Tuesday, 19 January 2016

ESSENTIALS AND ACCIDENTALS OF PARISH LIFE


THE ABOVE BOOKLET - FAITH IN ART, MUSIC AND POETRY WAS SENT TO ME BY A PARISH PRIEST IN THE DIOCESE OF DOWN AND CONNOR. IT IS THE ACCOMPANYING BOOKLET TO A COURSE OF LECTURES BEING GIVEN IN LARNE BY OUR NEW CURATE FATHER CONOR McCARTHY.

Conor Mc Carthy
The booklet contains paintings by Rupnick, Caravaggio, Michenangelo, Mengs, de Messina and Whitacre.

It contains poems by Dickinson, de Vega Caprio, Frye, Fanthorpe and Campbell.

It contains words and lyrics from Laurisden, Webber, Faure, Bach and Handel.

And I ask myself what all of this has to do with Larne in 2016 - with its dwindling economy, its job losses, its suicides, its sicknesses and its almost daily funerals.

I am not an uneducated man but before the arrival of this booklet I had not heard of Rupnick, Mengs, Whitacre, de Vega Caprio, Frye, Fanthorpe and Laurisden. What chance is there that the people who work in F G Wilson in Larne or at Larne Harbour have heard of them? 

At first sight poor Larne is not an attractive place. It appears dark and gloomy and it gets more than its fair share of rain. However I love living here now. 

However, the main reason that I as a priest, always feared being posted to Larne was the sight of the dark Parochial House where the priest(s) live. There's a new one there now instead of the old one. But when you pass it especially at night it is almost in complete darkness. 




It seems to scream out: "DON'T YOU DARE RING THIS DOORBELL UNLESS YOU'RE DYING - AND EVEN THEN PLEASE DIE AT A CONVENIENT HOUR"

I was hoping that the arrival of a newly ordained young priest would change that. After all the current PP Aidan Kerr could hardly be described as the life of even the most modest party. 


Aidan Kerr


But no! Little or no change. Once or twice I have seen the hall light on. But thats all :-(

And into all this "darkness" comes a booklet on Faith in Art, Music and Poetry. 

I never see a priest walking down the Main Street.

I never see a priest shopping in Dunne's Stores or Asda.

I never see a priest having a cup of tea in one of our too many coffee shops.

I never see a priest popping into the Catholic Social Club at the top of my street for a pint with the men - or even a reserved orange juice.

I never see a priest walking at the water front. 

I never see a priest out for a meal in our local hotel.

I never see a priest getting his hair cut in our local barbers.

We have two priests in Larne and one priest in Glenarm and one priest in Carnlough and Larne is the nearest shopping town to them all. 

Occasionally I see a priest cocooned in his car driving to of from Mass. But from the car I never see a smile and I never see a wave of the hand or a beep of the horn. 

I do hear of priests giving lectures on art or on John Paul 11's Theology of the Body.

I hear of high brow talks in St Brigid's parish centre in Belfast.

I hear of Schola Cantorem and Latin Masses and birettas and lace albs.

I hear of priestly sabbaticals.

But I never hear of:

Priests visiting the houses of parishioners - except the rich ones.

Priests visiting their parishioners in hospitals.

Priests visiting their parishioners in jail.

Priest spending time in youth clubs. 

Some time ago the French priesthood turned into "Sacristy Priesthood".

Are our priests - especially the few younger one - now turning into an absent or a Presbytery Priesthood?

Is it any wonder the Church is dying out.

"A house going priest leads to a church going people".

Is that why our churches are empting?

With all due respects to the great composers, artists and poets - none of them ever claimed to be pastors.

Where have all the pastors gone?


"There was a time in Ireland
When we had golden priests and wooden chalices.
Now we have wooden priests
And golden chalices"

27 comments:

  1. I'm in my late 30s not old but not young either but I can remember when I was a kid the priests were around all the time . The old p.p would have visited our house at least once a month and the curates were the same . I can remember my mum buying the fancy biscuits because she had a fare idea the priest is due a visit . I also remember being off school sick and the nuns coming out to the house wondering where I was . If there was a funeral wedding ect the priest didn't have to ask who what why where he knew all about us .
    The priests these days are useless they live in there big houses and they Havnt a clue what's goin on nor do they seem to care . If your well off and a good arse kisser then that's different the priest will know who you are otherwise they pass you in the street . Things have changed and not for the better . The young curate in larne seems to be very interested in art and music . I wonder dose he know the price of a loaf milk and half dozen eggs ? Art is great I'm all for it but it dusnt fill empty bellies

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    1. Well said above.

      I grew up in a working class area of Dublin - the oldest of 17 children. I did the weekly shop and brought the younger ones to school, doctor, dentist etc.

      I have been in Larne for 32 years now.I do my own cooking, washing, ironing and cleaning. I shop every day. I also regularly cook for others.

      I know the price of bread, butter, milk, petrol.I'm just back from Asda.

      A lot of priests are from middle class families, were spoiled by their Mammies and are now spoiled by housekeepers and well off parishioners.

      The priesthood has evolved into at least a middle class "profession" and vocation is gone out the window.

