Question: In confession recently the priest told me I should not say, “Bless me, Father,…
This Father’s Day, reach out to your priests
I can’t speak to whether or not letters to the editor were included in the first issue of Our Sunday Visitor when it rolled off of Father John Francis Noll’s printing press back in 1912, but I can say with confidence that getting feedback from readers has been an integral part of Our Sunday Visitor for decades.
While the means of communicating with readers has changed over the past 100-plus years, editors still read each handwritten letter, each email, each Facebook comment and each tweet. And whether the writer loved or hated an article, we always are thankful to have passionate readers who care deeply about their personal faith and about the Church.
A few weeks ago, a frequent letter writer, Art Osten Jr. from Illinois, wrote the following: “Your editorials often implore the laity to hold Church leaders accountable. It would be helpful to hear your ideas on how that might be accomplished. It would seem that without some formal process sanctioned by the Church, the concern and energy generated by the current crisis will fade back to complacency, and future efforts will find little purchase. Without input on issues small at all levels, they can hardly expect to impact issues large at any level.”
He had a point, and his challenge didn’t go unnoticed. In a Church with a defined hierarchy, what role does the laity have in assisting priests in the mission of the Faith? It is an excellent question, and we have responded. In his article on Pages 14-15, Michael R. Heinlein reminds readers that priests and laypeople are co-workers in the vineyard, and both need one another’s support to carry out the Church’s mission.
The Second Vatican Council, in its Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, reminds us that all of the faithful “share in the priestly, prophetic and royal office of Christ and therefore have their own share in the mission of the whole People of God in the Church and in the world.”
For this shared mission to work, like any good relationship, it takes courage, cooperation and respect. Just as we need priests to tend to our sacramental and spiritual lives, so, too, do priests need the laity to walk with them on their own journeys of faith — to pray for them, to encourage them and to counsel them. But it’s difficult to support our parish priests when, too often, the faithful feel uncomfortable having a conversation with them that goes deeper than, “Great homily, Father; have a good week.”
No, for the Church to function as it should, real relationships — real friendships — between priests and laity need to be formed. That is when meaningful conversations — positive and negative — can take place that will impact not only the priest and layperson, but the parish and the Church at large.
And what better day than Father’s Day to take that first step toward building a stronger relationship with your priest?
Scott Warden is a managing editor at Our Sunday Visitor.