Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"What Lay People Are Looking For From Their Priests" -- Part I

A couple of weeks ago I had the incredible honor of speaking to the priests of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati during their convocation.  Since they have posted my talk online, I thought I would share it here as well.  I'll divide it into five installments because of the length.  

It is a tremendous honor to have been asked to speak to you today.  Before beginning, I would like to thank you for your life of service, your constant gift of self, your willingness to shepherd, to sacrifice, to offer the laity Christ’s invitation to live in communion with the Catholic Church.  It has been an incredible blessing to be a Catholic since my baptism at 4 months of age, and I am indebted to all of the priests who have witnessed the Lord’s love to me in so many capacities. 

The title given for this presentation, “What Lay People Are Looking For From Their Priests,” is an interesting one.  I expect many of you would like to address your parishes with a similar topic, “What Priests Are Looking For From Their Lay People.”  Certainly, my aim this morning is not to “tell you what to do,” but to share my experiences as a young Catholic woman – as well as the words shared with me in my conversations with many other lay people –  to encourage you and gently challenge you to live to the fullness the gift of your priesthood.  These words can be divided into five main objectives.

1.     We want you to challenge us.

In our current culture, we are often under the illusion that the best way to attract people is to take away all difficulties, and instead to increase every possible comfort. 

In reality, we want to be challenged.  People can find mediocrity anywhere.  They cannot find an authentic challenge very many places.

But one place where we should be able to find a consistent, authentic challenge rooted in truth is in the Catholic Church.

We know that when we are challenged, we are loved.  The bar is not set high for those we do not care about.  We only hold to a high standard those we believe are capable and “worth” being called to something more.  And so, a challenge is attractive.  In some ways, it is a compliment. 

There are many opportunities to shy away from challenge – lovingly holding a high standard for parents who seek baptism for their children; speaking directly to engaged couples about the three C’s – chastity, cohabitation and contraception; expressing the importance of attending Sunday Mass every week; encouraging parents to live their role as the primary educators for the faith …  The list could go on and on. 

These situations may be difficult, but we need you to present the truth in love.  We need you to speak boldly.  We need you to love the Church so strongly that you are able to present the faith with all of the radicality it deserves – as something worth staking our lives upon in response to the radical love of Christ.  Nothing less than precious souls are at stake. 

Pope Benedict XVI’s words resonate here: “The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort.  You were made for greatness.”

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