Word Magazine January 1991 Page 12 – 13
A CRY FOR COOPERATION
by Dr Peter M. Kalellis
“In Search of Solutions”
Part I of a four-part series
During the last forty years, the particular stresses to which priests have been subjected have taken their toil in drastic forms. Many priests have died prematurely — some have committed suicide; others have divorced their wives, or their wives have divorced them. And many, many clergymen live a life of quiet discontent, followed by their neglected families in search of a better future that never comes. Although this state of affairs has been, and continues to be a lamentable loss for the Church and a painful situation for the priestly family, little or nothing has been done to provide some comfort or even some precautionary guidance to help rectify such a position.
A profound look at the priests and khoureeyes of our Orthodox parishes in North America indicates a downward drift toward physical, emotional and spiritual exhaustion. In some of our parishes, burned-out priests and khoureeyes wander directionless, feeling frustrated and guilty about their loss of enthusiasm. Some blame themselves, others blame their congregations, still others blame church leaders for their “I don’t care” outlook.
“The day has come;’ claims Bishop Maximos of the Pittsburgh Diocese, “when the spirit no longer needs to continue in such tyranny, feeling abandoned. And we all have felt abandoned and directionless to some extent. Christian existence requires that full attention be given to the appropriate place for a strong and healthy body, strong and healthy emotions, a strong and healthy reason, a strong and healthy imagination, a strong and healthy will, besides a strong and healthy spirit. Priests and khoureeyes are entitled to all these qualities. We need no “suffering
servants” to minister to the community. We need strong and healthy and emotionally fulfilled priests and clergy wives to proclaim the powerful message of the Gospel, to propagate the treasures of Orthodoxy?”
His words are followed by works. Bishop Maximos, a priest of priests to the very core of his heart, is highly sensitive to the needs of the priest and his family. He sits with them and with full empathy discusses their problems. His time and love know no limits. He wants to be a part of the priestly family. He grew up with one – his father is still serving as a priest on the island of Chios, Greece.
Every year, Bishop Maximos invites the priests and presvyteres of his Diocese to a three-day workshop. Spiritual, psychological, administrative problems and family discomforts are extensively discussed. In 1984, I was invited to conduct the clergy workshop which was held in Columbus, Ohio. Approximately fifty priests and presvyteres participated. His Grace, Bishop Timothy of Detroit, encouraged his clergy to attend this workshop. A priest and his wife came all the way from Canada. Another couple drove for eight hours to attend the workshop.
It is our unique honor and pleasure to highlight, for your interest, the themes of the workshop; future issues of this magazine will contain further installments. We shall waive details of the outstanding hospitality that was so creatively and generously provided by the Greek Orthodox Community of Columbus, Ohio, under the capable direction of Fr. Anthony Sarris and his presvytera, Marie.
The first day was invested in a most encouraging endeavor: training the participants how to prepare couples for marriage. The material used, Preparing for Marriage, is the first volume of the series, Marriage in the Orthodox Church, by Dr. Peter M. Kalellis who also authored a Guide to accompany the book — a step-by-step aid for those who intend to do premarital counseling. Priests and presvyteres were very excited about this project and manifested an eagerness to help candidates for marriage in any way possible.
Bishop Maximos presented the group with Holy Matrimony, the second volume of the series Marriage in the Orthodox Church, and expressed his enthusiasm over Dr. Kalellis’s unique undertaking and of his production of two handsome volumes within the same year. Some priests encouraged Dr. Kalellis to continue with the writing of the postmarital counseling material. Others suggested that, besides the printed word, audio-cassettes would be invaluable. “The work is in progress,” Dr. Kalellis replied. “Many of you know me — since 1952, I have been writing and producing educational material for the Orthodox Church. I’m a doer. I don’t believe in the expression, ‘we will do things in the future.’ The future is now, today. ‘Give us this day our daily bread,’ says the Lord. So, within my capabilities, I shall work today diligently in the educational ministry of the Church, but I need your cooperation.”
The clergy cooperated unconditionally; each one took back to his parish twenty copies of each volume.
