Does it pay to work for the church?
Laypeople who make a living in the church love what they do--but don't always love the pay.
All you Priests, Seminanians, and those considering the ordained life out there may want to sit down, put your feet up, and take a deep breath before you read any further. The results of our special survey, "What do you want in a priest?" are in. More than 800 readers and other Catholics weighed in with their opinions, and many of their wish lists make the Easter Vigil look short in comparison.
"For too long we've had a preferential option for mediocrity in the priesthood," laments Father Robert Barron, assistant professor of systematic theology at Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois. "Teilhard de Chardin said the priest calls down fire on the earth," says Barron. That's a far cry from "organizer of ministries," which is one of the dull-as-dishwater descriptions Barron remembers from his seminarian days. "Who's going to be lit on fire by a term like that?" he fumes.
In its best moments Catholicism is the happiest of the major world religions. It is permeated by the reverent joy of Christmas night, the exultant joy of Easter morn, the gentle joy of First Communion, the satisfied joy of grammar school graduation, the hopeful joy of a funeral Mass, the confident joy of a May crowning. Catholicism is shaped by the happiness of hymns like "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," "Adeste Fideles," the "Exultet," and "Bring Flowers of the Fairest."
There are certainly many new approaches to spirituality and belief these days, but the parish remains the place most Catholics go to for sustenance. In fact, two thirds of all American Catholics are registered parishioners. While a varied lot, to be sure, they all are looking for-albeit in many different ways-a transcendent connection to God and guidance for their life's journey, a place where they will be at once nurtured and prodded. Catholics today seek not just to be on the rolls of an institution to fulfill their religious obligations; they want a spiritual home.
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is conceptually akin to the building of a church. Further, it reminds one of the miracle of the loaves and fishes.
Fueled largely by the personal experiences of faith of all involved, it multiplies graces and fills baskets with the leftovers of the experience of what it really means to be Catholic.
We were a hopeful band of prolife peaceniks, venturing out one summer day in 1979 to dialogue with other folks on the left. They were demonstrating in Cincinnati against a National Right to Life Convention. We passed leaflets out to them and carried picket signs with messages such as "Anti-War=Prolife/Be Consistent!"
Religious education is not just for kids anymore as more parishes are including the entire family. Even Grandpa's invited. Shortly before Christmas last year, Rachel Squier, 11, of Streetsboro, Ohio announced to her parents that she thought the family should "go visit some poor people."
While Rachel's parents were pleased that their daughter was showing concern for those less fortunate, they knew a discussion was in order.