A young man I know, having a lot of knowledge in theology, came to me years ago and asked me about my opinion concerning him desiring priesthood. I hesitated in giving a direct response as I told him that studying takes from him a lot of time and that priesthood also requires a lot of time and it is difficult to write volumes while taking care of the parish.

Many of you might not be interested if I talked to you about theology professors and about them needing to make use of all their time. But you are interested to know your priest’s attention towards you assuming that he is a lover of Jesus and that he entered this service because of this love. The time of mercenary priests is gone, and the time of big sacrifices and giving all the time of the priest to the parish has come. You know that the liturgy takes time, and not only on Sundays; other evening services in the lent, vespers, weddings, funerals and baptisms also take a long time especially if there were a lot of families. However, the main issue is not an issue of time. It is an issue of the heart of the pastor. Is his heart with Christ? Priesthood is a full commitment to the Gospel’s case in a way where it is not allowed for the priest to have any more place for another work.

In the immemorial past, they used to see that the village’s priest could be a farmer, and then we allowed priests in cities to have an extra job because of the few resources or of the small size of their parishes. However, when the priest is responsible for a big parish, he doesn’t have any free time for another job unless more than one priest  gather in one church. This church must also have one free leader.

However, and regardless of these details, the priest’s heart must be for God and he needs at least two hours a day to study the Holy Books and read theological articles. In addition to that, there are the visits, and their purpose is not only to ask about the sick and the sad but to also know the spiritual situation of the house especially the marital understanding and the development of the members in knowing the Lord. Of course, this cannot be done in details in big parishes, and therefore, we need new priests that can know the situation of every individual as much as possible: “I know my sheep, and my sheep know me. And I call my sheep by their names”. We cannot continue having large parishes just to satisfy the priest and keep the big living he makes. These issues must be arranged with laws and regulations but I cannot sacrifice the spiritual need for the sake of the financial comfort of the priest.

Then we have visits: There are “in group” visits and family visits. In group, biblical meetings in houses are essential as explaining the divine word is inevitable because we live through this word and it can get some people back to the Divine Liturgy that they are neglecting. It is also important to distribute “Raiiati”. This is a minimal level of reading and a love bond between us.

However, these meetings cannot replace the personal encounter that the priest makes with the person that asks his guidance or the priest’s interference to transmit Jesus’ spirit in every believer. This doesn’t mean that a layman cannot take care of another person, guide him and direct him towards religious books. Therefore, it is important to organize spiritual sessions in which people meet and their souls flare with the love of the Savior to worship God in every place and spread his word.

I feel amazed when I see parents taking care of their children. I feel amazed by the long continuous effort until the kids grow up, become nourished, play, speak and understand. This thing happens on the level of the body and the upbringing; we need a similar thing on the level of spiritual understanding, Christian education, continuous pastoral work and taking care of every soul.

And all of this descends from the priest’s heart that is flaring with Jesus’ love. God is able to make for him a new heart.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “قلب الكاهن” –Raiati 50- 11.12.2005