Friday, January 17, 2003

Let's see if we can connect a couple of dots that have emerged over the past day:

There's dissatisfaction with Catholic preaching and pastoral care. Priests are responsible for more and more, for bigger and bigger parishes..

Perhaps the two are related? Perhaps one of the many reasons Catholic preaching, as a whole, is deficient, is because priests find it quite difficult to find the time in their week to prepare a decent homily? Perhaps they might be assisted in this aspect of their vocation by more - rather than fewer- laity, deacons and religious - involved in parish ministries?

I'm not known as being terribly sympathetic to the complaints of priests about their lives (why? because if any or all of us take the Christian life seriously, all of our lives are equally challenging, a priest no more so than a married person with a vocation to follow Jesus in the secular world), but face it: when a person is occupied with counseling much of the day and meetings of every shape and size during almost every night of the week, as well as parish and school events he's expected to appear at, unless that person is very strict with himself, he's going to have a heck of time finding time to prepare a homily. My suggestion if your priest's homilies are unfailingly wretched? Encourage his staff to assist hiim in clearing his calendar at least one night or afternoon a week - help him delegate - so that he can take time to do what needs to be done.

You know, in these comments some have railed at the possiblity of priests being "relegated" to "just" sacramental ministry. Well, that's never going to happen - as long as people have problems and spiritual needs, they are going to be talking to priests. As long as priests have different skills and talents, they're going to be finding ways to use them - the gifted administrator here, the great teacher there, a passionate advocate for minorities or the unborn...and so on. But do you know what else? There is no "just" about sacramental ministry. Baptizing babies, bringing converts into the Church, celebrating prayerful liturgies, bringing Christ to the sick and dying, witnessing marriages, offering the can anyone say that's "just" anything? Maybe I missed something, but that is the core of priestly ministry and it seems to me that structuring parish life so that priests are enabled to dedicate themselves to that kind of ministry - to the circle of activity that starts with being present to people at crucial and ordinary moments - listening to how they encounter Christ and the troubles they have in doing so - and then shaping their celebration of the sacraments and their preaching with the intention of helping their parishioners open their hearts to Christ in the concrete realities of their lives, which he knows because he's been there - ,and not have to waste their time on meetings and micromanagement is not a bad thing.

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