Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Infrastructure For the Mission, Not Against the Mission
The other day, I visited the home of a 90 year old woman who watches Catholic Television all day. She was baptized in a protestant denomination but was never raised to go to church. Now, at the end of her life, thanks to a good Catholic friend and thanks to Catholic Television, she asked to be received into the Catholic Church. Because of her age and condition, I received her into the Church, Confirmed her, and administered Holy Communion to her at her home. It was a great moment.
After that, I went to the hospital to visit a couple of persons. One of the persons I visited was one of our daily communicants. She is a beautiful soul and has come to the end of her earthly life. As I was leaving her room, she said, "Father, I will pray for you." I am always happy when somebody who is dying says that to me because I trust that they will be fulfilling that promise in heaven.
While I was at the hospital, I received a call from someone who wanted to hang out and talk. The whole time I talked to this person, I thought to myself, "I'm really blessed to spend my life with such great people."
I believe it was during the Council of Trent that a law was promulgated that stated that bishops of dioceses had actually to reside in their diocese. Apparently, there were a lot of absentee bishops in those days. Similarly, priests need to be a resident among their people. Not just in terms of living in the parish, but being present among the people. It's not possible to be everywhere and attend everything. But, priests are meant to live and serve in the midst of the flock. We are meant to be close to the people.
As we look at pastoral planning for the future, our priority must be to make the priest more present among the people. Priests do not need more buildings, more phone systems, more furnaces, more budgets, more lawns, more roofs, more pipes, more toilets, more meetings, duplicate programs, more things that need painting, scraping, fixing, replacing, restoring, shovelling, plowing, cleaning etc. All of those things are fine--if they do not remove the priest further and further from his people.
So much of the important stuff that a priest does happens through one on one encounters or encounters with couples and families. Priests belong where the people are. Obviously we need an infrastructure, but that infrastructure should serve the mission and not the other way around.
Our method always has to be Christ's method. Christ started with two. Then, twelve. Then, seventy-two. Then, the whole world. It is a proven method. Christ risked this method. It worked with John and Andrew. It worked the other day when a 90 year old woman became Catholic because of the friendship between her and a faithful witness.
Trusting in such a method is indeed a bit risky. But, the Church best witnesses to Christ when she risks everything on him.