It's time for me to rant a little.
All this week and all next week, Holy Mother Church in the Office of Readings has us reading St. Augustine on pastors (from the sermon of that title) and the holy Prophet Ezechiel on (rotten) shepherds. These might as well be titled "All the Ways Your Bishop Can Screw Up" or "Fifty Ways to Condemn Your Pastor".
But, to listen to us in the Bloggsville comboxes, we don't need any help to condemn our pastors, we are already very efficient at that. And we already know all the ways that our 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 kicking and biting when anyone tries to pick me up, should I be very surprised when, after dozens of attempts to lure me or budge me, my caretaker succumbs to discouragement and gives up trying?
We have a duty to honor and care for our pastors, just as they have a duty to honor and care for us. When the newly-named bishop arrives, and the chancellor, the college of consultors, the papal nuncio, et alia sit him down in the big chair with the crozier in his hand, he takes on responsibilities and duties toward us --- and we take on reciprocal responsibilities and duties toward him.
Our bishop is to nurture and care for us.
We are to nurture and care for our bishop.
Our bishop is to teach us and to give us guidance in the way of the Lord.
We are to pay attention to the bishop's teachings and to be amenable to being guided.
Our bishop is to treat us with honor and care and respect, even when he has to correct us or rebuke us.
We are to treat the bishop with honor and care and respect, even when we have to respectfully disagree with him or even correct him.
Our bishop prays for us. We pray for our bishop(and not just in the Eucharistic Prayer on Sunday!).
I could continue....
As we continue praying "On Pastors" for the rest of this week, let us not gloat. Let us remember that we parishioners have duties and responsibilities to match every one of the duties that St Augustine is taking them pastors 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. Many of the problems of our pastors and our bishops in these days stem in some part, maybe large part, from our own failures at fulfilling our parts in our relationships with them.
We failed to pray for them, and picked at them instead. We expected to be deferred to, rather than to be taught; so we wouldn't pay attention to any teaching that we didn't like or that made us feel uncomfortable. When we disagreed with one or another prudential judgment of our pastor or our bishop, we tantrummed and made public shameful scenes, even when what was decided was well within the applicable norms and reasonable common-sense. When we were supposed to be gathered around our bishop as one holy people we insisted on dividing into factions and fighting internecine warfare in and over the Lord's Church.
It was never intended that all the holiness of the Church come from the priests, 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 Prophet Ezechiel's and St Augustine's targets this fortnight, but me and you and all of us! Lord, have mercy; all saints of God, pray for us.