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How to be a good priest

Jeffrey Bruno

Katrina Fernandez - published on 08/23/16

Katrina Fernandez "fixes it for you" with advice to a seminarian


I am studying theology right now in India and am going to be a priest in a few years. According to you, what is expected from Catholic priests? I have read your articles on receiving Communion unworthily and thought them excellent.

Also can you give some practical guidelines to young priests on how to learn and love the dogmas of the church.



Dear G.C.,

You ask some interesting questions and I’ll do my best to answer. You want to know what I expect from priests. I expect spiritual fatherhood.

When you think about fathers you think about the provider and protector of the family. A father is someone who provides identity to his family — his wife and children take his last name. He is strong — physically, mentally, emotionally or some combination of those. A father’s duty is to his family, putting their needs before his own.  

Apply those same principles to a priest.  

A priest provides the sacraments and protects the Church. A priest upholds the Catholic traditions (traditions with a capital “T” and lower case “t”) that maintain our Catholic identity.  A priest’s duty is to God, the Church, and his congregation, putting their needs before his own.

I expect priests to lead.

Learning to love the teachings and dogmas of the Church will help you lead, but learning to love things we may not fully understand is a lifelong process.   

You only learn to love something when you recognize the truth in it. Think about all the times in your life when your parents or some other authority figure enforced rules that you thought unfair or unnecessary at the time. Then when you grew up, you saw wisdom in their rules. Those rules served a purpose unrecognizable to you in your youth.  

I have no doubt that as you immerse yourself deeper into your theological studies and gain more knowledge, you will gradually grow to love Church teaching more and more. You’ll learn to love it over and over again as you see its wisdom play out in your life and the lives of the members of your congregation.

Love is also an action and an act of will. Your faith has led you to recognize that the Catholic Church is the one true Church. That combination of faith and knowledge will come to fruition as love for Church teaching. You obviously already love the Church because you want to serve God by serving His Church; it only follows that over time you will love all the teachings and dogmas as well.

And even if you don’t right away, or continue struggling to accept them, you wouldn’t be alone. Whenever we are tempted, following and accepting the rules becomes a struggle. No one is immune from temptation, not even the saints. Let your faith take over in moments of waning love and obedience, and don’t panic when that love wanes. Everything, even love, ebbs and flows.   

You and all your fellow seminarians will be in my prayers.  

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