Saturday, November 10, 2012

What's Good for the Pastor is Good for the Bishop

"Father, I pray for you every day."  Whenever somebody tells me that, I feel so relieved and comforted.  Being a pastor brings with it tons of responsibilities.  Traditionally, those responsibilities can be divided into three categories: Teaching, Sanctifying, and Governing.  Under each of those three categories comes a million other things.  Sometimes in my life, one area or another demands more of my attention than the others.  And sometimes, if your eye is on one thing, people become upset that your eye isn't on the other thing.  What do I mean?

I've had the experience of needing to focus say on finances at one time or another.  If you do that, somebody will say, "He only thinks about money."  At other times, I've had to focus on the Catholic School.  Somebody will say, "He never thinks about the children in Religious Education."  If you focus on prayer, then somebody will say, "He never focuses on social justice issues."  If you focus on the youth, then it can be said that you don't focus on the elderly.  If you focus on spiritual things, it might be said that you are not focused on the administration of the parish.  If you focus on those who have left the Church, you can be accused of abandoning the people who are here every week.  The list can go on and on.  Ideally, a pastor needs to balance all of these things and I've been fortunate in my life that almost everybody cuts me a break!  Actually, I really am very blessed because I have found people to be overwhelmingly supportive and even more than that, I have found them to be obedient. 

Yes, I know that obedient is not a popular word.  But, I have found in large part, people have truly been obedient to me.  I don't mean in some sort of fear mongering way.  I mean that they've trusted me as their pastor and have followed.  When I've encouraged them to frequent confession, attend adoration, give to the poor, increase the offertory, deepen their prayer life etc, they've followed.  Sometimes, I'm sure that their personal interests may have wanted to go in another direction, but they chose obedience instead.  And, this obedience has produced in our life something truly beautiful.  We move together in communion of mind and heart.  I have discovered in my people a great sense of communion. 

Sometimes when I look around at my parishes, I am amazed at all that is taking place in this one small part of the Archdiocese.  In my congregation on a given Sunday are people who are dying, lost loved ones, pregnant, going through a divorce, unemployed, have a child who is in trouble, or a spouse who is suffering from addiction.  There are wealthy people and poor people.  There are people who go to confession weekly and people who haven't gone in years.  There are people who love the Church and people who are bitter towards the Church.  There are a million pastoral problems, a million administrative issues, and a million things that we need to do better.  But, they can't all be fixed or addressed at once.  And for the most part, people are patient with that.

All of that takes place in my two parishes.  So, I wonder how it must be to be the bishop of a whole Archdiocese?  Imagine the amount of things that must be on his mind.  I think it is easy for the rest of us to forget how many things must weigh upon him.  Everybody thinks that their priority ought to be his priority.  The bishop should focus on good catechesis, get a pastoral plan together, fix the finances of the archdiocese, correct wayward priests, spend more time with the seminarians, spend more time with this ethnic group, visit sick priests, spend more time in parishes, do more fundraising, focus more on the poor, speak out on controversial issues, know his priests better, be more involved in supporting vocations, crack down on dissent in Catholic schools, be more focussed on administration . . . .  And, everyone of those things is true.  That's what a bishop should do--and a thousand other things as well!  A bishop is a pastor with a very big flock and a very long list of duties. 

I'm very grateful that in the midst of all of my pastoral responsibilities I have people who say, "Father, I pray for you every day."  Their prayers sustain me and help me to endure the rare person who thinks that his priority should be my one and only priority.  How much more must a bishop with far greater pastoral responsibilities need our prayers and encouragement?  I really feel the weight every day of my pastoral office.  It is a weight that I am privileged to carry and is truly a joy.  But, it is a weight.  I am so grateful for those whose prayers and obedience help me to live out my pastoral mission.  Part of the reason that they do so is because I am in front of them every day.  They see me and they know me.

A bishop though is not in sight every day.  It could be easy to forget him or to think of him as somebody remote from our experience.  The Liturgy, however, includes his name every day during Mass in order to emphasize the importance of his place in our ecclesial communion.  This mention of the bishop's name in the canon of the Mass ought to remind us that the bishop and his ministry is at the heart of the local Church.  It is also a moment for us to deepen our communion with the bishop and to deepen our obedience towards his pastoral authority.

If you've managed to read this all the way to the end, then please make it a point to add your bishop to your prayers every day.  I know as a parish priest, the assurance of prayers and the spirit of obedience makes my work so much more joyful and lighter.  Let's also give those gifts to our bishop.  Let's love him with our prayers and with our obedience.

No comments:

Post a Comment