Having invested twenty-two years in the parish ministry Dr. Kalellis spoke with both conviction and compassion.
When you are assigned to a parish, the expectations are imminent:
You will, as the pastor, be a model of Christian behavior. You will, as the priest, perform the Liturgy on Sundays as elegantly and as quickly as possible, preach the Gospel message as briefly as you can, and keep everyone happy. You will, as a priest, perform the sacraments, meeting the needs of the parishioners — visit the sick, comfort the afflicted, make house calls, raise funds, solicit handsome donations for new buildings.
You will, as an educator, provide curriculum for all ages and tend to the educational needs of your congregation. Your family is your business, but, as a priest, make sure it is a model of a truly Christian family. No harsh words or unloving acts may take place between you, your wife and your children.
Khoureeyes will be regular in attendance at Sunday Services and all community functions. She will provide leadership for our women’s organizations and set an example as wife and mother for all the ladies of the Church. She will be a gracious hostess on all occasions, including those when the Primate, the Archbishop or the Bishop visit the parish, and when entertainment is provided for the congregation.
Khoureeye and her priest husband will demonstrate to the congregation HOW children should be brought up, and their children will serve as models of good behavior in the Church and in the community.
If priest and khoureeye faithfully fulfill these expectations, we, the congregation, will love you.
Having examined the above, we are able to list some of the disadvantages in the priestly marriage:
Pressure to live up to the image other people have of the priest and his family.
Awareness by the priest and his family that they are being constantly observed.
Awareness by the priest and his wife that they are always expected to be a model couple.
Congregation has expectations about the behavior of the priest.
Unreal expectations of the laity about the behavior of the priestly family.
We could go on listing more disadvantages, but what purpose would that serve? We know there is pressure.
Let us look briefly at attitudes.
1. Traditional Attitudes
There was a time when the father was an authoritarian figure who made all major decisions and felt responsible for the behavior and well-being of the family members.
When Joshua declared to the assembled leaders of Israel: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” he did not mean he had discussed the matter with his wife and children, and that they had come to a point of decision. He had simply decided for them. That was his duty and his right, (Joshua 24:15b).
Until yesterday, in our seminary the themes that were eloquently developed were zeal, piety, humility, and prudence. If, therefore, ‘a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the Church of God?’, (1 Timothy 3:12).
Although contemporary clergy are not subjected to such strict rules, it seems that the same basic concept —that there is one standard for the priestly family and another for the laity — still survives.
2. Traditional Attitudes to the Priest’s Wife
Lucille Lavender’s book, They Cry, Too!, summarizes what a minister’s wife should be:
“A minister’s wife should be attractive, but not too attractive; have nice clothes, but not too nice; have a nice basic hair-do, but not too nice; be friendly, but not too friendly; be aggressive, but not too aggressive; greet everyone, especially visitors; intelligent, but not too intelligent; educated, but not too educated; down-to-earth, but not too much so; capable, but not too capable; charming, but not too charming.”
There can be no doubt that a khoureeye is expected to be different. She is expected to undertake certain duties, and if she does, she is criticized for wanting to be under the spotlight. If she doesn’t, then she is accused of lack of interest. Ruth Levi, a rabbi’s wife, vividly illustrates the way in which carping criticism can be directed against a clergy wife.
“If she is brilliant or militant or persuaded of her ability to be a leader, she is likely to be considered forward, aggressive; if she is timid, hesitant, or just convinced that it is wiser that only her husband’s voice should be raised in the marketplace, she will be called stupid or lacking in initiative. If she is lovely to look upon — she will be said to be frivolous; if she considers extreme stylishness trivial and unworthy of the time it requires, her critics will pronounce her dowdy “old-timey” “obsolete.”
With such perceptions, it is wise for the priest and his wife to make sure that they know where the expectations and criticisms are coming from. No one has the right to define you, the priest, or you, the khoureeye. You have to develop your own definition — your own priestly identity — otherwise, you will be victimized. (To be continued)
Dr Peter M. Kalellis is the director and founder of the Human Growth Center in Westfield, New Jersey. He is a member of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of the Americas.