Sunday, February 18, 2024

The most important day of your life (Sunday homily)

 What do you think was the most important day of your life?

Was it the day you were born? 

Or maybe when you graduated from school? 

Or when you met your sweetheart? Or when you were married?

Maybe you have four or five most important days: 

when each of your children was born?

Was mine when I was ordained as a priest?

No: as very special as all those are, 

none of those was the most important day of your life. 

The most important day of your life – and mine – 

was the day we were baptized;

because that is when you and I received eternal life!

You and I were joined to the life of the Holy Trinity

and we became citizens of heaven.

That changes everything.

What does that have to do with the flood in the first reading?

The flood washes away all that is hostile to the life of God; 

everything that separates and distracts us from God.

And that is what baptism does, too.

So how do we get from a flood to the desert?

When you wash away everything that commandeers our attention, 

all the urgent that isn’t important -- when all that is gone, what’s left? 

What’s left is the essential confrontation 

between good and evil that we see in the Gospel,

with all the distractions and illusions stripped away.

Above all, notice it is Jesus facing the devil – not us. 

He’s squaring off in the battle each of us faces.

Jesus confronts our enemy on our behalf.

What happened when we humans faced the devil 

the first time, doing it for ourselves? 

That was our first parents, in the Garden.

They lost, and our hope was destroyed.

So, as St. John Henry Newman said, 

“A second Adam to the fight and to the rescue came.”

The confrontation comes day by day, the choice between

Embracing the truth of ourselves as God created us to be,

Versus the illusion of making ourselves our own gods;

but we never need face our ancient foe alone. 

That’s what Good Friday and the Cross are about. 

Jesus had a choice; he said, let the cup pass, if possible;

but if not, Father, thy will be done! 

Once again, that is what baptism is about:

you and I being joined to Jesus: we take up his cross;

and he takes up the battle on our behalf.

(That’s why we recall our own baptism today, 

and why we will do that in a solemn way in six weeks on Easter.)

Someone once told me, always have an action item in a homily.

So here it is: you have six weeks of Lent 

to discover the power and reality of your own baptism – 

the most important day of your life.

Go to confession: return to the purity of your baptism.

Remember the vows made for you. Make them again for yourself.

On the day of your baptism, you were set on the path toward heaven. 

This time of Lent is our opportunity to recheck our heavenly GPS

And make sure you and I are still headed the right way.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

What's leprosy got to do with Lent? (Sunday homily)

 Skin diseases might be an odd thing to talk about at Mass. 

But the point is that illnesses like these do more than make us sick. 

They separate us from others. 

Four years ago when we had the lockdowns in reaction to Covid, 

among other things, many of us discovered 

just how destructive isolation can be.

That’s why Jesus told the man to go show himself to the priests, 

so there would be no question of his freedom to return to the temple.

Ash Wednesday is this week. 

This is a good time to set the tone for our Lent.

I’m going to tell you something you may not believe, but’s it’s true. 

Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation.

It really isn’t! And yet, our churches will be filled. Why?

Ash Wednesday – and Lent as well – 

is one of those times when we realize 

our spiritual journey isn’t solitary. We are part of a family.

Notice, we all do certain penances together:

Fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday,

and abstaining from meat on the Fridays of Lent.

Our students and our families will do things together.

There is power in that “together,” isn’t there?

As we go into Lent, I want to highlight 

some of the opportunities we have – together – 

to grow closer to Christ. That’s what it’s all for.

There are still forms in the pews for the Catholic Ministries Appeal, 

if you want to contribute.

We’re offering a retreat for men and one for women in a few weeks. 

You’ll see various materials provided at the doors of church.

Please watch the bulletin for many added times for confession.

As in Advent and last Lent, we’ll have confessions 

every Monday and every Tuesday evening, 

and on Thursday and Saturday mornings, in addition to our usual times. 

And we’ll have times on Good Friday.

When we go to confession, we do that individually; 

and yet, even there, we’re together in a way.

I’m in that line; you are; your parents, your children, 

Archbishop Schnurr, Pope Francis – all of us.

