A little boasting about my parish priests

I’m in my 50’s and I’ve been Catholic for my whole life. I’ve attended very many Masses, and heard very many sermons (some good, some not so good). I have moved from one place to another, from time to time, and so I’ve been a member of quite a few different parishes. I’d like to speak a little about my current parish.

The previous pastor and his parochial vicars (priests who assist the pastor of the parish) were orthodox in their sermons, and dedicated to their flock. I recall one remarkable sermon in which the pastor preached at length against abortion. He was not harsh in his preaching, but firm and clear. He taught what the Church teaches, but he also gave factual information, such as the number of abortions and its prevalence even in areas where there are many Catholics. At the end of the sermon, the congregation stood up and applauded. (I don’t favor applause at Mass, but in this case it was a fitting acknowledgement that the flock was following their shepherd.) All the priests of the parish were dedicated to the teaching of the Church, and, without exaggeration, I never heard a single sentence in any sermon that contradicted or undermined any Church teaching.

As happens in every parish, the priests were eventually reassigned, and we received a new set of priests to run the parish. These priests are Franciscans, and so they wear a brown hooded robe, with a literal rope for a belt, and sandals. I had no doubt about the orthodoxy of the former priests of this parish, but these priests are even more orthodox, if that is possible. They have repeatedly preached against abortion, contraception, divorce and remarriage, sex outside of marriage, and many other sins. I recall one sermon in which the priest said, something like: “As a priest who hears confessions, I can tell you that few people confess the sin of contraception. But I know that many of you are using contraception.” Then he went on to speak about the Church’s teaching against contraception.

I recall another sermon, by another one of these priests, on the topic of one of those controversial Pauline passages about wives being obedient to their husbands. He did not undermine or contradict this teaching in the least. He said that this is a matter of faith, that the husband is the head of the family, and the wife is the heart of the family (an allusion to Casti Connubii). The sermons at this parish often present various teachings of the Church in an accessible but theological manner. The doctrines of the Church are explained, one after another, as the occasion arises from the particular readings of the day, including the role of the Magisterium to teach the faithful, and the requirement to believe what is taught. The faithful of this parish are used to this type of sermon.

On a particular occasion, a priest was visiting with the purpose of evangelizing the congregation. This happens in many dioceses, where a priest visits to offer perhaps a fresh call to the Gospel message. But this priest told many jokes in his sermon, and he had a very light approach to preaching. I observed that the congregation did not laugh much at his jokes, perhaps because they were not used to this type of sermon.

On Saturdays, all the priests of the parish hear confessions, and they generally arrive earlier and stay later than the appointed time.

The priests adhere to the disciplines of the Church as well as to Her doctrines. I recall a note in one bulletin, saying that there were certain rules of the Church regarding sponsors for RCIA and for Baptism, and that they would be followed by the parish. (This seemed to be a reference to some type of objection to those rules by some persons.)

The parish has written guidelines concerning which persons may receive Communion, and I have heard this topic preached repeatedly at Mass also. Of course, they say that you must be a practicing Catholic, who is in a state of grace and not conscious of grave sin. They also say that if you are divorced and remarried without an annulment, you may not receive Communion. And the written guidelines specifically state that politicians and anyone else who supports abortion may not receive Communion. It is a grave sin to support abortion; therefore, any Catholic who supports abortion may not receive Communion.

The parish is well taught and well run, because the priests are faithful to the beliefs and practices of the Catholic Faith.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and Biblical scholar

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