THE DROUGHT & THE SHORTAGE OF SPIRITUAL FOOD


Rule number one in life, if you are good in your profession, people will seek you out. Until now when the parish priest was going to be worked to death.  There had been no leveraged buy-out, following by lay-offs of personnel.  There was just no support from above to the work load, and little support in the way of young men signing up for a new profession.  It was a job with little financial reward and no family life of your own.     

 

Thirty, forty and fifty years ago, this country was coming out of a Great Depression and World War II.  And that generation saw something maybe in a guy who had grown up in the same neighborhood, who had once been at a parish.   And parents and children identified with the priest as normal.  That did not happen so much any more.   Especially when the archbishops came from far away. One hundred year-old churches were given new names, without any appreciation of history in this community. The archbishop did not seem to care. They say all politics was really local.  So the church…..or it used to be.  Now it seemed indifferent, with leaders in Rome suggesting that it was the masses were indifferent.  The masses were menu selectors, spoiled.

 

To Be Professed in a Profession.  There were only 4 professions.  Medicine, Law, Teaching.  The Clergy.  What happens when you cannot keep your vows? Judas seemed to be the first who failed to come to grips with his own failure.  It was as if he left in the 7th inning of that playoff game in 1951 between the Giants and the Dodgers, with no idea of the ultimate outcome.  He missed the excitement of the death and Resurrection.  What happens today to a Catholic priest when he finds he no longer can be celibate?  When he really cannot be normal as every other man?  When it was your “profession” to the public?  Does it mean complete failure?  What happens when this career based upon your relationship with God comes in conflict with the required vow to be celibate?  When the vow seemed historically artificial?  What happens when a man faces professional failure, even when the priest’s desire to marry was what was usually considered the normal development of a man?  Why was this church law, which had not existed in the first millennium, considered paramount to priesthood, especially in lieu of every man, every woman’s struggle against loneliness?  Why was this church law considered to be just?

 

In baseball, when the supply did not equal the demand, you grew your own.  You developed a farm system.   You went to the Domincan.  In families you had kids.  When something was not working in the business world, managers were held accountable to find out why.  Otherwise people were going to quit coming out.  And then those managers would be looking for new work.  And now these rules were stacked against the home team.  It had not always been so.  Priest had been allowed to marry throughout the first millennium, although the folks in Vatican City did not want the people to know that.  The people in Vatican City seemed indifferent to church closings.  No consideration was being given to changes of the rules.  Nothing visible was being done to examine why men had quit signing up.  In South Africa they had a Truth & Reconciliation Commission to address wrongs of the past.  Government had to find a way to unite a fractured people.  When men and women long ago quit signing up, no one in Rome had sought to find out the truth about why.  Rather than playing the blame game, rather than close churches throughout the wold, it was time to show some authentic collegiality to break a communication problem that comes out of a dysfunction family that acts solely on issue of authority.  On the ultimate matters of faith, and sharing that faith through the Eucharist, the seat of Rome had failed to communicate with great honestly.  It was a failure to listen to the people, to respond in some way for at least 25 years, which would put the availability of the Eucharist at risk.    

 

The masses had never been better educated.  Especially by priests and nuns.  But not any more. The cost of parochial schools was eating into the financial statement of parishes.  And that dried up the reservoir from where many a vocation had come. Experience showed that it was hard to lead an educated group of people, and especially if you were not considered as one of them.  The new archbishop here was going to learn that lesson.

 

How do you minister to a church of one billion with a diminished priesthood? Pope Benedict had called the question in the modern era of what exactly Catholic identity was if it was not practiced in every day life.  The modern Catholic had become like the American Protestant who lived down the street 40 years ago.  They went to church maybe 4 times a year. In a sense, this frequency of worship casts doubt on the intensity of worship.   Pope Benedict had called the question in his recent travels to New York and Washington.  We now wait for his answer to the real crisis in the church as to how a true Catholic identity which desired the availability of the traditional Eucharist would be served by priesthood over the next 25 years? 

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