Wednesday, September 27, 2006

ministry over faith

This isn't an "I told you so moment" or "I knew it all along" type of message.  It goes much deeper that my own opinions an in to the matter of faith for another man.  It is very sad in a way that the Church leaders have sat silent for so long and have exposed the laity to so many errors.  It is also sad that the laity, myself very much a part of that, have polarized so many issues into "us vs. them" or "conservative vs. liberal".  The anger and vitriol only serve as barriers or as promptings to leave the whole mess.
I just asked a fellow Catholic co-worker if he was going to this year's men's retreat.  I didn't know him well, but recognized him as being part of the music group that always plays for our annual retreats.  He stammered a bit and said he hadn't heard anything about it yet.  I thought that odd, him being part of the music group.  As I made small talk about the retreat he opened up and shared that he had a "falling out of sorts" with the Church.  Turns out the music ministry he was part of in his parish had some problems with the "administration" of the parish.  More to the point, it was the priest that they had issues with.  Now he found himself going to a Bible church with his wife who was not Catholic.
I shared that I was sorry to hear that and commented on how hard it must be in a marriage with two different faiths.  He had made the comment that his wife wasn't Catholic and "never would be", so I assume some tension existed there.  I was unsure of what to say, but he went on how fulfilling the services were at the new church and how important that was.  I merely acknowledged my affirmation that fulfillment was important, but stated that he was missing out on the Eucharist.  (I put it rather gentle and it sounded much more eloquent at the time, which I attribute to the Holy Spirit.)  Surprisingly he said yes he was missing the Eucharist and the Sacraments.
So I planted that seed and hopefully the Spirit will draw him back.  I left off by saying that I would pray for him.
But that story leads to the bigger sad picture.  In so many parishes, the focus is on active participation.  I gotta be a minister because the Church needs my talent. (I know this is an over-generalization and there are many honest good volunteers in parishes. But humor me for a bit.)  Even the well-meaning volunteer soon becomes wrapped up in their ministry and some put the ministry about their faith as seems to be the case with this poor man.  He had learned to share his ministry in a certain way (partly the fault of the former less-than-orthodox priest who encouraged activity by the laity during Mass) and when a different priest wanted to go another direction, his faith in the Church was compromised.  I don't know all the details of course, but I have talked with some of the other musicians from that group at past retreats.  This isn't the first run in with a parish administration. The leader had shared how they had already left one parish because of problems.
The blame isn't solely on these musicians.  In fact, when I was talking with them, I was surprised how shallow their faith seemed.  I figured that with their music being so spiritual, they would be unshakeable.  But the seed was planted on the rocky shallow ground for so many of my generation, shallow soil mostly because no catechists took the time to till it or the U.S. leaders of the Church didn't value fertile soil.  I received almost no meaningful catechesis growing up.  I had to discover my faith on my own in my late 20s.  But I have a solid rock of a wife and my life intersected with a few good men that have helped me along in my search.  Hopefully I can do the same for this guy and many others.
Please pray for these men and our generation.   


Anonymous said...

They say faith in America is 3,000 miles wide...and 3" deep. Actually I think it was Abp. Fulton Sheen who said that.

Anonymous said...

I serve as a lay reader sometimes, and if the liturgy is lousy (or downright heretical, as sometimes happens), I just treat it as a test of my patience, and continue on, doing the job as a servant, not as a would-be leader.