There’s another part of this. Lent is not only about holiness; 

it is also about reconciliation.  

Remember, we call confession the sacrament of reconciliation.

The leper, being cleansed, 

was also able to be reconciled with the community.

When we go to confession, as hard as it can be to tell our sins, 

that is still, really, the easier part.

The really hard part is what we do next – 

after we are absolved, after we do our penance.

The really hard work comes next. 

Who do you know who is owed an apology? Seek them out.

What concrete steps are you prepared to make, 

in order to be different toward others?

Seeking out someone to be reconciled with?

People say, “Oh, that’s just my nature, I can’t help it.”

O c’mon!

Being Irish or German or Scottish or whatever is not an excuse.

Change is hard; but we can do it, if we really want it, with God’s help. 

It’ll still be difficult, but you and I can make it happen.

If you want a powerful conversion experience, 

ask the Holy Spirit to awaken you 

to how your sins affect other people.

If you are making fun of other kids, or bullying them, at school?

If you are drinking too much, too often? 

Being dishonest? Not doing a full day’s work? 

Those pictures on the Internet? They are real, flesh-and-blood people.

In other words, none of our moral failures are really “private”; 

our actions and omissions affect others, one way or the other.

So as we go into Lent, be mindful of the people around you.

How you and I can either be a negative influence – or a good one.

Lent – repentance and conversion – is something we do together.

Wednesday, February 07, 2024

Parish priest as supervisor

One of the things not well understood about parish life, and this includes not only by the general public, but by parish employees, and the priests themselves, is the importance of the pastor as a supervisor.

I know enough to know how much I don't know!

Other people are far more expert in the field of employee supervision and motivation; nevertheless, a pastor has this role to play, and if he ignores it or neglects it, it will not only bring him tears, but tears to everyone. This failure comes back everywhere:

1) Employees who aren't effective and sometimes even destructive.

2) Other employees who are demoralized and scandalized by #1.

3) Parishioners who either have a vague, or more definite, sense that something is wrong and get frustrated and impatient for change.

4) A pastor who instead of responding in the right way, responds badly, or, for fear of doing the latter, avoids the problem. 

One of the realities of parish life is that not all priests are going to be good at this, and some will never get even to adequate. Maybe they are at fault for not working harder at it; but when priests are already working hard (despite the conviction of some that we are lazy and selfish), it's understandable that they would focus on their areas of strength and greater comfort, and put off learning to be a better supervisor to "someday."

Most parishioners will probably never know about the problems, or perhaps only get the slightest glimpse; and if the pastor is doing it well, while parishioners will benefit, they mostly will not connect the dots between the parish going well, and the pastor playing this part well. It will be hidden.

The beginning of this process is in hiring the right people the right way. But then, almost all pastors inherit a staff in place, and can go a long time between hiring decisions. I had the unique opportunity in coming to this family of parishes to do a lot of hiring. Thank God and his people here who helped me, and I think the hiring process worked out very well.

In this family of parishes, we reorganized three mostly independent parish staffs into an integrated one. The changes this worked in our parishes haven't completely rippled through, but there was a real burst of disruption early on. One reason things are going better than they might is precisely because we made really good decisions in planning the new staff arrangement, and in filling the positions. We have some bumps, but far fewer, I think, than there might have been.

Consider this: when I got here, the three parishes had about 25 employees, outside of those in the school. Pretty much all of them were mine to supervise. After rearranging things, I have eight people who report directly to me. This does not count the four other priests and the seven deacons; they don't "report" to me, but sustaining a collegial relationship with them has a lot of similarities; and it would be perhaps equally as neglected, as the employed team members would have been, without a change.

I am able to meet or confer over the phone with all those eight; I can do a lot better job for them, and that includes helping them do the exact same thing for the rest, who are getting more attention and feedback from their immediate supervisor.

Why am I talking about this? Two reasons.

First, people should know what being a pastor is like. You deserve to know what you're paying for.

