Friday, February 27, 2015

"Do You Want to Be a Bishop?"

This is a question that most priests get asked on a somewhat regular basis.  The answer is not a simple one, so I hope you'll allow me a few paragraphs to respond.

1) Everyone knows that the answer to the question is supposed to be "absolutely not!" but it is undeniable that some priests DO want to be bishop, and quite badly.  It isn't widespread or anything, but it is there.  

The question arises here - why would a person want to be bishop?

The reason, it seems, is that all Catholics ask ourselves a question - "will I go to Heaven?" - and, as a young Catholic author recently noted, only half jokingly, we also ask ourselves another question somewhat regularly: "am I the anti-Christ?"

Getting named a bishop, by the Pope, certainly has some appeal because it could be seen as the Church (and thus Christ) saying - "This guy is holy and a winner and saintly, that's why we made him a bishop"... I understand the appeal of that selection, even though I also know it doesn't work that way.  

St. John Chrysostom once said “I do not think there are many among Bishops that will be saved, but many more that perish.”  The Saint also noted that "The road to hell is paved with the bones of priests, with the skulls of bishops as lamp posts along the way."

So while it makes sense, on a human level, to desire to have some external authority like the Church select you for something, being selected to be a bishop doesn't ACTUALLY have any bearing on one's eternal destination.

2) The people that get selected to be bishops are men who hopefully display holiness and the traits of Christ, but of course practically a bishop also needs to be a leader.  Bishops today oversee tens of thousands of employees, manage countless priests and lay leaders, and are, practically speaking, the CEO's of some of the biggest civil corporations in their territories.  So getting picked to be a bishop has a lot of practical considerations involved as well.  You hope to find a guy who is holy AND a good leader, but no one can truly judge holiness except God.  I think the Church looks for men with practical leadership skills and does the best any of us can at judging a man's character as well.

3)  The job of a bishop is huge, intimidating, and scary.

When I imagined my life as a priest when I was discerning priesthood, I imagined doing what I'm doing now - a couple of smaller parishes, youth events, Masses, baptisms, funerals, stations of the cross, soup dinners, visiting nursing homes, etc.  A bishop has almost none of that.  It is meeting, after meeting, after meeting, after meeting.  And then there's the weight of the responsibility - surely it would be crushing if not for God's Grace - and it all just seems overwhelming.  I just wouldn't want that.

I look at the two Archbishop's I served for, and I don't envy their life.  What they do is actually a great sacrifice of a lot of meetings and management at the loss of all the one on one interaction and ministry that parish priests have.  

I don't even want to be the pastor of some mega-parish, so I can hardly fathom the emails, meetings, photo ops, and all of the other things that a bishop has to deal with. 

So when you add all of this up, I am very happy being a parish priest.  I hope that helps provide some insight into what a bishop's life is like, and why anyone who chases it for any other reason than to lay down one's life for others just has not truly grasped what they are chasing...

But then again some men, as Jesus noted, will always "love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’" (Matthew 23:6)

Keep your bishop in prayer because it is a tough gig.  That's why we pray for him, by name, at every Mass

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Talk on Why I'm Catholic: The Church on Suffering

This may not sound very ecumenical, but I can safely say that I've never heard anything worth much on suffering from anywhere besides the Catholic Church.

On the other hand, what I've heard from the Church and Her saints on suffering has totally changed how I approach my life and how I view the world.

I am SO thankful for the Church's wisdom on suffering, and I think we need to get the word out on our teaching about suffering.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Hospital Theology

A lot of "theologies" and world views and philosophies work on a beach or on a golf course.

"Do whatever feels good"
"Whatever works for you is cool"
"If you pray hard enough and the right way, God will give you stuff"
"Our body is just a prison we must escape"
"This world is all there is"

Again, just about anything will get you through good times.
Only the Truth works in a hospital room.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Shaking Hands After Mass

Wrestling two kids out the door, shoving on mittens and hats she turns in a rush "Have a great week Father!"

His hair is disheveled and part of his shirt is untucked. "Father, I've got a question, if they found aliens on Alpha Centauri, would we baptize them?"

Eyes white hot with rage: "That was a terrible homily"

Looking scared and nervous and poor: "Father, I've never been to Mass before. Can I come back?"

Seemingly unaware of the line of people behind him: "So Father, what's going on in your life?"

With tears streaming down her face she grabs the priest's hand extra tight: "Pray for my Mom who passed away on Friday. We're burying her in Alabama on Wednesday."

With a proud and odd chuckle and a look of contrived concern: "I found a typo in the bulletin."

With a smile: "Father that was a great homily. Thanks. I needed that."

"Father, I think the sixth grade teacher has to go."

"Father would you like to buy some cookies?"

"Is anyone going to water the hydrangeas by the front door of Church?  They look like trash!"

"Parish council is on Thursday right?"

"If I were preaching I would have taken it a different direction"

"How's your grandma?"

"Could we meet on Thursday morning, I need someone to talk to.  My marriage is really struggling."

"Who decided to raise the burial costs in the cemetery?"

"Father, Stan has surgery on Monday. Pray for him."

"Will you hear my confession?"

"Father, I hated that opening song. Did you pick it?"

"Can you come over for dinner on Tuesday?"

"Father, I loved that opening song. Did you pick it?"

"And a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him." Mark 5:24