A Practical Guide for Priests and Pastors, Part 4
“Blame not before thou hast examined the truth: Understand first, and then rebuke. Answer not before thou hast heard the cause, neither interrupt men in the midst of their talk.” Ecclesiastes 11:7-8
A. Individuals have their own challenges, misunderstandings, issues of concern or criticism they need to get off their chest. People naturally want to vent their feelings. You must allow them to do this.
B. Be very attentive. Allow them to speak without interruption.
C. Never give someone cause to think you are not interested in them. Listen and then respond.
“He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is a folly and snare unto him.” Proverbs 18:13
D. When you speak be gentle in your voice. Do not speak loudly or harshly.
E. If they are angry, do not respond immediately. Let them vent it out. Be reminded of the icon: it has a small mouth and large ears.
“Be quick to hear, but slow to speak and slow to anger.” James 1: 19
“A gentle word turns away wrath.” Proverbs 15:1
F. Create a pastoral setting for parishioners to speak with you. The more information you receive the more effective you will be. Evaluate and listen to the inner voice of your heart.
G. When you listen, hear also what is unsaid.
“Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Matthew 7:1
A. Avoid judgments.
“Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart; and then shall every man have praise from God.” 1 Corinthians 4:5
B. When a decision is necessary, render it according to the teaching of the Church.
“For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son….” John 5:22
C. Be sensitive, compassionate and understanding. The people in your church may not know much about the faith or church law.
“Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one for another….” 1 Peter 3:9
D. Explain the teachings of the church from Scripture, canon law, archdiocese directives, the Priest Guide or the local parish constitution.
E. Control your voice.
“A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger…. By much forbearance a prince is persuaded and a soft tongue breaketh the bone.” Proverbs 15:1; 25:15
F. When writing letters be very careful so that what you write cannot be miscontrued. Written statements need to be well thought out and well prepared. Be careful what you put in writing.
G. In giving sermons you must be faithful to the Word and not be judgmental. The Truth must be said, but be careful not to appear arrogant, judgmental or “better than thou.”
H. A Priest is always under a microscope. What he says, what he does, where he goes, how he dresses, everything about him will always be under examination. A Priest must accept the reality of being judged for standing for the Truth. It is unavoidable. People have itching ears and want them scratched.
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.” 2 Timothy 4:3-4
I. When dealing with issues of sacramental restoration regarding marriage and divorce where fees are required, it is imperative to explain that the fees are for the ecclesiastical court to complete the process of restoration.
May God grant you many years of fruitful ministry.
A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR PRIESTS & PASTORS by Fr. Constantine Nasr may be ordered from St. Ignatius Book Store 405-755-7804 or firstname.lastname@example.org The price is $15 plus $1.50 s/h.