What is my Primary
Obligation as a Catholic?
“How shall they believe
Him, of Whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear, without a
preacher?” (Romans 10.14)
preach the Gospel ... when no one else will!
Where are the Preachers?
If they are not in
the homes, in the playgrounds, in the work places of Catholics —
at any opportunity at all that presents itself — then they have
ceased to be. They are no longer among us. “But we hear the Priest
every Sunday give a homily!”, you retort. Indeed, I reply. You hear
much about “what I think Jesus means” ... and not what
the Church teaches us that Jesus means. I am not interested in hearing
what a given priest “believes Jesus is saying” — but I am deeply interested
in hearing what Jesus actually says Himself, what the
Holy Catholic Church teaches us that He means ...
which is to say, what Christ means!
This is often quite different from what “Father Bill” believes Christ
is really saying — apart from Christ's own words that
appear oddly clear to us without an involuted explanation involving
things too often only remotely or imaginatively tangent to the actual
Gospel Reading. It’s show time. Time for the priest to display his talent
for finding humor in the most solemn utterances of Christ — and bring
laughter, rather than the occasion of grace, to the congregation.
“Oh”, we ooze, “that Father Bill is such a rascal! Look
at the gleam in his eye!.”
The Third Rail called Sin
This, of course,
he attempts at all to invoke the meaning (real or imagined) of the Gospel
passage just read. So often, too often, most often, it is overlooked
entirely in favor of a rise from the audience ... I mean,
congregation. “Let’s see how clever I can be, how entertaining,
how funny, and they will love me! I will then prove myself to be a good
priest, for I brought them something far greater than the Sacraments,
even greater than Jesus Christ Himself in the Holy Eucharist — I
brought them laughter ... and even “spiced it up a bit” to show
them that I’m no different from them. Sure, I’ll throw in the obligatory,
“love each other”, “you are the light of the world”, and very clearly
“God’s chosen ones” — but I’ll stay clear of the third rail called
sin. What if I trouble someone’s conscience?! The
basket would be empty in a month! — and who will be left for me to tickle
pink? Where would I get my “positive feed-back fix for the week?” This
is serious stuff.
The alter Christus — altered
and tailored to fit
We used to know “Father Coughlin” and “Bishop Sheen”. Remember? Probably
not. Why? Because the priest no longer sees himself, nor (consequently)
do we see him, as an “alter Christus”, literally, “another
Christ” in the world, which his ordination to the Priesthood made
him. We have opted, instead for the leveling of Christ in the person
of His priest to the lowest democratic and common denominator:
a mere man. They are just, “one the guys” (sorry, girls) and so we now
have “Father Dick” and, here in Boston, even “Cardinal Sean”. We are
all on an intimate first-name basis with our priests,
bishops, and cardinals. Try that with your own Senator or even your
local Representative or Mayor. Why is this? “It's just so ... cool!”
Our cardinals, bishops, priests — in order to “really reach us,
to understand us on a human level” — have de-Christifed themselves,
thrown off that out-dated vestige and aura of an alter Christus
— “another Christ” — so that they can be “just another guy”. And somehow
that desacralizatiion will make us more likely to be holy when we are
in contact with them ... Right.
In repudiating being “Christ-like” they no longer call us in our own
vocations to be Christ-like either. We are called to be just “one of
the guys” (“C'mon, Fadda ... it’s Miller Time! Let’s crack open a frosty
and root for the Red Sox. Them goddam Yankees ain’t no good no how —
jus’ like you said in your last homily ... and the one before that.”
Sanctity is the World Series and the Parousia is the Sox in the finals
— and Heaven? ... the Boston Patriots in the Superbowl. “Fadda
Bill” is definitely one of the guys. And none of the “guys” is anything
like Christ. It’s circular ad infinitum. Saint Peter who was
crucified upside down in Rome or Saint Paul beheaded in the same place?
Home-schooling kids stuff. Okay, that was a cheap shot. The kids
are head and shoulders over “the guys” — you know, Fadda Bill, Cardinal
Sean, ... and the “other Christs” who left His company to become
“just one of the other guys” so that, in a way beyond comprehension,
the other guys can get to Heaven, too. Maybe even before the 6th inning.
“Pass me another frosty, would you Fadda?”
So, What has this to do with Preaching
and being Catholic?
