Sunday, October 4, 2009
Hiding behind a wall of silence
One of the very enjoyable aspects of being the Parish Priest ('Pastor' in American English) of a four season holiday destination, is that at every Mass, at least 70% of those attending are visitors. As I always tell people, they are happy to be at Mass and, as they are on vacation, the fact that they ARE at Mass shows they are committed Catholics. This weekend, I had visitors from among others places, Massachusetts, New York, Chicago, Canada, Texas, South Carolina and Puerto Rico. The fact that these people attend Mass regularly in their own parishes makes what I am about to say both sad and indicative of the great crisis we are living through. This Sunday was "Respect Life Sunday" here in the United States. Priests and deacons are expected to preach on this subject, even if the readings were principally about marriage. After all three Masses this weekend, numerous people approached me to thank me for my homily. They asked for copies of it (I only have notes which look like Arabic scrawl, so I'll have to work on that!) and told me that they had never heard a pro-life homily that was so clear. I say this not to blow my own trumpet, or to imagine that a new Fulton Sheen has been discovered. It is precisely my point that something is seriously wrong if people from so many different places find it unusual or remarkable that a priest preaches as he is asked to do by Holy Mother the Church. A friend told me that they attended Mass in two different parishes in this diocese over the weekend - nothing approaching a pro-life homily! What is wrong with the clergy? Is is cowardice, people-pleasing, or do they not actually believe in the teaching of the Church? It is no coincidence that the Office of Readings for this morning, the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, was from 'The Pastoral Rule' of Pope St. Gregory the Great. Among other things he writes:
"Negligent religious leaders are often afraid to speak freely and say what needs to be said - for fear of losing favour with people. As Truth himself says, they are certainly not guarding their flock with the care expected of a shepherd but are acting like hirelings, because hiding behind a wall of silence is like taking flight at the approach of the wolf.......If a religious leader is afraid to say what is right, what else can his silence mean but that he has taken flight?"