Drawing on information gain through two in-depth surveys of diocesan and religious priests from across the United States (in 2004 and 2009) Why Priests are Happy: A Study of the Psychological and Spiritual Health of Priests by Stephen J. Rossetti provides an interesting insight into the contemporary priesthood – at least in the United States.
Much of the value that comes from this book is based on the reality of Rossetti’s insights and conclusions being based on a thoroughly processed statistical survey, the results of which are conveyed by Rossetti is a way which, while still statistically dry, is still eminently readable and accessible. And this book is worth persevering through the statistical part of each chapter to get to the true gems that are to be found alongside them.
Not being a priest from the United States, I remain concerned that some might misinterpret the title as applying to priests around the globe, and at the same time I remain intrigued as to what a similar survey might reveal about the diocesan and religious priests here in Australia. If only there was someone in Australia with the experience and skills that Rossetti possesses that could carry out such a survey.
Despite that, however, there is much that can be learned from Rossetti’s book about the psychological and spiritual well-being of priests in general. And the truth, at least from my perspective, is that what Rossetti identifies as the general happiness of priests with their ‘lot in life’ is by and large true: priests are happy to be priests, and that the source of their happiness can be found in the reality of their ministry, in their relationship with God, and in their relationships with close friends.
I recommend this book to anyone who wishes an insight into the life of their priests.