Sunday, July 2, 2017

Clergy burnout? Totally your fault.

An Orthodox Spiritual Response to Clergy Burnout by Bishop Thomas and Peter Schweitzer on the Antiochian website. My commentary, as always, is in blue.

( - In my last article, I wrote about the faithful participation in the life of Christ and what that entails on a practical level. In this present paper, I hope with God’s help to address the issue in terms of our beloved clergy. In the last paper, I made a distinction between being at church and being in church. On the surface, this distinction does not hold for our clergy by the fact of their ordination. We must necessarily be in church leading the services. However, the words of our Lord Jesus Christ come to mind, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” (Matthew 15:8) There is a temptation for clergy and faithful alike to be physically present for services while their hearts remain cold and hardened.

In the last few decades, the topic of clergy burnout has been much discussed and analyzed, even in the Orthodox Church. Prior to writing this article, I spent some time doing research on the subject and found some interesting if not troubling tendencies. When the topic of clergy burnout was broached, the authors (save a very few exceptions) employed examples of secular life from movies, television, and contemporary culture. In identifying the problems that typically led to burnout, at least according to these authors, the issues raised were often the same ones that one might find in a stressful secular job or in a corporate boardroom—power struggles, administrative issues, lack of recognition, or lack of pay or vacation time. In other words, the burnout was associated with a lack of satisfaction with the “job.” As one might expect, the solutions to this lack of satisfaction were rooted in modern psychology.

In my years as a bishop and a priest, my experience has been quite different. I am not questioning the existence of the phenomenon of burnout per se—it exists and I have witnessed it, sadly. However, my experience of the problem has been quite different from what I described in the preceding paragraph. I have witnessed good and sincere clergy who are worn out and have expressed what others call “burnout.” They were serving at the Holy Altar but they remained preoccupied with the administration of the parish or the daily needs of their parishioners. They had come to view their “real work” as something other than the divine services. When there is open hostility, financial woes that threaten keeping the doors open, and even hierarchical support not for the priest but for lay factions within a parish, these an other issues are very real and can't be ignored or made insignificant by celebrating services. The angry call from parishioners, the bills, and the divisiveness are all there waiting for the priest when the service ends. You don't need secular psychological terminology to explain that tense and adversarial relationships breed stress.
In most instances, such a perception was never verbalized. Most of them would not have even been aware of it. Please know that I am writing about good men who gradually found that their priorities had shifted and I am not judging them. The constant pull of the secular world had gradually eroded their original conviction that the only work that truly matters is the holy divine services.

If personal prayer, continual repentance, and the liturgical life of the Church, are not the primary manner in which our lives are defined, we may easily adopt secular attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors. Father Petroniu Tanase, former abbot of the Skete of the Forerunner on Mount Athos, noted, “Everything we receive, we see, we hear leaves some marks…. Because you go on the road and see a filthiness [dirtiness]… and without your will, you do not think about it… but the dirt left a stain on you… Farther on, someone is quarreling, you hear some bad words, dirty, swear words…. You do not agree with them, but they remained in your soul…. To remove them, that means apatheia [absence of passions], to be without passion, that is the evil no longer impress you… to remove them is very difficult.” The removal of these stains is not accomplished through administrative work but only through the ascetical practices found in the services of the Church. The divine services are seemingly taking on the role of a panacea. I have a priest friend who is celebrating services in a parish with a leaky roof. The parishioners are arguing weekly about how to fix it and the water still comes in when it rains. No amount of daily services is going to take away the stress of the ceiling caving in on the altar. The pastoral role extends beyond the services as is evinced by all the work the Assembly of Bishops is doing that has nothing at all to do with services, but it constantly described as essential and important work. If the services were of primary importance in a real arch-pastoral way there would be even a modicum of movement from the episcopal committees charged with dealing with the topic. Certainly corporate and private prayer is the essential part of the life of an Orthodox Christian, but these services do not in themselves solve every problem. I served occasionally at a mission with large financial problems where many of the people believed that attending services and praying would allow the Holy Spirit to solve their issues. They didn't want to hold meetings or answer the tough, real questions. "The Holy Spirit will provide" was their mantra. That mission no longer exists and the priests involved all experienced some measure of being burned out by the experience.

The Church provides us with examples of a well-ordered life in the lives of the saints. For example St. Mary of Egypt struggled in the desert for forty-seven years, seventeen of which she endured tremendous temptation and suffering. When she recognized the passions welling up in her, she threw herself on the ground, asking for God’s mercy. Rather than imitating her example, we may be tempted to look for comfort by watching too much television or spend time surfing the internet instead of praying. We justify the behavior by telling ourselves we need to unwind and relax. This can happen to any of us whether we are clergy or laity, if our moorings are not firmly tied to the liturgical and spiritual life of the Church. So the answer to stress is more services or more deeply entering into those services?

Once we have become unmoored, we have a tendency to blame all types of external factors for our state in life. The sad fact is that we have all become soft. We desire an easy Christianity without a cross and without ascetic struggle. Saint Seraphim of Sarov was once asked: “How do our times differ from those of the first Christians?” Saint Seraphim replied that we do not share their resolve to follow Christ everywhere and at all times, to be with Him alone until the end. How does telling people they are "soft" help them? It's an unnecessary insult. Priests have families to cherish, facilities to keep up, and laity to care for. We can't feed our children stones when they ask for bread. So when they ask for help they don't need to be told to harden up, but to be strengthened.

Before I address the Patristic solution there is another problem that must be addressed. When the clergy notice such symptoms welling up within them, they turn to counselors, psychologists or psychiatrists for assistance. I am not saying that this is bad per se. However, unless the counselors share a vibrant Orthodox faith and are steeped in the teachings of the Fathers, how could they possibly be expected to properly diagnose a spiritual issue? Would you visit a veterinarian if you broke a bone? Of course not! Caution is necessary for what may appear to the secular mind as manifestations of burnout, may be the passions warring within us. The presenting symptoms are similar and only an experienced spiritual guide is able to discern the difference. The Holy Fathers are and will forever remain the preeminent physicians of the human soul. Allow me to cite one example. Boston University psychologist George Stavros, Ph.D., found that those who prayed the Jesus Prayer for ten minutes a day for thirty days found a significant reduction in depression, anxiety, hostility, and feelings of inferiority to others.[i]

Providentially, there is always a way back to the Father’s house. We do not have to continue to seek that which is lacking from the husks that the swine eat (Luke 15:16). During Great Lent of 2017, His Grace Bishop Irenei (Steenberg) offered a deeply moving and spiritually insightful talk to the ROCOR hierarchs and clergy entitled, “The Cry of the Humbled Heart—the Ascetical Significance of the Great Canon.” I would highly recommend it for your edification, especially if you are struggling with the issues I’ve broached in this article. In his meditation, His Grace explains the circumstances concerning which the Great Canon was composed.

“Something particularly relevant for our understanding of the Canon however, but without which we cannot understand the Canon, took place in the year 712. A ‘robber council’ was held, in which the decrees of the Sixth Ecumenical Council—where again, St. Andrew had been present in an official capacity—the decrees of the Council and the Council as a whole were rejected as the Devil attempted to strike a blow against the Church’s confession of truth in the face of the heresy of Monothelitism.

Saint Andrew, for reasons that we do not fully understand, took part in this robber council, accepted it, and endorsed its heretical rejections of Constantinople III. What stirred St. Andrew to this rebellion against the Faith we simply do not know; he was not the only bishop to do so. What we do know is that the following year, in 713, he came to himself, he repented of his error, and was received back into the fullness of Orthodoxy.”[ii]

The Great Canon is the fruit of Saint Andrew’s repentance. As His Grace noted, the Canon is not a treatise but a heartfelt cry from the depths of his heart. His Grace continued,

“We have to remember that great tragedy of his life. Only a few years before—we don't know the exact year of his death—but it's possible he died as early as 726, which would mean he had fewer than fourteen years of life between his betrayal of God and the Faith and the Church at the robber council, and his subsequent repentance, and ultimately his repose. And it is in this context—of a man who had ascended from the sorry lot of a mute child to the highest offices of Imperial Orthodoxy; from the status of an unknown to the pastor of thousands of souls, who had nevertheless denied his Savior in the most vile of ways, yet had been rescued from his error by that same God and called back to His service—that St. Andrew pens the Great Canon.

That is to say, his Canon of Repentance was not a theoretical work of a writer trying to explore themes that he felt were important for dogmatic or principled reasons.

The Great Canon is a cry of an anguished heart. Saint Andrew had been lifted up by God far beyond anything he could have deserved or expected and still he had rejected Him. He had received grace upon grace, and then he had spurned the Giver of grace. And then, in an act of redemption over which St. Andrew clearly spent the rest of his life in utter awe, the same Lord he had rejected and spurned received him back. I do not think it's too dramatic to say that this experience radically altered St. Andrew's life, his thought, and his spiritual vision.”

While burnout was not the cause that distanced St. Andrew from the Lord, his response provides us with clues as to the way out of this morass. The fundamental diagnosis is the same even though the presenting symptoms are different. The cure is also the same—heartfelt repentance. Such repentance can only be found in prayer. Burned out? Repent you softie!

I am not speaking about the obligatory prayers of the Sunday services. I am referring to a way of life centered on prayer that will lead us to continual repentance, making real in our own lives the admonition of St. Paul to pray unceasingly (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This will not happen overnight but we must make the effort. Struggle is required in order to soften our hardened hearts. Once the heart is softened through a good confession and a renewed commitment to prayer, the prayers that we recite so often come alive for us. The Six Psalms become our conversation with Almighty God, alternating between an acknowledgment of our pitiful state and God’s abiding love. Through such ascetical practices, the heart is transformed so that we live a life of constant and continual repentance. The holy monks on Mount Athos refer to this as “joyful sorrow.”

Returning to the life of St. Andrew, His Grace provided us with another insightful spiritual pearl that, God willing, may assist those who suffer from the symptoms of burnout. Saint Andrew composed the Canon in order to rekindle repentance within his heart. He feared forgetting his fall and moving on from it. He didn’t want to forget because he recognized that it was precisely that which brought about his repentance and return to his Father’s house. (As a side note, contemporary secular practitioners would counsel just the opposite approach. We must move on and put what is in the past, in the past. Saint Andrew, however, possessed a Patristic mindset and knew better.)

“It was that tragedy that altered St. Andrew's heart. Out of a dogmatist, it created a hymnographer; out of a career cleric, a witness; not just a preacher, but a witness of repentance. But that tragedy and its resolution led to another great tragedy in St. Andrew’s life, one that he appears to have even less understood, one he could not explain. In the face of all the grace that his soul had experienced, of all that he had concretely and experientially come to know, the inexplicable happened within him: his soul seemed to forget. He did not forget, not intellectually, not historically, but that was precisely what tormented St. Andrew. He could remember his fall; he could remember the Lord's mercy, and yet deep within him, in the inner recesses of his heart, his soul seemed not to remember to repent, to carry on with a life of repentance. He could tell himself to do so, but his soul didn't seem to listen.”[iii]

When our hearts become dry and hardened, the example of Saint Andrew provides a curative example of what our next step should be. Rather than plunging further into administrative duties or extra-spiritual work, we renew the commitment to the prayer rule. If we remain steadfast and committed to this, we will find prayer an infinite oasis of nourishment, rest, and comfort. The long services will become transforming and an opportunity for personal refreshment rather than an arduous obligation. Once again, His Grace gives us an example in how the Divine Scriptures become alive for us.

“David repents, to show me repentance. The command to clear the Promised Land of the Canaanite tribes is a command for my ascesis, to clear the promised land of my heart from every sin and passion. The parting of the Red Sea is the path of my salvation, demonstrating how and by what means, namely Holy Baptism, I should be let out of bondage and into the fullness of life. And so I look at their story and I see my own. Abel, Cain, Noah, Uzziah, Lamech, David, Solomon, even Pharaoh—they are all me. Their stories are mine—at least in part—and again, this is not because they are mere metaphors or, God forbid the thought!—simply non-historical allegories. They are real people. But the One Body of Christ extends across the whole of History, and I gradually learn that my life is tied together with theirs, and theirs reveals mine. I can learn from their mistakes, because their mistakes are alive in my heart, and I can learn from their repentance, because that, too, is available to me, if only I would rise up and seize it.[iv]

A life lived in repentance is the only life worth living. We will find that the old, secular bromides such as “You deserve to be happy” or “You deserve to be recognized” will be understood for what they are, panaceas that destroy the spiritual life. Repentance is the antidote to all the passions and has the transformative power to make us true disciples of Christ. Repentance transforms our hearts and our minds, healing the nous, so that we see ourselves as God sees us—fellow workers in the Lord’s vineyard rather than competitors with our brother clergy; servants and fathers to the spiritual children the Lord Jesus has entrusted us. Perhaps, most significantly, we will find the peace, joy, and love which we seek. In this scenario, burnout is a non sequitur.

