Posted by: Shawn Ragan | April 24, 2009

On Being a Priest

I know some who desire to be a priest.  I served for eight years as a pastor of a Protestant Church, and in the time I have had to know the priests in our life, I have come to realize how woefully inadequate I was as any kind of spiritual leader and how different an Orthodox priest is from a Protestant pastor.  Anyways, I do not desire to be a priest.  More in a moment…

As part of our family devotional time, we read after supper (when I am home).  During Great Lent, we read Fr. Thomas Hopko’s “The Lenten Spring.”  Before that, though, we were reading about the life of Fr. Arseny, a Russian priest who spent a number of years in a Soviet prison because of his faith.  It is an incredible book and I would recommend people reading about this holy man of our Faith.  My kids were not all that into “The Lenten Spring,” and at least once a week asked to read from Fr. Arseny.  They were thrilled this week when we resumed it.

Tonight we read something, and I want to share a piece of it.  There are two reasons I share this.  First, for those who desire any kind of spiritual leadership, but especially the Holy Priesthood of the Orthodox Church, they are words that put things in perspective.  Second, and this much more than the first, is for those of us who are laymen in the Church, who are not and will not become priests…the job of a priest is hard.  After reading this, hopefully we can all appreciate the humble love and sacrifice we see in the priests, deacons, bishops, and monastics in our Holy Faith and we can pray all the more for them and their life for us.

“…I received a letter from a very good man who has led a complicated and beautiful life and who has won many battles within himself; he is now begging me to give him my blessing to become a priest.  But the life of a priest, a real priest, was always difficult, and now it is even more so.  Some people think that it means only serving in Church, but no; it is an extremely difficult and all-encompassing way of life.  You have to forget yourself completely and give yourself to others.  You must take upon yourself the souls of hundreds of people and lead them.  Not everyone is strong enough to undertake this way of life.  Many people think being a priest is an easy profession.  Yes, it is easy of you do not give yourself to others, but it is extremely difficult if you do.”  -Fr. Arseny (page 121)

I have yet to meet a priest or a monastic in our Holy Faith who has not given himself to others.  The humility and genuine love that emanates from each of the men I have been priviledged to meet has been overwhelming, and has helped Tori’s faith to grow and has been one of the factors that has led her, and our whole family, to the Holy Orthodox Faith.

Be mindful, O Lord, of our Metropolatin, Philip, of our Bishop, Joseph, and of every Bishop of the Orthodox; of Fr. Mark, Fr. Patrick, Hieromonk Mark, Fr. Justin, Hieromonk George, and of the Priests and Deacons and all the Clergy of thy Church, which Thou has established to feed the flock of the Word, and by their prayers have mercy upon me and save me, a sinner.

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