Bad Timing


Around these parts, the “Year of the Priest” has been as much of a nonevent as the opening of Al Capone’s vault or spending New Year’s Eve with the Y2K bug. Although Pope Benedict XVI officially began the observance last June, it wasn’t until eight months later that any activity started registering on our local seismograph. That’s when daily ferverinos began direct-depositing themselves in my diocesan e-mail inbox—luscious little bits of soul candy from the writings of eighth-century martyrs—courtesy of someone in the clergy personnel office. Then there were the detailed instructions on how to obtain a plenary indulgence during this time, along with the valuable information that I may also apply this indulgence to “deceased brethren in suffrage.” The cherry on the sundae was an actor channeling St. John Vianney who’d been commissioned by a diocesan office to add a few local stops to his tour schedule so we could all catch the show and be inspired. I admit that I opted instead for Grease at the local high school, but only because one of the kids in our youth group landed the part of Sandy.

I don’t blame the diocesan brass for this lackluster observance. It was just lousy timing. Who knew back in June that this would also be the year that the winnowing fan would hit the Irish church? That the scandal would reach Munich? That the heartbreaking cries of two hundred deaf boys would sound through the decades and finally reach our ears? No, this “Year of the Priest” has not been the best for priests or for any Catholics. Just when some of us thought we might be turning the corner, moving on, re-establishing some level of trust, it turns out the wounds are far deeper and much more widespread than we thought.

The people in my parish, as in many, seem to be divided into two camps. There are those who are simply tired of it all, tired of hearing about the scandals and the endless debate over who is responsible. They view the new corrective and preventative measures that many dioceses now have in place as important and viable steps to a new beginning. They just want to get on with it and over it. I suspect that many of these people have not been personally affected by clergy abuse. Like a great majority of Catholics, they’ve had either neutral or good relationships with their parish priests.

On the other hand, there are people in the pews who remain angry and appalled at a system and a leadership that would knowingly set down a wolf near their children. Yet they love the church and, from what I can tell, have no intention of leaving it. They remain active members of the parish, and after Mass they even let their kids give me a hug. Their thoughts are set on the future as well, but with a sense that substantial structural change is the only way to assure the safety of generations to come.

Ministering to these two very different groups and preaching to them from the same pulpit has made this “Year of the Priest” quite an exercise in creativity for many of us in the parish setting. Both have my heart and both have my ear. Learning to be a priest for both of these groups has required me to reassess my role as a servant and as a leader. Fellow priests in my prayer group have been a tremendous source of support in all this; the people in my parish even more so, with their generous words and frequent encouragement. But in this most difficult “Year of the Priest,” from whom have I not heard a word? The boss. The guy in charge.

Maybe that’s how this year might best be celebrated. Let every bishop, archbishop, cardinal write a note to each of his priests. Don’t make it long or we won’t read it. Just be sure to make it personal. Don’t just sign your name to the sentiments printed on the back of a holy card. Refer to a specific homily I preached. Or tell me the great things you heard about our parish food pantry or carnival or speakers program. Or at least let me know that you appreciate how accurately I account for the royal jelly (since, technically, everything belongs to you), or how frequently I show my face at company gigs. Anything that lets me know that you know something about what I do as a priest, as a minister of God’s people.

More than an e-mail or an indulgence, this might go a long way in building up a little morale that’s been lost. Like so many Catholics, we priests aren’t going anywhere either. We’re here to help figure things out and, in the meantime, tend to the wounded, and baptize a few babies, and preach a few homilies, and chair a few meetings—all the things we normally do in the year, in the life, of a priest.


About the Author

Fr. Nonomen (a pseudonym) is the pastor of a suburban parish. He has been a priest for more than twenty years.



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Only through the attainment of a higher state of mind -- the mystical state -- will priests (and lay people) ever abandon the desire for power, for money and for sexual pleasures.  To think that there are priests, bishops, Cardinals and popes who pretend to be with and to love Jesus, is a big fat lie.  The leaders of the Church are worst than the Pharisees.  At least the Pharisees were not hypocrites. 

Continuining to look to the heavens for help is really sick.  Why? Because when one is in the U.S.A., and looking up, he is facing 180 degrees from one standing somehwere in Chican and looking up.  When we look to the skies we believe we are looking up, but we are actually looking out...somewhere!

The time has come to look in a different direction.  We must look inward, within the soul.  Each individual human being must look within.  If we are ever to discover the true self, we must begin to analyze the things we already know.  Crazy? Perhaps not.  Could it be that science looks too deep, religion too high and philosophy too far for the answer to peace of mind -- freedom of thought.  We now have what the Church SHOULD be teaching.  It is something that will trigger the kind of insight -- mystical insight -- that we seek.  It is what Jesus called, the Holy Spirit.  It is sudden insight.  It is a sudden realization.  It is something that can ONLY come from within and no matter how many prayers one says, it cannot be reached without looking at familiar things, things that are obvious, things we already know and things we take for granted.  WHY? Because there are so many things we learn that become known, but only superficially -- on the surface.  They do NOT become intuitive knowledge.  Is there support for this? The support is found in a number of prominent names including Whitehead, Hegel, Shaw, Gibran, Huxley, and more.  Whitehead said, "Familiar things happen and mankind does not bother about them."  Hegel gave us these words: "Because it's familiar, a thing remains unknown."  Psychologist Ichheiser wrote, "Nothing evades our attention as persistently as that which is taken for granted." 

Today we know WHY a mystical experience -- the onset to the mystical state -- takes place.  Knowing this provides the incentive to reach for ththe mystical state which is also known as, ultimate reality.  Jesus called it the kingdom of heaven.

Emmanuel Karavousanos, Author, Speaker



     What a sad commentary.  Hopefully, Fr. Nonomen's (the meaning is not lost on me) experience has not been duplicated in every diocese across the country (or the world, for that matter).  Another instance of the same kind of self-absorption we've seen in Rome with all the cries of "attack on the pope", "petty gossip" and the rest.  

     And then, the bishops, in their wisdom (by approving the new "translation" of the liturgy) have in effect voted to require their priests to stand up before their people and lie about the quality and merits of said translation.  What a personnel policy!  How much abuse can our priests stand?  Is it any wonder that young people are not attracted to the Church?  

     We really, really do need some serious rethinking of how we do things.  We also need many more bishops to step up to the plate, like Bishop Trautman, and say plainly that the Emperor has no clothes.  

A clarification:  My last post referred particularly to Father N.'s not having heard from his bishop.  

Now that it is nearly over, the 'year of the priest' has been largely a non-event. One wonders who sought this proclamation and for what purpose? Did bishop's conferences take any leadership role? Was this to encourage vocations? Was it to raise morale among the ordained? Most likely, to those who paid any attention, it created more discussion points regarding celibacy, women's ordination, the extreme shortage of priests, and the staffing of American dioceses with foreign trained priests to replace those who are retiring. Perhaps some more discussion will ensue as the laity and religious overcome their reluctance to speak out and make the hierarchy listen. Unless the who point is to drive more people away so the church will simply be smaller and less, and less, and less...

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