Second, in the context of the Beacons of Light reorganization project, I think it bears some consideration of the hidden costs of resisting reorganizing things, as many are doing. They want their parishes to stand alone; they want the pastor, who is pastor in two, five or six other places, to keep things familiar. You have no idea the short- and long-term costs of this, and I don't mean just or even mainly for the pastor. Your beloved parish will pay a price.

Feel free to ask questions.

Monday, February 05, 2024

Is canon law the most essential thing for parishes?

Many of my friends are circulating on Facebook an article at Crisis by another mutual friend, which addresses the current Beacons of Light project with the title, A Plea for Parishes

Before I say any more about the article or its author, I want to be as clear as I can. The author is an admirable Catholic husband and father, whom I respect immensely. I consider him a friend, I believe he would say the same. I do not like that we disagree on Beacons of Light, but such things happen, and they need not jeopardize the fundamental relationship. I intend to pay him the compliment and respect of engaging with the case he's making, in hopes that as "iron sharpens iron" according to Scripture, he and I and all of us can get further toward our shared goals of living faithfully and fully the Christian life here, on the way to There -- that is, Kingdom come.

So here's the question that arises as I have read and reflected on his article. 

*** And, trigger warning: if you find my analytical or rhetorical approach to be at sharp angles to your own way of thinking, that is a feature, not a bug; that experience is often how we come to see things differently. Nothing here is a veiled "attack" or attempt to intimidate, despite what a commenter on another post the other day maintained. So, if my approach causes you upset or provokes only emotion, then please consider that this post, or me, is not your "cup of tea" and drink no more. ***

OK, back to my constructively intended provocative question:

Why should the legal-canonical structures involved in the complex reality we all call "parish" be the sine qua non of parish life? Why is the legal structure the irreducible component on which the whole reality rests? 

To be more provocative: it seems that my friend has -- certainly unwittingly -- made the argument that not even the pastor is as important as the canon- and civil-law structures.

Is that really where we want to end up? 

Let me fill this in, this may take a bit I'm sorry.

Mr. Schmiesing begins with the shocking and depressing scene of a beloved and beautiful church -- a repository of tradition and memory, a truly sacred place -- being obliterated. This is horrible. And for those who don't know me, in my 21 years as a priest, of which 18 were as pastor or administrator, I've devoted great energy and time to the maintenance and improvement of the physical structures, the churches above all. I can show you the wounds, so to speak, that I've incurred in this effort.

The point seems obvious: if we don't sustain parish life, the wrecking ball is coming, one way or another. And essential to sustaining parish life as lovingly described are the underlying legal structures.

Let me pause here to clarify something important about our language. When we use the term "parish," there are actually many realities involved. Previous to this post, I've specified three; today I'm going to add one or two more. This will take a few paragraphs, then back to the Crisis article.

Those five realities (or is it four? See below), as I see it, are, not necessarily in this order:

1. The physical place. When we say, "I go to X Parish," we almost invariably mean, that is the name of the church where we pray and take part in the sacraments, where the school, or religious education program, where members of the family are taught the faith, and where any number of other activities important to the aspect that follows, take place. So let us summarize this meaning as "parish-place."

2. The people. A parish is not merely a place, but it is a place, as Mr. Schmiesing persuasively argues.

That said, what happens when, sad to say, a tornado comes through and flattens the beloved shrine and related buildings. Is that the end of "the parish"? No. If there is no desire to rebuild, then the "parish," understood fully, was already dead. A living parish will act instinctively and with great drive, to rebuild the physical place. Less traumatically, that community of people that corresponds to the place, will often agree to make additions to the physical place, adding a school, or a gym, or play fields or even expand (and in due course, modify and dare I say, to some degree, "destroy") the old church. Sometimes such changes can bring tears, but in the best cases, the outcome is judged better. Let us summarize this aspect as "parish-people."

3. The legal entity. I take it as a given that most Catholics, when they refer to a parish, even "their" parish, they are not thinking primarily of legal structures. Yet this is a very important aspect and I hasten to point out, this plays a central role in the argument Mr. Schmiesing is making. 

