Priests are surrounded by people all the time. Their entire role is to interact with people. A priest can be so busy with people that it may difficult to carve out time alone for personal prayer each day.
Everyone feels lonely at times in the course of any vocation. How you perceive it and utilize an established network of resources can influence having a negative or a positive experience of being alone. Knowing that you have established strong resources in friends, family, peers and mentors can go a long way when feeling “lonely”.
Being alone does not necessitate feeling lonely. Everyone spends time alone at work and at home. In a busy life, time alone can be viewed as either an oasis or a burden based on your perception.
You can feel lonely even when surrounded by people if you do not feel connected or engaged in the relationship. There can be plenty of loneliness in marriage while sleeping in the same bed. Every parent has wanted even a few minutes alone and found that the bathroom is not even a refuge when you have small children. Some mothers get up early just so they can have some time alone before the chaos starts.
A Network of Support
Suppose you spent between 6 – 8 years in college and graduate school with everyone having the same major and career goal. Your school was small enough that you got to know the guys who are ahead and behind you. In this school, you spent a lot of time together in class and studying together since everyone took the same courses over the years. Your school had a very structured schedule so students were able to spend quality time with each other several times a day at events everyone found meaningful. You would have a pretty wide circle of friends and acquaintances. Depending on your personality, you would have built some strong friendships.
Now suppose that every year, many graduates are hired by the same company. Over time, many guys you knew in graduate school are working for this company. They may be located at different offices in the same area, but you are all doing the same work, have the same challenges and concerns as you grow in your new role, learn new skills and begin to master challenging assignments.
Suppose your employer asked you to meet periodically with some of your peers to support and encourage each other. You also are expected to meet periodically with a more senior member of the staff as a mentor.
How connected would you feel to these colleagues whom you have known for years?
Feeling connected with others who support you is a significant benefit when someone is feeling lonely, whether alone or surrounded by people.
Not many people have these built- in opportunities for support and fraternal relationships in their career. The closest I can compare this to is the military. The people you go through boot camp with and then deploy together always have a special bond. It is easy to see how these people would stay in touch and reach out to each other in times of need.
Besides the relationships with family and friends, a brother priest can provide support and understanding on a different level when needed. One needs to know when to ask for support from the right resource.
If you are a little puzzled by this analogy, here is the key to the terms in bold:
College and Graduate school program = Seminary
Career goal = Priesthood
Quality time = Liturgy of the Hours, Mass, sports etc…
Company = Diocese
Offices = Parish assignment
Employer/Boss = Bishop
Meeting periodically with peers = Fraternal events, formal and informal gatherings
Mentor = Spiritual Director
Colleagues/Peers = Brother priests
Please know the authors pray daily for parents of discerning sons and daughters to find understanding and peace.