At the 7:30 a.m. Mass at Holy Apostles Catholic Church in Colorado Springs, I had the privilege of concelebrating with the pastor, Fr. Paul Wicker. Fr. Paul's been a great supporter of the work of the Institute and has been a wonderful and inspiring mentor to me.
As we began the liturgy, I was suddenly struck by the fact that Fr. Paul has been pastor of this parish for something like 26 years or so. That's very unusual these days, when in most dioceses priests are moved every six to twelve years. With religious communities that staff parishes, the transitions can be even more frequent. One university parish which I served for six years has had four or five pastors in the six years since I left.
In the case of Fr. Paul, his longevity with the community means that he knows the parish pretty well. His homily reflected that intimate knowledge, too. He knows his parishioners and can speak to them from that comfortable intimacy: lovingly challenging them, affirming their genuine goodness and selfless acts. He is patient with them, even when individual members are not altogether reasonable (after his homily, in which in a variety of ways he emphasized Christ's Real Presence in the Eucharist, one parishioner chided him for "not talking about metaphysics!")
Not only that, he knows the city well, and has been able to help connect the parish and parishioners to various agencies within the city, both Catholic and secular. He has also led the parish community to examine to what role they may be called as individuals and a faith community to work to change the structures and institutions within the city. This would be much less likely to happen if he had been a pastor in several different cities in those 26 years.
I have been told (and this could have been idle speculation, perhaps based on personal experience) that priests are moved regularly "so that they don't become 'little kings' in their parish," or "so that a parish doesn't get stuck with a bad priest for a long time." While that may reflect reality, it certainly doesn't reflect the ideal. That ideal is described beautifully in an article in Seminary Journal titled, "Priestly Spirituality, Seminary Formation, and Lay Mission" by Deacon James Keating, Ph.D., director of theological formation at the Institute for Priestly Formation, Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska. In it, Keating writes of the relationship between pastor and parishioners
Charity takes up residence in a priest’s soul as a gift. This charity is God revealing, sharing, and communicating himself in a continuing and eternal act of spousal care toward humanity. This care reaches its ultimate self-gift in the nakedness of Christ upon the cross—the marriage of the Lamb and the Bride. This charity, living in the soul, is no different then the supernatural gift, the very indwelling of God, that inhabited this man’s soul at baptism (CCC 1266), confirmation, and Eucharist. It is the same charity, now bearing the grace of a call summoning him to come out from among the members of the church and “be Christ” by serving "His bride" as priest. The grace of ordination allows the charity that is in everyone’s heart (love of God, love of neighbor) to be specifically the grace of ‘being with Christ in His spousal love for the Church.’” There is something about this new “ordering” in the sacrament that places the priest in relationship to the body of Christ AS A WHOLE. He relates to all the members of the Body, sharing in the prophetic, kingly, and priestly ministry of Christ. The laity relate to the priest out of their own distinctive participation in these same Christological realities. The mode of existing in and among the members of the church is always inter-relationship. The communion between this man, the God who calls him, and the laity constitutes a spirituality—the breath of life between them all—that binds the facets of priestly formation together. The goal of this communion is to form the contemplative heart of the husband-priest. It is this priest who gazes upon the body of Christ, the church, the bride, not with a sense of entitlement or “lust” but with an ever growing pastoral desire, a desire born of this spiritual communion and finding its purpose and rest only in charitable service.
If the reasons given for moving pastors regularly are anywhere near the truth, then the problem is in our formation of priests - or our mutual discernment of those possibly called to priesthood. The ordination rite clearly indicates that the community has been involved in the discernment process, as they are invited to show their acceptance of the candidate by acclamation. What we seem to have accepted as the norm is the equivalent of "serial monogamy" in the realm of marriage between an individual woman and man.
Unfortunately, this serial monogamy also happens at the episcopal level. When I first went to the archdiocese of Portland, OR, the see was empty. Archbishop George had only been installed for ten months before he was moved to Chicago. In my first year as pastor in Tucson, AZ, the secular newspaper openly speculated how long bishop Kicanas, who had been there only a year or so, would remain before "moving up." I do not mean to suggest that either Cardinal George or bishop Kicanas were or are seeking "greener pastures." I just know that whenever a large see becomes vacant in this country, many of the clergy and laity in Tucson hold their collective breaths because they might lose a bishop who is articulate, pastorally sensitive, and genuinely fatherly.
I think Deacon Keating has named a vice of clergy. We can easily "lust" over the bride of Christ - succumbing to clericalism, seeking privileges like pharisees, or desiring luxurious digs, fine foods, alcohol, cable TV and more to make up for "all we've given up." Just as in a beautiful sacramental marriage the spouses call one another to holiness (and give each other daily opportunities to be patient, kind, patient, not jealous, pompous, inflated, rude, self-seeking, quick-tempered or brooding over injuries - cf. 1 Cor 13:4 ff), so, too, in a healthy pastor/parish relationship all involved invite one another to love in these ways.
