A Catholic priest, 1890

A Catholic priest, 1890 February 10, 2011

The Brooklyn Eagle offered a glimpse into the life of a Catholic priest in its October 18, 1890 edition — and Pat McNamara has reposted it along with some great pictures (among other things, he points out that priests weren’t mandated to wear clerical garb until the 1880s):

In each parish there is a pastor and one, two or three assistants, according to the size and needs of the congregation. Mass has to be said every morning, beginning generally about 6 o’clock, sometimes twice on Sunday, with a sermon, Sunday school and vespers, after which, during the week, the sick have to be visited, the parish generally supervised, the schools looked after, children instructed, sermons prepared and, heaviest of all loads to the pastor, the debts of the church provided against.

On Saturday afternoons and evenings, and on the eves of the festivals and holy days confessions are heard, which means being cooped up in a box about 3 feet by 4 for five or six hours, chilled by draughts in winter, stifled by heat in summer, poisoned by fetid breaths and listening to the thousand and one woes and abominations of erring manhood. For all these the priest must have consolation, encouragement, reproof and admonition. The wicked must be directed to the paths of penitence, the just strengthened and urged to perseverance. The labors of the confessional are probably the most trying and exacting of a priest’s duties.

Then he must be ready at any moment of the day to answer the sick calls, and no matter how virulent the pestilence or disgusting the disease, there is not a moment for hesitation before hastening to the sick bed, even though at the peril of life itself. To their eternal honor be it said that priests of this and every other land have never refused to take their lives in their hands at the call of duty, and history is full of the records of those who have fallen martyrs to the heroism with which they sought to relieve the spiritual and often the temporal wants of those committed to their charge.

For all this work, continued year in and year out till he falls in harness, the priest receives the good will and love of his people and superiors, the approval of his own conscience, and no matter how long or successful his term of service a maximum salary of $1,000 a year— if the parish affords it. It must be admitted that the calling is not a very alluring one to those who love ease and fat returns.

Check out the rest, and some fascinating photos, right here.

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