By legal structure, I mean this: under canon (i.e., church) law, a parish is a defined reality which also exists, in some fashion, under civil law. It acts together, it has rights, it can engage in business transactions, it can buy and sell property. I am not a canon lawyer and I don't wish to delay this post by running off to copy down sections of canon law. It's not necessary to do that, in order to demonstrate that this aspect of a parish is real, is it? If you want to explore this subject at length, I suggest you go searching online for the Code of Canon Law and for various experts who provide commentary on the same. For now, let us shorthand this aspect as "parish-corporation."

(4) Here's where I add what might be a fourth element, or merely a part of the third, or yet another to follow: the ecclesial relationship. As real as "parish" (in all its facets) is, it never exists without the larger reality of the diocese and the worldwide church. So until I can figure out a better terminology, may we summarize this as "parish-limb," as in a parish is to the whole Church as a limb is to a whole body? 

And let's note, necessarily in passing, that insofar as the parish can only be understood in relation to the whole Church, then we are necessarily talking about a reality rooted in the teaching of the Church, the tradition of the Church, both with upper- and lower-case Ts, and ultimately, rooted in the Holy Trinity. There are theological truths involved that necessitate certain limits on our possible approaches. 

5. Here's what I was going to list fourth when I started the list, until number 4 occurred to me. While number 4 might be better subsumed under another item, this one stands alone all the same: parish-priest

If you want to idle away some hours, spend some time investigating the following Latin words: paroecia and parochus. These are the words used in Canon Law (and I bet lots of other writings of the Church) for "parish" and "pastor," respectively, or perhaps more precisely, "parish priest," because the term pastor is used by the church for both a parish priest and for a bishop. 

But here's what I invite you to discover and digest: these Latin words are cognate; they come from the same root. It's not the case in English: priest and parish; priest derives from Greek presbyter and parish from Latin parochia, and -- ding, ding! -- guess where paroecia and parochus come from? 

This etymology unveils a truth rooted deep in our Catholic Tradition: that, in a real sense, the parish (paroecia) essentially relates to, and is even, at a certain point, identified with, the priest who is pastor (parochus)

This is expressed in church law by designating the pastor, and only the pastor, as the one who can act for the "juridical person" of the parish-corporation; or, in his absence, the "vicar" who stands in his place. Church law often directs the parochus to seek counsel or even cooperation from others, such as a pastoral or finance council, and even the bishop, nevertheless, the parochus never drops out of the parochial picture; if he drops dead, someone else -- a vicar or a temporary administrator -- MUST take on his role. 

At the risk of sounding egotistical, there is no paroecia without a parochus

We might think of the family as an analogy; of course a family can have an absent father, an alienated father, a deceased father; and this is a wound; but there is no family without a father having been part of it at some point. 

Of course there can be temporary or abnormal expedients: the vicar (i.e., associate pastor), neighboring pastor, or a retired priest, can step in as needed. But these are temporary and abnormal, note well! Which means they should not be treated as the enduring, i.e., "normal" practice!

Now, let's go back to Mr. Schmiesing's article and the whole battle over Beacons of Light.

My friend is arguing passionately and persuasively for maintaining individual parish-corporations that are centered around parish-places, because they are so necessary to the continued existence of the parish as people. And he talks also about the importance of the parish-priest. 

But here's what he doesn't adequately address.

The sad reality is that not only today -- but for decades leading to today -- it has not been possible to center our existing parish-places, parish-people, parish-corporations, around an individual parish-priest. 

For decades, there has been a gradual shift from the reality envisioned by Catholic tradition and law, to an unhealthy, abnormal "normal": having multiple-personality pastors.

When a priest is asked to be pastor of parish A, and at the same time, pastor of parish B, and C (etc.), he is no longer one pastor; he is three pastors (or more, as the case may be). This is true, whether you who read these words understand the reality or not. 

Or, if you wish, you can think of a parish in such a "cluster" arrangement as having not a whole pastor, but a half- or third-pastor, which is true yet not the full story, which is worse; because it fails to convey the real and insuperable problem of being a pastor to more than one separate parishes; akin to being a parent to more than one separate families. 

