Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I am on vacation

I am vacationing in northwest Illinois this week. We rent a condo, go play in the outdoors, visit other priests we do not get to see often, and relax. I am also only two hours away from the mother ship (the parish)

At one time in our Church life this was the area that the Diocese (Chicago first then Rockford) would send some of the problems priests. Like most of society human brokenness was responded to by sending people away. In my home county and even in DeKalb, the county retirement homes were originally out in the country. Illinois once had a huge institution for the developmentally disabled way out in Dixon. Anyway, in the matter of parishes the places out here were once upon a time considered second tier in the larger sphere of parishes.

Of course today 'pastoring' a parish is much like running a small business. A 24/7 business mind you. Many a pastor would love to be out here in the so called hinter-lands. When I first became a pastor many of the older priests would tell me to, "just love the people." Love implies that we give the people the very best that we have to offer. I do get a little embarrassed when people thank me for visiting a spouse, parent, or child who is sick or troubled. Because this is what I do for a living. And I enjoy doing it.

I am often reminded of Matthew's gospel, er, chapter 5 I believe. Jesus we are told went up to the mountain, looked out and saw the crowds coming to him with a variety of needs and concerns. We are told that his heart was stirred with compassion for the people. I am conscious of that gospel each time I do mass and look out at the people gathered together. I know that the best thing that I can do is to share Christ with them.

Both the of the Church documents, on priestly formation, and on priestly life, reiterate the priest as the image of Christ. Healing, forgiveness and compassion were the mainstays of Jesus' ministry. A child once asked me what parish I want to be at ultimately, and I responded that I was already here. Jesus ministered in the moment, in the big cities and amongst the country-folk. We are all in need of salvation and peace. To be sure this is the challenge of priesthood, and all of us as baptized believers.

We are really called to be the hands and hearts of Jesus to all of God's people. There are no cookie cutter parishes, but places where we gather to hear God's Word, and be fed with the bread of life.


  1. Enjoy your holiday. I think its sad that priests were just exiled rather than punished but what's done is done.

  2. I should clarify that some of these problems were mental health issues. But there were no hospitals or places like that, back in the early part of the last century.