Well, this really brings us back to Saint
Paul: “How shall they believe Him, of Whom they
have not heard? And how shall they hear, without a preacher?”
“Fadda Bill” and “Cardinal
Sean” have more pressing matters than saving souls. In fact, the entire
lexicon associated with the “salvation of souls” is a fourth-tier
priority behind Social Justice, Saving the Planet, and Immigration.
I mean, get real! Mother Earth is in far more pressing need of salvation!
Look at the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico! Where have you been? And
all those poor water fowl! Illegal Immigrants have unaddressed
and underfunded legal rights! The Social Network for all that
ails society cannot be ignored! And your talking about “souls”? I mean,
get real! 4.7 million ducks are in the Mississippi River coastal marshes
and face destruction! And you're talking about the peril of the destruction
and damnation of millions of human souls for all eternity who haven't
even died yet? Where are your priorities?! Yeah, okay, there are dozens
of government agencies to deal with these issues ... and not one
outside the Church to deal with the salvation of immortal souls.
But after all! Can’t you see? That’s the trouble with you Catholics.
You keep your eyes on God and not on the things that really matter to
the world: ducks, wildlife, deforestation, endangered animals,
global warming, politics, immigration, Wall Street! Well, not
all of you, I grant. Your bishops have lots of conferences
on these “vital
issues” that have nothing
to do with the salvation of souls. At least they
Indeed. Where are
our priorities as Catholics?
That is where they should be. At
least in the eyes of Christ, the Gospel, and the Church. We have
hundreds of organizations preaching social justice, immigration reform,
global warming — but no one is preaching the Gospel!
Even those to whom it has been entrusted have tossed it off
as an archaic embarrassment. So who ... WHO will preach the Gospel?
Most often not your priest. And your bishop is busy with environmental
As of this writing it is the holy season
of Lent 2011. What rich soil in which to harvest souls! So much that
is deep and holy; so many parables of our Blessed Lord to which even
the most homiletically-challenged priests can advert in calling us to
the serious business of holiness, of self-denial instead of “self-affirmation”,
of conversion from sin. It is the venue preeminent for preachers! As
Christ told us with the greatest urgency, “The
fields are white to harvest!”
How, then, do our parishes, our priests, our “parish councils” respond
to this plea from Christ Himself? Let us take one fairly common example,
in this case St. Patrick “Faith Community” in Stoneham, Massachusetts.
The theme? The “Lenten Mission” which is ... :
Soup for the Soul”
click to enlarge
St. Patrick parish
in Stoneham, MA
has hired a “motivational speaker” (to the tune of a $5000
- $12,000 speaker fee, according to the motivational speakers’
Bureau — and which comes from your collection basket). Apparently
the pastor does not feel himself equal to so grave a challenge as to
call souls to Christ himself, so he ... well, “outsourced it.” And with
delight, according to the bulletin:
“We are singularly blessed
to welcome LeAnn Thiemann to Saint Patrick Parish as
the first lay person and the first woman
to present our three-night [at $5,000-$12,000 per night,
we wonder?] Lenten Mission.”
“First lay person and
the first woman”
— how ... avant
garde, how “progressive”, of St. Patrick’s! Surely they are on the
very cusp of things to come! Such a distinction for a mere drop
in the bucket! Only $5,000-$12,000. Money well and wisely
spent, to be sure. Prevailing wisdom in contemporary Catholicism
appears every bit as edified as it's counterpart in classical antiquity
where, 2,400 years ago, Socrates famously took issue with the Sophists
of his day who
“sold” wisdom for a fee,
for a living, but this is Stoneham, not Athens, and what is being sold
is not wisdom but contemporary Catholic teaching through outsourcing
the Lenten Mission to “professional speakers”, for a staggering fee.
So what will the parishioners of St. Patrick’s get for their money (it
is their money, after all, spent by others who
apparently can produce nothing compelling on their own)?
will provide practical advice”,
the bulletin continues, “on the ways in which we can
get ourselves in better shape: physically, emotionally,
and [oh, yes ...] spiritually.”
In that order.
Welcome to Lent at St. Patrick’s
in Stoneham, a small and sad iteration of the spiritual bankruptcy and
malaise that afflicts the Church in America at large.
Now, back to the business
of the real meaning of Lent, and the call to conversion and sanctification
— in a word to the business of the salvation of souls, apart
from the putative values of Chicken Soup. Who will call
others — lapsed
Catholics, non-Catholics, unbelievers, to Christ?
— excluding, of course,
“professional speakers" who will do so ... for a fee (“Freely
you have received”, our Blessed Lord said,
“Freely give”. Remember? Matthew 10.8)
Who is left?
the word: be instant in season, out of season: reprove,
entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine”,
Saint Paul tells us 1.
“But I'll b
shunned! My friends will flee me! My boss
will fire me! I may even end up in jail if I do it in public or on government
But that —
THAT IS THE COST OF BEING CATHOLIC!
It is the cost of faithfulness
to Jesus Christ, His Church, and the Gospel:
therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name
of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching
them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”
These are the very
last words, the final commandment, given by Christ before
His Ascension into Heaven. They are the last words of the Gospel of
How, then, shall we summarize
this sad state of affairs? If you do not preach the Gospel,
in season and out of season, and at great cost — no one will.
1 2 St. Timothy 42
on the wall ...” Number of photographs of
“Cardinal Sean” himself on his own June 2010 “blog”: 37
to date (12 June 2010) ... and 18 more days of photo-ops to go!
May? A modest 47. There was, of course, a time when Christ used
to be “the point” and the “center of attention”. But that alluring mirror
that “Cardinal Sean” seems ever to hold before himself — and us — appears
to suggest to him that he is much more “photogenic” than Jesus,
especially on the Cross. But that is what “blogs” are about, right?
Promoting oneself ... not another. And certainly not “Jesus Christ crucified”
whom Saint Paul incessantly preached (1 Corinthians 1.23).
4 St. John 4.35
Boston Catholic Journal
Comments? Write us:
Responses to the
“This is a very, very good article
that makes its point very clear... yes it has to be said ...
Thank you! It proclaims a truth, that we have an obligation
to give Christ to others and not just the hierarchy, priests
Give a definition of PREACHING, many people regard it, interpret
it as a negative... i.e moralizing , it is not it is the proclamation
of the the truth of the Gospel, it is giving Christ to others!
It is so profoundly true, that the Holy Spirit is the great
revealer, He can make the most dense of passages clear to us,
often 'personal explanations' only confuse. Take for example
when you expose yourself to Sacred Scripture for the first time:
God speaks, communicates as He will and clearly even if the
individual words seem difficult. What you have written here
is so true! Excellent point:
“ ... apart from Christ's own words that appear oddly clear
to us without an involuted explanation involving things too
often only remotely or imaginatively tangent to the actual Gospel
I would add too that St Paul and Christ's followers preached
a CHRIST CRUCIFIED, they did not avoid the problem of pain and
suffering but gave us words and concepts that drew us beyond
it to the Resurrection, omitting to talk about dying, death
and suffering is also a great failure on the part of many preachers.
The THIRD RAIL — is so important in a world loosing the
sense of sin, this needs to be said, all the great preachers
in the church, Francis, Dominic, Anthony, and so many others
tried to touch the heart of man to return to God... and what's
more it is WHAT PEOPLE FOR THE MOST PART want to hear, I have
at times given some souls hard love and it is much more fruitful
that pussy footing around the issues... truth must be spoken,
but always in love.
The other Christ's-- also an excellent point, excellent....
we have bought into the world far far too much. But there ARE
exemplary preachers in the priesthood: look at Fr Baron, Fr
Canta La Messa, Fr Groeschel ... and many others. Why do people
really listen to them? Because at the end of the day the soul
yearns for TRUTH.
Think of Padre Pio, thousands went to him and why? Hard love,
the truth, hard confessions! and Gospel directness! That's why!
We buy into second best by supporting the joke scenario, which
makes me want to weep anyway.
I laughed my head off about the ducks, this is so so true! Well
done! A good thrust, I think this is one of the devils greatest
smoke screens of our time, to occupy the mind of man with this
issue. Of course we need to respect the earth and not abuse
it, that is simply common sense. But the constant issue about
global warming eventually gets on my nerves.
