Saturday, August 9, 2014

Even Whales Dance When Praised

At the end of a meeting about lay-Catholic matters the Peace columnist of the Peace Weekly recounts for the readers what happened. They all gathered to eat and continued the talk on what transpired at the meeting. One participant said: " A bishop with whom I was talking said to have change, the priests have to change." Another in response:  "When you hear the priests talk; the bishops have to change." Another volunteered: "Pope Francis is putting pressure on the bishops."

He doesn't remember the whole story but one of those at the meal recalled a priest who was the pastor of his parish and recounted what happened when he was assigned to the  parish that needed  a church.

He called one of the parish council members and told him to take care of all the education and spiritual programs. He would give himself to the building of the new church. The parishioners were, for the most part, living in small 50 square meter apartments built for the poor. He took the key money used for the lease of his apartment and put it into the building fund and lived in the sacristy. Those who came to morning Mass would carry some of the bricks to the building site before going to work.

The plans that they had for the church building had to be changed because one of the houses they wanted to buy, the owner refused to sell. It seemed he wanted to make money on the house and was waiting for the price to  go up. They decided to make the church smaller than first envisioned. The owner, for some reason, as time passed  decided to sell the property. The members of the building committee were going to buy the house at half the price that was first agreed upon, and thought the priest would be very happy to hear the news. However, he wasn't. He told the building committee to give the owner the price that they were willing to pay at the beginning of the negotiations. At the signing of the contract, the owner of the house cried. Of course, the owner was not a Catholic, and they don't what  happened after he moved.

The columnist reminds us there are priests who like Pope Francis are not doing what we expect and surprise us. We find it easy to speak ill about our priests, more finding fault than giving praise. " Praise even makes a whale dance" is an expression used in Korea. All of this has great relevance for the preaching of the Gospel, if we are really concerned to make its beauty more clearly recognized and accepted by all. "We need to remember that all religious teaching ultimately has to be reflected in the teacher’s way of life, which awakens the assent of the heart by its nearness, love and witness." (Joy of the Gospel #42) 

With all the self-examination of the Church in Korea in preparation for the visit of Pope Francis, the clergy are under the spotlight. They are being compared to the words and actions of Pope Francis.This is putting pressure on the clergy, but the columnist reminds us that seeing the good and giving thanks is also a valid way of stimulating and energizing those in pastoral roles within  the community of faith. 

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