By Mike Ssegawa
My friend Fr Arasu Lazar will kill me for this opinion. I am certain he will take me on right after reading the headline above.
The central message of this piece to ask what catholic priests are doing with counseling married people? Is not self explanatory that the best person who can offer you advice on human health is a doctor, about stars the astronomer, or about law the lawyers.
The element of practice makes the difference in the whole lot of who to listen to or not.
Now, many of us go to priests, I mean catholic priests for advice about our marriages. And sometimes, I have heard some of the most brilliant messages coming from the men in collars on marriage and you wonder where they picked that from.
Take for instance, at the end of December, a friend was baptizing his son and asked me to be a godfather to the little man. I accepted.
At Christ the King church, the mass took place at Cardinal Nsubuga hall since the main church is undergoing renovations. Good job!
The youthful priest who led the mass was a greater preacher I should admit. I enjoyed every second of his homily.
He started off from a familiar ground. He had seen several new faces in the church, especially men. “I would like to welcome the men who have come to church only today because their children are being baptized. Gentlemen, this is how church looks like…” The audience was thrown into laughter. As a person who likes people with a good sense of humour, I straight away picked interest in what he was saying.
As he went on, he entered the territory I could finally relate with. Marriage.
The reverend father advised us how to be happily married, and spiced up his speech with stories he had read in various books.
Let me also confess this – I spent so many years with priests. And yes, they have listened to many stories of married people in confession boxes and during counseling sessions, and from that they picked many lessons.
I also know, some priests have saved some marriages from breaking up just as some have contributed to the disintegration of some marriage. Sad one, isn’t it!
As the priest continued with words of advice, I turned to a friend who had lent all his ears to the preacher and asked his opinion?
The popular phrase for someone who is doing something superbly is:
“The preacher has ‘work’?” I told William.
As the priest spoke about loving, obeying and respecting our spouses, I saw him shaking his head in affirmation.
“Do you think the man of God is speaking from experience?” I whispered, so that fellow congregants near me don’t say I doubted the wisdom of the preacher on the subject.
William, smiled, and said, “He speaks like someone with experience….”
For starters, catholic priests are celibate. They don’t marry and are not allowed to touch a woman. It leaves the priest with knowledge about marriage coming from the literature he has read, his experience with parents when he was still young, and other stories he hears from others.
It is also true that everyone’s experience in marriage is unique although there is nothing new under the sun.
Therefore, the priest can depend on the experience and knowledge gathered about marriage over millennia to listen and advise on the present situation.
What has remained aloof for many men of the cloth is the aloofness with which they may approach marital challenges.
When they talk about love, forgiveness, care, etc, there is something that never comes outright. You cannot for example, talk about sexual dysfunctions in marriage at a deeper level with someone who doesn’t appreciate how sex consolidates marriages, especially when the couple is still younger. So, answers like we shall pray for you, be patient, etc sometimes come without empathy.
Empathy is the feeling that someone can walk into your shoes and understand where you are coming from. Priests are human too. However, their authority on marital issues falls short of experience as few have something to relate to before offering any opinion on the matter.