January 16, 2010

All Hands On Deck!

A rambling post that is NOT about priests on cruise lines! We can't afford to put priests on cruise ships! At least, not in this Archdiocese. We need every man!

We need our priests. We need more priests! Pray for vocations!

I'm a member of my parish council and there is a tension coming into our meetings in the last few months. We are well aware that our parish is probably going to be closed, merged or clustered. Our priest is facing the possibility that he may be covering 2-3 parishes in the next year.

A council member suggested that, perhaps, our church will become a mosque. To which, I snapped, but I meant it "I'd rather see the church burned to the ground"

Probably not the most charitable or constructive response but I am what I am-and not with Moses on the Mount!

Worry is in the air.

We are not the first congregation or communion to face demographic shifts that occasion the closing of houses of worship. In the early 1990s, I lived on the Near North side of Minneapolis; an area that 40-50 years before was mostly Jewish. The Jews migrated to the western suburbs and they sold their synogogues. Thus, you had the odd visual in that area of a Christian church with Jewish symbols still visible in the building architecture. I have to imagine that's a tough image for a Jew to see.

A few weeks ago, in the nearby Frogtown area of St. Paul, a church, that was originally built to house a German Methodist congregation about 100 years ago, was raised. The Baptist congregation that currently owns it can't maintain it and the structure was deemed unsafe. How sad were the Methodists who had to sell the building as their numbers moved and declined and how sad are the Baptists who had to watch it come down?

We are not the first to face these problems. We will not be the last.

The good news is the Catholic churches in the suburbs are busting at the seams. The bad news is, having visited some of these parishes, some of them are not all that solidly Catholic. I had one Catholic lady tell me the selling point of her Catholic church in the NW exurbs is: "You can't tell it apart from the Lutheran church!" Huh?

If that's the reason our parishes in the suburbs and exurbs are booming we are in big trouble. Maybe not now, but we will be eventually as vocations dwindle and those parishes decline as their parishioner never hear about the evils of contraception.

Demographics are killing the inner city parishes as well. However, I wonder how much the lack of hearing about the evils of contraception and the lack of pride in their Catholic faith led to the death? I look around my neighborhood and there are still enough Catholics around but their kids don't practice and many families go to a different parish that is more palatable with their version of Catholicism. Church shopping kills us too. I can get how some can't tolerate liturgy in some places. But, that fleeing to the parish you personally like and leaving your neighborhood one in the dust doesn't help them stay open.

I'm rambling.

Rumors abound that some priests have asked to serve. Some want to stave off retirement, some want to come out of retirement,some want to be recalled. Rumors (and they are rumors!) are starting to ramp up (they've been around for a while) that some priests are being told "Their services are not needed".

I HOPE these are rumors and falsehoods. Because it seems to me that, unless a priest has unresolved or proven abuse allegations, or can't seem to teach about Catholicism without sneering, or can't seem to stop disrepecting the Archbishop, they should be taken up on their offer. Just because a priest is difficult, or cranky, or prickly should not disqualify. Honestly, there are plenty of active priests still around who have unresolved abuse allegations, can't teach Catholicism without sneering, and can't seem to stop disrespecting the Archbishop. So, what are the qualifications again?

But, I'm getting off track again.

No matter what happens we need everybody. Lay people are going to need to step up. Our priests need our help. Soon, more than ever. Don't just sit around and bee-yatch! Do something constructive-something that doesn't involve packing up and leaving for another church, sitting on your hands and sighing, or spending all your spare time blogging. Amen.

Cross-posted to Stella Borealis by Ray's command!


Blogger Fr. John Mary, ISJ said...

You are "spot on", Catherine of Alex.
E. Michael Jones wrote a book about this very phenomena (can't remember the title) about Philadelphia...
The "burbs" became the place where the upper mobile Catholics retreated, leaving the inner-city parishes to "rot"...and this was, in fact, (no conspiracy theory, here) a planned effort of the "liberal" establishment. Planned "reestablishment" kinda thing. The Irish/German/Polish/Italian segment moved out once they were "educated" (at the price of poorly paid congregations of apostolic women...which we are now seeing their 'revolt'--which on the face of it, is not hard to understand--nevertheless, their revolt against Catholic Tradition and religious life is just an abomination [another post!])
The facts are given in this
Anyway. You are absolutely correct.
Priests are the key to this conundrum; forgetta bout if they are "easy to deal with"...if they are faithful to the Church, GET THEM! Let the Archbishop deal with their "foibles" (and I doubt, I hope, with moral problems)...sheez, life is full of difficult people (I am using the charitable word here, since I am TRYING to be good...other words come to my mind, but, alas, I will not use them)...It's about the Sacraments, stupid...in the Roman Rite, stupid...forget about if you like him or not:<)!

