"Francis, go and repair my house, which you see is falling down." – God
The head of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness once described professional football as 22 guys on the field who desperately need rest, and 40,000 spectators in the stands who desperately need exercise.
This, dear readers, is a description of our Church.
Some time ago, I conducted a straw poll of diocesan priests. I asked them what percentage of their time is spent on priestly ministry as compared with administrative work. The majority indicated that they spend more time on business and administrative matters than they do being priests.
Pastors are especially prone to being distracted by nonpriestly functions. They oversee building and grounds projects, repairs, improvements, fund-raising, finance and staffing and stomp out the myriad fires that crop up each day. Add a school, and the projects skyrocket.
A pastor who has excellent staffing, a strong business manager to oversee day-to-day operations and a parish that understands the concept of lay ministry may spend as little as 30 percent of his time in administrative tasks. Others spend 60 to 80 percent of their time on nonpriestly activities. Even parochial vicars, who typically enjoy more freedom from administrative work, may spend up to half their days in paperwork and phone calls.
I think it’s accurate to say that no one goes into the priesthood so he can negotiate roofing contracts or sit in meetings. God calls men by name to be his priests, not business managers or landscapers. Or as my husband says, no one ever died for lack of new bathroom light fixtures, but in a very real sense, people are dying every day for lack of Jesus.
What does this have to do with you?
As long as lay Catholics view priests as the guys who are paid to do all that religious stuff while we go to work and live our lives, the problem will persist. One pastor described our confused arrangement like this: the minister ministers, and the congregation congregates.
Nothing in the pages of Scripture even vaguely reflects this view. Neither does the structure of the early Church. Rather, God created each of us with gifts and talents that are to be used "for the common good." In other words, God absolutely, positively expects us to use the talents that he gave us. If we expect the clergy guys to do it all, our Church will remain in disrepair, much like St. Francis of Assisi faced centuries ago.
We’re seeing it now. Many regard their parish involvement as volunteer work, to be doled out only after the important aspects of life are satisfied. In truth, the Church is our family, and in a family, everyone contributes as he or she is able. It’s the only way a family can function properly.
In my family, Meredith is the fix-it guy. Andrew is the photographer. Torrie helps with computer glitches. Tierney sings. Kait organizes. Skip covers medical areas. Chris is a musician and teacher. You get the idea.
When one decides not to contribute his or her particular talent, everyone suffers. Either tasks go undone, or they get done badly by someone else.
Likewise in the Church, we all are called to use our talents for the good of all.
Think of the parable of the talents. Three people were given talents. The ones who used them were congratulated for their prudence. The one who buried his talent in the back yard was roundly criticized for letting it go to waste.
What are you doing with your talents?
Regina Cram lives in Glastonbury and is a freelance writer.