|With a little friend at an orphanage in Quito, Ecuador|
I want to let you in on a little known secret. Priests and religious enjoy their lives and the numbers are there to prove it! Consistently in surveys measuring job satisfaction and fulfillment Catholic priests and religious score in the very top percentile reporting overwhelming satisfaction with what they do. Even in the midst of the scandals, even in the midst of what many people see as the deprivations and burdens of the life of the priest and religious; overwhelming satisfaction continues to be reported in survey after survey. Why is this?
On the surface and as the world measures things it does not make sense. One certainly does not get rich in working for the Church so satisfaction cannot be measured by comfort and things acquired. The hours are definitely long and unpredictable. Control of ones schedule is often thrown out the window. Control of ones own life, for that matter, also is gone. Participating in tense moments is a daily occurrence. Privacy often takes a backseat to being a public person. The automatic prestige once given clergy and religious is a thing of the past. Often, one has to deal with unrealistic demands and expectations. Yet, priests and religious consistently report overwhelming satisfaction in what they do … why?
“But the person who is truly happy is not so much the one who has what he or she loves, but the one who loves what is worthy of love…” (St. Augustine of Hippo) These words by the bishop of Hippo – a man intimately familiar with all the above struggles of the priest and religious (and even more so) – bring us, I believe, to the reason. And, further, the joy found in the lives of priests and religious witnesses to the wisdom and truth of Augustine’s insight.
The priest and religious – even in their stumbling humanity – strives to love that which is “worthy of love” – Christ and His Church. (One cannot truly love Christ without also loving that which Christ himself loves – the Church.)
I say “stumbling” because I know that from my own experience – every day I stand in need of God’s mercy, love and guidance – and yet I have been graced to love that which is indeed worthy of love. Despite all the above – and paradoxically, even through all the above – the very life of the priest and religious witnesses that there is indeed a joy which comes from striving to love that which is worthy of love! It is indeed a joy that goes beyond this world and beyond anything one may be having to endure in the moment.
God blesses with an abundance of joy the one who strives toward him!
Happiness is found in loving that which is worthy of love!