Thursday, October 9, 2014

A reflection on priestly life -- part 16 (and last)

the thrilling conclusion...
Letter to Ann T. Klerikuhl
Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t want to close down Catholic schools. I just wish that a way could be found for Catholic schools to serve the children of people who are in fact Catholics. If I had my way, I would give enrollment preference to those who are members of the congregation, and I would offer Catholic education to actual members of the church at very inexpensive rates. Certainly others would be welcome to enroll their children, but they would have to pay what it costs, which hovers somewhere around $15,000 per student at the present time.  
"What? Restrict access, but that is how we are going to evangelize the world! That would ghettoize the church! We would lose our moral influence in the wider society."
Get a life! Can’t you see that it just isn’t working?  
In many places we waste our increasingly meager resources on people who have no interest in living the Catholic life and never will have any interest. Forty plus years of pandering to a world gone mad has not converted the world to Christ and the Catholic faith. We have lost our moral influence, in no small measure because of the immorality of some of the clergy, but more so by baptizing the insanity of the modern world. We dispense sacraments to people who never darken the door of the church, who do not know Christ, and do not understand what a sacrament is. They just know they want it.
 I have heard my fellow clergy say that the very desire for a sacrament indicates a desire for faith. No it doesn’t. There are lots of reasons to want a sacrament for yourself or your child other than a commitment to Christ and His Bride the Church. Sometimes it seems people just want the blessing by which they mean something akin to a rabbit’s foot or a good luck charm. Some people just want the photo op. To continue this way is just foolishness and will continue to shrivel the Church. The only way to evangelize the world is to present Christ, to raise up a people committed to living the Gospel life of sacrificial love that begins with the sacrifice of the Mass and ends with sacrificial generosity to a world in need.  
The early Church flourished because the first Christians presented an alternative to the decadence of the age. They honored marriage and were ready to die for their convictions. They loved one another and came together for worship. They healed the sick and cast out demons because of the holiness of their lives and their openness to the Holy Spirit. In short, they provided an alternative to the sickness of their age. They did not simply acquiesce to the spirit of the world. They didn’t need to pick a quarrel with the world because their very presence was an affront to the world in which they lived. They were killed by the thousands simply for being faithful to the Lord and the Church. In China, Africa, Cuba the Middle-East, and elsewhere people are still dying for the faith and there the faith is vital. But it’s not happening here. 
I started this harangue months ago with a discussion of the medieval Church. In 2014 the medieval church is as dead as King Tut. The only people who don’t understand that are the idiots of the press who salivate over every new Catholic controversy that they can find or invent. They are more clerical than the worst clergyman. They are endlessly fascinated by this controversial cardinal or that renegade theologian. They have a bad case of scarlet fever, constantly cooing about the shades of red that the hierarchy wears.  
We, too, the clergy from deacon on up, still long for the medieval Church, as do the bureaucrats of religion. In the Middle Ages society was contiguous with the Church. To be Irish was to be Catholic. To be Polish or German or Mexican or Spanish was to be Catholic. The Church was the society and the society was the Church. Bishops were quite often the rulers of the local political unit. We still think that way. In the major urban centers of America, north and south. The bishop is considered a major political figure as well as a religious one. He is, more often than not, a figure like Queen Elizabeth, trotted out for a grand event, someone who looks good in the photo right there next to the mayor, all smiles. 
The most medieval of theologies is liberation theology. It is the product of an era and understanding when “el pueblo” (the people) was no different than “el pueblo Catolico.” Now in an increasing number of traditionally Catholic countries, the “pueblo” is not Catholic. The pueblo, Protestant and pagan alike despises the Catholic Church. We pretend that we can influence the political direction of society when we cannot even convince four fifths of those who pretend to be Catholic to go to church on a Sunday.  
If we don’t redirect our resources to building up the Church and to deepening our own conversions, we will never be able to bring renewal to this dying world. If we, like the first Christians, offer something better to this weary world, they will turn to Christ. If we continue business as usual and pretend that the medieval Church is still alive and well and that Christian countries are still Christian, then soon there will be nothing left but the church of the catacombs, persecuted but faithful. 
That might not be the worst thing in the world after all. That persecuted Church managed to change the world.
Rev. Know-it-all

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