Sometimes I feel like a word processor, an inhuman, mechanized instrument, churning out words, as duty necessitates. (This is pure bellyaching, cherished reader, and accordingly you ought not to pay much attention to it.) So many pastor’s columns, sermons, classroom teaching, counseling and occasional talks–a veritable mountain of words that are weighed, pondered and critiqued. I reckon that I have written close to six hundred Descants and a whole library of sermons and conferences. I wonder about the utility (or futility) of it all. Ideally, this mass of verbiage is an instrumental means to promulgate the teaching of Christ. But a preacher and writer can have his doubts. Every word of his will be tried in the balance on the last day. Undaunted by this reckoning, I plod on, obedient to what I believe to be my pastoral duty. Patience!
That said and done, I move on to the business of reporting on the end-of-the-year meeting held here in preparation for the upcoming archdiocesan Synod. I knew in advance that I would not be able to attend the gathering due to a previous engagement. In a way, my absence was to the good since our people spoke perhaps more freely without me being there.
Why ever the Archdiocese deemed Grotto parish desirable for the expression of its people’s views and comments remains an unsolved mystery. We are notably and decidedly different from many a parish–the very reason you make the weekly sacrifice of goodly travel time to get here. Our sole emphasis in this parish has been to form as good and devout Catholics as possible we can be. The rest of what we do is as so much jazz.
The fundamental question for the proposed Synod is: Why bother? If every priest faithfully and piously fulfilled the duties Holy Orders imposed on him for the salvation of his people, all would be well. Long years of neglect of these and–further–of departure from them in the pursuit of modernistic, socialistic and experimental ends have spelled the ecclesiastical disaster which has now hit hard on the spiritual lives of Catholic people. If it were up to me to suggest one thing that would have the greatest positive impact on the life of the Church in this Archdiocese it would be the reform of the clergy. By this I mean that priests would not only do more of the works characteristic of priests and much less of endless meetings, administrative business and wastes of their time but that they would engage themselves instead in a more concentrated pursuit of the holy life their sacred calling imposes upon them. Out would go secular-styled liturgies and inane preaching, interminable meetings, secular clothing, partying and dancing, vulgar speech, inappropriate movies, excessive drink, rock music (and the whole junk culture generally), and in would come holy hours, spiritual reading, more private prayer, and the cultivation of a more intense intellectual and theological life along with a priestly solidarity with other priests who aim at securing these same goals. There are indeed many fine priests in this Archdiocese who already do these things and who shun the worldly model of the priest expected of them in some places. Yet, as you well know, these priests are not in evidence everywhere.
Regarding the recent pre-synodal gathering here, one thoughtful writer said that its format was “a classic consulting ‘stakeholder feedback’” session. With my ignorance of the business world, I have no idea of what that means except that it is apparently a decidedly secular way for the Church to be doing its ‘business.’ In my unhumble opinion, I think the Church should be distinctively churchly and have that proverbially Christian ‘saltiness’ in its manner of operating. In other words, perhaps the very way the Synod is being prepared and plans to function is already indicative of the very problem it seeks to edress: the invasion of secularity in the ways of the Church.
I heard that many of our people expressed their content with our parish and their appreciation for its priests. They also aired their dissatisfaction with parishes from which they departed. The dangling question however remains, What good will this input accomplish? When all gets sifted through the “process,” what will be left of our people’s comments and suggestions which are meant, as I understand it, to be of service to the Archbishop? My near cynical reaction is that our participation will have been for naught. Yet, grace has the potency to elevate weakened human nature, and so a spiritually deflated (but not depleted) diocese can be rejuvenated by divine helps that exceed all human efforts.
I close with two fanciful proposals of my own for evangelization in the Archdiocese. I would ask every priest to make a voluntary pledge in writing to the Archbishop to bolster his priestly life by avoiding secular ways and entertainments and by implementing spiritual exercises that are characteristically priestly (daily rosary, holy hours, daily meditation in silence, spiritual reading, regular confession, etc.); and I’d ask every priest voluntarily to consecrate his parish to the Immaculate Heart of Mary at every Mass on a given weekend. These two things are as simple, concrete, and extremely doable as they are also highly unlikely of ever being considered for the diocesan Synod. Thus I rest my case on relative disvalue of the enterprise of renewal of the diocese through the Synodal process.
Sunday, January 10, 2016
Fr. Eduard Perrone, "A Pastor's Descant" [a temporary link] (Assumption Grotto News, January 10, 2016):