Monday, February 21, 2011

When pastors dream

I thought this comic strip might elicit a chuckle or two from the handful of priests who read this blog regularly.

I know, as a Catholic lay woman, what kinds of concerns and troubles about the present-day state of things in the Church in America I might express to pastors; in fact, I've expressed some of them before, both here and directly to priests. But I sometimes wonder: what would our pastors like to see happen in their parishes? What, if given a forum like Rat's idea of the Breaking News: Church Bulletin Edition, would our spiritual fathers like to say?

And since the question goes both ways, I'll also ask Catholic lay people: if your parish had a church bulletin discussing in frank openness the real problems of the parish, what would you like to see addressed, and why?

Non-Catholic readers can feel free to chime in about their places of worship, as well. Tell me below: if your place of worship had a bulletin like the one Rat is writing in the comic--what troubles would hard-hitting investigative reporting uncover?

For all three groups: would the headlines be about a lack of giving? of discipleship? of dedication? Would they focus on music, or liturgy, or religious education? What other issues would be addressed in a real parish newspaper--in your parish?


kkollwitz said...

People not participating in the life of church beyond Sunday Mass and $5 in the basket.

Patrick said...

"I'll also ask Catholic lay people: if your parish had a church bulletin discussing in frank openness the real problems of the parish, what would you like to see addressed, and why?"

I'm very happy we don't have this type of paper. Let the people who like to play "inside parish baseball" play it at their council meetings and gossip parlors and leave everyone else alone.

Red Cardigan said...

Now, Patrick, I'm not talking about literally naming parishioners as Rat does. But wouldn't it be nice if lay people and clergy alike could have an honest discussion about real areas for improvement?

lawrenceo said...

O boy. I would like people to not chat in church. Why doesn't anyone ever mention this? I have a good deal of far more important ideas, but you don't have to be a " traditionalist " to like or follow this. Please, pray, and leave. ( not before we're done, though )

P. S. Are we really supposed to have collection in Mass ?

texasmama said...

Simple and already tired out in the blogosphere, but I would ask the pastors to let folks know that it is, in fact, an act of charity and not a sin, to stay home when they are ill so as not to infect others (at the very, very least to keep their ill, coughing, hacking, drippy, oh she only threw up once 10 minutes before mass) children at home. I am a mother of 8 and I know that sometimes you don't know your kids are harboring some evil illness, but when you know, it is indeed NOT WRONG to stay at home. There. Certainly not my only discussion point, but one that could help lots of people.

Patrick said...

See, Red? The paper turns in to "here's what *you* should do better to make me comfortable at church" even before it's off the ground. No thanks. People who are interested in that can sit on the councils or, as they do, join one of the "parish factions". Better yet, they could make an appointment with the priest and once he's made his decision either to address or not address the issue (gasp!) abide by it even if it's disagreeable.

Put a less surly way: there's nothing that can't be taken care of through informal "backchannel" communication for the people who're interested in church politics without cluttering up a perfectly benign church paper for the people who aren't.

Anonymous said...

Our old parish did something like this. Well, not naming people. But putting how much the collection was, how much it was five years ago (30% more!). How many envelopes out of how many were used last week. You get the idea.

The thing is, the reasons for the fall already happened and nothing you would write in the bulletin would change matters. As someone who went every week and gave generously, I found it insulting. Or maybe just depressing. Anyway, I found it overkill Every. Single. Week.

You're not going to reach the people who aren't going by putting things like this in the bulletin, because they aren't going.

Carrie said...

I think it would be a good way to get important topics covered. While I can imagine not too many people actually read their church bulletin, I'd bet a good deal more people read it than listen to all of Father's homily. (Attention spans are shorter in church than just about anywhere else.)

I don't really advocate writing about the giving habits of the parishioners (even the stats on this are lacking in good taste, in my opinion.) Perhaps it would be a good place to reproduce some great articles on things such as artificial birth control, NFP, modesty, etc. And parishioners could perhaps contribute an article or two.

I also think gentle reminders (such as texasmama's suggestion) would be EXTREMELY helpful. Some people insist on going to Mass even when they're sick, just because they think being able to get out of bed means the obligation still exists. It would clear up any misconceptions. I have seen similar reminders regarding the Lenten fast. I certainly don't see it as "here's what you should do better to make me more comfortable at Mass." I would be grateful for such instructions, and I remember things more clearly when I see them written down.

So many Catholics in the pew don't bring their faith into their lives beyond the Sunday obligation. I think this idea of the "new bulletin" would be a good way to introduce people to all topics Catholic, and how relevant they can be to all parts of our lives.

Deirdre Mundy said...

I'd like to see a regular (and constantly updated list) with subheadings like:

Apparitions which are NOT APPROVED

Groups Suppressed by this, and other Bishops

Movements currently under investigation by the CDF/ founded by false prophets

So that when someone was trying to convince you, that, for example, Holy Love Shrine is SO wonderful and spiritual, you could just say "Look! It's on our official, diocesan, "Avoid like the plague!" list!! I find that, in my diocese at least, priests seem hesitant to actually out and out say "This is not a good use of your time/money, folks!" because they're afraid of hurting feelings. I think a bit more bracing honesty might actually keep some people OUT of these groups/apparitions/etc.

rdcobb said...

