Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Lesson From My Young Priesthood: The 99 Will Be Okay

"If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray?" (Matthew 18:12-13)

My quick answer to Jesus' question - "no, not always."

When I was assigned to my first role as pastor this Summer, I asked my Dad (a president of a Catholic high school) if he had any advice for me.  He only had one thing to say: "Neither a parish nor a school is a nuclear sub - you have lots of people who know how to help."

It was an interesting way of phrasing the age-old axiom "be sure to avoid micromanagement."

No matter how many times people tell you in the seminary or in business school or in dental school or leadership school that "thou shalt avoid micromanagement" it is still scary as "H-E-double-hockey-sticks" when you are thrust into a role of being responsible for something (a company, church, office, school, etc.) 

In my extremely young priesthood, however, one of the things that brings me great joy is that my Dad was right (per usual) - being a pastor is busy and always new, but it isn't impossible, and a lot of people know how to help.

That has been important, especially as I've continued to be aware of the other call I have as a pastor - to go seek the lost (and to empower parishioners to go seek the lost). 

There is a temptation to look at the 99 sheep and think "wow, 99 sheep, that's a lot of work to do, I don't have time for the 1, and it's the 1's fault for leaving anyway, plus if I leave the 99, things might go terribly wrong, and then I might come back with 1 sheep on my shoulders, only to find that the 99 have scattered too."

What I've learned is that if you walk out of the office and go look for the lost sheep from time to time, the 99 are going to be just fine.  People know, often way better than I do, how to balance budgets, fix leaks, answer questions, help with RCIA, etc. etc.

Who are the "99" that you (as priest or lay person) are tempted to obsess about, but whom God is sometimes nudging you away from, telling you "I've got the 99, they'll be fine, go look for the 1 who is lost"?


  1. I take it you consider Catholics who disagree with you and official Church teaching on the gay issue, gay people, and non believers as "lost sheep"? I hope so !

    Yet the way you treat them with your sarcastic, flippant, rude, arrogant, agressive remarks (OR no response at all)to their questions on You Tube tells me you're not at all who you've convinced yourself to be. Even if you don't like the comments they write, your job as a Catholic priest and as a representative of our Church is to answer questions as Jesus Himself would have answered questions from those same groups of people.

    Your behavior on You Tube is a far cry from the Lord Jesus ....a far cry from how a Catholic priest should conduct himself...and a far cry from what we expect from adult behavior.

    I am faithful to the Church, am not saying I disagree with Church teaching or with what you preach. I too have people who challenge me and my Church. However, as a devout Roman Catholic one of my first priorites is to imitate the Lord Jesus Christ. I treat those challengers with patience, love, and respect ...even if I dont get it in return.

    I am thouroughly ashamed of you and suggest that you examine what I've said carefully . I'm requesting NO RESPONSE from you please. I'm not at all interested in anything you have to say to try to defend your behavior ,for there is none !

    May God forgive you.

  2. I see one needs to be apporoved by you before the comment is published?

    Let's just see if you decide to post the comment I just wrote. Knowing you, I doubt you will, but I'm at least comforted to know that even if you hide my message from the can't hide it from yourself or, most importantly ...from God.

    1. Let's say, for a moment, that I am guilty of the last mortal sin that remains in our society, the mortal sin of "INTOLERANCE"... so your Gospel is "tolerance...except for the intolerant"?

  3. Hi Father.
    I know my comment has nothing to do with this post, but I do have a question regarding your tweet earlier today. You re-tweeted a post from Planned Parenthood about a woman being pro-abortion and her reasoning. I am going on the March for Life in January, and was so rattled by this woman's blog post and other videos of pro-abortion people on YouTube. I was wondering if you would be able to find the time to go through the Planned Parenthood post (and a few subsequent comments) and help me and other young Pro-Life people learn about the many different issues of abortion, contraception, etc. In a sense, I want to have a strong argument for anyone with pro-abortion/pro-contraception beliefs. I want to know more and have a deeper understanding of what I firmly believe and how it connects to my faith and to science.
    Does that make any sense?
    Thank you for all your time, and congratulations on your fundraising for the Natural Law? documentary. Looking forward to it.

    1. Yeah, I retweeted that because people need to be familiar with the arguments the other side makes. I'd be happy to answer any questions you have about any of these things. Feel free to email me the questions or leave them here as a comment. God bless!

    2. Okay, here are some questions. Most are sprung from what the blogger has said.

      "I realized that the real way to reduce abortion rates, then, was to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. And the way to do that is with birth control..."
      - Why is a woman's first thought jump to birth control? What happened to abstinence?

      "One thing I realized back in 2007 is that, given that six in ten women who have abortions already have at least one child and that three quarters of women who have abortions report that they cannot afford another child, if we want to bring abortion rates down we need to make sure that women can always afford to carry their pregnancies to term."
      - What does the Church say in response to this position?
      This quote comes from a commenter:
      But it is difficult to call sex on the Pill or on an infertile day “abortifacient.” For one, because if the woman simply didn’t have sex at all, merely taking the Pill (or the fact that the day was naturally infertile) wouldn’t DO anything. The idea the crowd that considers the Pill abortifacient (but, hypocritically, not NFP) seem to have is that IF you have sex on the Pill, and there IS a freak ovulation, then you’ve taken a heightened risk of miscarriage. But the same is true for a natural infertile day in the cycle.
      - The logic does not really make sense. And this quote comes from a person who had said he/she believes life begins at conception.

      And another (and final) commenter:
      "But it’s not trivial when your theological belief (Catholic and Mormon) is that women’s role in the world is to produce as many babies as possible."
      - Is this what the Church teaches?
      Thank you for giving me this opportunity. With finals coming up, I would never really have the chance to ask anyone and still have time to prep for the tests.
      Again, THANK YOU!

  4. Father John's responses are always in line with Catholic teaching. And I have never known Father John to be disrespectful to anyone with the language he uses. However he does speak the Truth and he does not water-down Catholic teachings. Father John always responds with respect, but sometimes people don't like the response they get because it comes in the form of Truth. Keep up the good work Father.

    1. Krista beat me to it. Keep up the excellent work Father and my prayers go with you.

  5. This post spoke to me, Father. I tend to put the kids first (they're my 99) and hubby often gets what's leftover. I like how you said, "the 99 will be okay". I'll have to start thinking more like that.

    God bless you!

  6. To Anonymous: "If you honor the Priest you honor Christ, and if you insult the Priest you insult Christ." -St. John Chrysostom I would reflect on that if I were you.

    And thank you for speaking the truth, Father John. As a young perosn, I admire your courageous spirit (No wonder your on!) and always look forward to hearing what you have to say about Mother Church. God bless you, Father. :)

  7. Here's a gift for you, Father. (Video.)

    God bless, Father.


  8. You make me DISGUSTED to call myself a Christian.

    1. Be careful, your claws and teeth are starting to show.