January 16, 2010 10:47 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Father: You said it better. Yes, many priests, many of US are difficult but the faith is the great equalizer. I'll tolerate the rudest priest as long as he gives the sacraments solidly and is faithful to his calling.

Of course, I'm no saint. Priests should get points with St. Peter at the gate for even putting up with us laity.

January 16, 2010 10:59 PM  
Blogger Nan said...

I just don't imagine Abp. N telling priests their services are unncessary, unless it's priests who aren't actually Catholic.

Even worse? My cousin's husband has just taken a job pt at a large lutheran church where he'll run their sound system every other Sunday. The lutheran godmother of her allegedly Catholic child? Is a member of that church and gleefully exclaimed that she could go to church with them and convert!

I think that would happen over her MIL's dead body, but I can't imagine suggesting to ANYONE, in front of others especially, that they convert. Sadly this particular cousin, though raised Catholic is actually lutheran so it would be a natural change. I say she's lutheran as her actions are more lutheran than Catholic.

January 16, 2010 11:08 PM  
Blogger Fr. John Mary, ISJ said...

Cathy of Alex: I just have to say it...I'd rather deal with a bunch of laity over one or two "idiotic" (that's the G-rated word!) priests...dear Jesus, Mary, and Joseph...I taught in the seminary...I saw what was going to be "out there"...I tried...I did...there were (and are) many wonderful seminarians; but there are that handful of real(*&%$#...yeah, I'm not kiddin'...they may confect the Sacraments according to the Church (dear God I hope MINE will!) but I, as I said, would rather deal with the laity, no matter what their "issues" than a herd of seminarians...Jesus, forgive me!

January 16, 2010 11:42 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Cath: Wonderful post.

Please cross post it to Stella. It needs to be read by everybody.

You're on fire, lady!

God Bless You.

January 17, 2010 5:15 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Nan: Bummer. I know many who fall into that situation you described.

Father: Calm yourself! I know.

Ray: Done!

January 17, 2010 10:11 AM  
Blogger Margaret said...

C of A, I moved into Near North when you were moving out apparently! I know the Jewish Temple-Baptist Church now Seventh Day Adventist Church you are talking about. It's only a few blocks from where I live. When I moved to the city, I was hoping it would mean that I'd be within walking distance of a church, one that I would be able to worship in with my neighbors. I was half right. I can walk to a church just over the line in Golden Valley but alas no neighbors worship there. Everybody in the parish who isn't in a nursing home is from Golden Valley or Robbinsdale. So I opted to go to a parish that fit my odd neo-traditionalist sensibilities. I am Novus Ordo but not the excesses. I am not against the Latin Mass but I didn't grow up with it and only understand a smattering of Latin. Holy Family is the place for me and if things change there, I'll probably move on to someplace else that fits that description. If it is someplace in the city, all the better, but it better be North/Northeast because one thing I've learned is that it's easier to get to Saint Louis Park from North Minneapolis than it is to get to South Minneapolis from North!

January 17, 2010 10:28 AM  
Anonymous Austringer said...

Another casualty in this demographics battle is beauty: the older, inner city churches are usually very lovely, very elevating, and the theology of the architecture is sound (when they haven't been wreckovated, as was done with beautiful St. Stephen's in Minneapolis). The suburban churches are usually butt-ugly and Protestant in their architecture. Unfortunately, the Protestant architecture seems to go along with a watered-down, Protestantized Catholicism -- are these ugly buildings leeching orthodoxy from suburban priests' bones, or was it not there to begin with? -- which ultimately won't bear much fruit.
Thinking of your point that "we need everybody", I'm not sure that is a good thing when applied to priests: bad priests (those who dissent; those who, like my priest, rule their parishes like petty dictators; those who see the Liturgy as a form of self-expression; -- they do so, so much damage. We need sound priests who can love with the heart of Christ.
My hope lies in the new crop of young priests and seminarians. I believe that the seminary formation is more sound now than it has been in recent decades, and I'm impressed with the love for Christ that I've seen in these fine young men.