I agree that the bulletin is a great opportunity to catechize. I also wish they would give more specific information about different ministries at the the real time commitments, what days meetings are on, etc. rather than just a phone # to call for more information.

And I know it's more impersonal, but parishes really need to implement more technology such as basic e-mail. A lot of people would be more likely to stay involved if they could e-mail their questions and concerns.

Charlotte said...

When we travel to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, we always make try to make it to mass at a wonderful parish in Iron Mountain, Saints Peter and Paul. Right on the front of their bulletin, in the box that explains what you need to do for baptism, etc., in the marriage section - it doesn't just say that members should be practicing members of the parish for at least 6 months, it also says engaged couples should not be living together! Believe me, most of our parish bulletins could fit in that extra line!

Personally, I think a weekly, ongoing series about what the mass is, what it means, how it should be celebrated, etc., would do a world of good - and many of the other "issues" that people are mentioning here in the commbox could be addressed in this series, cleverly hidden in the text and expressed in non-judgemental ways. For example, one week in the series could address the idea of missing mass being a sin, why we should want to go to mass, and covering scenarios when it's not a sin, like when you're sick with the plague.

In "Char's World," the bulletin would tell people to STOP clapping after mass (our priest tolerates it because when he got our parish, people were clapping during the mass at various points, and allowing it only at the end of mass was his meeting-them-halfway move.)

Charlotte said...

BTW, about publishing names and monetary contributions in the bulletin - I recently told this story here in your blog commbox - but I'll tell it again:

When we went to the Andy Warhol museum in Pittsburgh a few years ago, one of their temporary displays was a case of religious memorabilia that Andy Warhol had kept over the years. Despite his lifestyle, he went to daily mass every day of his life! AND, weirdly (or not?), he kept EVERY church bulletin and filed it away in yearly time capsules.

So anyway, when we were looking at some of the church bulletins he kept from the 1950's and 60's, we were shocked to see that at the church he attended, they would weekly list who gave to the church and how much! Can you imagine????

We assumed that it was either a long-standing traditon going way back OR that it was meant as a guilt-inducing tactic so that parishioners would realize they had been remiss or lacking in their tithing.

Of course, this would never be a good idea, and of course, if a church did that now, they'd probably be sued. But I wonder if it served a successful purpose back then or not?

Paul said...

A goat and a rat? looks alittle Satanic to me.

Anonymous said...

For a completely different take:

I am part of sangha of people who practice meditation in the Theravada Buddhist tradition. Everything at the center is offered freely. There is a bowl in the entryway for people to contribute. They can put in a check or cash (in an envelope with their name/address so they can get a tax receipt) or give online.

There is no tithe, no suggested donation, no sliding scale and no fees for anything. Yet we managed to buy and rehab an old restaurant for our community full of people of modest means. After three years we owe only $150,000 mortgage on the $800,000 project and our teacher got his first raise in a decade.

All we do every month is remind people of the Buddhist principle of Dana, or generosity. Use your own gut check to feel how valuable the sangha is to you, how you treat your money is all areas of your life, how much you have and how much responsibility you bear, and then give accordingly.

It is surprising how much people will give for the sheer joy of giving, as opposed to feeling pressure or guilt.


Anonymous said...

Homiletics that would help the relic tongue of Saint Anthony of Padua discover an even more fervent faith than itself is known to awaken.

Anonymous said...

@Paul: The name of the cartoon - published daily in some papers - is "Pearls before Swine". The pig, who does not appear in the strip selected above, is quite naive, and is a foil for the rat's insults. The rat has a bad temper, and often insults the other characters. Both are alter egos of the cartoonist, who perpetrates outrageous PUNs. If your paper carries this strip, Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

@Paul: The name of the cartoon - published daily in some papers - is "Pearls before Swine". The pig, who does not appear in the strip selected above, is quite naive, and is a foil for the rat's insults. The rat has a bad temper, and often insults the other characters. Both are alter egos of the cartoonist, who perpetrates outrageous PUNs. If your paper carries this strip, Enjoy!

Alisha De Freitas said...

I really liked this post. I have a collection of church bulletins from various churches that I have been meaning to read forever.

As a Protestant, I've been accustomed to seeing the total amount of offering and tithes for a Sunday appearing in the following Sunday's bulletin, and honestly don't see anything wrong with it. I think it would be offensive and wrong to see individuals' names and donation amounts listed, though. The nondenominational church I attended for five years did this, and included a breakdown to how much money went to missions and different ministries. I liked knowing where our money went.

The Anglican church I've been attending the past few months has just begun doing it. Sadly, the priest has started doing this because the church is broke- membership is way down since he's a traditionalist. But that's another story...

Anonymous said...

Publishing the individual contributions was relatively common at least in the 1940's to the 60's.

Perhaps, today, it would be better if the priest actually preached on a proper attitude for alms-giving and tithing.