Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Perfect Laity

The other day, Father Zuhlsdorf ran what he calls "an old chestnut" (though I've never seen that particular version myself) about "the perfect priest." Hoping Father Z. won't mind, I've copied it below:
The Perfect Priest

The results of a computerized survey indicate the perfect priest preaches exactly fifteen minutes. He condemns sins but never upsets anyone. He works from 8:00 AM until midnight and is also a janitor. He makes $50 a week, wears good clothes, buys good books, drives a good car, and gives about $50 weekly to the poor. He is 28 years old and has preached 30 years. He has a burning desire to work with teenagers and spends all of his time with senior citizens.

The perfect priest smiles all the time with a straight face because he has a sense of humor that keeps him seriously dedicated to his work. He makes 15 calls daily on parish families, shut-ins and the hospitalized, and is always in his office when needed.

If your priest does not measure up, simply send this letter to six other churches that are tired of their priest, too. Then bundle up your priest and send him to the church on the top of the list. In one week, you will receive 1,643 priests and one of them will be perfect. Have faith in this procedure.

One parish broke the chain and got its old priest back in less than three weeks.
Cute, yes? But it got me thinking, not only about the sometimes unrealistic demands we have of our priests, but of the equally unrealistic thoughts some in the clergy may have about the rest of us. I'm sure plenty of people beside myself have on occasion encountered some rather sweet but not-grounded-in-reality ideas from really dear priests about what lay people do, what we're capable of on a weekly basis, and what it's like to live in today's world and raise a family.

With that in mind, I give you:

The Perfect Laity

An unofficial group of bishops and priests has created their description of the perfect lay people. They should arrive at Sunday Mass at least fifteen minutes early but not any earlier than seventeen minutes early, because then their circling cars will be in the way of those trying to leave the preceding Mass; they should realize that arriving ten or five minutes early is the same as arriving late. They should commit no sins but go to confession frequently; however, they should make sure that not too many come on any given Saturday, as Father can only hear confessions for thirty minutes each week in a parish with five to seven hundred registered families.

They should, if married, be open to life and have (God willing) many children; the mother should put her children first but also work a full-time career to be able to help her husband pay for Catholic school tuition. They should be extremely generous to the parish, donating significant amounts of money whenever asked, but their jobs should not get in the way of their being able to be at church on a daily basis, and they should be active volunteers in several lay groups or "ministries." They should take seriously their duty to raise their children Catholic, but should make certain their children will make no noise before bringing them to Mass. They should teach their children everything the little ones need to know in order to receive the Sacraments of Reconciliation and First Communion, but should enroll them in parish religious education anyway, and jump through every hoop demanded for these Sacraments, however silly or time-consuming. They should be careful to keep their teens coming to church and to teach them to avoid serious sin and its occasions, but should have no problem whatsoever letting their sixteen-year-olds attend the mandatory overnight co-ed Confirmation retreat.

They should study and learn as much as possible about the Catholic faith, especially via adult education programs provided by the diocese; however, they should not read the Catechism unassisted, and should especially not read anything at all about the liturgy; it is preferable that they remain blissfully unaware that the Congregation for Divine Worship even exists. They should sign Haugen songs as if they were written by Palestrina, and should think that Palestrina is some Italian city or something. They should gladly announce their birthdays or anniversaries at Mass and clap for everyone else's, and should not have any silly hang-ups about reverence or silence in the "worship space," but they should remain totally silent and not fidget for the duration of the homily, even if Father is talking about The Shack.

Pastors whose laity don't measure up to these standards need not mail their lay people anywhere, however; they just need to wait for the effects of forty years of horrible catechesis and indifferent liturgical celebrations to catch up with the die-hards who don't yet meet this description.


Jacque said...

"They should study and learn as much as possible about the Catholic faith, especially via adult education programs provided by the diocese; however,..."

I was actually told by a person who was teaching the RCIA that the Catechism was to hard for the laity to read. Needless to say I was extreemly insulted.

I attended the "Why Catholic" series a couple of times. It was supose to be a journey through the Catechism. Not! It was a journey through a bunch of sappy touchy feely feelings of all present. Dumbed down to the 'inth degree!

I may not be educated.. but stupid, I'm not.

Paul, just this guy, you know? said...

Nice post! I'm so glad my parish doesn't have these problems!

Daddio said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daddio said...

I think the ideal priest would only preach for 10 minutes. Five on weekdays.

And don't forget that the ideal layperson should give generously to the "building fund" so that the parochial school they can't afford to send their kids to can build a new gym. But none of the lay organizations should dare to ask permission to use that new gym or any of the classrooms or other school facilities for non-school purposes.

Also, don't expect the teachers at that expensive parochial school to use all Catholic study materials, much less to be practicing Catholics themselves. Just support the school by buying lots of cookies and grocery coupons and photos with Santa.