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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Priests as Resources and Guides

Last week over at Redeemed Online Andy Lesnefsky posted about the importance of turning toward God, rather than away, in times of doubt and confusion. He reflected on the importance of prayer in these circumstances. Over the last few months, I have also been thinking about the power priests and the guidance they can provide to supplement a strong prayer life.

I can't remember a time in my life when I have had the confidence to ask my priest questions that arose prior to this summer. Instead, I would soak up the guidance from homilies but was sometimes left with lingering thoughts or questions. The first time I asked one of my priests a question earlier this year, I realized that doing so requires a certain level of comfort with vulnerability. I had to set aside worries about feeling like I should already know certain aspects of my faith and shouldn't need to ask, as well as concerns about how my questions would point out my own weaknesses. In that sense, I had to humble myself in order to have the courage to approach him.

Nonetheless, once I got past that, I instantly recognized the resource and blessing available, something that had been there all along but it just hadn't occurred to me to seek - the guidance of a priest in a conversation. Now, just a couple of months and some additional dialogues later, I am starting to realize the value of the unique voice my priest offers in that he will provide me input and clarification through a strong Catholic lens. While my other go-to people for advice are still important voices, it can end up being that they provide the advice they think I want to hear or their advice can be situated in the current predominant social and cultural context of the time, rather than rooted in the faith.

I appreciate that my priest will share what I need to hear from a Catholic perspective with an explanation of why. For example, the first time I was talking about some Bible passages that were hard for me to grasp and relate to for years. However, with some key pieces that he mentioned, it made sense in the overall bigger context. I just hadn't thought about it with those vital points of consideration before.

Through advice and dialogue, I gain a sense of calm but also feel pushed or challenged. My priest will make seemingly simple statements that will then stick with me as I process and turn the thoughts over. As a result, different concepts click into place. For example, talking about what is most important in life, I realized that I probably answered too quickly with the response that I know as correct since a child but then wondered if my life and actions were really aligned to that response or if my actions are really aligned with valuing the concrete more than the eternal. I started asking myself questions like, What would my life look like if...? or If God is really most important in my life, would I be doing this? My responses to these questions help me point toward areas of improvement in my life, such as how I spend my time, how I nurture relationships, and how I forgive. Other times it is just the importance of being reminded of something vital. Then there are times when I am reaffirmed for something I am doing, serving as encouragement.

Now that I am more aware of priests as a resource, I reflect on when to ask, when to pray over time, and when to just move forward. I am grateful for the different ways that I can encounter God's voice throughout my days.

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