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Posted June 29, 2011

Book: Why Priests are Happy: A Study of the Psychological and Spiritual Health of Priests
Author: Stephen J. Rossetti
Ave Maria Press. Notre Dame, IN. 2011. Pp. 238

Taken from Press Release:

Msgr. Stephen J. Rossetti, former director of Saint Lukeís Institute presents the most comprehensive survey of American priests ever conducted. Contrary to popular media portrayals, Rossetti finds that priests, as a group, are very happy men, and that they enjoy an extraordinary high rate of happiness and satisfaction, among the highest of any profession.

Rossettiís study compares priest to be the general male population with respect to human intimacy, sexual difficulties, burnout, psychological problems, physical health, and self-care. He identifies fourteen factors that contribute to happiness among priests, examining the contribution of spirituality to their psychological health.

Among Rossettiís findings:

92 percent of priests surveyed report being happy in their ministry.

The large majority of priests reported personally experiencing celibacy in a positive way.

As a priestís time in private prayer increased, he was less emotionally exhausted, less depressed, less lonely, less likely to be obese, better able to deal with stress, had an increased sense of inner peace, reported being happier as a priest.

Priests, by and large, are not lonely. They live in an intimate communion of relationships with other priests and laity. Nor are their lives unhealthy, they are much less burned out, more satisfied, and less psychologically impaired than their lay counterparts.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Where does their happiness come from? The findings in this study noted that a combination of psychological and spiritual factors contributes to priestly happiness. However, priestly scores on psychological tests were only moderately better than the general population and could not account for their extraordinary high rates of happiness. To account for their happiness, one needs to look into the pastoral and spiritual lives of our priests.

Regarding their pastoral and spiritual lives, there were many sources of support and nourishment experienced by priests such as good friendships with other priests and laity, and a personal love of their vocations and pastoral ministry, especially their Eucharistic and sacramental ministry. The centrality and strength of their faith and pastoral commitment were critical to understanding our priests. Often unseen to the public, the spirituality of our priests is integral to their peace, happiness and at times their joy.

Their relationship with God is very much alive and a strong source of their inner peace and happiness. Priests reported having a strong nourishing relationship to God, feeling personally loved by God, feeling a sense of inner peace and even joy, and being grateful for those blessings.

The impact of their spirituality on the rest of their lives was remarkable. A powerful predictor of priestly happiness was their relationship with God. One could conclude that a priest simply cannot be a happy and effective priest without having a solid relationship to God. And this strong relationship to God is one of the major reasons they are so happy. Priesthood is a human life, it is true, but it is more.

Table of Contents:

1. Summary of findings

2. Two statistical surveys: the sample and the method

3. Physical health and self-care

4. The psychological wellness of priests

5. Burnout and priesthood

6. Happiness and priesthood

7. Factors contributing to priestly happiness

8. Those thinking of leaving priesthood

9. The spiritual lives of priests

10. Priests and prayer

11. Young priests, old priests, and those in the middle

12. Recommendations