Quite a few years ago, I read an article titled “What Doctors Won’t Tell You.” The content was basically secrets that doctors don’t tell their patients like tricks to pay less, how much they believed in their diagnosis, blah blah blah. The whole point was for you to look at your doctor at your local clinic with suspicion and ask yourself if you could really trust him. That’s part of a bigger trend in our culture: the trend of not trusting authority.
Well, after so many years in which I started to take my faith seriously, I wondered how that type of article could be applied to priests. What would your parish priest not tell you? Could be in the parish council meeting, confessional, wherever. Are there things he keeps to himself?
But then I realized that although there are many similarities between the medical profession and the priesthood (doctor of souls), there are some key differences. One would be that you pay your doctor. Of course the faithful should donate money to their parish because a worker deserves his wages, even a religious worker (Jesus and St. Paul both agree – Luke 10:7 and 1 Timothy 5:18). However, parishioners don’t directly pay their pastor, and you can be quite sure that the bishop doesn’t give him any bonuses for hearing more confessions. That’s why the priesthood is a quasi-profession, but not exactly.
But now back to the question of why it doesn’t make sense to ask what a priest won’t tell you. One reason comes from what the priesthood is, considering it’s not exactly a profession. It’s more of a vocation to spiritual paternity, to being a dad to the souls entrusted to his care. So what would your biological dad not tell you? Lots of things, but there’s no need to worry because your dad (or at least the ideal dad) doesn’t keep any information from you that you need to know. He might not tell you what he is struggling with in his own interior life because he doesn’t want you to worry. He might not tell you that he really doesn’t like how you habitually disobey him and how much that makes him suffer, but that’s more because he knows that telling you how disobedient you are might not be the best way to build the trust again in the relationship. He might not tell you as a child what he might tell you as an adult. Interestingly, St. Paul didn’t tell the faithful everything about the spiritual life all at once because they needed to grow and mature to be able to understand the higher realities of the spiritual life. “Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly–mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.” 1 Corinthians 3:1-2.
So there are lots of things a priest might not tell you, but none of them are an obstacle in our growth in the spiritual life. What we need from priests is forgiveness, guidance, and the Eucharist. Period. We don’t need his opinion on our political views, so we don’t need to worry if he doesn’t share them with us. Let us see in the priest a man sent by God, a man like us, but chosen by God to show us the way to Heaven. Let’s listen to priests like we listen to our dads – not as a paid professional, but as a fatherly guide in our spiritual journey. Then instead of worrying about what priests aren’t telling us, we will be able to hear what God is telling us through priests.
Photo Credit: Colegio Internacional Legionarios de Cristo