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Speaking to the Priest

Do you speak to the priest about problems in your life?

  • NO - confession only

    Votes: 4 21.1%
  • YES

    Votes: 15 78.9%

  • Total voters
    19

JessicaH

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*Not the whole story but mostly without giving too much private information*
I am a fairly new member of Orthodoxy.  There has been many challenges/distraction that made the experience awkward.  Basically, I went to a Greek Orthodox Church about an hour away and attended several liturgies and some of their extra affairs.  I finally decided to meet with Father and set a time and went.  When I arrived, just as I was walking in he told his secretary "make sure to knock on the door at 12:30)  I've before this day spoken to a priest so I don't know what you're supposed to talk about.  I wanted to talk about Catechism classes but something personal came into the discussion.  I wanted to explain how at one time in my life something horrible happened regularly and that through the help of God it has gotten 90% better.  He just looked at me in shock, stated that he had never heard anything like that before.  Did I need help? Etc, etc... I didn't get to say the second part "through he help of God it has gotten 90%) He listed solutions which are valid for most people but I'm coming because I truly believe the bible and the church.  I told him that I believe anything is possible with God.  I left there feeling extremely upset.  It was awkward to say the least.  I continued going a few weeks and decided that I needed to fast at home and re-access what I am doing.  Long story short: Other than confession, what am I supposed to speak to my priest about?  Issues with spouse? Work? Life? or just confession.  This will help me tremendously.  Additionally, if you don't take the Priest's advice do they get super angry?  My Spiritual Father gave me advice (which shocked me and made feel odd) and my personal convictions feel it isn't right.  Now I feel like he is mad at me...Thanks.
:eek:
 

hecma925

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Advice is just that.  Advice.  You are not required to do it, because you have free choice.  Then again, if you are under obedience to your "spiritual father", well...

If he is really your spiritual father, you should feel free to speak to him about anything, especially about your personal convictions or whether you think he is mad at you.  Clear the air.
 

NicholasMyra

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Jessica,

Just so you don't get confused about what Hecma said, here is the deal.

In America, we use the words father-confessor and spiritual father somewhat interchangeably. But traditionally, a father-confessor is a normal priest who hears confessions, while a spiritual father is a monastic elder who has monks and occasionally lay people under his obedience. Typically the spiritual father relationship is much more encompassing than your relationship with a father-confessor.

JessicaH said:
I wanted to explain how at one time in my life something horrible happened regularly and that through the help of God it has gotten 90% better.  He just looked at me in shock, stated that he had never heard anything like that before.  Did I need help? Etc, etc... I didn't get to say the second part "through he help of God it has gotten 90%) He listed soluttions which are valid for most people but I'm coming because I truly believe the bible and the church.
It sounds like this priest isn't used to people bringing their traumas to him for counseling, especially if they just want to air the trauma. Some priests are new, some priests only have experience dealing with traumas at the parish council meeting or at a wedding, funeral, baptism, etc. Some priests might not feel qualified to give that kind of counsel. Some priests might not have any idea of what it is.

JessicaH said:
decided that I needed to fast at home
Where did that come from, Jessica?

JessicaH said:
Long story short: Other than confession, what am I supposed to speak to my priest about?  Issues with spouse? Work? Life? or just confession.
It depends on the priest.

We should have someone in our lives we can talk to about the full range of things, although we shouldn't pick someone unfit for this out of desperation. But this person doesn't have to be a priest and often isn't. I do talk with my priest about things other than confession to get advice, but I do this very infrequently. I take things to certain friends most of the time.

JessicaH said:
This will help me tremendously.  Additionally, if you don't take the Priest's advice do they get super angry?  My Spiritual Father gave me advice (which shocked me and made feel odd) and my personal convictions feel it isn't right.  Now I feel like he is mad at me...Thanks.
:eek:
It totally depends on the situation.



 

William T

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I'd like to echo the previous sentiments. I just want to stress that a priest in the Orthodox Church doesn't usually consider himself either a therapist or some kind of "legalist" when dealing with his parishioners.  No doubt he may help with problems if you get into that kind of relationship.  And he may want to deal with specific sins and prescriptions for them at times.  However these things are just not really the most essential part of his office in Orthodoxy.  Don't be surprised if some people can have a pretty close relationship with their priest and never get into that kind of thing.  It's just not really a therapeutic or legalistic office.

If you want, ask your priest for advice on how to confess and think about communion.  That may help direct you, and he'll be a bit more equipped to deal with you on those terms.  I wouldn't really talk to him about ultra personal stuff unless I knew him, and I don't think he or most people can deal with problems like that off the cuff.  Priests are people, and there is no great divide between priest and laity in Orthodoxy.
 

JessicaH

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Maybe my issue is/was that I had very high expectations from a Priest.  For some reason I had this idea that they know God very well and are genuinely concerned with your well-being.  No one told me this, I guess I just assumed.  I needed someone to really help me get closer to God. As far as the fasting, I just decided to fast the Nativity without attending Church.  After the fast, I decided to try another church before committing to the other. 
 

TheTrisagion

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I can talk with my priest about just about anything. He has been in the ministry for many years and I think he has probably heard just about anything you can imagine. I'm sure this varies from priest to priest, though.
 

