It was famously written of priests that they are, ‘a member of every family yet belong to none.’ What true and honorable words. There is a great dignity, privilege, grace in being a priest of Jesus Christ. But also a deep sorrow, a grief that comes with being so aware of the passing nature of this vale of tears.
No place is home.
Now, don’t get me wrong, my parents house is always open to me and I love it there. Many friends will welcome me in for food and shelter and hospitality. Heck, the rectory I live in is warm and dry and I’ve even got my own bathroom.
But none of them are mine – my parents house is theirs, same too my friends, and while the rectory is nice I am merely a long-term guest in a house belonging to no one. Not to mention the eschatological reality, ‘not one stone will be left upon another.’
Thus it is right and just. Priests ought not become too bound to one place. They must be wandering pilgrims of a sort. After all, ‘the Son of Man has no place to lie His head.’ Ours is a comfortable wandering (at least in America) but it is still a wandering. So there is a tension. Human beings strive for community, for belonging, and a priest can never truly belong. He is always one foot in Heaven and one on earth. Loves every person but cannot be long, cannot posses any one. This is a fact of his nature and to transgress it would be to offend who he is. Thus he remains odd, not quite like all the others.
This is not an excuse for weirdness: being rude, inappropriate, negligent,
lazy, late, dirty. Because he has one foot in Heaven he ought be a model of true normality: kind, modest, refined, clean, timely, direct.
But he always appear a little odd, not quite like the rest of us. He goes place we don’t go, does things we don’t do, says things we don’t say, loves people we don’t love. Because he has no home, like all the rest of us, he is just a little more aware of it.
So, to whatever Christian soul may read this little post, written from the back of a bus on a long journey from one place to another: be kind to your priest.
He is a man much like you and yet so different. He wears the weary world on his heart and, perhaps not always that well. You might see this tension on his face, in his eyes, pushing through his heart. Meet it with kindness, for on the pilgrim path from this world to the next, only one thing remains: love.