Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Peter Pan and Pastoral Care

I attended a funeral recently, in a quaint little stone church on Maryland's eastern shore. The pastor was unavailable, unfortunately, for in his stead was an older priest -- I would say around 70 or so -- whose attitude and behavior are quite typical in North American parish life, but which I rarely get to see.

Father was quite clear that he "didn't want to make a fuss" over details. But in the midst of wandering around the sanctuary while getting vested, he came out into the assembly of less than one hundred people, and asked (in lieu of any recent scares about the "swine flu") for two "ministers of the cup." Then during the Mass, before the Preface, Father directed us to remain standing for the entire Eucharistic Prayer, and up until Communion.

I was probably the only one who knelt, not to boast, but as it was what the Church expected of me. For this, I owe no allegiance to a doddering old fool who needs to call attention to himself, under the pretense of being an "aw shucks" kind of fellow. I'm actually surprised that Father didn't notice, and correct me after Mass. This would have placed me in the position of chewing his arse and spitting it out, a most distasteful response in the course of such a somber occasion. Or perhaps I simply would have reminded him: “Father, your day is nearly over. Enjoy your indulgence in the time you have left.” Alas, I was spared this conundrum. And still, I wonder ...

What kind of man, when officiating an event to mourn the passing of someone else's loved one, cannot resist the urge to make that event about him?

Most readers of this story who are Catholic, unlike me, endure this all too often. I suppose the reason I broach this subject, then, is to remind them that "this too shall pass." The priests who are in their sixties and seventies in the year of Our Lord 2010, were in their twenties and thirties in 1970, when the Novus Ordo Missae became the normative use of the Roman Rite. They were in their formative years, during the time before and after that year, a time a great confusion.

Many of them are still confused.

The only thing worse than an adolescent in rebellion, is an aging adolescent in rebellion. In the next year, we will ses a new and more sacred English translation of the Roman Mass. In the next few years, a more vibrant and orthodox generation of priests will assume the mantle of curae animare. For the most part, they will be the child as father to the man, as the saying goes. And by the end of this decade, Deo volente, we could see a very different landscape in parish life.

The prophets of old cried out, as the people of Israel cried with them for their deliverance, even as the Pax Romana was settling into the land of their fathers. They awaited a Messiah, a Promised One, who would deliver them from their affliction.

How long, O Lord?


TTC said...

Amen brother!

Dymphna said...

Thanks for this. Goiing to Mass in Maryland can be a real experience.

David L Alexander said...

I was personally quite shocked by the whole thing, having so little experience with such shenanigans. The late Dr Conrad Baars warned in 1971 of an impending crisis in the priesthood, one with a high percentage of priests who lacked emotional and/or psycho-sexual maturity. This was long before anyone imagined, much less heard of, the Scandals which inundate us today.