Here’s a question directed mainly to bishops and priests that will hopefully trigger some self-examination. Ask yourselves honestly: Have you arranged the use of your time so as to maximize the hours consecrated to core ministry and evangelization? Only you and God know the answer.
This question is quite different from the issue of whether bishops and priests are busy. I have no doubt that clergymen are busy people and have little down time. May God bless them for their hard work. The question, however, relates to the allocation of this time between tasks that are central to their role as ordained ministers versus tasks that are more administrative in nature.
Remember what happened to the Apostles in the early Church:
Now during those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. And the twelve called together the whole community of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait at tables. Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word.” (Acts 6:1-4)
Are you emulating the Apostles in this matter?
Managing a parish or a diocese requires a multitude of tasks. Many responsibilities are entrusted to the clergy through Canon Law. But the clergy need to realize that some tasks can and should be delegated to the laity (subject to final approval and decision by the clergyman) so that the clergy can spend as much time as possible devoted to prayer and serving the word. I’m not sure that this is currently happening. It’s probably different in every parish and diocese. Each clergyman must search his heart and, with the help of God, discern whether he is doing his best to prioritize.
To use an example from a parish in Ottawa, the priest should not be the guy mowing the parish lawn or mopping the floors under the pews. These tasks should be assumed by the laity. The priest should focus as much time as possible on the sacraments and on evangelizing, both inside and outside his church walls.
This, of course, brings us to the issue of the role of the laity. Are we adequately supporting our clergymen to lift some administrative burdens from them? The laity also play an important role in evangelizing, but in a manner that is obviously different from the clergy. We must help the clergy to be liberated from those mundane tasks so that they can fully assume their role.
The clergy also have to be willing to step out of their comfort zone and preach the Gospel. They have to be willing to let go of the mop and grab the Cross. In many ways, it’s much easier to mow a lawn than to preach the Truth to a congregation that has become lukewarm in its faith. But it must be done. No shirking of pastoral responsibility can be accepted.
Let’s pray for the clergy.