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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The More Things Change...

Did I mention we are back to normal?

We are back to normal. Sister St. Aloysius has returned and Sister Nicholas has shuffled off to Buffalo.

We can't find anything. I should have followed her around while she was cleaning.

Suddenly, fall is upon us. School has started. The air smells of crayons and pencil cases and sweating children. Sister St. Aloysius is already mulling over Halloween.

What did Alice say, "The more things change, the more they stay the same." Probably Alice did not say this. More likely, someone said it to Alice.

Here's a question for you! Surprise! Our priest retired at the age of 80 last month, and was replaced a middle-aged priest who has made some changes. I don't know the Magesterium all that well, so I'm betting that things needed to be tightened up a bit at our little country church, but folks are grumbling. Some are saying they may leave the church over matters that seem trivial to me--who announces hymns during the Mass, moving furniture, that kind of thing. Having returned home to the Catholic church fairly recently, I just don't want anyone to leave--especially for something stupid! What should I say to them? Some have a protestant background, and protestants follow personalities instead of dogma. We're Catholics; we shouldn't be doing this. I don't want things to get ugly over this kind of stuff. Shower some wisdom on me sister--please? --Mary Ellen

It isn't just retiring priests that cause things to get shuffled around. Must be that time of year, or that time of the decade. My mother's beloved pastor, who has been there forever and knows every single person in his parish and every single thing about them, just left last week having been transferred. I know another priest who was just moved.

Any of us could get our marching orders any day. That's our job.

It's a shame that people can't get their brains around why these changes take place in the first place. Oh sure, it's true that in this case the priest has retired. But priests are moved around all the time for a lot of reasons. Your new priest has caused a domino effect. Wherever he came from, he has to be replaced.

But more importantly we must remember our vows of obedience. Our job is to become completely attached with Christian love to our parish, our flock, our school. Our job is also to leave and give that same unequivocal love and attention to the strangers that will become our parish, our flock, our school.

We love everyone. We are attached to no one. Our relationship to you comes only through God, as we are all his children.

You are absolutely right that these matters of the hymn announcers and the furniture arrangement are very trivial. Leave the parish?

So....why are we in a parish? You know how when you go on an airplane the stewardess (are they still called that?) tells you that if that little oxygen mask drops you should make sure you have yours on before you assist anyone else?

We are in a parish to get to Heaven. My job is to get myself to heaven and to assist you in getting to Heaven, in that order. If I'm not working to get myself to Heaven, I won't be able to help you. I'll just pass out and die.

So we sit in these pews together. We pray together. We eat pancake breakfasts and attend funerals. And someday, we hope to be in Heaven together.

If you can't even be in the same church building with Joe Schlemmer because Joe got to read the hymn list instead of Mary Bernbrock, how are you going to stand being in Heaven with Joe?

I'm not sure if this helps you. What can you say to them?

"Get a grip, people! If we can't go to church together, we can't go to Heaven together."

Your patron saint: St. Catherine of Sienna, who kept the Church together while we had two Popes and then three Popes and finally, one Pope again.

Sister, I live with a chronic pain condition. Which Saint can I turn to for intercession when I don't think I can take anymore?

St. Bernadette of Lourdes.


Anonymous said...

Sister and friends, please pray for my wife Anna Marie who at age 43 will have a heart cath performed in the next day or two. Yesterday a wonderful priest gave her a triple play. 3 Sacraments in a row, Confession, Annointing of the Sick and Communion. It was a beautiful experience.

I always enjoy my visits to your blog. Thank you, Tom

Arkanabar T'verrick Ilarsadin said...

Sister, this is absolutely wonderful. Thank you so much!

Claudia said...

When my daughter was growing up I told her there were a few things to learn in life:

1 You don't always get what you want. (Courtesy of Mick Jagger)

2. Life is not always fair.

3.Sometimes you don't have to like it, you just have to do it.

You don't have to like changes, in every aspect of life (unless illegal) you just have to go with the flow and do it.

Andrea said...

We have recently had a new priest arrive also. Whenever this happens, change is inevitable. No two priests are ever going to do things the same way. Personally, I find change very difficult. I think it involves a certain period of grieving for the familiar. Acknowledging that change is difficult and upsetting goes a long way to getting through the initial stage. If someone is really concerned about the changes, they should approach the priest and discuss it with him before threatening to leave. He may have very sound reasons for his decision. Of course, your priest may not have known that "Mary-Jane" always announces the hymns, so he should be given some leeway too. But I don't think priests (or anyone for that matter) should immediately start making changes without checking out the lay of the land (intra-parish politics) first.

Anonymous said...

The parishioners are lucky the BIG change isn't happening - namely the closing/merging of their parish. People are leaving our parish in droves over this issue.

Maggie said...

Sister, I love the blog! I have a quick question for you. I work in religious education and youth ministry and I'm planning to incorporate the (excellent) Theology of the Body for Teens curriculum into my programs for my high school students, and I've been reviewing the topics. The end of the program, after building up a good foundation of authentic sexuality, contains a segment on vocations and how our sexuality honors God in different ways through marriage/religious life/priesthood. The marriage section is the easiest to explain, since that's the most common vocation kids see. I can easily explain priesthood as a "marriage" between a priest and the Church because he acts in persona christi, and can explain religious women's vows because they are brides of Christ. However, I'm a little stuck about how to explain religious brothers. True, we're all destined to be brides of Christ in heaven, but that's easier for girls to relate to than guys. Since brothers aren't acting as priests do and aren't "married" to the Church, how do I explain their vows and their importance to the Church?
Thanks so much!

berenike said...

Maggie - bear in mind that priesthood doesn't necessarily mean celibacy. The Latin rite makes celibacy mandatory for its priests (with exceptions - some protestant clergy converts) but in other Catholic churches (Byzantine rite) it is not. [in some countries where the Byzantine rite is not "native" celibacy is mandatory for Byzantine-rite priests, I think, or used to be]

*Bishops* are "married-to-the-church", and religious are (even male - read some of Charles de Foucald's stuff) brides of Christ. Whether a man celibate-for-the-Kingdom is a priest or not doesn't enter essentially into the question.

(how maddening that the long discussion some bloggers had about this recently was on a blog that's been taken down!)

berenike said...

Oh - something sort of on the subject: here - not written to answer you question, but you might find it useful.

Tami said...

A priest once said something to me that really changed my outlook on church. You don't go to church to get what "you" want, but rather we should be at church seeking out how we can best serve God. Maybe gently reminding people that they are there to serve would help. Sometimes just not jumping on the band wagon, or standing up to the negative comments makes people stop and think about their remarks or stances on topics.

Mary Ellen said...

Thank you sister. I'll continue trying to redirect these divisive folks. It just seems like so many protestants are discovering the Catholic church and so many folks are returning, that it's silly for people to be so upset of tiny things. Also to the person whose church was just merged, often it's the power plays and the memories that get in the way of building a future. I'll pray for your priest and congregation. It would be so hard to handle that. Maybe a church-wide novena would mend some fences and bring in the graces to make it all work?