Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A Prayer Request You Might Not Have Considered

This time of year seems busy for priests and religious. Trust me, it is. Running around, hearing confessions, striving for holiness, conducting all extra spiritual exercises leads us to a serious case of weary silence. It is the "lying fallow" which Lent gives to the faithful so that we can come into full bloom in the light of the Resurrected Son.

However, for priests, particularly parish priests, we have something which makes us crazy and wears us out although it really shouldn't. Now, before you read on, you might want to move past the next paragraph as it will, or potentially, disillusion you. You have been warned. Don't blame me if your perception of your pastor as the next Cure of Ars is shot to pieces.

This is time of year in which the bishops of many dioceses begin the process of making and renewing the assignments for the priests. I tend to think of the assignment process in two steps: who's staying and who's going. Ever parish benefits from the presence of a priest, but familiarity can lead to indifference to the unique presence a priest gives. Further, a parish may need to move; its parishioners may need to grow up a little bit more and the priest pastoring this flock isn't able to make that happen. So, change is in the air, even if it is not being discussed openly.

Here's where your perception of parish priests may get banged up. Every priest, unless he is just assigned last year or is particularly cool, gets a little heady and anxious at this time of year. We would like to say, "Any assignment will do," and I would speculate that that sentiment is largely true. Notice. I said "largely" not "entirely." We are an ambitious lot and we view some parishes as better than others. I will leave you to decide if that is fair; I have my mind settled.

When it comes down to it, a priest can become tired and worn in a parish as much as the parishioners are tired of him. It requires the virtue of hope to say, "Despite my feelings today, tomorrow, God will be with me and with my parish and with my diocese and with the Church. I will not be ashamed or sad." Therefore, when your priest seems a little down in the mouth, there might be good reason for it.

The third person to consider is the bishop. He has an unattractive task: he must introduce an inordinate amount of change into the lives of a great number of the people of his diocese. After disliking change in itself, we next have nothing kind to say for those who are the ones who bring change to our lives. In other words, the bishop has the ineviable task of trying to make every one happy. You all know how well that works. =ahem!=

So, while you are fasting, praying, and giving alms, please remember your pastor, your parochial vicar, and your bishop. They are all in varying degrees of turmoil. May they all discern God's will and happily submit themselves to it.

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