My prayer for you is the prayer of St. Paul for his children in Christ: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2)

[i] Stavros, George. Spirituality and Health: The Soul/Body Connection. Winter 1999.


[iii] Ibid

[iv] Ibid


  1. I agree with the author. And it follows too, that we need to avoid complaining and be thankful during our trials.

  2. 'Course it's not your fault. God gave you the priesthood, the people to care for, the building and financial obligations. You're the victim here. You have a right to be angry. Repentance is irrelevant. Just keep telling yourself that. BTW, the Jesus Prayer is vain repetition!

  3. That's right, Ms. Liberal! If you really believe what you have written above, I feel sorry for you. You appear to believe you know more than Saints of the Orthodox Church.
    We should all realize one thing. The Church doesn't need us. It is we who are in need of the Church! May God help you to see this!

  4. I'm sorry to be harsh, but I'm not going to stand for someone trashing the Sacrecent of Confession and the Jesus Prayer. I've seen bullies like that lady attack priests because they denied her boy communion. The boy in question might have been 40 plus, but was either married to an unbaptised person or to another man. So the priest in question was acting per order of his bishop. That didn't stop the harassment of his family. One priest made a costly unnecessary move to get away from the foolishness and his wife promptly died from the stress of moving. If Ms. Julie is Orthodox and really feels what she writes, I echo the words of the late Merle Haggard,"If you don't love it, leave it!"

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  6. Wow, as an Antiochian I am stunned. We live in community. We worship an Incarnate God. He does provide but we have to do the work to be open to His Providence.

    We have to be giving thanks and offering our lives on a daily basis.

    Small communities can be hell.It is easy to look for a scapegoat and it is often the priest.

    May be an apocraphal, but there is a story if my bishop visiting a parish where there was strife. As the Body and Blood were being served the parishoners all lined up to receive from the Bishop. The Bishop immediately covered the Chalice and announced that if they would not receive from their priest, they would not receive from him.

    So, if the people are not offering and receiving it is grossly unfair, uncharitable and wrong to say the fault is all his.

    Anaxios to that way of thinking.

    Certainly there are disfunctional priests, I lived under one and the parish he directed is still recovering over 20 years later.

    However it was not all his fault. The parish has a history of disfunctional prieats--gotta wonder.

    May God provide for all of His priests and the parishes they serve. We need to take care of each other.

  7. Michael, thanks to you and your bishop, I have gained respect for the Antiochian church. I had to respond to Julie because her extremist statements give fodder to nutcases like Misha who posts on Monomakhos.

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  9. Bishop Thomas is a good hierarch. However, I'm not entirely in agreement with this. There are a few phenomena that ought to be explained first to make his theory plausible.

    1) Priest-Eating Parishes: there are parishes that regularly break the clergy sent to them. Is it just coincidence that these parishes seem to host 'softy' priests? Or, can circumstances push a priest beyond what a 'normal' spiritual life can provide?

    2) Pastoral Care of Clergy: the Church assumes that monks, even such lofty ones as St. Andrew of Crete, are under spiritual care. If a priest begins to experience burn-out, shouldn't the person responsible for the priest's spiritual care intervene?

    This essay seems to have a bit of "physician heal thyself" to it. To me, this contradicts what I was taught about how spirituality works. Clergy burn-out largely comes about because priests go virtually unsupervised in the most important parts of their ministries. Sure, you can look at finances and service schedules or rubrics as important areas for bishops to supervise, but how about whether a priest is showing *early* signs of burn-out? Do bishops know what to look for?

    I would have been much more interested had this article actually explained how Bishop Thomas has helped priests, or even a single priest, overcome burn-out through his suggested course of action.

    In my own case, I took a slightly different path. Not out of the woods yet, but things are looking up. At least I got my hope back.

    1. from what I read here and there it's hierarchy and, to lesser degree, other priests that make a priest burn out and leave priesthood in most cases

    2. It is hard to say just from anecdotes. Since a large number of my classmates from seminary have been deposed, I would say there is a problem that needs to be investigated. Some years' back, someone I know proposed studying depositions in North America as part of a DMin project. The idea was universally rejected as 'too controversial' by all of the jurisdictions which were approached for records. Unless the bishops agree to examine the problem, I don't think we will ever know.

    3. Fr. George, may God continue to guide and heal you.

      That the term "Priest eating parishes" even exists is a sorry commentary on we lay folks and the hierarchy.

