pastoral morale ii

I blogged in a previous post about an article where a rather self-righteous priest outlined 10 things which crush his morale.

Among the items listed in 10 Ways to Crush the Morale of Priests were remarks like “Father, my favorite part of the Mass is the hug part!” and his evident disapproval of people showing up for mass in clothing. (Come on, they aren’t naked!)

If this is all he has to worry about, he should come to a diocese where they have 60 parishes and about 80 active priests. Most of these parishes were originally 3 or 4 independent canonical entities, so do the math–priests are kind of like Hatchimals and every day is Christmas Eve at Walmart. They don’t have time to worry about the person in the last row wearing “dirty sneakers.”

To be honest, I would advise, that prior to performing any optomologic splinter-abatement on the general population, the author of the Aleteia article should speak to his local optomolmogist so the doctor might readily extract the plank that is embedded in the author’s own cornea. Or maybe Fr. I-Have-a-Plank-in-my-Eye should take some time away from parish life. I’ve gone into judgmental pastoral person mode before. I’m embarrassed to admit I feel like I might be engaging in it a bit right now, but how else can we confront this sort of attitude?

As I’ve mentioned earlier, priests aren’t the only ones who get discouraged. I get discouraged in ministry too-but-I’m more readily discouraged by arrogance than what might be seen by some as mild ignorance. My spirit doesn’t get crushed when people show up for mass in shorts and Metallica t-shirts. My spirit doesn’t get crushed when folks don’t know the proper way to receive communion. My spirit doesn’t even get crushed when folks leave mass early. They were there.

When things happen that bother us, its because pastoral people could be doing a better job of celebrating God’s presence. If our liturgy was as exciting as it is supposed to be, we’d be so focused on the miracle of God in our midst, we wouldn’t care about how our neighbor was dressed. Folks would keep coming back, ritual gestures and postures would become habit over the course of time, and no one would ever want to leave, even after the last song.

What crushes my spirit even more is what I call “knowledge hoarding.” Knowledge hoarding creates a power imbalance between the people who have desks in the parish office and the folks who stop in for mass cards. It creates job security for insecure people. It has contributed to the vocation crisis by making the needs of the non-ordained helpless impositions upon a dwindling number of overwhelmed, overworked, & often unprepared presbyterate.

Pastoral leaders- self included- spend most of the week doing pastoral stuff. We forget that most folks don’t work in a rectory. Most folks don’t take four years of theology. Jo(sephine) the Plumber does not have an M.Div. (S)he doesn’t know a paten any more than the pastoral associate knows how many PPSI are needed to unclog the sacrarium. Neither priest nor plumber was born with the specified knowledge we acquired through years of training.

Imagine if you had a clogged sink. You called your plumber. When (s)he unclogged your sink, (s)he discovered that you could easily prevent it from getting clogged again. Instead of showing you how to keep it clear, (s)he simply handed you the $300 bill, and said, “you could have prevented this…” and continued to do the same thing each time it happened again.

(S)he might stay in business, but is that the right way to treat people?

Its up to us to share knowledge. Its up to us to empower one another. Its up to us to lift and enlighten one another. The church is about everyone. We need each other to experience the presence of Christ on earth.

Let’s encourage one another, exchange ideas, and may any feedback at any time be the stuff that builds up the Kingdom of God.

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