Sunday, May 10, 2015
CONFLICTED IN MACON
What I like about the book so far, is the analysis this priest gives of the first several years of his pastorate in a suburban Baltimore parish. He built or rebuilt this parish by treating his parishioners as consumers and giving them the best of what he thought they wanted in terms of programs and meals, music and the like. He thought (as I did) that if you do this, parishioners would become disciples in action, true Catholics and take on the ministry of the Church. He was wrong and I agree that this approach is wrong and I'm guilty as anyone in doing it too.
We expend a lot of energy on all the wrong things, like meetings, reinventing the wheel and involving people in all kinds of activities that take them away from home, the common meal table and relaxation by doing nothing with the family.
But as I scan the rest of the book he simply repeats his mistakes in what he thinks is the proper way to rebuild his parish but this time making the laity into a kind of clerical clique and working them to death with churchy things that he calls ministry. He has rebuilt the parish on the "mega church, non-denominational approach." Everyone is involved in the life of the parish doing this, that and the other. He's not the locus of the involvement providing for all their needs, but they are. So what he has done is to entrust to the laity the busyness of running in place and going no where but in the institutional, churchy setting.
I'm coming to the conclusion that making the laity do all the clerical things once assigned to bishops, priests and deacons is not what the parish should be doing, although we need some laity to assist us, but we don't need everyone doing something in the institutional setting of the parish. What do I mean by this?
If you look at what a bishop is to do, a sort of mission statement for him and thus by extension for his priests and deacons, it is to "teach, rule (govern) and sanctify." But for what purpose?
The purpose for the laity is so they can bring their Catholic faith, hope and love to the world, the secular world, not the institutional Church.
First and foremost the laity's family life should be centered in the home where husband and wife know what the Sacrament of Marriage is meant to be and live it out creating a Christian home in the process and where knowing, loving and serving Jesus Christ takes place. A Catholic family doesn't have to be at Church every day, although daily Mass is a pious thing. They need to follow Christ everyday at home, at work, at school and in recreation. Just the minimal of Sunday Mass, religious education for their children (home schooling, Catholic schools or CCD) is really all that is required.
Secondly Catholics bring their Catholic understanding or belief in Faith, Hope and Love to the world, no matter their vocation or avocation. And if in the public square of politics or influence, they witness to their faith and use words if they have to do so.
99% of Catholics would fall into the description I describe above and the other 1% or so would be needed for churchy, institutional sorts of things like:
DRE's and cathecists
Music Directors and choir members
Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (especially to the homebound)
Assisting with St. Vincent de Paul Societies and other outreaches to the poor and needy
Staffing Catholic hospitals, orphanages, clinics and social outreach agencies
Helping with parish suppers when these occur
volunteering at the school and parish according to need
Just how many people need to exhaust themselves with churchy sorts of things that take them away from their homes?
Shouldn't the parish instead provide spiritual support through the the Catechetical Ministry of the Church and those who are well prepared to teach. Should the pastor and those who assist him help to govern the parish as a Catholic institution following the canons of the Church? Shouldn't he priests and deacons sanctify the parish through the Mass and other sacraments, the Liturgy of the Hours and popular devotions and provide Perpetual Adoration and opportunities for spiritual and moral direction?
Do we have to replace the social institutions of secular society? Or shouldn't Catholics who join the worthy ones simply bring their Catholic faith to these and witness to their faith there?
Conflicted in Macon.