As you’ve no doubt noticed I don’t post on Sundays. There are a couple reasons I don’t post on Sundays, the first being that I’m just too busy. In a perfect world, I would walk to a parish down the street, attend a glorious Divine Liturgy in a stunningly beautiful church, with a fantastic and large choir, and hundreds of people there for Orthros; I’d walk back for a hearty lunch followed by a leisurely day of listening to music and reading, or perhaps going for a walk, or some other generally nice and relaxing pastime. That is almost never the case.
Yesterday, for example, I drove to my parish assignment on Long Island, about an hour drive. The church is quaint, the choir small, varying numbers of people there (usually increasing as time for Communion draws near), and the people are very warm and welcoming. Liturgy was longer than usual because there was a memorial service after as well as the procession with the Cross as it was the Sunday of the Holy Cross in Lent; so we clocked out around two hours. Then I grabbed a bagel with zatar on it, led the Teen SOYO bible study before driving back to the seminary which, due to traffic, took about an hour and a half (and I don’t even have the longest commute of the seminarians). Then an hour selecting pieces for the Byzantine Choir as we’ll be chanting two Presanctified Divine Liturgies plus this Saturday’s liturgy. Then rehearsal for an hour, got a phone call so I missed most of dinner but managed to grab some hummus and pita bread, then another phone call (spiritual father), before heading to work on papers. Then I went back to the dorm around 9:15, spoke with a friend for a bit, and went back to my room where I read for a couple hours before going to bed. The Sabbath is not a day of rest, but I wouldn’t have it any other way even if I could. Well… to be honest it would be nice to be able to rest a *bit* on Sundays… But my previous statement stands.
Sundays are work days, for myself as a seminarian, but even more so for your average parish priest. I’ve had plenty of people tell me that they’re jealous I’m going to seminary because I’ll only have to work on Sunday. Hooooboy! I’ve never heard that one before. Nor does it make me want to become suddenly violent, in a totally loving and compassionate way, of course. Most parish priests get to their churches around an hour before the first service starts on Sunday, maybe more, maybe a bit less. Then people start arriving needing to talk to him, ask for a favor, vent about something, etc. If he’s really lucky, the bulletin will already be ready and the boiler/AC/sewage/roof/windows/front steps won’t be broken, breaking, or exploding. He might get 5 minutes to prepare for the service, but usually by then he’s working with the altar boys/seminarian to get things ready. Then he’s in the service and has to try and ignore the parish council member coming into the altar with an “emergency,” during the Cherubic Hymn. The choir is off because the big family with all the good singers is on vacation. Someone starts snoring audibly during your sermon. After liturgy you consume the Eucharist (unless you have a deacon), go to bless the food at coffee hour (maybe), and then start visiting with the women’s group, men’s group, teen group, etc. Then you have a baptism, maybe two, and a wedding later on. You might get home by 2 p.m. if you’re really blessed, but sometimes maybe midnight. And then you crash.
I have heard of and seen all these things happen, and I’m just in my second year at seminary. You probably think we’re crazy for signing up for something like this, and you would be right. There have been, and will be, times where I’m at my wits end. One of my best friends, who happens to be a priest (how unusual), told me that he knew in seminary that there’d be highs and lows being a priest in a parish, but he didn’t realize and wasn’t prepared for how high the highs are and how low the lows are. But he’s glad God brought him to where he is and can’t see himself doing something else. I feel the same, and I think others do, too. For myself at least, I’m beginning to realize how this is the life I’ve been called to, and while it’s a call I’ve ignored, pushed away, or hidden at various times, it doesn’t go away; it’s always there at the back of your mind. God wants me where I am right now, right here in a chair in the reading room of the library in the Rangos Building at St. Vladimir’s Seminary. And for that I am thankful. Happy Monday!