Sunday, November 05, 2023

Help our priests be better priests (Sunday homily)

Moses with His Arms Supported by Aaron and Hur
Thomas Brigstocke (1809–1881)
Aberystwyth University School of Art Museum and Galleries

When I was in the seminary, our instructor in church law 

was Father Chris Armstrong – someone here may know him. 

On the first day of class he said this – and he repeated it often:

“Gentlemen: the bane of the Church is stupid, lazy priests!

So do not be a stupid, lazy priest!”

That’s a more colorful way of stating 

what the Prophet Malachi said in the first reading.

He’s talking about self-interested priests 

who neglect the spiritual needs of the people 

they are supposed to be helping draw closer to God.

In the Gospel, Jesus makes a similar point:

Too many in leadership get seduced by the perks, 

by the strokes of the ego, 

and forget what their leadership role is supposed to be about.

Now, as a priest and as pastor, I will admit:

I have certainly missed the mark many times.

Thankfully, I’ve always had someone – more than one – 

who would…let me know!

And I want to make a very serious, very somber point here.

No priest today – unless he is, indeed, very stupid – 

is not painfully aware of the damage done in so many ways 

by other priests and bishops by unspeakable crimes, or by cover-ups.

I don’t like bringing that up. 

On the other hand, I don’t want to pretend that isn’t out there.

What I will tell you is that whether it is providing a safe environment, or it is assuring your 

contributions are handled with utmost care,

Or whether it is in providing open communication,

Our priests and deacons, our lay leadership are all-in.

We take these duties of care and integrity very seriously.

If you want more information, you are always welcome to ask.

And anyone who thinks any corners are being cut: speak up!

If not to me, then to the archdiocese, or to public authorities.

Now, let me make a different point, also serious.

What may not be obvious is that the lazy priest, 

the self-regarding priest who neglects his duties, 

can easily be a very popular priest!

No one complained when the prophets said, “you’re fine!”

It was when they cried out, “Repent! Change!” that people got mad.

The easiest thing to do is to say yes all the time.

My parents –thank God and thank them! – did not do that.

I think our nation would be so much better off 

if we had a few more politicians with that ability!

And just as a leader may not be so popular because he takes a stand, 

it is exactly the same for us as Christians in the world.

Remember, my job as a priest is to help you become holy.

You as a layperson are sent to help sanctify the world at large.

Each of us received the Spirit of prophecy at baptism, and we go out.

Everyone faces the same choice.

Will I remain silent if someone around me 

promotes bigotry or lust, or will I speak up? 

Am I willing to pay a price?

One more time I remind you: 

Tuesday’s ballot measure, Issue 1, is clothed in the language of “choice” 

but it is really about the destruction of unborn children.

That’s why our Catholic position on this is vote no.

But after the election, you and I will continue to say yes to families, especially mothers, 

who face a crisis pregnancy situation.

Protecting the vulnerable, of all ages and situations, is non-negotiable.

There’s an episode in the Old Testament, 

where Moses is standing on a hill, 

while God’s People are in the thick of battle.

His arms are raised in prayer; and after a while, he gets tired.

Two of his associates stand on either side, 

holding up his arms, and the battle is won.

I’m not Moses! But in our small way, that’s what we priests should do.

And we get tired and cranky and cynical.

Each of us priests needs others – you – to help us.

Thank you for your prayers; they hold me up.

My desire, in turn, is to help you. 

You’re in the thick of the struggle. We priests want to strengthen you.

Let us strengthen each other: not just for the trials of this life, 

but above all, for victory for eternal life.

1 comment:

Christina said...

Yes, we will support our priests. Thank you for speaking the truth Father.