When are we Not Teachers?

2 Feb
Early on in my priesthood some asked, “Do you know when to be a priest and when to be yourself?” It seemed a weird question to me because my first answer was, “But I am always a priest!”

It has taken some years to come to grips with the magnitude of my reply, and I am still growing into it.  I am never not a priest.  Wherever I am that is who I am seen to be – God’s representative in the pub, at the footy, on the beach, at work or at the shopping centre. Every thing I do is judged as the action  of a priest and not as Glenn Loughrey. It is a tough gig and anyone who says different is, I would suggest, not trying.

Now I have compounded the task by becoming a chaplain in a school – a ‘teacher’. Teaching is not a job, it is a vocation, much like that of a priest. Teachers not only teach content in class, they model life for their students. They are responsible for the whole person and are therefore mentors of those whom they stand in front of. Everything they do, wherever they do it, plays a role in the effectiveness of their vocation.

For both teachers and priests this means they are to be:

  • Mindful. Being mindful of who we are is our first task. Remaining in the present moment helps us to make this less frightening and more exciting, for you and for others. You are a teacher or a priest and others are looking to you for leadership. Your choices have set you apart for a life that is very different to those around you. It has it’s cost but the benefits when lived to the full are mysterious and amazing.
  • Disciplined. Yes, we are always free to do what we want to do, but just because we can, should we? We are called to a disciplined life with boundaries and responsibilities. If we embrace such a life we have the freedom to teach, mentor and pastor.
  • Self-sacrificial.  Becoming a priest means I sacrifice my will for the will of God. I attempt to live in  a self-sacrificing manner exemplified by Jesus. No short cuts. Teachers have the same call. They are developing young people for the future and are challenged to sacrifice what they want to do for what they need to do.
  • Other focussed. In both roles, life is not about you. You are not entitled to your own personal life.  It is a life lived in community and dialogue. You are now connected with those around you, for better or worse, and how you live will be noted by others, for you are there to show them the way.
  • Aware of the ‘6 o’clock news’ factor. How will what I am about to do, say or attend play out on the 6 o’clock news?  What will others say when they see or hear this? 

Vocations demand more of us than a job or a career for the raw material we are working with is far more precious than gold, money or prestige. What is in front of us is waiting to be moulded into the leaders and mentors of the future. Teenagers rarely listen to what we say, but they do learn from who we are.

No matter where we are, what we are doing or what we are saying we are always teachers and priests. Oh, by the way, if you’re a parent, then  you have a three-fold vocation!

What a privilege!

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