That priests are somehow “different.” I’ve often been told, “I can’t believe you’re a priest.” I don’t know if that says something about me, or the priests they have met. One of the nicest compliments I ever received was when I was told, “You’re cool. You’re not what I expected a priest to be like. You don’t walk around like you have a stick up your behnd.”
In my experience, so many people really don’t know priests. Especially young people, college age, don’t know any priests under seventy years of age, so when they meet someone like me who is a fanatical fisherman, a faithful Phillies fan, plays the guitar, knows the movies they’ve seen, and can just hang out with them, they are surprised.
Priests too must be on guard to not fall into the trap of thinking they have to establish their priestly identity by eliciting in people a false sense of superiority. To be a priest is to be a servant, one who washes feet, not a minor potentate who needs to have his butt kissed all the time.
A priest should be present to people, and accompany them on the way. Our primary duty as priests is to preach the good news of Jesus Christ to all (Presbyterorum Ordinis #4), not announce our own ordination. The faithful have a right to the sacraments and we have the privilege of providing those life giving gifts of God to the people of God. We are but humble servants and we can benefit by being reminded of that. My old friend Br. Dennis Ryan, S.J., once said, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”