Ainnir

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JessicaH said:
Maybe my issue is/was that I had very high expectations from a Priest.  For some reason I had this idea that they know God very well and are genuinely concerned with your well-being.  No one told me this, I guess I just assumed.  I needed someone to really help me get closer to God. As far as the fasting, I just decided to fast the Nativity without attending Church.  After the fast, I decided to try another church before committing to the other.
I've had that struggle, too.  I completely understand the deep-felt need for someone reliable to discuss things with, although I haven't found that within Orthodoxy yet, either.  That's not necessarily because Orthodoxy is wrong, or that my parish is bad, or even that there's not someone within the Faith we can discuss things with.  But as Nicholas pointed out, a priest, many laypeople, and even our friends may not feel or be qualified to discuss our wounds.  There have been a few instances where a friend disclosed past or present lacerations and I just didn't say much, not because I didn't care or wasn't affected, but because I had absolutely nothing but sympathy to offer--I felt anything I spoke into that situation would be trite or wrong.  Until recently, I thought I was the only one who didn't know what to say in those situations. 

I've recently had a "failed" conversation with my Greek priest, as well.  He approached me after we exchanged some emails, and I wasn't expecting it.  I didn't say half of what I wanted to, and I'm not sure what I did say made sense.  I also didn't understand his intentions for my catechumenate, and am now afraid to ask for clarification because I feel dumb.  ;D  All that to say, it's ok and he's probably not mad at you.  I just wanted to let you know you're not alone in feeling awkward with your priest.  I hope things work out and get better!  May God continue to bless you.

TheTrisagion said:
I can talk with my priest about just about anything. He has been in the ministry for many years and I think he has probably heard just about anything you can imagine. I'm sure this varies from priest to priest, though.
You are fortunate!
 

JessicaH

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The resolution was that I did end up going to that second Church.  It's just a bit awkward but maybe it takes time.  Thanks
 

LizaSymonenko

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This is tough.

I also find times that I wish I could pour my heart out to someone...and get some good advice.
Sometimes, just putting your worries into words, makes them more manageable.

However, remember your priest has a huge flock, and while you may not see him "counseling" many people....he probably is.  He hears all our concerns, our stresses, our worries....and yet, he is but a single man...and beyond perfunctory advice and prayer, what can he offer? 

Having said that....priests are men...and not all people are good listeners.  Not every priest is willing to sit and listen and advise...because that is simply not one of the talents God has given him.  He cannot help it.  It's not in him.

Search for one who has that gift.  Head to a local monastery and find a monk/nun/priest who is willing to sit and listen.  Find a good friend, whom you can trust.  Talking it out is important. 

If all else fails...write things down.  Put them in a journal.  Get them out of your head in some manner...and it will leave more room for you to manage other things...things you can control.

Reserve the actual sacrament of Confession....to confess your sins...not your issues or concerns....only things you have done that are hindering your progress towards salvation...and in that be short and succinct.  Don't go in to too many details.  Save that for a conversation, not for confession.


 

mike

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At least some priests do not want to become gurus. Good to know.
 

JessicaH

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Thanks for the replies!  Now I know what is expected from me to avoid anymore awkward moments.  Thank you!
 

Dominika

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Yes, I talk with him about everything, really everything (during confession and outside it), sometimes I regret, as sometimes we don't understand each other.

But, generally speaking, I think the spiritual condition is connected with the all aspects of our life, so sometimes to discover our spiritual illness of its reasons, it's better to talk with your priest.
 

Bluebonnet

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I worried about this sort of thing for a long time. What I was "allowed" to talk about with certain people and what my relationship with my priest, when he was alive, was supposed to be like. I've slowly realized that it is easiest for me to think of priests as the same as all other people. I have certain friends I do certain things with, talk about certain things; ect.

I tried to talk to my priest about really personal things because that's what I thought you were supposed to do. But it was difficult. Our personalities didn't work for that type of communication. I knew he cared about me, but I always left these conversations frustrated and feeling as though he did not understand me or my struggles.

Eventually I began writing to a monk who is currently a priest at a parish. While he isn't perfect in the sense of being some clairvoyant elder or whatever, I think he's the perfect person for me to talk to about the more personal side of my conversion to Orthodoxy and life in general. He's not my "spiritual father" nor do I have to obey him or anything like that, he's just a person who cares about me.

Over time, I began to
just let relationships develop naturally rather than worry about what the rules for them are. Some people are just capable of different things, I guess. Like when my priest died, I was very upset about it and wanted to talk to my friends dad, who I had met once before and who is a priest. He said he couldn't because between his (non priest) job and taking care of his parish and parishoners, he didn't have time for me. I was sad, but that's just the way things are. People do what they can, and sometimes they can't do what I want. 

So if when I have a priest again, we don't perfectly get along, it will be okay because I can have the relationship with him that I have, and talk to other friends about things I don't talk to him about.

This was a much longer post than I thought it would be.
 

Ainnir

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Bluebonnet said:
This was a much longer post than I thought it would be.
It was helpful, though, thank you.  No worries!
 

Dominika

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Bluebonnet said:
I tried to talk to my priest about really personal things because that's what I thought you were supposed to do. But it was difficult. Our personalities didn't work for that type of communication. I knew he cared about me, but I always left these conversations frustrated and feeling as though he did not understand me or my struggles.
+1 (not always, but quite often)
 

OrthoDisco

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yeah Im realizing some things at the moment too. I havent been Orthodox for an very long time, but Im recognizing that I don't want to be too "friendly" with my priest anymore. He's just different from me, although he's very nice. I started to kind of let him into my brain, as it were, but now I've decided against it. It is hard to come to Orthodoxy having had some traumatic issues, realize that there's a rich path to healing, but that there's no one to really talk to about all of that, or who can guide you through. I think its really hard when you realize you're just on a different spiritual path than your priest, and that he really can't help you the way you need to be helped.  I've had to resort to just trying to catch up on all kinds of reading and asking people for suggestions for books on certain topics, and pray that God leads me to the people or information that I need.
 
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