Frankly, just for the sake of the architecture alone, I think the suburbanites (of which I am one) ought to drive in to maintain these inner-city churches and leave the ugly buildings to be converted to community gymnasiums (a reversal of the St. Joan of Arc method). And yes, that is exactly what I do -- I'm not preaching what I don't practice.

January 17, 2010 12:38 PM  
Anonymous Austringer said...

Ah, I forgot -- Cathy, I have to question your statement that "I'll tolerate the rudest priest as long as he gives the sacraments solidly and is faithful to his calling": how can "rude" and "faithful to his calling" be reconciled? An unapologetic, habitually rude priest is NOT being true to his calling to be Christ.

January 17, 2010 12:48 PM  
Blogger Terry Nelson said...

Pay no heed to rumors. Trust the Archbishop.

January 17, 2010 3:14 PM  
Blogger Fr. John Mary, ISJ said...

Austringer: Yep, I do agree.
However, "rude" is in the eye of the beholder...don't want to sound callous but peoples' perceptions are sometimes not reality.
If a priest is abusive verbally, emotionally (or God forbid, physically or sexually) he must be dealt with in whatever way is just and appropriate.
We priests do not realize how everyone is very dependent upon us to celebrate the Mass and sacraments according to the mind of the Church; they are, as well, dependent upon our kindness, compassion, understanding, and sometimes, correction.

January 17, 2010 3:25 PM  
Blogger Fr. John Mary, ISJ said...

Cathy of Alex: Sorry. Yeah. I was dealing with a particularly cantankerous member of the clergy the day I wrote that! Mea culpa!

January 17, 2010 3:26 PM  
Anonymous Austringer said...

Terry, I do trust Archbishop Neinstedt.

Nazareth Priest: You're correct -- there is certainly room for subjectivity in what counts as "rude". There are no doubt overly sensitive individuals who will mistake a priest's words or actions and not give the benefit of the doubt.
Still, I think that priests have to be very self-aware of how they are witnessing. Well, obviously we ALL do, but I see the potential for self-deception as a being much greater for priests: no one likes to blame or criticize a priest (especially a popular, orthodox one) and so a priest is far more likely to live in a bubble of "yes men" then the rest of us poor dummies. One might even develop, after a while, a bit of an infallibility complex. Personal likes and dislikes are then conflated to what is good or bad for the parish. Criticism is counted as treason.
Bishops can only do so much for the laity in these situations. These are spiritual problems, not ones that can be addressed by an appeal to canon law, and so these bad traits can go unchecked, especially if a priest is popular and runs his parish in the black.

January 17, 2010 6:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think some people have exceptionally high standards for priests. I am not talking about expecting them to fulfill their sacramental role, that's the minimum. But after all, they are all guys. Most have typical guy weaknesses, like impatience. There may be some lack of humility. They are all expected to be good bosses, when not every guy has the natural talent to be a good boss. We expect a lot of them. The good priests do their best and try to correct their faults but even if they don't see their behavior as a problem, that's only a human failing that we should be charitable enough to see beyond to the importance of their role and how difficult it is today.

January 17, 2010 6:25 PM  
Anonymous Austringer said...

Anonymous -- there is a difference between having "exceptionally high" standards and unrealistic or impossible standards. Of course we have high standards for priests -- it is a testament to the importance of their role as other Christs -- alter Christus (I think!) -- and as our shepherds. Of course they are men, and prone to the same weaknesses and quirks as the rest of us. But they have greater potential for letting these get out of control, precisely because most people do regard the priesthood so highly that they won't say anything critical. The Catholic writer George Bernanos ("Diary of a Country Priest) thought that anytime a priest's behavior was excused because he was a priest, there was clericalism. And that is corrosive...

January 17, 2010 6:46 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Terry: I know. You are absolutely right. I struggle.

Good thread here.

