Monday, July 4, 2011

How to Overcome Authoritarianism

The Catholic Peace Weekly featured on its front page a picture of the auxiliary bishop of Inchon massaging the feet of an elderly person in a nursing home. "It feels good to get a foot message, doesn't it? the bishop asked the grandmother whose feet he was massaging. She replied, "We are living in great comfort and here I am showing my bare feet to the bishop.  I am embarrassed...."

"Grandmother," the bishop said, "it's alright, didn't our Lord wash the feet of his disciples?"

The 80-90 old grandmothers who offered their gaunt bare feet had embarrassed smiles on their faces, but they broke out in laughter as the bishop and priests gave them their massage. About twenty priests, who are in special works for the diocese, and two bishops visited the home for the elderly. They showed their concern and, even if only a one time effort, were  energized by the words of our Lord that he did not come to be served but to serve.

The home for the elderly has 100 grandfathers and  grandmothers and the group from  the diocesan center spent the whole day in service to the elderly. The ordinary of the diocese told his priests, "We should not only speak about service to others from the pulpit but we priests should be an example of how word and action come together in service to others."
The editorial mentioned that although priests have a better reputation than some other religious representatives, when Catholics leave the Church and  are asked the reason, the authoritarianism of the priests is still a common answer. This kind of sign of service to others is a good indication of where the clergy would like to go to leave behind this reputation.

Pope John Paul II said, "People today put more trust in witnesses than in teachers, in experience than in teaching, and in life and action than in theories. The witness of a Christian life is the first and irreplaceable form of mission: Christ, whose mission we continue, is the "witness" par excellence  and the model of all Christian witness" (Redemptoris Missio 42).

This sign on the part of the priests, the editorial concludes,  leaves many with a good  impression and message, and should be a help to overcome the propensity to authoritarianism in their work.

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