      Father, I have long felt that part of the problem is in how we tend to perceive hierarchy. In some cases "important" people in the parish look on the priest as a hired hand there to do their will.

      Other times the priest is resented as there to tell folks what to do.

      Both miss the point and make the interdependence of obediance impossible.

      I think it much healthier if we could have what I call nested hierarchy. It is an hierarchy which rests in and exercises authority in mutual love and respect focused on the true head, Jesus Christ.

      For hierarchy to function properly, the hierarch(priest or bishop) must be a part of the community--nested in it. The laity must also recognize that, although a part of the community,the priest and Bishop are also set apart without severing the connection. Only in that way, relying on God's grace can we bear one another's burdens.

      My brother is an Orthodox priest he is my brother but I never forget he is a priest and always strive to honor and respect that.

  10. Why is this scandalous? It may be hard to hear but it's important. I think you can embrace the truth of this and also the beautiful truths of the recently posted article by Abbott Tryphon. I know as a priest myself that we could all pray more and fast more and dedicate ourselves to Christ more, I at least know in my situation when I do that, then persecution, pain actually can bring immense Grace although that seems crazy to the world. Whenever I start thinking in a secular manner, whoa is me, etc...even the smallest hassle becomes impossible to bear. Of course I'm in a wonderful parish and I'm treated well and I'm so thankful for that. So I respect Bishop Thomas's approach, and I think all of my serious brother priests would agree that the only thing we can really control is our own spiritual life. Hopefully having a great parish and people learning how to love their priest is important, but ultimately at the end of the day we can't control that. But we can control our love for God and our serious constant repentance. I don't have it, but I want it and when I do strive for it singularly my life is joyful regardless of the struggles. Forgive me

    1. "But we can control our love for God and our serious constant repentance."

      Is that enough however? Also, do you *really* have control as an individual agent (in some Cartesian sense) or are you "built up" by the Body to a place spiritually such that you can do some good for yourself and others as an ordained man? What if I take all that away, and drop you alone in a hostile environment such that I wear you down and defeat you - then I tell you that you simply were not strong enough spiritually and this is your weakness and not the Body's?

      I don't think this is hard to hear at all - by the time your reach a point in your spiritual life that you are ordained or considering this stuff is second nature (or should be). It is however not the correct medicine for the subject at hand because the source of the problem lies elsewhere...

    2. Well, Fr. Justin, let's just say that when you find yourself in less ideal circumstances, then perhaps you will understand what it is like to 'run out.' I'm not a saint for sure. Sure, I didn't pray enough, and never will. I was glad I caught myself before falling into the infamous "Five B's" of the Clergy.

      My solution has not only been to renew my prayer and study, but also to engage in a 'healthy lifestyle.' I've lost over 25lbs and exercise regularly. Working a punching bag really helps get the stress out of the body (and, no, I'm not thinking of anyone in particular when I do).

      Others have mentioned the 'bootstraps pulling' analogy, and I would say that there is a touch of that even with the admonition to 'pray harder.' It is more than that. When burn-out comes, it requires an entire lifestyle change. It may also require getting out of a toxic environment. Bishops know full well that not any priest can take any parish. Some work well and others don't. We are all individuals with different temperments and personalities. Sometimes it is not about evil, but just a mis-match.

    3. I agree dear Fr George, the physical and spiritual health are both very necessary to being able to weather the storms. I'm joyful and prayerful for you in your upcoming new arena. Your prayers, forgive me

  11. Excellent subject Josephus Flavius, you should focus on it more. Two thoughts:

    1) On a recent podcast over at Good Guys Wear Black, Fr. Gregory Jenson recounts a story of when a RC priest told him that in Orthodoxy there is no "redundancy". Usually, Orthodox priests are truly out there on there own, with little contact let alone real support from either their bishops or any other clergy. How does he take a trip with his family, or even have a sick day? How does he have a bad day at the office because he *is* the office and there is no one who has his back?

    2) Our mission parish is sometimes served by a deacon from another jurisdiction who lives within 100 miles (close by our standards) whose day job is with the military. On occasion he has mentioned how the military understands that "resilancy" is a limited resource. A man can only go so long without food, sleep, shelter. He can only withstand the stress of combat for so long and depending on the intensity of the combat for not very long at all. Like any resource, resiliency is something that can be built up through training and supported through community (connection with others) and a strong sense of belief and understood purpose. All that said, even when properly supported, resiliency is at the end of the day still a *limited* resource.

