Sometimes it becomes clear to me how difficult it must be to be a Priest and a Pastor. I was reading another letter to parishioners by Fr. McCartney. When reading some of the inane and obnoxious comments made by parents who do not take the sacraments seriously. Clearly, I am not cut out for the priesthood. It would next to impossible for me to refrain from some particularly un-Christian behavior in response to these parents. Here is an excerpt:
When parents bring their children to begin our religious education program, we continue our attempt to convey to them the importance of coming to Mass every Sunday and practicing their Catholic Faith. This is one of the most important times in a child’s life, when boys and girls are open to everything, and ready and willing to learn. When parents in large number refuse to bring their children to Church, even to help prepare them for their Holy Communion, they are teaching their children that Church is not important. If Church is not important Holy Communion is not important. Consequently, that beautiful and most important day becomes no more than a school pageant or recital to the child.
Confirmation has become increasing difficult over the years. We are seeing greater absenteeism and disciplinary problems with the children in the classroom. The sense of apathy can be appalling and discouraging to our religious education teachers. Many of these volunteers, your friends and neighbors, have been volunteering substantial amounts of their time for years in order to teach our parish children the Catholic Faith. Recently, one of our Deacons who teaches in the seventh grade told me that more and more of his time is spent each week just keeping order in the classroom. When he gets to the point where he has to threaten to call a parent, the student in question will generally smile and give an uncaring shrug, because he knows that his parents will do nothing to support the teacher or the program, and at worst will make an angry call to the pastor. [Note to enraged parents: A voicemail in an hysterical tone of voice beginning “I am absolutely furious at you . . .” does not improve the likelihood of your call being returned.]
In fact, many of the irate phone calls I have fielded over this last year and a half as pastor have actually turned out to be founded in error: People enraged over some perceived injustice to their child, which turned out to be a complete misunderstanding. One parent called me to say she objected to her hild being assigned a Confirmation name. I told her that we do not assign Confirmation names at St. Matthew’s, nor in any Catholic Church, for that matter. She insisted. It went on and on. After investigation, it turned out that the 7th Grade students had been asked to write a report on some assigned saint whose life they had to research. It had absolutely nothing to do with the Confirmation name, but still took several hours to unravel. And no apology.
More often, I find, are the truly bizarre complaints: “Why does my child have to memorize the Act of Contrition?” “I don’t want my child to have to do any homework from religious education; he’s too busy already.” “You don’t really expect us to come every week, do you?” “My child doesn’t have to go to confession, she hasn’t committed any sins.” “What’s the big deal if he got a zero on the test, it’s not like it’s the S.A.T. or something.” I am not joking here. These are actual questions posed to me by some St. Matthew’s parents. The purpose of our Catholic Faith is to help people get to Heaven. Its purpose is not to allow people to have nice parties after Baptism, Communion, and Confirmation.
At the end of our lives we will all face an exam. Each and every one of us will be judged personally by Jesus Christ on the practice of our Catholic Faith and the actions of our lives. Believe me, that test is going to be much more important than the S.A.T.
Serenity now, serenity now.