Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Year For Priests: Minimum Requirements

Last Sunday I picked up a helpful little pamphlet entitled Five Ways to Support My Parish Priest published by Our Sunday Visitor, with an imprimatur by the Church Ladies' beloved Bishop D'Arcy. For the reasonable price of only $14.95 for 50 the first thing I'd recommend you do is purchase some to distribute at your parish.*

I suppose the five points outlined would be radically new levels of support for some, but Church Ladies will recognize them as minimum requirements:

  1. Pray for your priest and let him know you are doing so. Private prayer, certainly, but also consider ways you can publicly pray for your priest.

o The United States Council of Catholic Bishops has a lovely prayer on their site available for distribution. Our bishops recommend it be prayed "during the Prayers of the Faithful, at the conclusion of Mass, and/or at the various meetings of the parish community."

o In our parish, we’ve just started a project where families can adopt a priest and pray for him specifically. We’ve identified 26 priests who serve our parish by hearing confessions, leading retreats, filling in for Masses, etc. We created a card for each which includes a little bit about him (including his photo, a brief bio on his primary assignment and how he serves our parish), and a prayer. The cards are randomly distributed to all the students in our religious educations program and families are encouraged to pray for "their priest" throughout the year.

  1. Actively participate in your parish life. Go to Mass, volunteer to support the various ministries and programs there, and donate money to keep things running.

o Now obviously going to Mass is a given. (If you are not joyfully and prayerfully attending the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at least one time each week, I am directing my most stern Church Lady look at you right now. You feel repentant, don't you?)

o But go beyond that and consider what you can give back to your parish community. I am positive they need catechists, people to serve coffee after Mass, people to help with funeral hospitality, people to distribute food baskets during the holidays, people to do basic office tasks, people to lead the Rosary before Masses - the list is endless. One thing I love about my parish is its commitment to plugging everyone into some kind of volunteer service. It builds up our community life exponentially and allows us to use our combined humble talents for great works of service to our beloved Lord.

o And obviously, this take some money as well. Do your part and give 10% whenever possible.

3. Have realistic expectations.

o Yes, your priest is acting in the person of Christ for your parish. No, he is not God. Your priest needs support, affirmation, rest, nutritious food and yes, even regular time off and vacations. He will be better able to serve you if he gets these things so do what you can to make them happen.

4. Refuse to be part of the problem.

o Avoid gossip, criticism, and negativity toward your priest (and priesthood in general) in every form. Gossip is sin, so call it what it is and avoid it just as you would every other sin. Undue criticism and a generally negative attitude does nothing to build up parish life.

o It is particularly damaging for your children to hear you criticizing your priest on the way home each Sunday. Go out of your way to find positive things to say and save the rest for private conversation between adults.

5. Show appreciation!

o Church Lady Lucy has posted several ideas over the years for tangible ways you can show appreciation for your priest.

o Notes of appreciation are always a wonderful surprise and even an email will serve the purpose if you’re pressed for time. Just be careful that you don’t ruin the gift by attaching some condition to it (“Thank you, Father, for praying the Roman Canon and wearing those beautiful vestments yesterday. I look forward to the day when you'll finally be able to do something about the music also.") Be sincere and save your suggestions for another opportunity.

*Of course, you'll want to check with your parish office for policies on distributing materials first.

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