I want to reiterate that I believe Mr. Schiesing and those who hear their concerns expressed in his eloquent plea are seeking, in essence, what I am seeking; the glory of God and the salvation of souls. And, to state again, I agree with him about the tremendous, even essential, value of a parish.

What I wonder, however, is how can a parish be healthy if what is demanded of the parish priest is unhealthy? Or, worse, fundamentally flawed at the root because it's contrary to what is intended?

Mr. Schmiesing asks for "pastors willing to do the impossible"; but is it a lack of willingness; or capacity? Is it truly wise to build a plan on people doing what is actually, literally, impossible? 

I have been two pastors in a prior assignment -- i.e., pastor of one parish while also pastor of another. Today, I am three pastors. It is not a matter of how much work I am prepared to do. It is a matter of not knowing how to be three distinct people. One answer is that this is a failure of mine, I readily grant. But are those who urge me to keep trying prepared to consider this: that perhaps one man simply cannot be multiple pastors and we are not considering the destructiveness of continuing to demand that?

I do not mean only destructive of the priest, although this is true and very often is dismissed as the priest being whiny or selfish or lazy. But setting that aside, have you considered the destructive effects on the cherished reality Mr. Schmiesing and all of us want to protect and strengthen: the fruitful nourishing of faith in the context of a "parish"?

Here I'll bring in a reality we all take for granted but not yet mentioned: the familial, and therefore, spousal, relationship of the pastor to his parish. There is a reason we call priests "father." Do we mean it?

I've been told that we really don't: by those who object to Beacons and also, by fellow priests, who see the moving-on from a pastorate as just one of those things, inevitable and even desireable. When I moved on from being pastor, twice, it was wrenching for me. Was I a fool to see those communities as my family? Would I be wiser to give up on that familial/spousal understanding, and see myself instead as just another professional with a job description heavy on executive and administrative responsibilities?

But if we do mean it -- and Mr. Schmiesing's article seems to take the fatherhood of a priest for granted -- then what can we possibly do with a situation where a father of a family must now take on a second family, and a third, and so forth. I mean this question in the full sense of every word: how does he do that?

How does a natural father do it? Does he maintain multiple households, preventing excessive mingling? Does he schedule himself to spend time in each? I am asking seriously: I do not see how this works. I think it necessarily is an artifice, jury-rigged, unnatural and unwholesome, not merely for the father, but for everyone. I marvel that there seems to be little public reflection on this point, other than people telling me I'm wrong to treat my fatherhood as real. It is tempting to agree as it solves many problems. Yet I can't put all the pieces together with that conclusion.

Let me put it this way.

If you identify with Mr. Schmiesing's cry of the heart that the parish reality he describes must be protected and not changed, then I must point out that your complaint is not with changes being undertaken today, or proposed for the next several years. No! You are rightly protesting changes that have been underway for decades, as the traditional reality of a parish centered, not only on buildings, people and legal structures, but also on a priest, has been gradually remodeled and ceased to exist in much of the diocese long before 2022.

A great portion of those who protest Beacons of Light are not asking for the traditional model back (because they concede that such is almost certainly impossible). Rather, they are preferring one hybrid over another. Instead of attempting a parish model with modified legal structures, resulting in a single parish-corporation intended to sustain multiple parish-places and parish-people groupings, they insist the legal structures must be sacrosanct; but at the enduring expense of the relationship to the priest. 

Canon law is a more essential substrate to parish life than the priest. That is the argument being made.

For the last time, I don't believe Mr. Schmiesing believes or intends this. But this seems to be the outcome of his argument, and I'm highlighting it for the mutual benefit of all.

Sunday, February 04, 2024

A homily on sloth! (Sunday homily)

We’ve all heard of the seven deadly sins, I hope?

Just to remind you, they are: 

pride, envy, wrath, greed, gluttony, lust; 

and there’s one more we don’t talk about much: sloth. 

What is sloth? It is more than merely being lazy.

This is the sin of indifference; of not caring.

It can poison our zeal for the things we need to do:

Praying, going regularly to confession, being faithful to our obligations,

and providing for the needs of others.

