Saturday, September 18, 2004

On Parishioners, or, On the Putative Faithful

It's time for me to rant a little.

This week and next, Holy Mother Church in the Office of Readings sets before us St. Augustine's "On Pastors" (nicely paralleled by the prophet Ezekiel), which might as well be titled "All the Ways Your Bishop Can Screw Up" or "Fifty Ways to Condemn Your Pastor".

But we already know all the ways bishops can screw up. Those of us who did not know it before had a crash course in that subject in 2002 with Boston's long Lent, Palm Beach's repeated bereavement, and all the rest of it.

Where, might I ask, is the document we really need? Where is "On Parishioners", or, maybe, "On the Putative Faithful? We screw up as followers, students, and sheep just as much, if not more, than the pastors and the bishops flub being leaders, teachers, and shepherds. And, plenty of the ways they fail are directly related to our refusals and misdoing and sheer stubbornness.

If I cultivate a teachable spirit, and hold out my hand to be taken and led, it is no surprise when I am taught and sheltered and led. If, on the other hand, I sit like a bump on a log and fight when anyone tries to pick me up, should I be very surprised when my caretaker succumbs to discouragement and gives up?

We have a duty to honor and care for our pastors, just as they have a duty to honor and care for us. We have a duty to actually pay attention when they try to teach us, and to work hard to understand their teaching and conform our lives to it; just like their duty to listen to us and to teach us the ways of God. We have a duty to pray for them, and not just in the Eucharistic Prayer on Sundays; just like it is their duty to pray for us. And on and on....

As we continue praying "On Pastors" for the rest of this week, let us not gloat. Let us remember that we have duties and responsibilities to match every one of the duties that St Augustine is taking them to task for, and in many ways we've been equal screw-ups with, or ever greater screw-ups than, our pastors and our bishops.

It was never intended that all the holiness of the Church come from the priest, and maybe the sisters. The holiness of the Church is to come from all of us --- or more correctly, from our Lord through every single one of us. We cannot get away with or be satisfied with anything less than sanctity of life. Not only St Augustine's targets this fortnight, but me and you and all of us! Lord, have mercy; all saints of God, pray for us.

End of rant.
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