastor is like being a good parent.
Like a good parent, a good pastor has to watch out for the good of those placed in his care. He is there in their joys. He is there in their sorrows.
Like a good parent, he has to be attentive to what those placed in his care consume. He has to provide that which is healthy and will provide for their well being even when they demand a diet of junk food.
Like a good parent, he has to bring out the best in those placed in his care. To do this, he has to challenge, encourage, and instruct. He has to model the desired behavior. To bring out the best means he has to be able to endure the white hot look of hatred every good parent gets from their children because a challenge is resented.
Like a good parent, he must raise those in his care to be good parents themselves. His words can’t be empty. He must speak the truth. He can’t tell others to live lives that point to Christ while his words and actions compromise with the world.
Like a good parent, he must be willing to embrace sacrifice and suffering (often silently) for the good of those placed in his care. Whether this comes in long hours of intercession for his flock, long hours of the time necessary to care for the needs of the flock, or making do with less because the money needs to be elsewhere in the budget, he must embrace these with quiet resolve knowing that Christ still gave more and embraced sacrifice and suffering in a way far greater. It is part of being the Persona Christi. The self-sacrificing love of Christ is the model for the man who would be a good husband and dad or be a good priest.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Be aware though, if you have a priest like this, thank God. Because you have a priest that sees his first job as getting you and the rest of the flock into heaven and knows the path there is narrow, winding, and hard to negotiate.
While I am not soliciting for thanks for myself, if you have one of these kind of priests, thank them… because like being a good parent, it is oftentimes a thankless task.
Fr. Bill Peckman is a priest in the Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri. He is the pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Macon, St. Mary Parish in Shelbina, St. Patrick Parish in Clarence, Sacred Heart Parish in Bevier.
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