by Father Mitchel Zimmerman
I live with Father Steve Beseau at the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center at KU, and last week Father Steve mentioned a brief story on CNN regarding the happiness of clergy versus those in other careers.
Overwhelmingly, clergy are the most satisfied of all workers. On the heels of this TV story, I opened Time magazine. Once again, in a survey of all careers, the clergy had the highest quality of life. Sixty-seven percent of clergy described themselves as very happy. Second place went to firefighters.
When most of us think about the priesthood, one of the first things we think about is the promise of celibacy made by a priest — the fact that he has sacrificed the possibility of a biological family in order to serve as a husband and a father to the church.
This is a difficult sacrifice to ask of a young man, and a difficult one to make. However, as we can see in the statistics above, the sacrifice opens up new possibilities of fulfillment and happiness through single-hearted service of God and his chosen family, the church.
Isn’t it interesting that firefighters and clergy are the two most fulfilling professions? Firefighters literally save people from flames, while clergy, as people set on fire by the Holy Spirit, also will go to great lengths to save God’s people from the evil that might harm them.
As we say at the end of each decade of the rosary — “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy!” This is the vocation of a priest — to be a shepherd of souls!
Like a husband and father who has the vocation to provide for his family and to protect them from danger, so a priest is to courageously shepherd his flock and to protect them from the evils that threaten the eternal life they have received in baptism.
Because the priesthood is not simply a profession, but also a vocation, a priest does not have to search for the meaning of his life apart from his day job. The two are inseparable in the life of a priest! No wonder the profession ranks far above all others!
“Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you” (Mt 6:33). This is the vocation of a priest. In offering his life completely to God, he receives back from the Lord a life of deep meaning and lasting happiness, even as he makes a sacrifice that does not make sense to the world.
If every young man in our archdiocese would entrust his happiness to the Lord and to service of his church, we would have more applicants to the priesthood than we could accept. Let’s all pray for that day to arrive sooner rather than later for our archdiocese.
Father Mitchel Zimmerman is the archdiocesan vocations director.