Presvytera Vassi Makris Haros is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Art, Architecture & Planning and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. She is the owner, designer and photographer of V’s Cardbox, In Service and Love. a greeting card company featuring cards with an Orthodox voice. She strongly feels that experiencing the Orthodox Faith through the church’s cyclical calendar of feasts and fasts is a gift that is too often overlooked.
October is Clergy Appreciation Month!
It’s like Father’s Day, but not really. On Father’s Day we show appreciation for our fathers (and father figures) who have guided and loved us through all our faults and graces. They love us because of the sincere and intimate relationships we have with them: we come from their gene pool, they encourage us to persevere, or they protect us from the world. Our fathers deserve the day of recognition for the sacrifices they make out of love and obligation.
Do we need a Clergy Appreciation Month? It can be challenging to say “thank you” to clergy because we might not see clergy as people who genuinely love us. For some people, the fact that the church signs a check for the priest’s salary implies that the priest has to love them. “It’s their job.” They have to come to the hospital in the middle of the night. “It’s their job.” They have to listen to our burdens until we find peace. “It’s their job.” The truth is, the love a priest has for his parishioners is a gift from God. Most clergy are willing and enthusiastic to go above and beyond the “call of duty” to care for parishioners entrusted to their care. They respond to a calling from our Creator, not a paycheck. Their love is genuine, not serviced.
As a result of this noble impulse, clergy live a sacrificial life. The following quote is from an article, Toward a Better Understanding of Our Priests and Presvyteres, written by George Stavros, the executive director of the Danielsen Institute at Boston University. I encourage you to read the full article published in the July-August 2015 Edition of the Orthodox Observer.
Pastoral ministry can be extraordinarily rewarding and fulfilling. And, pastoral ministry is difficult. This reality is supported by a growing body of social science research. Drs. Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell and Sarah LeGrand, as part of the Clergy Health Initiative at Duke University, found that clergy suffer from higher rates of hypertension, obesity, depression, arthritis, and asthma than do most other Americans. Multiple studies across numerous Christian communities show clergy are frequently stressed by many factors, including long work hours, difficult work-family boundaries, interpersonal conflicts within their parishioners, excessive paperwork, abrupt relocations, and perceived lack of support from their communities.
Think for a moment of the clergy who have made a difference in your life. Don’t think of the ones who may have failed you. Perhaps they were struggling with things we could never understand. But think instead of the people God brought to you to help you heal, grow, mature, love, and forgive. Think of the men who made sure there were services and sacraments available to us. Think of the ones who sat with you for hours until you were ok. Do you have someone in mind? Now go! Go and show them your appreciation. Send a card with a note of thanks. Take them out to lunch. Be on time for Liturgy this Sunday. Pray for them. Let them know you appreciate what they are doing for your community. Surely they are doing something well, even if it’s just one thing. If you can’t think of a priest, look for your baptismal certificate and thank the priest who baptized you.
Not sure how to pray for a priest, perhaps the prayers from his ordination will inspire you. Here is an ordination prayer of the bishop:
O God, great in might and inscrutable in wisdom, marvelous in counsel above the sons of men: You the same Lord, fill with the gift of Your Holy Spirit this man whom it has pleased You to advance to the degree of Priest; that he may become worthy to stand in innocence before Your altar, to proclaim the Gospel of Your kingdom, to minister the word of Your truth, to offer to You spiritual gifts and sacrifices; to renew Your people through the font of regeneration, that when he shall go to meet You, at the second coming of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, Your only-begotten Son, he may receive the reward of good stewardship in the order given to him, through the plenitude of Your goodness.
It’s ok to pray for your priest. You can pray the Jesus Prayer. Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on Your servant. Or use the prayer from the Liturgical litany For our Archbishop (Name), the honorable presbyters, the deacons in the service of Christ, and all the clergy and laity, let us pray to the Lord. Prayer is always good. It would be the best gift you could offer.
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