Saint Augustine talked once about this life being a journey.

Sometimes, as for Job in the first reading,  

it is a “drudgery,” and a lack of hope.

When Job speaks of “months of misery,

and troubled nights,” 

lots of people can identify with that.

That discouragement can be lead to a “why bother” sort of attitude, 

And that is a form of sloth. 

Thinking about being on a journey:

Not so much in February, but – sometimes we’re driving home, 

and it’s a beautiful day and you love the scenery along the way.

Or – more usual in February – it’s sleet and snow, 

and you’re white-knuckling it as you slip-and-slide along I-75.

Either way, remember: 

the point of the drive home isn’t the drive, but home!

And this is where a rough ride through storms 

is actually less bad than a beautiful drive. Why?

Because one of the spiritual dangers each of us face –

on our “drive home” to heaven –

is that we fall too much in love with things along the way, 

and forget where you and I are headed.

That, too, is a kind of spiritual sloth:

gradually falling in love with this world and all it offers,

can make us gradually forget our first love, who is Jesus Christ.

Either way, sloth is simply not caring; 

either from being too sad; or from being too comfortable.

One way to identify sloth in our lives:

Are you or I so content with where we are, 

that we’re not actively thinking about what’s next.

So there’s the problem. What do we do about it?

Well, these readings give us some remedies.

Notice Jesus is busy taking care of other people.

If it seems like you’re carrying the weight of the world,

if you are tempted to feel sorry for yourself,

one of the best remedies is to check in with people who need help.

There are lots of ways to help. 

And if you are looking for how to make a difference, 

contact Jennifer Zwiers, our Director of Care. 

Her mission is to help our family of parishes go higher and farther 

in helping all the needy in our community. There’s more to do!

Another remedy for sloth is what Paul does: he keeps to his task.

He says, I’ve got a job to do. Maybe I feel like it, maybe I don’t – 

but I get down to work all the same.

Paul remembers why he’s doing it: he’s thinking of home; of heaven.

A third remedy: when you’re discouraged and tempted to slack off, 

That’s when you double-down. 

If you don’t want to get out of bed to go to the gym,

what does your workout buddy do? He texts you, “Get out of bed!”

You don’t feel like praying? That’s when you pray more.

Someone will say, “but I don’t feel like praying!”…

So what? Feelings are all that important.

I’m talking to our kids right now, are you listening?

I’ve got a secret to tell you, are you ready?

A lot of times, your dad and your mom 

don’t feel like getting up at 5 or 6 am to go to work. 

They don’t feel like making supper.

They don’t feel like helping you with your homework

or leading the family Rosary.

But they push ahead: it’s not about feeling. It’s about love.

Love is a choice, not a feeling; we choose to love God,

We choose to care for people around us, whether we feel it…or not.

It’s nice to have the good feels; but lots of times, that doesn’t happen.

Just keep going. We’ve got a journey ahead of us. 

Another provocative question about Beacons of Light

If you are in an airplane and the plane crashes and you and the other survivors are in the middle of unfamiliar landscape -- maybe a forest or a desert -- you have several options, perhaps more than you realize at first; but very likely, all are variations of bad. The one option you do not have is to roll back the tape and be back in the sky, in the plane, jetting toward your destination. 

What do you do?

One option that is almost certainly not preferable is to attempt to mimic the foreclosed possibility, say: everyone getting back in their seats, and having the pilot sit in the cockpit, and the flight attendants roaming the aisles, as if everyone was back in a better situation. That is to say, if what you want to do is recreate the desired-but-unavailable option, you are probably not choosing well. That is not to say that staying in the plane would be a worse option; it might actually be the best of all undesirable choices. But proceed with realism about what really is available, and what is not, and what the risks and benefits are of the various choices.

If you aren't sure what this has to do with Beacons of Light, ask. Better than assuming the answer and then attacking me, the messenger, for what you imagined I mean.

Saturday, February 03, 2024

Do you think your priests are lazy and selfish?

It is a serious question.