Is man going to harness the sun? The winds? Is he going to by
his own human strength change the planet! COME ON ... there
is a great blindness here; look, our planet in many ways is
dying but its all part of the life cycle.... its happened before,
if you study the life of the planet we haven't got it in our
power to change this cycle, we might think we have ... but we
It would do man far more good to see this, accept it and seek
for God... the planet has been through ice ages, and fire all
before, all before, its a natural cycle. OK, we may have assisted
it but do we really think we can make much difference to GOD'S
PLANET! Come on!!! Its a great diversion all this ... from what
really matters for man.
Your paragraph on this was sooo good! Ducks! Now its snakes!
They say there is a great dying off on the planet of snakes
(apart from politicians)
I loved your ending WITH CHRIST ... it was a good ending.
I really did enjoy the article.
Well done! Keep going!
While I agree with your assessment that our priests and bishops
should not be referred to on a first name basis (though I think
this applies to everyone, the informality of 21st century culture
is ridiculous) there is something that needs to noted in regard
to 'Cardinal Sean' (I infer that you are referring to Cardinal Sean
Patrick O'Malley). The reason that Cardinal Sean goes by 'Cardinal
Sean' is due to the fact that he is a member of the Order of Friars
Minor Capuchin. He was born Patrick O'Malley and took the name Sean
(in honour of St John the Apostle) when he professed his vows as
a member of the order. Thus, his proper name is in fact 'Cardinal
Sean', due to his membership in a mendicant order, which precedes
his status as Cardinal Archbishop. We do not refer to Mother Teresa
as 'Mother Bojhaxhiu' or the Blessed Father as 'Pope Ratzinger'.
Certain persons do actually adopt a Christian name as a mononym
depending on the traditions of their order (Cardinal Sean and Mother
Teresa) or position (Pope Benedict XVI). The point I am trying to
make here is that this is one of the few cases in which it would
be acceptable to call a Cardinal by his [assumed] first name, just
as you normal member of OFM Cap would be called 'Brother Paul' or
'Father James' as opposed to 'Father Taylor' or 'Bishop Anderson'
which would apply in the case of a diocesan priest or bishop.
Other than that, spot on article. Very good.
Point taken, and many thanks
for the correction. We do, however, note that a Catholic addressing
a Cardinal should, in fact, address him as "Your Excellency", a
protocol widely recognized in forms of address. It is also noteworthy
that the press, as well as Vatican documents, invariably address
Boston's present Cardinal as, "Cardinal O'Malley", thus avoiding
the embarrassing cutesiness of presumed personal familiarity that
the name, "Cardinal Sean", invokes. To wit:
If non-Catholics, and
“professional" Catholics (not “professional
Catholics”) invariably accord
the Cardinal this dignity, so, a fortiori, should Catholic
laymen and ecclesiastics.
We are reminded of
a story several years ago of a meeting after Mass between the priest
and some members of the congregation upon leaving. One new parishioner,
"Mrs. Jane Doe" was introduced to the priest and greeted him as
“Please", the priest
insisted, “you can call me Father Dick".
Unabashed, the woman
responded, “and you can call me Mrs. Williams."
Dear Mr. Mondello,
Loved it! Why
do priests think it is cool to be “kind-of-priests but not
really priests", but as you said, “just one of the
guys". Aren't they supposed to examples of holiness, and
not Joe Cool with a collar pretending to be American Idol?
Its like, “Wow! I'm cool! I can relate!" In the parishes
I've been to the priest seems like he can't wait to leave
the altar and get out into the audience and play. OR he
invites all the kids to come up while he sits down with
them and plays Mister Rogers. When are they going to get
it that we go to Mass not see him “be cool" while he makes
a moron of himself, but to be with God who is somewhere
backstage waiting for his turn! Who are the real morons
who teach them this junk? That's what we'd like to know!
Cindy and Mark
We suggest you contact:
Rev. Arthur Kennedy - Rector and President
Saint John's Seminary
127 Lake Street
Brighton, MA 02135
(617) 254 - 2610
Perhaps Rev. Kennedy can shed some light on the pedagogical method
that appears to reduce authentic vocations to comical skits. We
would be interested in what you find. Let us know, would you?
Totally Faithful to the Sacred
Deposit of Faith entrusted to the Holy See in
opera tua ... quia modicum habes virtutem, et servasti
verbum Meum, nec non negasti Nomen Meum”
know your works ... that you have but little power,
and yet you have kept My word, and have not denied My
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