St. Paul called spouses to be "subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ," and for husbands to "love their wives even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish." (Eph 5:25-27) That would be a wonderful goal for pastors and the parishioners to whom their lives are ordered by virtue of their ordination.
This article in the NY Times was sent to me by a friend in Tucson, who wrote this interesting commentary on it. The article is about a 13-year old boy who startled his 50-something year old father (a former seminarian and former Catholic) by saying one day, "I want to go to church this Sunday." The article quotes figures from the Pew Foundation Survey of Religion in America that you've seen highlighted previously on this blog. You know, the ones that say 54% of those Americans raised without any religion choose one later in life - with 75% doing so before they turn 24!
I think my friend, Renee's, comments are worth reading, as well.
Ah, yes, the fields are ripe for the harvesting. How dare we suppose that people don't want to hear about our faith? And if we're afraid we don't know enough about it - and truly, since God is a mystery, we can't possibly know everything about Him - what does that say about what kind of faith we have? But if our faith is based on a relationship with God, we can at least share what that is like and how it is shaping our life. Particularly if we're looking to the Scriptures and Tradition to help us hear God's voice - and help us discover the Holy Spirit's guidance day to day.
Grading papers is a new experience - and a bit of a stretch for me. Cause my natural inclination is to say "all our students were bright and very interested in the topic - of course, they should all get "A's". I always want everyone to succeed - ultimately. But the system requires more nuance than that.
So how does the otherwise superb paper that, alas, fails to mention one important element stack up against the rambling effort that you get the feeling was written originally for another class? Hmmm.
But enough excuses for not blogging.
My ever vigilant Google alerts have brought me this find of particular interest to Bostonians:
Enjoy a Cooking Class "Cooking in Monastic Traditions" with The Civic Friars, a lay monastic order dedicated to deepening spiritual and religious devotion in everyday life ... in order to "reclaim the city for Christ" (they are also skilled cooks)! You will learn methods dating back to Old Catholic Europe, and even as far back as the early Church, you will gain a fresh outlook on the spiritual elements of culinary art, as it relates to the Benedictine Monastic principle "Ora et Labora": "Work and Pray".
You will learn to see food and it's preparation in a more complete and healthy way, "from farm to table" Seeing the meditative, contemplative and practical aspects of preparing and cooking food (that have been lost in a "fast food culture") can be both refreshing and exciting. Learn how simple communal and generous acts like cooking can be raised to a high art form by faith, even to a form of "prayer of the heart and hands" where every meal you prepare becomes a feast instead of a chore! YOU WILL NOT WANT TO MISS THIS!!!
NOTE: this will be on Sunday, June 14, 2009 in Brighton at 1 PM, but will start on Saturday evening with the buying of the meat at the Festival and marinating it in the Portuguese "Vinoh Tinto" from the Touriga Nacional grapes (that they also sell at the Festival).
I am so bummed!!!!! I want to go but it's 2000 miles away.
And in light of all the discussion of the secular nature of the lay mission and the cost of secular apostleship in our Sacred Heart course last week, I couldn't help but be fascinated by the idea of the Civic Friars. (I tried Googling them but couldn't find anything.
Have any ID readers heard of the Civic Friars?
Trying to find the elusive Civic Friars brought me to the website of another fascinating and related initiative:
The Monastic Communities of Jerusalem: "the particular vocation of the brothers and sisters of Jerusalem is to live in the heart of the cities, in the heart of God." This community of monks, nuns, and associated lay communities originated in France 25 years ago and established its first North American community in Montreal in 2004.
Ecumenism between eastern and western Christianity is one of their concerns. In their worship, they "revive the sources of the Church of the first centuries' liturgy by integrating in their services some elements of the Eastern Tradition such as: gestures, songs, icons, incense, etc"
Some other distinctives:
1) The brothers and sisters are city-dwellers, working in the city and praying in a church open to the city. Their daily schedule and times of prayer are adapted to the city's rhythms. Their presence reminds the inhabitants of the big modern cities, the megalopolises, that it is possible to be contemplative at the heart of the more significant reality today, the urban phenomenom.
2) They work part-time as wage-earners both challenging and embracing the modern working world.
3) They live in rented dwellings, owning neither their houses nor the church which is entrusted to their care.
4) They do not live within strict enclosure. The city is their monastery. But they keep an "enclosure of the heart" by reserving times and places for silence, "desert" and solitude.
And this luminous vision from their "rule":
You have not embraced urban monasticism for reasons of solidarity, apostolate or even witness, but first to contemplate God gratuitously and incessantly in the most beautiful of all his images. That is, more than in solitude, on the mountains, or in the wilderness or the temple, you gaze on him in the city, filled with faces of the face of God and mirrors of the icon of Christ. Monk and nun of Jerusalem, you are in the heart of the City of God.
It would be worth going just to visit St. Dominic's whose Gothic beauty is truly remarkable but add to that the chance to experience the mighty St. Dom's team and begin discerning your charisms and call - well that's an offer you can't refuse.
I mean, what are you going to do in June in San Francisco anyway besides take refuge in the nearest coffee shop?
