Friday, October 25, 2013

Ahh, the priest shortage...

Ahh the priest shortage.
It's rearing its head...
Recently, a friend and fellow blogger offered some eye-opening theological and pastoral insights and helped put some meat on the stark statistical reality facing the Roman Catholic Church.

Simply put, there aren't enough guys ordained to maintain (let alone grow) the current diocesan structure.  Parishes are being closed or merged and life seems to be on a slippery slope down down down into a future that certainly seems the juxtaposition of the era of Going My Way and good old Bing Crosby.

The priesthood has lost numbers.
The priesthood has lost credibility.
The priesthood is confused.

Okay, okay…before you get all defensive let's gain some perspective….vocation wise that is…

Marriage has lost numbers (divorce rates)
Marriage has lost credibility (it no longer means two married heterosexual people)
Marriage is confused (as it is now redefined in the political arena)

We are all in a vocation diaspora--that wandering and 'wondering' and striving to stay true to the essential call of vocation.  God is still calling it's just that we muck everything up.
And the devil sits back and smiles.
The devil needs to be cast out.
How do you cast out a devil?

So here are some preliminary thoughts;

What about prayer for vocations?  I mean real prayer--like an evening once a week in the parish.  People kneeling in the pews with their priest beside them praying for married and religious and single and priests?  Not just a one time thing---a real commitment for a designated time period (even more than advent).

What about fasting for vocations?  What about the diocesan clergy offering something up for their own?  When there is only one piece of cake and the parent really wanted it--but the child says; "Can I have a piece?"  Instead of splitting it--the parent gives the child the whole piece and goes without…a gesture of holding nothing back.  Clergy need, clergy must fast for their own!  
Give up on the 'vocation' dinners and get to vocation fasting.  Do it in a parish.

Let's simply balance the bad news with living the Good News!

How many priestly gatherings occur for the sole purpose of prayer and fasting for vocations to their ranks?  Sadly, I've never heard of one.

"…these demons can only be cast out by…"
you got it.

And…just for the record--marriage only becomes better and better with prayer and fasting!!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Good and Bad Roots of Reform--(or Reform pt III)

I came across a book authored in the mid 70's.  It was written by a religious brother who was later accused of inappropriate behaviors.  It was a very popular book during its time and I recall being given the book by my high school chaplain and reading it at different times throughout high school.

The book was the result of the Church's 'newfound' marriage between religion and psychology.
     "...I am sure that the most persistent and restless desire of my life is to be fully human and fully alive."

I found it interesting that he mentions Carl Jung by name before Jesus Christ, but I digress.
Unfortunately it took years before I found my true restless desire--God (thank you for naming it--good old St. Augustine).  And, even though I have failed many (many) times in my search, it is only through the mercy of Jesus that I am drawn deeper into His love.

In my last entry I talked about humility as a root to true reform.
In the following thoughts I want to address the need to be selfless.

Often times the roots of reform are not only reactionary but narcissistic.  Books, philosophies, and even the very Gospel can and have been used to justify anything in the name of 'reform'.  How can you argue with the need to reform?  We have been lead to believe that reform is good--no matter what the cost. Of course the matter is compounded when the person who truly seeks reform is combatting narcissistic behavior.  Both 'sides' end up navel gazing and jockeying for positions using a variety of tactics like--anonymity, half truths, lack of communication and passive aggressive behaviors.
Sometimes in the midst of seeking reform, we become what we hate.
There was a time when all I yearned for was reform in the church and my distrust and dislike of whatever I didn't like sometimes consumed me.  Fortunately love prevailed.

There are those who appear to be selfless and live for others--laity and clergy alike--but it is only an appearance.  A great deal of energy goes into living such a false life because what is really going on is that the person will keep striving to live a life of appearances--for personal gratification.  And the problem perpetuates itself--to satan's pleasure.

The quest of fulfilling that desire to be 'fully human and fully alive' does absolutely nothing but allow a person to dip their toe in the pool of relativism.  A person who justifies their 'spirituality of me' at the expense of others is nothing more than the Pharisee who passed judgement on the poor widow.  Such a spirituality isolates, contradicts the first commandment, and denies the sacrificial love of Christ.  Such a spirituality cannot become the basis of true reform.

In the 90's, while working at a spirituality/psychology institute (yes I was into it), I recall a presentation on 'dealing with difficult people.'  The reason such a conference was so well attended?  Because we had 15-20 years of navel gazing me-ness, now everyone was difficult!

Nothing like an adult who doesn't get their way, again laity and clergy notwithstanding.
And...nothing like a self proclaimed narcissistic reformer who doesn't get his/her way!
Reform cannot be rooted in 'me'
It must not be rooted in the 'self'

True reform is selfless.  The other way is not true, it is false and a lie--and we know where lies come from.