Monday, July 27, 2015

Not Sure Where To Go With This...

I can't come up with a title for this entry.
I know what I don't want it to be or even 'be-come'.

I don't want it to come across as complaining or soapboxing.
I've done enough of that through the years and I know I tend to gravitate in that direction.
I apologize ahead of time if it comes across as such.

Yesterday at Mass we heard a 'report'
It was shared by a lay person and concerned the state of the diocese which is in the middle of a 'pastoral plan'

I know the approach, I used it many times.  Have a lay person share with the congregation the report and its concerns. It is a different voice and it may resonate with them and they may be 'inspired'.

Obviously I have a history.  I am not your 'typical' lay person.  For that matter, I'm not really sure what my place is in the 'people of God.'  And, my lovely wife has experienced it in her soul as well.  While it has been an incredible journey for our family, it hasn't been without its difficult moments.

I sat in the pew and thought of all the planning sessions, breakout groups, renewal projects and pastoral plans that I have been privy to through the years--both in the Roman Catholic and Anglican traditions. I thought of the countless fund raisers that were connected to the lived expression of the faith (so people would commit more i suppose).  I recalled my wife and I sitting in small groups and sessions trying to plan a congregation's future and inspire ministry.
I remembered hearing of paradigm shifts and new wine and old wineskins and renews and missions.
Contracts and payments are made with outside think tanks and even special software developers. I recall one parish where I worked where a  computerized time clock became the measure of ministry.

Yesterday I was told--
-Change has to happen.
-A comprehensive pastoral plan needs to be enacted.
-Evangelization and faith formation and pastoral care--all key words and areas that need to be addressed in a collaborative fashion.
It could have been a report from any number of 'pastoral plans' that I was part of over the past 25 years.  There was nothing new.

Is there an archivist who could pull out the old plans dust them off and reset the dates?  Think of the money saved--then throw a party for each parish?  Better yet, use the money to address immediate pastoral concerns--violence outbreak and abuse?  Funnel the funding to a different process instead of doing the same thing every 10-15 years?

I heard one statistic that I fear already summed up the future of this latest program before it even has a chance to take off.  It was hidden in the list of statistics--68+-
68+- people responded to the initial survey question out of hundreds--for just this parish (which is somewhat Vatican II in it's lay involvement so you think you would have had more).
Yep 68 +- --this might qualify as best a blip in statistical analysis.
Everything is down--baptisms, communions, confirmations, active priests---all significantly reduced in the past five years and the forecast is not good.
Granted, there are many many factors.  Many that cannot be controlled.

But here is the moment I had, and I am not sure what to do with it..
At this particular Mass sat three inactive priests--in the congregation.
Then I wondered--how many others were in this congregation that perhaps just can't do anything because things are simply the way they are.
I am not calling for married clergy running parishes.  I believe in the gift and presence of celibacy as part of the fabric of priesthood.  But maybe just maybe there is something else out there other than another 'pastoral plan' or another 'mission statement' or another book on how to become a parish.

We don't need a pastoral plan.
We need a reform.
We need Jesus.
We need to do the basics--not because we need vibrant parishes that will be inevitably restructured--but because our eternal salvation depends on it!
We don't need new fancy youth ministry and faith formation programs--we need models of inspiration.  We need leaders who are not afraid to risk change rooted in the truth of the Gospel.

Maybe we don't need parishes and schools.  Maybe that time has come and gone.  (There I said it)
Maybe we simply need to have someplace to gather, to celebrate sacraments, pray, fast, and live the Word.

So... do we need another plan or do we need reform?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Will This be on Your Chargecard Today?

I've been working 'retail' for a few months.

Fifty is so unforgiving, especially in the world of an unemployed therapist, ex-priest, rector, author, (and assorted other moments).
So I wear the part, relish the lack of responsibility, and punch the clock.

But I can't help from thinking and coming up with cures for societal quandaries as I ask "Is this on your charge card today?  No?  Well, would you like to open one and save an addition five thousand dollars?"

I've been there long enough to strike up some meaningful conversations with a couple of the employees.  

