Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Walk Humbly with Your God

Our parish is losing its pastor yet again. He's our fourth priest in about seven or eight years.

Wow. Let's just admit from the get go that we are a stiff necked and cantankerous people in a parish that is quite nearly drowning in debt and mired in a host of other intractable issues. Our pastor has been with us a scant fifteen months. His decision to leave came the afternoon he failed to yield to on-coming traffic and creamed another car. The main memory he has of the accident is being far more focused on the in-fighting within the parish than on his driving. Thankfully, the only damage was to the cars.

In his parting remarks, Father K addressed a few of the issues facing our church. Toward the end of his comments, he gently took us to task for perhaps having a tendency to view ourselves as "better Catholics" than the parishes up the road that sport less traditional architecture and more contemporary music. Lord have mercy, one actually has a youth Mass.

Father K was spot on.

I am a conservative Catholic. I appreciate orthodox liturgy. The atmosphere in our parish helps lift my mind and soul toward God. All of this does not make me a better Catholic.

Arrogance has no place in Christianity. Liturgical one-upsmanship brings with it a disdain for others and a singular inability to love God and neighbor as we should.

Elizabeth Foss shares several points about gentleness here. She writes:

Don't dismiss someone just because they aren't as outwardly pious as you are. Don't dismiss people at all. There's a big world of people out there. And some of those people are people from whom God intends you to learn. Even if, at first glance, it looks as if they aren't nearly as holy or smart or good as you are. Even if they aren't as holy or smart or pious as you are. They, too, were created in His image and each person--each and every one--is valuable. And worth your time. Don't discount someone because they aren't as up on theology as you are or because they don't "have religion."
After Pope Bendict's visit some years back, I surfed the net getting the take on the papal visit. I was flabbergasted at the sheer volume of virtual rotten tomatoes hurled at the papal Mass in particular. Blog after blog expressed disdain for every aspect of his visit. After reading far more than enough of this rot, I asked myself (and posed the question in a combox): Where is the light? 

Something too often goes astray somewhere on the road to liturgical correctness. You can see it in the furrowed brow, the edgy tone, and words bereft of kindness and, honestly, of joy. It all reminds me of a quote attributed to Ghandi: I like your Christ, but I don't like your Christians.

If I sound too preachy, no one should take this all to heart more than me, myself, and I. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa.

The trials within our parish have brought home yet another critical  and rather obvious point: Our priests need our prayers. One of my closest friends is the daughter of an Episcopal priest. She grew up seeing the scrutiny and pressure and division men of the cloth routinely face. It is a tough, often isolated job. You're expected to be a Jack of all trades and a master of all.

The parish priest who was, in my opinion, the finest spiritual director and homilist, wasn't the most gifted administrator. A friend of mine sent hm an email, and called him when she hadn't received a response. "I got back from trip," he confessed, "and had so many emails, I just deleted them all."

However. One day I left a phone message for him asking if I could come by to talk over issues of prayer and spiritual growth. He called me back about twenty minutes later. He was first and foremost a pastor and a teacher. Administrator? Maybe not so much.

But they have to do it all, these priests. They keep near-bankrupt schools afloat. They placate the warring factions of liturgical purists and liturgical experimenters. They seek to assemble a quality staff with meager funds to pay them. They are expected to do the impossiblele, and at every Mass they do the miraculous.

They need our prayer so much more than our criticism.

Loose lips do indeed sink ships. For every divisive comment we made, what if we had offered a Hail Mary instead? What mountains could we have  moved (and could we still move) with a batch of cookies and a Novena instead of petitions and gossip?

I have often said that motherhood isn't for the faint of heart.

Neither is fatherhood.

So Godspeed, Father K.  Hopefully, we will take your words to heart and move forward as a parish to spread the Good News and not the bad.


Anonymous said...

Oh that sounds very sad and difficult, Kelly. I find it hard to sift through questions about my own personal responsibility in church vs. our responsibility as a group. I try to keep in mind the phrase "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem." But that's only of help if we all agree on a solution. And we do need good leaders.
I pray your church will find a way forward - I know it will.

Kelly said...

Thanks, Christine!

With all the changes, it's tough to feel unified as a parish. I am more and more convinced that my main contribution is to prayer (although I think about it more than I do it!) and to avoid104 gossip.

The extra characters are AInsel's who says, "I helping you." hj5