Because They Ask For Concrete Things


Those who work in ministry can sometimes suffer from pastoral fatigue.  It is usually an effect (and symptom) of inconstancy and spiritual apathy.  Doing justice by God’s faithful people means being ever constant in pastoral ministry.  It means responding eagerly to people’s sometimes tiring requests to be anointed (touched) by God at any moment—through blessings, words, and sacraments. It’s curious but true: the faithful wear us out because they ask for concrete things… The pastoral work in our parishes has nothing of fantasy; it is very concrete.  It demands reflection, intellectual effort, and prayer, but the greatest amount of time must be spent basically in doing “works of charity.”

–Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (now Pope Francis), Open Mind, Faithful Heart, Ch. 4

Children demand concrete things.  Parents provide them.  That’s what parents do.

It can be wearing.  From 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. my children need things that only my physical presence provides: food, clothing, attention, activity, love.

At this very moment, my daughter is in my arms, having just nursed.  The smell of sour milk wafts up from a damp spot of baby yack on my shoulder.  Typing is a bit difficult under the circumstances.

Fatigue.  An effect and symptom of inconstancy and spiritual apathy.

And if it’s not the children, it’s the house: I glance toward the living room, and four baskets of laundry stare back, waiting to be folded.

And if it’s not the house, it’s something or someone else.  With the demand for concrete things, I do wear out.  The pace of life can feel frenetic, off-kilter.  I wonder when I last spent time alone in prayer, in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and realize I cannot remember.

Fatigue.  An effect and symptom of inconstancy and spiritual apathy.

Then I remember.   Joy.

It’s a grace.  Ask, and you shall receive.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”