Friday, June 20, 2008
Lame Duck(Owl) Gives Final Quack
Taking a break from trying to fill boxes before my last week, which is already filling up with two funerals so far, meetings, and moving everything on Thursday, I found this quote from Mauriac's 'Holy Thursday' -
"People say that there is a scarcity of priests (this was written in 1931!). In truth, what an adorable mystery is is that there still are any priests. They no longer have any human advantage. Celibacy, solitude, hatred very often, derision and, above all, the indifference of a world in which there seems to be no longer room for them - such is the portion they have chosen. They have no apparent power; their task sometimes seems to be centered about material things, identifying them, in the eyes of the masses, with the staffs of town halls and of funeral parlors. A pagan athmosphere prevails all around them. The people would laugh at their virtue if they believed in it, but they do not. They are spied upon. A thousand voices accuse those who fall. As for the others, the greater number, no one is surprised to see them toiling without any sort of recognition, without appreciable salary, bending over the bodies of the dying or ambling about the parish schoolyards."
Chapter Five of 'Holy Thursday,' by Francois Mauriac.
I will not continue the quotation about the life of the country priest, in case anyone is offended - but it's worth a look! While a somewhat gloomy piece (it gets better!), it struck me that 1930's France and 21st Century Vermont are not that far away. As I say goodbye next weekend I am profoundly grateful for all the kindness that has been shown to me by so many people in the parish. Since I announced my departure, people have said some very kind things. It has been a very exhausting year - mentally, physically and spiritually. There was a tremendous amount to do and, as I said, I received a great deal of help and support. Not unusually in "AmChurch," the parish was, and is, a microcosm of all the problems that fellow parish priests will recognize around the country - sometimes, it can seem almost too much to deal with, but, as Mauriac goes on to say, the Lord is with us. I have written before about the profound crisis I believe the Church is experiencing - some, I know think I am either a)nuts, b) nuts or c) deluded and nuts (please text your options to 1 800 NUTS). It gives me comfort to be reminded by the Holy Father about the extreme crisis that followed the Council of Nicea - and to follow his lead in the "reform of the reform."
I will finish with a beautiful quotation from Cardinal John Henry Newman which has always helped me either when, through my own pride, I have wanted to go my own way or, when depressed in the heat of the battle, wondered whether it was worth it:
"Trust the Church of God implicitly, even when your natural judgment would take a different course from Hers and would induce you to question Her prudence or correctness. Recollect what a hard task She has, your Mother; how She is sure to be criticized and spoken against, whatever She does; recollect how much She needs your loyal and tender devotion; remember too, how long is the experience gained in 1800 years; and what a right She has to claim your assent to principles which have had so extended and triumphant a trial. Thank Her, your Mother, that She has kept the faith safe for so many generations and do your part in helping Her to transmit it to generations after you."
Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman.