MSB {33}: Tips for Overcoming Priest Hospitality Anxiety

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Obligatory outfit picture.  With Bea and Elle for My Sunday Best!

 

This weekend was our first set of Masses with our new priest.

David and I love the idea of fostering vocations in our family.  Of helping our children figure out just how God is calling them to love in the world, perhaps through marriage, perhaps through consecrated life, perhaps through the priesthood.  We’ve decided that one of the ways we can do that is to welcome people of wide range of vocations into our home.

We love the *idea* of this.

But the reality?  Hard to carry out.  It’s truth bomb time.

Our pastor two priests ago was with our parish for twelve years.  Twelve.  And although we occasionally brought him meals, we never invited him over.  As a newly minted wife and hostess, I didn’t feel confident in knowing how to set a table, much less entertain a priest.

During that time we did have a missionary priest over for dinner once.  I knew that whatever weird things my kids said or however awful my cooking was, he’d be on a plane to Tanzania in a month.  There was comfort in that.  And although the dessert I made had an almost impenetrable crust and the kids got antsy while we visited, it went fairly smoothly.  The kids still talk about the time Father Flavian came to visit (and now he’s a bishop in Tanzania.  For real!!!)

Four years ago when our last priest arrived, David and I vowed it would be different, emboldened by the fond memories of our meal with Father Flavian.  We pledged to invite the new guy over regularly.  With David’s (then new) job which involved lots of night hours and Cee’s health roller-coaster, it never happened.  Not once.  I am embarrassed to admit that not once did we invite over the pastor who gave our daughter her first Eucharist and heard our confessions.

That’s right.  We felt comfortable telling this man (in persona christi!) our deepest, darkest sins.  But it was too intimidating to invite him over for a hamburger.  It was too much effort to figure out a night where the stars would align where David was home, the kids were healthy, and I had time to clean the bathroom.  We were encouraged by this wonderful priest’s homilies and literally blessed by him every week for four years.  And we never got around to having him over for a beer and a steak.

 

So.  This weekend was our first set of Masses with a new priest.  And we invited him over for supper tonight.  Beer and steak.

 

I thought about organizing this post as a series of tips for entertaining your pastor.  Yes.  Let’s do that.

1.  Make your go-to recipes; don’t try anything new.

Well.  I didn’t follow that advice.  We were looking for a side to go with the steak/green beans combo and settled on rice.  (I don’t know why.  We never eat rice.  Elle had begged to do some studying on China, and I picked up rice randomly at the grocery store to appease her.)  So for the first time in years(?) I attempted to make rice.

Ha.

Instead of having a bunch of single cooked grains, I ended up with a giant lump of rice mush.

As we waited for Father to arrive, I kept muttering to myself, “I have a college degree…and I can’t cook rice properly.”  But I did have the internet, so I looked up how to fix sticky-lump rice.  The advice?  “If you have time, start over.  There’s no fixing it.”

Perfect.  The advice did go on to recommend turning it into “rice pudding.”  Which I had never ever made.  So we went with that!  Our side became our dessert.  (The recipe called for milk and sugar.  I had neither.  So I went with honey and cream.  It worked-ish!)

 

2.  Practice appropriate behavior with your children ahead of time.

So we tried to brief the kids with the admonition to answer questions when asked, but not to offer movie recaps or dream play-by-plays.  It mostly worked.  Elle educated Father on the differences between lions and jaguars.  (PS– he is from an area in Africa that actually has lions.  So.  That was maybe unnecessary.)  Moe talked much too loudly, and Bea kept refusing to eat her green beans.  Furthermore, I realized that my kids have exactly zero skills as far as being a human being goes.  As I watched Moe lick out his rice pudding bowl and Cee eat her steak off her fork in the way one would gnaw a turkey leg, I was keenly aware of this fact.

 

I have to stop right there with the tips.  I have no street cred. It’s like me giving tips on having a successful space launch.  Or how to play a cricket match (I have equal experience in such matters.).

It all comes down to just one tip.  (Speaking of sports and balls and other athletic things I don’t know about…)

 

Just do it.

 

As Father was visiting, he mentioned how much he enjoys being part of the community.  About how much he likes interacting with parishioners.  He lamented that at his last parish, he was surprised at how little anyone invited him to anything.

In response I tried to explain my own humility in not being confident in my cooking.  How culturally we are self-conscious about our lack of entertaining skills.  How we are afraid we are not good enough.

He laughed a little.  “I’ll eat anything!” he said.

And as I looked at him across the table, having eaten experimental rice pudding, I believed him.  He wasn’t just being polite.  Across the table I saw a regular man who embraced a vocation that could be a little lonely at times.   If I’m understanding him correctly, Father doesn’t desire to be a sacramental Pez dispenser, he desires to be a part of our community.  And he will eat anything (!) to make that happen.