Cause the longest winter you've ever spent is a summer in San Francisco. Really.
Mary Beth Newkumet of Life After Sunday sent me a draft of the online version of LAS small group process that they are planning to make available - for free! - online soon.
And one of the links for the first topic, Wonder, was this magnificent video. The music is Gregorio Allegri's Miserere sung by the King's College Choir of Oxford. Ten minutes of pure praise.
And there is a wonderful story behind the music:
The "Miserere" by Italian composer Gregorio Allegri is a setting of Psalm 51 (50) composed during the reign of Pope Urban VIII, probably during the 1630s, for use in the Sistine Chapel during the Tenebrae service on Wednesday and Friday of Holy Week. At some point, it became forbidden to transcribe the music and it was only allowed to be performed at those particular services, adding to the mystery surrounding it. Writing it down or performing it elsewhere was punishable by excommunication.
The Miserere is written for two choirs, one of five and one of four voices. One of the choirs sings a simple version of the original Miserere chant; the other, spatially separated, sings an ornamented "commentary" on this.
Although there were a handful of supposed transcriptions in various royal courts in Europe, none of them succeeded in capturing the beauty of the Miserere as performed annually in the Sistine Chapel. According to the popular story (backed up by family letters), the fourteen-year-old Mozart was visiting Rome, when he first heard the piece during the Wednesday service. Later that day, he wrote it down entirely from memory, returning to the Chapel that Friday to make minor corrections. Some time during his travels, he met the British historian Dr Charles Burney, who obtained the piece from him and took it to London, where it was published in 1771. Once published, the ban was lifted and Allegri's Miserere has since become one of the most popular a cappella choral works now performed.
Mozart was summoned to Rome by the Pope, only instead of excommunicating the boy, the Pope showered praises on him for his feat of musical genius.
Hitherto, I'd never felt the full weight of god-parentness even though I know that it is recognized as a formal office in the Church. Since I was clearly incapable of meeting the "god parents are responsible to finance their god-children through Harvard" standard, I had pretty much gotten off light with prezzies and prayer at the all the right times.
Update: Thanks be to God. Tasha is home again and all is well. Her contractions were caused by dehydration which is easily dealt with. No more word from Sherry C yet.
The "Other Sherry" of this blog went into labor last night. I have not yet heard anything although i am on the notification list but your prayers for her, the baby, and her husband Dave, who is under incredible end of the quarter pressure, would be greatly appreciated. I'll update this when i hear anything.
Update: Just after I hit "publish", Sherry's mom called to say that Sherry's contractions stopped in the middle of the night but have started up regularly this morning - but nothing is imminent.
Love this: Pope Benedict's address to the Bishops of Venezuela;
The Holy Father reminded the bishops that they are facing an "exhilarating task of evangelisation", recalling in this context how they have begun the Mission for Venezuela in keeping with the Continental Mission promoted by the Fifth General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean, held in the Brazilian city of Aparecida. "I therefore encourage you", he said, "to increase initiatives that aim to make the figure and message of Jesus Christ known in all their fullness and beauty. To this end, apart from sound doctrinal formation of the People of God, it is important to encourage lives of profound faith and prayer".
It is good to be home and take a nap with a very large, soft, white cat on your chest. And wake to cool breezes swirling the aspen leaves.
I'm plowing through stuff - finances, e-mail, grading papers, doing laundry, gardening, cleaning. Planted the large wild grass bed yesterday, The cat mint is a sea of soft purple. Everything is very green as we had a good deal of rain while I was gone.
Fr. Mike is on retreat this week - nearer to God in the high country. And I am not going anywhere. Hoorah!
I'll be seeing you in the old familiar places as of Sunday. Our last class begins in 1 hour 10 minutes. The Academic Dean told us that he has gotten lots of enthusiastic feed-back about our Theology of the Laity course. It has been good to spend time with Fr. Michael again - and to hear his growing take on the topic - and the whole experience has sparked a new clarity about my next project.
Saturday morning, I'm giving a morning on Evangelizing Post-moderns to 100 or so RCIA corrdinators and RCIA team members for the Archdiocese. Several students from the class are planning to be there as well.
Then it is off to Solanus Casey's shrine for a spot of prayer and on to the airport courtesy of the ever gracious Tim Furgeson. Home by 11 pm Saturday.
Fr. Michael and I had dinner at Ralph & Ann Martin a few days ago and heard some grerat stories. Ralph has been present at some of the most important moments of Catholic life over the past 40 years and has been used by God in ways that are truly exceptional but he is so matter of fact and self-effacing, it is hard to get the stories out of him.
I got to walk about lovely Ann Arbor yesterday and try one of their many fine restaturants. Although it is hard to absorb the desperate state of Detroit as a city (at least the Red Wings are doing great!) there certainly are a lot of wonderful, creative Catholics here in southern Michigan. Our students have been great and full of faith and joy.
It has been a privilege to be here. But I will be glad to be at home again in my own little Tuscan garden.