Friday, September 30, 2005

I'm ba-ack!
You knew it would happen sooner or later. I am still very much trying to get my life organized in a new place, a new house, a new office. It is slow going, but things are going very well in my new parish, even though structural problems with buildings and the money required to repair them plagues me. Oh, well. We'll pull through.

I do have to make a brief post here in response to Fr. Tharp's "In Persona Krusty" post. First of all, he and I spoke on the matter of his post before he posted and we have since discussed it further. Obviously, he and I have a difference of opinion about the issue of a priest getting in a dunk tank and partaking of parish carnival activities. I accept his opinion and he accepts mine. While I understand and accept his point about the care a priest must take not to denigrate the dignity of the priesthood, I do think he makes too much of the matter in regard to my activities at the parish carnival, which he was present to witness. To the degree that his point in the post was that (1) a priest shouldn't feel compelled to get in a dunk tank; and, (2) the priest ought to be "liked" for much more important and ministerial reasons, and not because "he's just like everybody else," then I agree with his post.

However, I am not entirely sure that Fr. Tharp's words necessarily communicated only those points. In particular, I think he made a rather significant assumption when he wrote: "For all of Fr. H's excellent work, for all his training and experience in Rome, for all that Fr. H does to promote and incarnate the Catholic Faith, that his being thrown in a dunk tank and an amazing technocolor hairdo is what makes them "like" Father Hamilton."

I have no reason whatsoever to believe that it was my getting in a dunk tank and having fun at the parish carnival that is what "makes them 'like'" me. In fact, I would have to say that it was quite clear BEFORE the parish carnival that I was being very warmly received in my new parish. I have found nothing but excitement and readiness to welcome a new priest, even among those who regret the absence of my predecessor. If anything, I would say that my participation in the parish carnival was simply an additional factor, among what I hope are many factors, in what helps people come to know me and appreciate me. I would add to support this claim that when I hear comments about how people here appreciate me as their new pastor, not a one of them has offered the dunk tank as evidence. In fact, when people specify what they appreciate it tends to be related to my teaching and involvement in the school and ministerial functions: "He spends time with the school"; "he visited my wife in the nursing home"; "he takes Holy Communion to shut-ins"; "he did such a wonderful job at that funeral and he didn't even know the deceased"; "he showed up at the hospital even though it was a bit of a burden to get there."

These are the things people offer as reasons to appreciate what I have done in my brief time here. I don't think they are at all confused about what they look for in a priest or about the dignity of the priest who incarnates Christ amidst the flock. I agree that a priest must be careful not to pander to hopes that Father be "just like everyone else"; but, I would disagree that parish carnival activities always and everywhere cause such harm. I think it has to be evaluated on a case by case, parish by parish basis. There may be reasons why getting in a dunk tank may not be prudent at Parish X, but I don't find such reasons present in the particular instance of my parish. I had fun and I would do it again, as I have done so at previous parishes. If I sensed something were amiss in another parish, I would have to evaluate that matter more closely.

No comments: