Should priests be paid to pray?
When is the start of my work week? Is it on Monday morning like you, or is it on Thursday morning? Are priests supposed to have days off? If we look at the nature of vocation, days off are not even worth a mention. Vocation or calling is a compulsion by God to be for God, so are there days off?
Some weeks I feel like I have limitless flexibility with astoundingly little to do. I can write a sermon at the dog park for example, while the dogs exercise themselves, or come home for lunch, do the housework, or even have a nap to compensate for a 4 am start. But then there are other days that feel like I’ve been thrown into a marathon I never had the chance to train for. Emails get missed, hospital visits get rushed, or ditched, and we eat one or two too many throw together, or leftover dinners at home. In one go, I can see how I could easily become either a workaholic or dead lazy.
To be a parish priest is to live in a world of bizarre rhythms and punctuations. I don’t actually ever clock on or off, because its not a job its a vocation and I love it. This is complicated by the fact that essentially, I work for a volunteer organisation. This means I need to be available when volunteers are, which is usually after hours or on the weekend. On the other hand, I also work in an institution that looks like a business, with regular office hours, staff meetings and logistical and canonical requirements.
So in order for me to fulfill my vocation, I am paid a stipend, as opposed to a salary. Many folk don’t understand the difference. Quite simply, a stipend is a payment for not task deal. It is paid so one can be instead of do. A salary is task orientated, one is paid to do!
The nature of our work defies measurement, we are free, to live into a slower, healthier,
more prayerful rhythm of life in “defiance of the norms of our frenetically paced society.” This means, that when I am asked to pray for someone, I can and do.
So should priests be paid to pray? No, because priests aren’t paid to do anything. Priests are paid so that taking care of life’s basic needs doesn’t detract from their vocation.
So, if we’re not paid to do any of the things we schedule, write, or facilitate, then all that we do do constitutes a gift. In other words, the church isn’t actually paying us to be there on Sunday. The church is paying us so that we can sleep in our beds the night before. We’re not paid to preach, or pray, or administer the sacraments. To think that we are, cheapens those beautiful moments by stirring in a transactional flavour. We’re given this allowance, so that we can pray for free.
I’ve learned an important thing, it is not ‘when’ I pray, but that I ‘do’ pray, not when I spend time with my family but how I’m present with them. This distinction is a great gift for a person who feels compelled to constantly earn her pay.
Prayers for a blessed week