Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

My Photo
Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Reason #563 To Be Catholic; Losing A Priest Doesn't Shipwreck Our Faith

This weekend, one of our assistant priests announced that the bishop has called him to become administrator and pastor for a parish in a nearby city. He has become a bit of a  "favorite" because of his warm personality, charismatic preaching style and ability to relate to young people.  He's also a good confessor.  During his announcement he told the congregation that he will be fine and we will be fine. Why? Because "it's all about Jesus", he said. He reminded us that we still will receive the body and blood of Christ from the other priests and that the parish will do just fine without him.

In my near 7 years of being Catholic I have seen many priests we came to love move on, and guess what? The membership didn't decline, parishioners didn't "backslide" and most importantly, the Lord was still reserved in the tabernacle and the Real Presence of Jesus was made present in the sacrifice of every Mass. Did we feel sadness and miss the personality and friendship? Absolutely, but our faith was not tied up in the personal charism of this priest. We didn't need to move on and find another Catholic Church where we could find a priest with the same personality and style. Regardless of an individual priest's personality, charm, charism or teaching /preaching ability, the Church goes on through time and space carrying out the great commission and feeding the sheep as He commanded, even with less-than-charismatic priests.

As  Protestant Christians, we often felt the rug pulled out from us when the pastor left. Somehow, it wasn't going to be the same and the service would lose its ability to make us feel like it use to. In two of the former Protestant churches I was a member of, when the pastors left, there was often a falling out of membership and or a split where half the congregation would follow the old pastor.(Sadly in both cases, the pastors were involved in sexual immorality) In other churches I know of, the congregation never rebounded and one had to call the old pastor out of retirement because none of the new pastors could "measure up."  Sadly, this is because of the "cult of personality" which often forms around religious leaders and is what causes the fall of many sects and rise of new ones.  This is not a new phenomenon, because people are people and tend to create the "cult of personality."  Saint Paul  cautioned the Corinthians to not follow after this one or that one or even Paul himself, but Christ.  The Catholic Church has been successful for 2000 years and one of the reasons is that the growth and maturity of a parish comes from the grace in the sacraments and is not totally dependent on one individual pastor or priest alone. We will always love and miss Father Scott, but he reminded us of the bigger picture. Our faith is always "all about Jesus" and not the individual priest. This is just reason # 563 that I am thankful to be Catholic.


Blogger Adoro said...

Well said!

I belong to a very large parish and priests come and go frequently - often because they are newly-ordained and there only for a few years, to learn.

The parish where I am employed, however, has lost its Pastor, who was moved to another parish that needed his gifts. He's the priest who hired me so it's very weird, and we have a transition priest assigned to us as Pastoral Administrator, who has the full rights and responsibilities of a priest, but we won't have a "permanent" new priest until sometime this summer.

It's hard but of course, as you point out: Jesus is still there, and He is the focus. I don't do my job differently because we have a different priest. If adjustments have to be made, they will be made as needed. But I can work with any priest and I will back him up and serve him and his flock just as I served the last one...because the Church belongs to Jesus, not the priest.

Hope that made sense. :-)

January 22, 2012 8:32 PM  
Blogger Russ Rentler, M.D. said...

"I will back him up and serve him and his flock just as I served the last one...because the Church belongs to Jesus, not the priest."
That's such a good point and the majority of priests know this. That is why they can't(and shouldn't) "jerk around" with the liturgy, because as one priest told us, "The liturgy is not mine, it's the churchs'"

Unfortunately it is so easy to "follow a man" and not the Truth

January 22, 2012 8:41 PM  
Blogger owen swain said...

Russ, I appreciate what you are saying and agree 100% with what is important to us as Catholics.

It's interesting when the practice challenges the theory.

My first ever experience of being not the pastor but the one left behind was as a Catholic. It was most insightful. I should write about that (and not take up space here). I've since experienced this two more times.

Being among the left behind I have seen where the transition is not smooth, sometimes a total disaster as the incoming priest is not merely different but is piloting a train wreck of his own making and seems quite cheered by it. I have seen what you haven't. I have seen membership decline,

I understand we can say there is a perfect example of people following the man and not the Man but it does happen even in the Church. I wish the response to following the Source (and summit) of our universal Church and faith were as universal as you note.

Of course, this is all the more reason to know we follow Christ via his Church and not a man and that we are called to serve God and support his man even when we have not yet (or if ever) fully appreciated him (the pastor).

I hope I am not taking away from what you and Adoro have said, that's not my intent. I only want to acknowledge that as the Church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic it's individual members are not and these parish changes are not always seamless and properly focused.

God grant us grace to be truly His faithful ones.

January 24, 2012 11:05 AM  
Anonymous russ rentler said...

Owen, I originally had a part in the original post about Fr. Corapi and the fall out he caused by those who followed the man, not the Church, but decided to leave it out. So I agree with your points they are taken well. I have been fortunate in my experience so far.

January 24, 2012 8:47 PM  

Post a Comment