Recently I was teaching grade school children at our parish school. The topic was regarding the 40 Hour Devotion that was coming up in the parish. The children would be participating and so I was asked to let them know a little bit about the history and spirituality of the devotion. In one of the grades I had been given a lot more time than the other grades. As a result there was time for questions and answers about anything.
The questions ranged from “Why did you become a priest?”, “Do you prefer cats or dogs?” and “What’s the hardest thing about being a priest?” Interesting range of questions. For the “hardest thing” question, there are lots of answers, depending on the day. But for myself I think it sometimes centers around the all too-male desire to “fix things.” It’s what we are wired to do. A wife comes home and begins to share the problems of the day just wanting the husband to listen, understand, and give a hug. The husband is sitting there listening, chomping at the bit, all ready to tell her how to fix the problem. Of course she wasn’t asking.
As a priest, people come to confession or the office in order to share their problems – and they are asking for me to fix their problem or at least to point the way. Of course sometimes there is no immediate “thing” that can be done and so I listen. But more times there are things that can be recommended. And even when people think they are too far down the path to turn things around, the prophet Isaiah’s words are at hand:
“Come now, let us set things right, says the LORD: Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; though they be crimson red, they may become white as wool. If you are willing, and obey.”
A few weeks later it is deja vu all over again. I couldn’t fix them. Of course I never could. That’s for God, God’s grace and the willing person.
Still, I wish I could fix it. I can’t and that’s hard. But I can still pray for them and be there the next time they come. Maybe next time, we’ll try something new – and that’s hopeful.