Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"I know it's your day off, but..."

I often get calls that start with that phrase.  I know it comes from a good place, but it gives me reason to make the following statement:

Contrary to popular belief, priests do NOT only work one day a week.

In fact, I would say in the long run that any dutiful and consciencous priest works far and above the standard 40-hour work week that most people do.  Granted, this work week is not divided into 9-5 days, which is part of the charm of this vocation, but this can also be one of its greatest drawbacks.  While it means that a priest has a very flexible schedule, it also means that we are NEVER off the clock.  Should an emergency arise such as an accident, a death, a serious illness or a need for immediate baptism (bear in mind, just because you might not see these situations as emergencies does not mean that everbody else shares your opinion), a priest must respond (incidentally, this also applies to our day off, but I don't want to muddy the waters).

That is the commitment we have made.

But while most careers benefit from a discrete and clear start of day and end of day, priesthood does not.  For example, if you work at a call center, at 5o'clock you head home and no one expects you to continue taking calls from your home.  Priesthood does not permit this boundary.  We are required to be available pretty much all the time.

This is why many priests, often at the risk of coming off as jerks, guard their day off like a dog with a bone.

We are entitled to one day off a week, which you will note is half of what you probably get.  This is balanced out by the fact that, as I mentioned, this is not a 9-5 vocation.  The problem with just about any helping profession is that we are motivated by a genuine concern for people, and that can lead to a lack of healthy boundaries on our part.  This means that it can be very difficult for a priest to stake out time for his/herself.

In order to stay sane, healthy and productive, a priest must therefore guard his/her day off strictly.  Often, it is the only time he/she gets to spend with his/her family or to engage in leisure activities which are so essential to a balanced lifestyle.

So priests, let people know when your day off is and stick to it with no shame or guilt because you need time off like everybody else.

There being two sides to this coin, I would also appeal to parishioners to respect their clergy's day off.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Jason:

    I am thinking that I should find out when you have your day off so I don't bother you LOL