Priests - they are the men who consecrate their lives to shepherd Jesus' flocks.
Priests - they wear those white collar things and dress simply.
Priests - they insist it is "Rose", not pink (although Rose is definitely a shade of pink, haha).
Priests - most parishioners think they are the holiest people in the church they attend, and sometimes, this assumption creates a negative barrier between a priest and his parishioners.
And why wouldn't a parishioner think a priest is the holiest person in the room? A priest does more holy activities on a daily basis than most people do. They visit the sick, they evangelize to the poor, they pray the Liturgy of the Hours, they are in charge of a daily mass, they encourage the downtrodden, they meet with church leaders to plan fun events... the list goes on and on.
It's so easy to think priests are holier than thou, but that's not the case. Priests are just like their parishioners. They are human and have flaws, strengths, weaknesses, and a deep need for Jesus' grace and mercy.
Priests go to confession. Priests don't always make the right call when deciding what is and isn't on the calendar for next year's events. Priests don't always have the strongest faith in God.
Just like us, all priests have a past before they let God radically transform their lives... and some of their pasts include moments of blasphemy, despair, anger, and more.
I'm really lucky. I have a lot of priests in my life who #keepitreal.
Last week, a young priest joined a group of silly college students at Applebee's for late night half-price appetizers. He drank a big, cold glass of beer as we laughed about the perils of Snapchat used incorrectly and groaned about the problems of finding new organs (the musical instrument) for churches in the area.
For my whole life, I've been lucky to watch my uncle be a priest. His joy for preaching to his flock in his exuberant homilies is just as contagious as his joy for Cardinals baseball and getting ice-cream.
My priest at my campus ministry keeps it real by opening up about his struggles and triumphs during our one-on-one chats. He lets me see that God's work usually takes more patience than we think, but it always works out for the best.
In all of these ways, I've slowly realized that these dudes, these servants of God, are more similar to me than dissimilar. That makes me more comfortable to share my sins with them and receive counsel. That makes me more comfortable to invite them to eat dinner every once in a while or play ping pong with them in the campus ministry lounge area.
Therefore, my notion of priests has changed over the years, and I'm really grateful for it. Because priests are supposed to reflect the Lord we serve... and the Lord we serve was vulnerable and open and available to hang with his people.
He loved going to people's houses to chat, loved eating, he loved going to big events (wedding of Cana), and he even loved being broken on the cross for us. By priests keeping it real and being relatable to their parishioners in these ways, I respect them more.
Priests - real people, and potential friends, who are blessed and burdened with the hard task of shepherding Jesus' flocks.