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An ordinary week at St Clement’s

March 23, 2009

When people come out with the old chestnut: “Of course you priests just work one day a week”, I pretend to be indignant and deny this. They think I am going to say: “I work seven days a week”, but instead I reply: “That’s nonsense: it’s not a whole day, just three or four hours”. That usually shuts them up!

In fact, Sunday – the day they think we work – is often the quietest day of the week. Let me use last week as an example, and I’ll list some of what I did. You might find the variety interesting.

Every day except my day off I attended Mass and Evening Prayer with the Novena to Our Lady of Clemency. In addition I said Matins, the Office of Readings, Midday Prayer and Compline. Most days I managed five decades of the Rosary. If you add that up, it comes to about two hours.

Office hours in St Clement’s are officially from 9 to 12, but the phone goes at all hours of the day (and sometimes the night). 

These are the staples, but then come the variables, what makes a priest’s life a mixture of the kind of routine I have listed above and all sorts of special or unplanned happenings. 

For example, in the last week, I have had three wedding interviews; visited parishioners in New Jersey and Centre City; made two hospital visits: eaten out on three evenings, once with Fr Wall, my curate, and twice with parishioners; chaired a Vestry meeting; sung a High Mass for the Feast of St Joseph; conducted Stations of the Cross and Benediction; said the Invocation at a lunch at the Union League, where the speaker was the broadcaster Bill Bennett; prepared today’s Mothering Sunday sermon (that usually consists of thinking, not writing!)

These are the identifiable occasions or special tasks of one week, but of course there are also what everyone else has, the e-mails and the snail mails; the filling in of forms and requests; the usual office work. Also, because I am living in a Rectory, there are several calls a day at the door from people in need of a meal voucher or some clothing, or just someone to talk to for a while.

Now, I hope no one thinks I am complaining about any of this. I became a priest not to have a job, but to lead a certain kind of life for the benefit of the Church, and I hope that is what I am doing here at St Clement’s. I think we priests are very privileged, because we share in the lives of our parishioners. When I stand at the altar offering the Mass, or before the image of Our Lady of Clemency every evening, I have the great privilege of bringing all their concerns and needs to God. And when I stand in the pulpit or sit in the Confessional or counsel people privately, I am trying to bring God’s concerns and God’s priorities to them. This does take just a little preparation and planning!

On day a week indeed!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Susan permalink
    March 23, 2009 5:17 pm

    If only you were our Priest! Someone who puts the needs of God’s people before their own and doesn’t complain about it. You have so much happening for people in your Parish and God is at the heart of it. It is a delight to read.

  2. March 23, 2009 7:47 pm

    Sadly, there are too many clergy who regard the priesthood as a job, and then wonder why their ministry is unfruitful. The priesthood requires total commitment and consecration to God. In short, it is what you are; not what you do. I am very thankful for priests like Canon Reid who are not afraid to speak to that truth.

  3. March 24, 2009 12:32 pm

    As S.J. Forrest wrote in “What’s the Use?”:

    Each morning, rising up at seven,
    He pleads the Sacrifice to Heaven,
    At nine he teaches in the school,
    Then prayer and Office are his rule.
    His correspondence he pursues,
    Well interspersed with interviews.
    The door-bell and the telephone
    Refuse to leave the man alone.
    But still recurs this glib critique:
    ‘He only works one day a week.’

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