Austringer: I get what you are saying about rudeness. Maybe I should've picked a better word like 'cantankerous'. Sure,maybe a priest is not fulfilling his pastoral role by being so, but lets be straight ok? No man is perfect.

Margaret: Yes! I was not far from the GV border. I used to live in Harrison. Before it began to be gentrified (not like its perfect now but its changed a LOT from when I lived there) and when the Holman projects were still standing. I'm still upset that Milda's moved out of their original location to that bogus one across the street. I used to live right around the corner and walk over for pasties! Yum.

January 17, 2010 7:27 PM  
Blogger Vianney1100 said...

If it comes down to inviting an unfaithful priest to retire causing the parish to have only one Mass I am all for it. As long as the one Mass is celebrated by a faithful priest from a neighboring parish. Too many of these progressive priests have lost their belief in what the Church teaches and even the Sacraments. Why would we want them out there misleading their flocks? I spent the last 7 years at one of those parishes and did my best to spur orthodoxy by reasoning with the priest. It was a waste of time. The already retired priest who does some weekday Masses there is even worse. He tells the people such things as: we no longer believe in orginal sin and the Old Testament is just a bunch of made up stories. Yes, I pray for these priests but they have lost their vocation and are doing great damage. They let their interior prayer life go and over the years jetisoned what they believed. They quit relying on Our Lord and begain relying on themselves.
If you want to read how this is possible, I recommend a book by Jean-Baptiste Chautard, called The Soul of the Apostolate. It should be required reading at all seminaries and even by veteran priests.

January 17, 2010 8:44 PM  
Anonymous Austringer said...

Cathy, we're in agreement. No man is perfect, and we need to grant our priests some slack in that regard!

We're probably just speaking of degrees, or perhaps habitualness. Or maybe even the struggle against one's own weaknesses...I'm reminded of the Catholic writer Evelyn Waugh, who converted to Catholicism. He was known for his ascerbic and biting manner, and someone once remarked to him (I'm hoping I'm remembering this correctly)that his religion hadn't made him very pleasant, and his response (which was probably snapped out with some venom) was that he would have been much, much more nasty without his faith: “If not for my faith,” he explained, “I would be barely human.” I am sure that there are many people, priests and laity alike, who are by nature impatient or cantankerous. I do expect that priests, even more than the rest of us, ought to try and fight those tendencies because of their role as shepherds. I sit and paint at an easel -- if I'm cantankerous, it doesn't affect others, nor does it have much of an effect on my career. That's not to say that I ought not to fight that tendency for my own sanctification...A diocesan priest, as a shepherd, MUST battle any such tendencies, as it really could affect his vocation!

January 17, 2010 8:48 PM  
Blogger Fr. John Mary, ISJ said...

Austringer: Speaking of E. Waugh(not to change direction, here, but...)have you read "Fathers and Sons" by his grandson, Alexander Waugh? A very good read. Illustrates your point very well.

January 17, 2010 9:10 PM  
Anonymous Austringer said...

Hi Father: No, I haven't read that...from the title, am I to guess it is about his father Auberon and his grandfather?

I can't recall where, but somewhere I had read that the Faith did not survive Evelyn; that his son Auberon and grandson Alexander were not practicing Catholics. Do you know if that's true?

January 17, 2010 9:52 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Austringer: You are correct. Waugh, one of my favs, did say that!

Vianney1100: I know. I agree with you.

January 18, 2010 10:41 AM  
Blogger Fr. John Mary, ISJ said...

Austringer: Sorry for my delay.
Yes, you are correct.
Both Auberon (Evelyn's son) and grandson, Alexander, ended up outside the Church for various reasons.
Quite a dysfunctional bunch!
But E. could have been much, much worse not being a Catholic!
I can relate, unfortunately:>)!

January 19, 2010 7:10 PM  
Anonymous Austringer said...

Well, Father, that makes two of us!

January 19, 2010 7:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And on a lighter note, Holy Scripture:


January 21, 2010 4:30 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Getting a link and a snippet from Fr. John Trigilio is far better than "initials" from Fr. Z!

A sweeping, grandiose, bow and tip of the biretta to you, Cathy of Alex!

January 25, 2010 5:26 PM  

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