In the context of the Beacons of Light project, in which the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is presently immersed, there are many decisions and steps being taken, to address two shortages:

a) People in the pews in many parishes, and

b) Priests suitable to be pastors.*

Some people deny that there is a shortage of pastor-capable priests; or they dispute that the specific tasks demanded of a pastor are really that demanding; any priest should be able to do it. Or, they dispute that a priest is even needed to administer a parish, it can be done by others. Or, they dispute that reorganizing things will do anything helpful.

Or, they ignore all these issues and simply oppose the changes because of the bad effects they foresee.

Most upsetting to many is the plan for the legal structures of parishes to be reorganized: so that, where there were multiple stand-alone parishes, there will be a combined parish, that will include multiple churches and other facilities, or for lack of a better word, "campuses," that correspond to the previously stand-alone, legally separate, parishes.

Nothing I'm saying here is dismissive of the concerns. So let's, please, not get sidetracked into reactions such as, "why don't you care?"

Which brings me back to the question posed by my headline: Do you think your priests are lazy and selfish?

It really is a serious question and here's why I'm posing it.

Your priests are telling you:

1) They cannot and will not continue with arrangements in which they are tasked with being multiple pastors. The "cluster" model, where a priest is named pastor of parish A, while being pastor of parish B, parish C, and so forth, with each parish a legally distinct administrative entity -- is wholly unworkable. It is BAD.

2) Being pastor is demanding in particular ways, even if that's not obvious to you; so not any priest can do it. That is no more a knock on those priests than saying that not all players on a team can be the pitcher or the wide receiver is a knock on those athletes.

3) The idea of having priests no longer be the administrator of parishes leads places the laity do not want. It may lead places our Lord does not want. In any case, such alternatives have not been well articulated.

4) The consequences of delaying and denying are worse than you think.

5) The Beacons of Light project is certainly not perfect, and there are plenty of legitimate criticisms. Still...

6) The two basic tasks -- reorganizing things to facilitate effective administration, and pivoting to evangelization -- are the best ways forward.

Again, this is what your priests are telling you. The Archbishop is telling you this. Why do you think?

Do you think we are lazy or selfish? Are we all stupid?** If not, then what?

I get that people don't like this. Neither do I. I very much get that many people really don't understand the realities of administering a parish, so they don't see why a priest would be so emphatic about the "cluster" model. But why is dismissing my observation the right answer? I submit the better response is to ask and listen. Especially to find out what I mean by points 3 and 4, because realize: that if these points are valid, the resistance to Beacons of Light may have worse consequences than people understand; wouldn't knowing the costs better make a whole lot of sense?

Finally, attack the messenger if you wish, but that's basically answering the question in the headline with a yes. What else is it?

Update, 2/4:

An anonymous commenter (or two) does not like this question. S/he claims it is an "attack" and an attempt to silence people.

May I suggest contemplating the following. Sometimes people -- say, teachers in a classroom, or speakers giving a talk -- will ask questions that are designed to be "provocative" in the best sense, meaning to provoke thought; to induce the listeners to approach the matter from a different angle.

You may not like the provocative question; you may not understand it. There are many ways to respond. You can ask more questions for clarity, or simply shrug it off. But telling the speaker who is posing a provocative question to shut up is missing the point.

Also, about anonymity: I choose not to disable anonymous comments, yet I tell you, if you choose to be anonymous, that hurts your cause. It's not necessary to sign up for anything in order to be non-anonymous. All you need to do is include a name or pseudonym with your comment. I don't care about your real name; you can be Daffy Duck for all I care. But when a series of anonymous comments are posted, how many actual people are involved? How does anyone know? Don't hide behind anonymity.


* A fellow priest adds this clarity: it isn't precisely a question of being capable of being a pastor anywhere; but having enough who are capable of being pastor in the great majority of parishes. The tight availability of priests for pastorates means mismatches, and the problems that arise are what I have in mind. Strictly speaking, Father X might be capable of being pastor in certain parishes, but not in many, or even most, others. This becomes a huge problem when your "bench" (to use a sports analogy) is extremely thin.

**I will be the first to acknowledge some are stupid, lazy and selfish. But all of us?