June 15, 2013

The Difficulties of Pastoral Work

The following was written within the context of the Church of Greece today, but many parts of this apply universally as well. After all, people are basically the same.

By Protopresbyter Dionysios Tatsis

Clergy in the province are well aware of their parishioners. They are in daily communication with them, sometimes agreeing and sometimes disagreeing on various issues. Above all they know if a church member has limited their churchgoing to two or three times a year. Also, clerics have come in contact with foreigners of other religions, who in the last twenty years have flooded our country, creating small and great problems. In most cases foreigners coexist with locals and they work hard to live. Of course they are not part of the Orthodox fold, but as poor distressed people they have need of the love of Christians and not to exploit them in various ways or threaten them. Clergy in these cases react in favor on the part of foreigners in these cases, though it may seem strange to unfair and exploitative Christians who prove to be ruthless when it comes to defending their interests.

Clergy find daily that their parishioners have no conscious faith nor effective working relationship with the life of the Church. In this way they do not differ much from the foreigners! They look like they are numb. Their indifference is challenging and their behavior inexplicable. They live in the indolence of a sterile tradition. As much kindness that you show them, no matter how much good intention you have towards them, as much love you manifest to them, they always remain the same.

One can easily divide today's Christians into four groups, among which they have naturally partitioned. Indeed, the clergy who know their parishioners very well, accept that there are four groups, although they are expected to "generally love" everyone. In the first group belong the faithful, who have a tight relationship with the Church and participate in her Mysteries. In the second belong those who have a loose and formal relationship with the Church without being influenced by the teaching and they have become fully secularized. To the third group belong the indifferent, that is, those who are not interested in the existence of the Church, which they consider a remnant of the past and useless for our time. Finally, the fourth group belong by conviction to being rivals of the Church.

The great majority of people belong to the second and third groups with the generic characteristic of having a secular mindset, which, as a wall, is nestled between them and the Church. I could liken them to farmed land that needs to be nurtured carefully to ensure a spiritual flourishing. For this difficult work we need worthy priests, who will work with holy zeal and dedication to the glory of God alone.

Source: Orthodoxos Typos, June, 7, 2013. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.