Husband & Wife Articles


 

Priests for (and from) the Family

Parish life and family life go together

By Philip Kosloski

After celebrating Good Shepherd Sunday, which is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations (April 17), we remember the importance of good “shepherds” who lead their flocks closer to Christ. We pray for an increase in holy priests as well as dwell upon the characteristics needed to successfully be a shepherd in our modern world. One aspect of priestly service that is often overlooked, but is essential for any successful pastor, is the need to accompany families and be active in their lives.

Pope Francis pointed this out in his latest Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”), when he wrote, “It is important for families to be part of the seminary process and priestly life, since they help to reaffirm these and to keep them well-grounded in reality. It is helpful for seminarians to combine time in the seminary with time spent in parishes. There they can have greater contact with the concrete realities of family life, since in their future ministry they will largely be dealing with families” (203).

Kosloski Family

There is a temptation both for priests and families to exist in isolation, leading their own separate lives. This is not good for either vocation, as it is easy to ignore the struggles of priests or families when they are not seen or understood.

St. John Paul II’s life provides a perfect example of how priests can benefit from a close connection with families and how families can reap many fruits from a close connection with priests.

In an address to priests in Rome, St. John Paul II recalled, “I learned a long time ago, since I was in Krakow, to live close to couples, to families.” He went on to challenge priests, saying, “You are called, in particular, to support the family in its difficulties and sufferings, approaching its members and helping them to live their life of spouses, parents and children in the light of the Gospel.”

He then urged priests to be present in the lives of families, proclaiming, “Do not be afraid, therefore, to give families of your time and energies, spiritual talents that the Lord has given you. Be attentive friends to them, worthy of their trust, in addition to pastors and teachers.”

St. John Paul said those words to the priests in Rome from personal experience. Throughout his life he surrounded himself with families, even going with them on long excursions.This time spent with families greatly benefited his priestly ministry, and became primary source for his groundbreaking Theology of the Body catecheses.

At the same time, families need to have priests active in their lives. Seeing a man dedicate his life to God and the Church, reminds families of what is important in life and is a sign of what is to come. It also helps families understand that priests are humans and not talking heads that only come out on Sundays. Priests have their own interests and hobbies, along with their own struggles and temptations. Being close to priests is a great blessing to families and helps them grow in holiness.

Additionally, families that invite priests into their lives also provide their children with an example of a priestly vocation. There are many stories of priests who grew in their calling from God because of the active role priests played in their family life.

Our young family has been blessed with many priest friends over the years who have richly benefited our lives and the lives of our children. We understand priests better and are called to holiness by their very presence.

In the end, priests need families and families need priests. This relationship is what the world needs and is a key to strengthening parishes and the domestic church, and building up the kingdom of God.

Philip Kosloski is a writer, blogger and author. He lives in Wisconsin with his wife, Maggie, and their four children.