"The dignity of their ministry doesn't exempt priests from difficulty, from temptations and from weaknesses that sometimes shake and put their path towards holiness to the test," said Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga on Friday. To avoid "burnout," he said, pastors must center their attention on Christ, but also remain conscious of their own human and psychological needs.
The Honduran cardinal and head of Caritas Internationalis was speaking in Rome at the release of the book, "Ease and hardship in the pastoral service and the mission of the Church. Recognizing and curing 'burnout' in devotion to others."
Reflecting on the content and theme of the new book, the prelate said that priests, overwhelmed by the many challenges, excessive requests and possible difficulties arising within their ministry can become tired, experience psychological harm and eventually suffer from "pastoral burnout."
As their ministry goes beyond just "things to do," requiring their full attention and participation in relations with people of all ages and conditions, explained Cardinal Maradiaga, "if it is not balanced with a healthy interior life, it can cause a sense of uncertainty and inadequacy emerge, or also the fear of failing or feeling judged, thus (making them) lose sight of the very meaning of their work."
To combat the possibility "denaturing" their sense of altruism in loving others, he said, they must "nourish a constant attention to themselves, to their own human and psychological needs. But also a constant attention to He who they are called to serve, Jesus the Good Shepherd ..."
Citing the research of the book's author, Professor Giuseppe Crea, Cardinal Maradiaga explained that to avoid this "wearing spiral," they must be conscious of how to live their devotion to others, noting personal hardships, "but above all the profound motivations of their service."
This requires a lifestyle coherent with the faith, he said, and a love "genuinely oriented to the good and the salvation of those that are entrusted to their pastoral care."