 

I am embarrassed about my splotchy history of taking care of our priests.  We’ve only done it twice now.  Both times have gone well.  Both times I had cooking oopsies.  Both times no one got food poisoning.  I’d call that a win.  Now that we know our new priest doesn’t see such invitations as obligations, hopefully we’re more likely to make it happen again.  I’m ready to turn over a new leaf and do a better job of incorporating our priest into our community and into our family.  I’ve got a big bowl of leftover rice pudding to prove it.

Have you ever invited your pastor over?  What tips do you have?

16 Comments


  1. // Reply

    I love it. You gave the best advice Just do it!!
    It is good for priests to see the way a family operates, or in our case does not operate.
    It is good for the kids to see a priest is just a person who eats all kinds of things. And honestly, I think we have reassured many a priest of their celibacy! I am actually sitting with a seminarian right now. He actually said to me, I want to know how to invite myself over to people’s homes once I am ordained!! Just do it.


  2. // Reply

    This has been on our family’s heart for a while. And as of this week our new pastor has been in place for a year. I am sure he is ready for some hospitality as the year has been spent doing the messy work of merging 3 parishes into one. I love your writing, “the sacramental pez dispenser”! And this whole paragraph:
    “That’s right. We felt comfortable telling this man (in persona christi!) our deepest, darkest sins. But it was too intimidating to invite him over for a hamburger. It was too much effort to figure out a night where the stars would align where David was home, the kids were healthy, and I had time to clean the bathroom. We were encouraged by this wonderful priest’s homilies and literally blessed by him every week for four years. And we never got around to having him over for a beer and a steak.”


  3. // Reply

    Great post! Once my husband and I move, having our priest over for a meal is going to be one of my top priorities (however nervous I am)! I remember my parents inviting a priest over a few years back and he was so thankful and loved just chatting and relaxing with us.


  4. // Reply

    Love this so much. Cooking rice is hard, and what a great save making it into rice pudding! I so appreciate you stressing how you don’t have to be a perfect hostess to have people over. I am so glad you’ve made an effort to have priests over, and are encouraging others to do the same. Thank you!


  5. // Reply

    This was so awesome! I’m cracking up, and I’m inspired. I want to have our pastor over for dinner soon!


  6. // Reply

    This is a delightful post! I’m so glad you were brave and invited the priest. We make it a habit to invite the seminarian who is posted to our parish each summer. We find they’re less busy and are able to accept invitations more than are our priests. Then we have built a little connection with that seminarian, who a few years down the road is a priest, which helps.


  7. // Reply

    How wonderful! This makes me want to invite a priest to dinner with my boyfriend and me. We don’t live together (#chasteliving), but we live very close to each other, so it’s even easier than a Priest Potluck would be. And I’m sure that, having heard people’s darkest sins for years, some almost-not-human kid behavior isn’t going to throw off priests very much.


  8. // Reply

    This reminds me that we’re overdue for inviting our priest over!! He’s been by for parties but we haven’t once had him over for dinner since our last parish 😳😳😳 Will have to find a good date soon! And decide on a menu that everyone will eat… Don’t want to have to deal with picky eaters when Father’s here!


    1. // Reply

      Right?!?! Nothing says, “The kids are running this place” more than losing the battle of broccoli publicly. 🙂


  9. // Reply

    Honestly,I have anxiety about having anyone over for dinner. The thought of having everything edible and done at the same time, plus cleanish house, and the kids not needing me real freaks me out. Maybe because they’re so young. Maybe I’ll be able to do it when they’re a little older.


    1. // Reply

      The anxiety is a real thing! It sounded like our priest would be happy to come over and eat hot dogs and easy mac, if it meant he was able to get to know families better. But you know your season better than anyone. Maybe waiting six months would make a big difference with the neediness of your littles. You’ll have to let me know if you take the plunge. 🙂


  10. // Reply

    I loved our last pastor and regretted never inviting him over before he retired. So we’ve had our “new” pastor over already – even though it took over a year for me to invite him. And it was fine! Totally fine! My advice is to keep things simple, especially dessert. Our pastor said everyone always serves him fancy cakes with a lot of icing, which he’s not used to having come from Africa. So something like cookies is more up his alley, not to mention much easier to make!


  11. // Reply

    We finally invited our priests over for dinner last month. The kids acted like…kids. One threw an epic tantrum. But when they blessed our house and our family, the tantrum magically ended and the kiddo came to pray with us. It wasn’t a magazine perfect night, but it was exactly what we needed in our family. I hope to do it more often in the future.


    1. // Reply

      It’s so nice to hear about other non-magazine ready families. 🙂


  12. // Reply

    You may be the motivation for me actually doing this now! Thank you for this wonderful post!

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