How My Love of Priests Has Made Me a Better Mother

Confession: I have a “thing” for priests.

I have a prayer list for priests that’s a mile long, and I find myself, every so often, just praying like crazy for some poor Father Someone-or-Other who’s struck my fancy. It’s been a true exploration of my understanding of spiritual motherhood, and it has led me to feel closer to the heart of Christ and of his Church.

Last summer, I realized that I have a “thing” for another group of men within our Church: seminarians. It was the first time our parish had a summer seminarian intern and, while I didn’t have a chance to get to know him too well, he really made a mark on my prayer life and has remained in my thoughts and prayers since then.

He made quite a mark on our parish, too. At our first VBS team meeting, the overwhelming attitude was, “Ask him back to lead a group, because he was AWESOME.” (He wasn’t available. We’re still sobbing.)

This summer, we hosted a seminarian again, and I had a chance to get to know him quite a bit better. Part of it was his involvement in teaching our Confirmation Boot Camp. Part of it was his involvement in our staff meetings and other events. Part of it was my kids’ interest and attraction to him.

I didn’t really think about it beyond “I love these guys” until our parish secretary asked me if I’ve considered the effect it’s having on our parish and our staff to have these sems living among us.

We’re seeing priests before they’re ordained. We’re seeing the seedlings, not yet trees, not yet experienced, not yet ready for the rest of the world. We’re shaping them, and yet, at the same time, they are shaping us as well.

I suspect it’s helping with a hurdle I’ve observed in far too many Catholics: the myth that priests are Something Else (as opposed to real guys of flesh and blood).

They’re real people. They need dinner and socks and advice. They have opinions and quirks and jokes. They make mistakes, just like the rest of us. They have insight we need as we all strive to be disciples together.

They need us as much as we need them. Without these sems and the priests they will hopefully become, there is no Eucharist. Without us, there are no sems. They see in us the hope for their future even as we see in them the future of our Church.

I can’t help but be a different—and a better—mother as a result of the seminarians I’ve had the honor of being influenced by. I can only hope that the chaos and prayers I insert into their lives leads them closer to Christ, too.


Sarah Reinhard’s a Catholic wife, mom, and author whose nose is probably in a book if she’s not scraping something off of her shoes. Her latest book is A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy: Walking with Mary from Conception to Baptism. Check out all of her books at http://sarahreinhard.com/writing/my-books/.

Visit Sarah’s website: http://sarahreinhard.com/


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About the Author

Sarah Reinhard is a Catholic wife, mom and author whose nose is probably in a book if she's not scraping something off of her shoes. Her latest book is A Catholic Mother's Companion to Pregnancy: Walking with Mary from Conception to Baptism. Check out all of her books at http://sarahreinhard.com/writing/my-books/.

You’re just as likely to find Sarah Reinhard hiding out back with a book as you are to discover her playing in the yard with a few farm animals (or wait--are those her kids?). She’s less enthusiastic about making dinner than she is about eating it, but she loves being a Catholic wife and mom (much though she struggles) and the kids sure are amusing. She’s been happily married for eight years and counting, and she and her husband have three children.

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17 Comments

  1. I used to feel that way. I’ve known too many priests to not even bother to respond to a phone call or an email and too many good ones leave the priesthood to feel the same anymore, unfortunately.

    I can see they are men, like other men, but it does seem that some priests are not very familiar with the everyday life of their parishioners and, unfortunately, many do not seem very good at engaging their parishioners to learn more. Maybe that is just my experience though.

    1. Katherine, I’m very sorry for your bad experiences with priests. I’m sure you’re not the only person who has had such experiences, either.

      I’ve worked for a priest for nearly ten years and I have seen up-close some of the challenges he faces. That said, there are many challenges I have not seen, and he is also only one man.

      Priests are people, men. And they certainly need all the prayers we can send their way.

    2. Katherine,
      I could’ve personally written Sarah’s blog today. I have had the same experience except for actually working for a priest, including coming close to a seminarian and working with others via VBS.

      I’ve also had your experience, as well. I started praying daily and fervently for one priest who had hurt me on several occasions. After several years of daily prayer for him, I have come to love him as the person God created him to be, not the person he is. I have continually found that to pray for the more difficult people in your life softens your heart first, and hopefully the prayers I am sending up are unleashing the graces to help them… God will do the rest. If there is a priest in your life you struggle with, consider offering up the very mass through his own hand for him, the actual mass he is saying.