    I am 1/2 way through our jurisdictions deacons formation program, and one of the most important things I have noted about the hierarchical Church as institution, as currently practiced in NA by all "jurisdictions", is just how threadbare our institutions are. I know some good bishops, and some bad bishops - but there simply is not enough of them (and they seem distracted by the unimportant). I know some good priests, and some bad priests - but they are almost always isolated. I know some good parishes, and some bad parishes - but they are all spiritual battlefields.

    This essay by Bishop Thomas (and Peter Schweitzer, whoever he is) is correct in its own limited way, but it is also profoundly naive. It laments a decent into a "secular" understanding of ordained praxis and proposes a seemingly correct spiritual acesis, but clergy already know this. The "buck up Christian soldier" recommendation would only work if the soldier is an actual soldier - that he has other soldiers to his right and left and an officer corps who make sure he is properly trained, properly outfitted, and properly resupplied during battle. A soldier who is isolated and alone (and providing for his own basic needs) on the battlefield is not a soldier at all but is instead a causality. St. Paul's military and athletic analogy's only make sense in community (either the military or the gymnasium - both communities).

    The reality of Orthodoxy in NA is what it is and is not Bishop Thomas' fault, and he actually can do almost nothing about it. That said, this prescription is simply not really what is needful, or at least it is only a small part. It even reminds me of another secular belief, the "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" myth of self reliance. Perhaps Bishop Thomas dreams of cowboys on the American frontier who face the Indians, bears, and the elements alone in heroic individualism... ;)

  12. We all need more of Christ in us, more of the Holy Spirit. "Without Me, ye can do nothing," said Christ. Attempting to carry out a spiritual ministry and the ever-attendant spiritual warfare by human means will result in what may be called "burnout". The leaking roof is ultimately a spiritual problem in the referenced parish. Not necessarily more services are needed, but more of Christ, more of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of priest and people. More faith. More love. More courage. I read the lives of Saints Paisios and Porphyrios and see what mountains were moved by their faith and prayers. All things are possible for those who believe. Lord, help my unbelief!

  13. In discussing this issue with a fellow clergyman who is lurking on this thread, he brought up the important point about how families of clergy are often central in matters of burn-out.

    While we priests may have perfect prayer that consoles us in times of torment, how does this translate to wives and children who watch their own husband and father struggle with parish dysfunction? How can I be spiritually fulfilled when my family is distraught?

    Yes, my wife and children have been shielded by me from the worst of it, but they have seen enough to know what is going on and resent it. After a enter into the heavens in the services and repent of my sins, how can I say all is well when my family still suffers?

    Burn-out often comes when a priest finds himself 'surrounded' by both parishioners and family who are in need of his unfailing strength and dedication. Eventually, one or the other fails: he loses the parish, or the wife. Divorce has been the #1 cause of deposition for my classmates. Many of them are better men than I am and certainly more talented as priests. Perhaps that alone may have been the cause, because everyone expected more from them than from someone like me.

    Perhaps some of you will be scandalized by me saying this, but if I have to choose between a parish and my wife, she always wins. I have a sacramental union with her, not the parish. I don't get 'divorced' when I get transferred, I just get a new praxis. And, if I found that my functioning as a pastor was too much for her, I would leave active ministry. Why? Again, because I have a union with her that cannot be tossed aside. Sure, I could say that I am 'putting my priesthood first,' but then I'd be out of both the priesthood and a marriage.

    Life is hard, and there are no easy answers.

    1. It can be even more complex Fr. George. I have been Orthodox for 20 years now, and a part of 7 different parishes and as many priests (because of jobs/training my wife and I moved around quite a bit - thankfully we are more settled now). In two of those parishes (including our current one) the matushka's were/are "strong" personalities - stronger than their rather introverted priest husbands. They have many "ideas" (I will put it that way ;) ) of how things should be, some for good and some not. In both cases, they have put their husbands in between a rock and a hard place with their will. I am not sure about the first case (I was not on the board in that parish) but the bishop has had to do an intervention in my current parish. I was torn, because am I used to supporting my priest and I respect his decision for choosing/siding with his wife even when she is wrong (I would expect nothing less) but in more than one instance her willfulness is the source of real friction and he simply has no "right" way out of the dilemma.

      Like you say, life is hard.

  14. It appears that the bottom line here is "Go in peace, be warmed and be fed and be immune to burnout...... "

  15. An older article by Fr. George Morelli, with somewhat more practical advice and links to additional articles