I don’t have much interaction with priests (that I know of). However, outside of noting a collar, I think I would notice a priest by his (or in some cases her) demeanor: friendly, congenial, warm; the kind of person who looks you in the eye while you speak; a person who is open minded to your doubts and willing to answer any and all of your religious questions. Even life questions. Though, to be honest, there have been times when I’ve said hello to a priest who was connected to a family member of mine and detected in his eyes a sparkle of sympathy, as if he was thinking, ah, yes, you’re the gay one; we’ve had conversations about you, and you should know, there’s always time….
But anyway, in general, my sense is that this is a low stress type of job, in part because a person is doing what he or she loves. They are aligned with people’s joy and pain, happiness and heartache, accompanying them through life’s trying and empowering moments. But of course, low stress doesn’t mean easy. Basically, low stress at times, but not for the faint of heart.
Leviticus, however, paints a different picture of priests, and they had a whole lot more on their plate than I could have ever imagined.
They were expected to be perfect in their Tabernacle overseer/ceremony conductor duties. Slipping from these VERY high standards resulted in death. This alone would raise the stress level. But their duties didn’t end there. According to Leviticus, they seemed to be responsible for just about every major decision their community faced. According to this book, this involved assessing the severity of various skin conditions and mildew.
They appeared to be the only persons trusted to discern the severity of skin rashes—apparently, quite prevalent at the time. They determined whether or not a person would be quarantined.
And who knew mold was such a large issue back then? Turns out, if you suspected a problem, the priest was the one who determined the scope of the issue, provided a way to deal with it, and/or determined whether or not your home should remain standing.
Talk about pressure. This isn’t like telling people they need to reevaluate their life or perhaps get a different job. If they made the wrong call, a person or even a community could be in serious peril. If a skin rash or sore was worse than determined, someone else might pick it up, etc. Think the mold problem could be handled and they were wrong—bye bye house and perhaps the inhabitants. And if it spread… This had to involve a great deal of stress. Unless they were like modern health care providers and erred on the side of caution constantly—nope, let’s quarantine you, just to be on the safe side. Eh, tear the house down, you never know…
I appreciate just how important the position within the community a priest held. But seriously, how could they accomplish all of these tasks? How many hours were in their day? It does speak well of them, however, to have believed in their work so deeply that they assumed such responsibility. Maybe this explains why they deserved the choicest cuts of meat during the atonement rituals.