DO

E Schedule ahead. Priests are busy, and evenings are prime work time. Ask what time works best.

E Keep it short. Every priest appreciates hearing, “Come for an hour or two and leave when you have to.”

E Make it simple. You can ask a priest what he likes to eat (he might have a food allergy), but you don't have to cook gourmet. Says one pastor: “A priest goes to restaurants. What he doesn't have oftentimes is a home-cooked meal with children around.”

E Be real. Talk about your family's real life, your interests and experiences. Tell anecdotes. Show the photos on your refrigerator door. Ask about the priest's family, about his personal interests.

E Relax. Entertaining clergy doesn't require an extraordinarily clean living room or perfectly behaved children. Take it from one priest: “You can make a hundred mistakes which the priest won't mind at all if you're gracious and friendly.”

E Show support. Mention something you really appreciate about what the priest does. Ask him to give your family a blessing before he leaves.

DON't

E Have a hidden agenda. No surprise “ministry” encounters with fallen-away Catholics, no setups where the priest is expected to have that life-changing conversation with a wayward child or divorcing couple.

E Make it a griping session. A social evening is not the place to complain about parish affairs, argue over the religious controversy of the week or criticize homilies.

E Ignore personality and pastoral differences. Some priests accept fewer social invitations than others because they need more down time alone. And pastoral approaches run the gamut from never refusing to never accepting parishioners' invitations.

— Louise Perrotta