Nobody is there because they 'planned' to work in retail.
There is a teacher, an architect, an artist, a mom, a dad, student, physical therapist, phys ed teacher, occupation therapist....fill in your dream...

No one had a plan to be behind the cash register--it just happened.

I'm a little better because of this recent experience...Now I don't mean to wax existential on you,  but simply put I am heartened by some of my fellow workers commitment to making life work, for them, at that particular moment.  There is resilience found in retail.  And there are stories behind the register...each register.  

I've also seen the other side--I often work the closing hours and it is at that time that some rougher sides of humanity cooperate with sin.  Loud vulgar language and cell phone conversations are, on some nights, the norm. Crime and loss and shop lifting--seems to no longer be secretive.  It is in your face and you are threatened.  Last evening a young assistant was threatened by a 'customer'.  So much, that she was a afraid to walk to her car at the end of her shift.  As the altercation ended, the word 'racist' was used---like some license and, at the same time--threat.  
The company asks us to stop such 'events' and receive a 'reward'--really? its easier and safer to do nothing. 
And now, even if such people are 'caught' there are no teeth in any punishment.  
Parents coddle and criminal justice has no time for 'petty'.
Oh, and don't forget social work and the court mandated therapy that our taxes pay---well the funding has dried up and the programs are defunct---

And we balance on the precipice---moral authority is crumbling, relativism rules.
Evil is always at work, dismantling any good, any hope---

Do you want to put that on your charge?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Empty Nest...Really?

It didn't happen the way I thought.  I don't have the feelings that I expected to experience.  I'm not even questioning why I don't have those feelings.
I guess I'm ok.  My lovely wife and I look at each other and wonder if we are ok.
Everyone asks, "So are you ok?  It's an empty nest, now."
And we smile and say, "Yes he's away, but we're ok."
Then the gaze from the other person that seems to almost have a hint of judgment, like something is wrong with us, after all he is our only child.  Maybe we should't be 'ok'.
But what is the alternative?

In a whirlwind he graduated high school early and now he is pursuing his passion, months 'ahead' of time and many miles away from us.  At the end of summer there will be a couple of weeks--time just enough to repack and visit and then make the return trip for him to matriculate.

I'm not sure he can ever really 'return' home--we know the feeling.

Anyways, back to this little reflection on the empty nest.
It isn't.

The nest is filled with normal day to day activity.
The nest is filled with the demands of life and work.
Come to think of it, I'm not sure what an empty nest is-aside from less laundry, and learning how to cook for one less, and clean one less room.
That's not empty--that's actually a little bit easier.
And, when the nest has been feathered and filled with the down of memories and dreams and lives forged as one--well it just isn't empty.

The other day at Mass the priest had a couple speak following communion (I can't stand being blindsided).  They were going to speak about Marriage Encounter.  (Now, I know this blog reaches 3 people so I am probably pretty safe here--)
The best thing we could do as a married couple--was leave (timing the exit perfectly just as the happy couple was about to share the microphone)--and go and spend time together, our first Sunday, without our son.  That was our 'marriage encounter'.

After all we went to church as a family 'a lot'.  We converted, prayed, fasted, pilgrimaged again and again AS A COUPLE AND AS A FAMILY.
We filled our nest as best as we could with God.
We filled it with Jesus, ...with Eucharist, with Confession--and we boy did we need confession!
We filled it with Mary...and the intercessions of the Saints--Pio, Benedict, Theresa, Elizabeth Ann Seton, Jean Marie, Augustine, JP II, Michael---one year my son--filled his school year everyday with a saint---This was OUR NEST.
So, the best thing for us to do was leave before this couple started....and get back to our nest.

Of course there are moments, little memories that come up--and I thought I would have had a much more difficult time because we had such cool memories.

But the opposite happened.  Those memories are such joys--And Joy is a gift--from God.

God has graced us during this transition--and the hope for our future and our son's--is such a gift.  
And so now, the nest is not empty--it is being filled with hope, Graces, gifts, opportunities and dreams.

How is that empty?

Its never too late to work on your nest...