Monday, June 19, 2006

Blessed Burnout

Hi Folks

Today I'm setting out on a little mental ramble around ministry, committment, and burnout.

It's that time of the year. People are looking at what sort of responsibilities they want to place on themselves or divest themselves of for the coming year.

At least that's how it is in a parish.

Our parish is small and highly mobile. Every Fall there is a scramble to fill those last remaining vacancies in ministry positions which weren't filled in the Spring when people who had held them started to move away.

And every year there are the guilty feelings that come when you realize that there are some people you only WISH would move away. But that's another thing entirely.

So often within a parish (and I can't think of a single one, in my experience, which has been different) many jobs fall on few shoulders.

Some people are just better at assessing their own circumstances and knowing when to say 'no'. Some people just don't wish to be involved...sigh.

And some people just love what they do so much that it overwhelms them and they say yes to everything and everyone...sigh.

Some people might be able to handle this. Retired people...single people...sometimes. But most of us cannot although we may try!

It is so hard to say 'no' to a good cause.

But even work for Christ will be too much if it's not where God really wants you to be. If it IS where God wants you to be, He'll give you what you need to make it happen. Maybe superhuman strength and endurance. Maybe great delegating skills. It's His call.

Discernment is something many of us are not very good at. Discernment is the ability (in this context anyway) to decide with God's guidance, which step we are to take next.

If that should sound easy, I assure you it is not. How do you know when God has spoken? You don't, ultimately. You may actually 'hear' a voice. You may 'feel' an answer. Someone may come to you with a proposition that just screams out that it's your answer. Your answer may come in the form of spiritual direction. You may not feel or experience anything at all. God might just be leaving the decision entirely to you.

If things seem to work out fairly well, that might be confirmation you've made the correct choice. But having things become difficult can be a sign you're on the right path too...If a parish has been used to doing something incorrectly for a long time, there WILL be resistance to change, even if that change is, ultimately, good. If you are following Church directions, you are almost certainly on the right track.

One thing I have seen happen is when things always seem to go VERY well, all the time. This can be a sign that something is very wrong. Fulton Sheen, quoting someone named Finney Peter Dunne said that religion should "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable". If that be the case, it would seem that someone will always be in some amount of distress on account of ones efforts in ministry.

It's dealing with this that can contribute to burnout.

A wise priest I once knew told me, shortly after I began my liturgy studies, that as I was learning, I would seek change...and that I would encounter resistance. He was surely correct on both accounts. At times I even challenged him, respectfully of course.

Sometimes, at this time of the year, the wisest thing for a person to do is to take time off...This gives one a chance to rest and review ones accomplishments. It also gives others a chance to develop and hone their skills as they replace you.

One of the hardest things to do is to watch something you've worked hard to accomplish fade away, because no one, or maybe no one with your particular skill set, steps in to fill a leadership void.

Ah, humility. Things come and go. God alone is eternal. Our efforts will not last forever. Sometimes they don't even last a year.

Such is life in ministry in a highly mobile parish. Discern your call anyway!

God Bless

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