Sunday, 11 August 2013
The Ogre Of The Parish
We all know that none of us can please everyone –even Our Blessed Lord did not please everyone. But I have to say that, though I am naturally attracted to family life and the intimacy of husband and wife (which is where I believe my call to be -or at least hope it is!) after having worked in the parish office I feel positively put-off the priesthood. Not only because our priests are wrongly maltreated by the public for the failures of the few; not only because during vocation discernment evenings we had the Host exposed on a small coffee table with tea-lights in the middle of a living room; nor because during a discernment weekend at the seminary we sat around as strangers for group work where we shared details of our ‘former’ lives and mistakes. No; it is that I have realised that while most Catholics are very patient, accommodating and supportive of their priests, some can be merciless if upset, which can happen if there is a mistyped name in the Mass list or a delay in offering a Mass (which is usual, because almost everyone requests the weekend with fewer people attending weekday Masses). As with retailers, so with the Church: we are much more likely to profess a complaint than an affirmation. Yes there are things our priests do that cause us to make complaints to or about them. This is true of Father Dickson too. What are the terrible errors of which Father is guilty?
Unbelievably, this ogre has the nerve:
to remind us that frequent reception of Holy Communion and frequent Confession go together, as explained by Redemptionis sacramentum (32);
to offer Mass ad orientem as found in the rubrics of the ‘new’ Mass;
to remind us that the norm for Holy Communion is still on the tongue and that reception on the hand is only by way of special permission to a country from Rome;
to require those seeking to receive Baptism, Confirmation or First Holy Communion to attend Mass at least during the Instruction period, and be instructed in the norm for receiving Holy Communion;
to carry out the purifications himself as determined by the General Instruction (163) and Redemptionis Sacramentum (119);
to use both forms of the Mass on Sundays in accord with Summorum Pontificum
to preach that Missing Sunday Mass, cohabiting, using contraception, or supporting/engaging in abortion, euthanasia or homosexual activity is gravely sinful and requires Confession before we next receive Holy Communion;
to preach on the necessity of doing good and avoiding evil; the necessity of personal prayer, reception of the Sacraments, the possibility of hell, and the glory of Heaven.
Of course I am jesting that Father “has the nerve” to do all this, but in fact it does take nerve because I have seen how it irritates some people, including other priests who, in my experience, are not following the documents, perhaps from a well-founded fear of offending the people of today by explaining that God has given us an objective moral truth to live by.
Father Dickson is, I think, appreciated for organising summer garden parties, setting up our coffee mornings for our three regular charities (SPUC, WaterAid and Aid to the Church in Need) for regularly consulting via preference slips in the Newsletter and especially for always responding to crisis calls, and he won’t give a man of the road a sandwich and cup of tea without sitting with them. He often says he needs to be more patient, more prayerful, more generous with his time and talents, and that may be true -who am I to say? But he always apologises if he has been sharp with anyone, and is troubled when health issues stop him visiting the school and the housebound. In my opinion the vast majority of parishioners, while they may be irritated by our liturgy and doctrine, are appreciative, kind and generous with Father and their priests. Perhaps what is sad to note is that supportive comments come in less often than criticisms, though this is probably part of fallen human nature: as I said, we are much more ready to return to a retail outlet to complain than we are to affirm them. Oh that our Bishops would realise this! After all, complainants are not always valid; sometimes they are exaggerated because of a dislike for correctly-done liturgy or sound teaching, and complainants don’t, in my experience, always act from good motive. Yes indeed complaints must be heard, but so too must the priest. I wonder if this aspect of justice is truly followed today, or if we have become just a little too ready to presume the priests are at fault...