  2. Katherine, I don’t ever recall having a call or email to a priest go without a reply. If that has been your consistent experience, coukd it be that the difficulty lies with you and the content or attitude of your communication? Perhaps worth a little self reflection.

  3. Katherine: God bless you for entering into the difficult and sacrificial work of motherhood. Your comments remind me of a conversation I had with a Catholic man who had gone to Wash DC to participate in a large seminary formation program. Obviously, one aspect of formation is to find out whether or not priesthood is that to which you are really called. He observed the fawning and coddling of seminarians, the gifts the money, that just poured down upon these boys, and concluded that the whole business was too corrupt. The ‘coddling’ separated these impressionable young men from the people of God. Yes, the priest-ling becomes an alter Christus, but he does not cease to be a man–and all the foibles that implies. The young man I wrote of returned home to work with prisoners and the homeless, and eventually married. He felt, he said, “clean”.

    You yourself call your feelings “a thing”. That implies it’s not healthy and might be out of proportion to reality. Would that you and all other Catholics could feel the same nurture, concern, and prayerful care for your brothers and sisters who will never wear a collar. There are, as you will doubtless agree, more of them. Would you feel that ‘spiritual motherhood’ for a female seeking religious life? Just askin’.

      1. Dear Deacon: This kind of mistake is one more good reason why I am not in the helping professions such as the priesthood. I’d never get the names right. Good catch.

        1. Ah, yet it is a malady that I have been known to suffer from as well. But God provides when I most need the grace.

    1. Hi Magistra and thanks for your thoughtful comments.

      I’ll admit, I hadn’t thought of the spiritual motherhood aspect as a fawning. I can see how fawning would be bad if and when it involved inappropriate gifts.

      I think, though, that these men–whether they end up as priests or as fathers of another sort–can use all the prayers I can send their way.

      And yes, indeed, I do have a list of single women I pray for and also for those female (and male) religious I know (it’s a much shorter list, but that’s probably just the people I’ve known so far; I leave it to God to put more (or less) of them into my life…)

  4. As a priest about to celebrate his first anniversary, I find myself very grateful for the author’s sentiments. But I also empathize with Katherine and her comment. The unfortunate reality is that the modern priest is so in demand, that occasionally (though always regrettably) a phone call or email does fall through the cracks, or, at least, takes a while to be returned. There’s several instances already in my first year where I wish that I had followed up on a hospital visit, or called again to check in on a shut-in, or stopped by to see someone again who was in need. But because of the consistent new needs of the faithful, in time and energy, I am sometimes able only to pray for those whom I remember. Katherine, I’m sorry for the bad experiences you’ve had with priests. I hope you’ll remember we are human and can give us another chance.

  5. I was helped to read Fr AH’s comment. I just celebrated 25 years of priesthood and at times have been so totally overwhelmed by so many good people that phone calls and emails and every other way people have reached out to me have at times gone unanswered for a while and I know some were never answered. It’s discouraging then to read complaints such as the one made above. I don’t know what else to say, other than we are human and overworked and doing the best we can and I can only hope that the Lord is more understanding than some of His people. (Thanks for listening.)

    1. Fr JM, I don’t know how you guys do it all…and honestly, you can. By the grace of God… Prayers for you and thank you so much for your ministry and dedication. May Our Mother hold you close and keep you from giving in to discouragement!

    2. Please people remember the volume of email that most of us receive. If something is important, send it twice. Send it a third time with a note that it is a third request. If not returned, maybe the email address is wrong. If you have made contact numerous times and then nothing is returned, then indeed look in the mirror. No one is obliged, even priests, to be at the mercy of requests for one’s time or attention.

  6. Sarah, thank you for a wonderful post! I have a thing for priests too, and when my brother was ordained I decided to pray consistently for priests. Our priests need our prayers more than ever now, and we especially need to pray for them if they anger or disappoint us.

    Any prayer is good and necessary, but I also want to tell you about some free (seriously) Rosary and Stations of the Cross books and CD’s from Maria Regina Cleri that can help you pray for priests and vocations. You can check them out at prayingforourpriests.org.

  7. I agree that having seminarians around does help me to realize the humanness of all priests. Now in my early 50′s, I remind myself how very young these men (priests and sems) are and cut them some slack for not being as “perfect” as I would like. It is a very good thing to ponder the fact that priests are fallible human beings, just like we are, and they need our prayers, understanding, love, and forgiveness.

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