Fr. Dwight Longenecker makes some interesting comments over at his blog regarding male psychology and compartmentalization of personalities by men ordained to the priesthood. In my own experience, I clearly recall spending most of a day with a priest who was quite jocular in his collar and ball cap, but seemed to become a completely different person as soon as he donned his chasuble and vestments. In a way, this is a good thing, as it showed his appreciation of his sacramental role in persona Christi. At the same time, though, the change was a little alarming
At the other extreme is the priest I know who seems to be the same guy at the altar that he is when he’s off-duty and out-of-uniform. With him, there appears to be very little compartmentalization, and therefore no threat of a split personality. In his case, that leads him to occasionally do or say things in a sacramental context that are inappropriate for one who is supposed to be acting in persona Christi.
As Fr. Dwight notes, “What makes it all the more complicated is that the priest really is supposed to ‘grow out of himself and grow up into the full stature of Christ Jesus.’ We really are supposed to fill the vestments and become the ‘alter Christus’ that we are called to be. To do this we have to pretend sometimes. We have to try hard by God’s grace. We stumble and fall and get up again, but what we can’t do is compartmentalize our dark side, deny our wrongdoing and justify our sins. That we lies destruction.”
The ideal is a priest who, while retaining his own personality, has conformed himself to Christ. His personality would be evident even when celebrating the mass (primarily in the homily – everything else is pretty much scripted). As always, we need to remember that what’s good for the priest is good for the laity. We too need to conform our lives to Christ and be the same person on Monday morning and Friday evening that we are on Sunday.