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Pastors Should Stop Fooling Themselves

by Father Charles Gallagher

Maybe pastors (and bishops) should stop fooling themselves. Take a typical well-run parish. Take its confirmation program, a stiff two-year preparation for the sacrament.. Sponsor couples open their homes every week to ten or twelve candidates, about the age of sixteen.

In their weekly sessions the sponsors "chair" the meetings of the boys and girls. It is serious. Absenteeism is not permitted. Every aspect of the sacrament of confirmation is thoroughly discussed. Each teen is required to participate.

The sponsors were handpicked by the pastor. They were the elite of the parish. respected, competent and knowledgeable. It was a genuine sacrifice for them to offer their homes for the meetings with the candidates.

If it were only occasional, it would not be that great a sacrifice. Every week during the school year was a generous commitment. The groundskeepers had the grass looking like the greens of a golf tournament.

The choir would be at its best. It had practiced long and strenuously. The parish liturgist was on top of every part of the ceremony. She had the altar servers regimented and disciplined like an honor guard at a military function.

The great day finally came. The sacrament of confirmation had never been better done at the parish. The bishop was impressive. His homily was brilliant, somewhat folksy, even witty. He carefully and meaningfully anointed the young people, calling each by the name on the tag they wore.

He looked them directly in the eye as they responded "Amen!" to his words, promising to practice the Catholic faith in their daily lives and to renew that promise every week at Mass. Every week.

Afterward in the parish hall, the newly confirmed lined up for their individual photo with the bishop, who, striking in his robes, miter, and crosier, looked every bit the sacerdos magnus he was.

Women of the parish were happy to see how well patronized their elegant buffet was. They blushed when the bishop complimented them.

After it was all over, the bishop in his car returning to the cathedral rectory and the pastor in his rectory felt that this confirmation was the beautiful, devout experience they had hoped it would be. This was true, they thought, especially for the eighty young men and women who declared themselves for God and Church.

The following Sunday, seven (7) of the newly confirmed were at Mass. It was the same the next Sunday and the Sunday after that. It made you think of the miraculous cure of the lepers when Christ asked. "Is there only this one to return and give thanks? So much for being "confirmed" in the Faith.

Yes. The bishops and pastors should stop fooling themselves.


Gallagher, Charles. The Priest, January 2005, p. 8.

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Phone: (708) 331-5485   Fax: (708) 331-5484
E-mail: [email protected]