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  2. I couldn't agree more about the parochial house in larne. It looks dark and dismal. Fr Kerr is a nice man I'm sure but he has had the charisma by-pass. I remember when Larne had a PP, Fr Murphy and 3 curates, Fr Connelly, Fr Moley ( he lived in the house you're in now) and Fr McGrady ( he liked the good looking boys). It was a busy town in those days. My mother still talks about the two great priests years ago Canon Byrne and Fr McKillop. She says they were real priests. When you mention the present crew she just rolls her eyes up and throws her head back. Enough said.

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    1. I ve done my time. Im glad its over. What has art got to do with being a CC in a parish of 4,000 souls trying to hang on to their faith and sanity?

      Im glad Im not starting out again.

      PE D&C

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  3. In the Ireland of 2016 it would be completely insane for any young priest to be seen loitering in coffee shops, or dropping into schools or youth clubs uninvited or unaccompanied, or visiting private houses where there were children. As for intruding on the men having a pint in the social club, the mind boggles.

    I remember reading "Strumpet City" in the seminary and feeling suitably uncomfortable but I clung to the hope that in a broader church even an oddity might find his niche.

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    1. If a priest has nothing to hide and has no hidden agenda there is absolutely nothing to stop him visiting coffee shops, youth clubs, pubs, schools and private houses.

      I imagine that all priests must be vetted by the police? If not they should be.

      Vetted priests are safe priests. No?

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    2. Well no actually. Mostly a vetted priest is just a priest who has not as yet come to the attention of the police.

      Even a priest who has nothing to hide and has no hidden agenda can be rendered ridiculous and ineffective by the insinuations of a blogger.

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    3. You seem to be saying that "mostly" vetted priests have yet to come to police attention?

      I proceed upon the basis that ALL vetted priest still in ministry are perfectly safe to go anywhere and be with anyone.

      There is also a world of difference between being ridiculous and ineffective and being a danger to anyone.

      For 30 years now I have lived with insinuation and emnity from priests and it has not stopped me being effective in the areas in which I want or feel called to act.

      As the First Priest said: "Blessed are you when people revile you...your reward will be great in Heaven".

      Faith my friend Faith.


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    4. Some priests just are simply "ridiculous and ineffective". Nothing to do with bloggers.

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    5. Aidan Kerr and Conor McCarthy should be very grateful to you so. Unlike other clerics who get mentioned here they have nobody to revile them. Nobody at all at all.

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    6. I do not think I am reviling them. Just commenting on their modus operandi.

      Its too late for Aidan Kerr to change.

      But Conor is just starting out. He can either be an effective pastor - which would be very good - or an "also ran" which would be very sad.

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    7. Jesus of Nazareth was NOT a priest. He was put to death by priests. Pat I am very surprised that someone as theologically enlightened as you should come out with that old hierarchical claptrap! I suggest you read Albert Nolan OP's wonderful work on why it is just not true to say that Christ ever intended to found a Church.

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    8. Dear Friend,

      I agree with you completely. Jesus was not a clerical priest. Theologically he was only a "priest" in the sense that he offered himself as a sacrifice to the Father.

      I agree that Jesus never intended to found a church.

      I will read Nolan's book.

      I am hoping to publish a new book on this very topic myself later this year. My working title is: THE POPE HAS NO CLOTHES.

      Trust me.

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  4. Don't worry. Fr Mc Carthy will soon be overwhelmed with the response and attendance at his lectures. Classical Ecclasiastical music and Religious art are very much appreciated by the good citizens of that costal town. I have often been impressed when I have been in Larne and visiting St Comgalls Club as I listened to the members discussing the merits of Elgars famous work The Dream of Gerontius set to John Henry Newmans poem. I have also been enthralled by their debates on the use of dark oils by Dali to created the atmospheric scene in his Christ of St John of the Cross. Fr Conor will be delighted he has been posted to a metropolis so rich in culture and appreciative of the Arts. Two bottles of stout and a wee Bush,please !!
    Dalriada Dick

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    1. Seems dear old Oscar was right after all: 'Youth IS wasted on the young.'

      On the plus side, Fr Conor, being young, has time to mature (or, to put it in the
      vernacular, 'to wise up').

      Like Pat, I, too, am an educated man, but, again like him, I had never heard of
      some of the luminaries (?) named by Fr Conor. Perhaps I should go along to his lecture...if only to complete my education. On second thoughts, no: I don't like the idea of sitting on my own in a draughty parochial hall.

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  5. The ministry of Priesthood is both important and challenging,but the way that this ministry is being lived out in the Diocese is unsustainable, and not only because the number of clergy is dropping year by year.
    The longer I minister as a Priest here in Down & Connor, the more I realize how difficult it is to live an authentic human life. Why ? Because so few of us are 'natural celibates', and we our exiled from our own human needs. In order to escape this chilling reality, we engage in a myriad of displacement activities/compulsions/addictions.
    Many of us are incapable of loving anyone,least of all ourselves.
    It is too late for me to leave Ordained Ministry, and to embrace a different and more fulfilling way of life, and therefore I must try to come to terms with a lonely existence.
    I have sought counselling, but this merely clarified the necessity of a change of life, and I feel that this is beyond me. I do not doubt the goodness of God, but I do wonder how John 10:10 is realistically to be realised in my own life, and that of my Diocesan brothers.
    Jn 10:10 Jesus said "I have come, that you may have life, and have it to the full"

    Priest of D&C.

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    1. Dear Father,

      The fact that you wrote the above comment is a clear sign to me of how in touch you are with your humanity.

      I do not believe that the answer is for you to "come to terms with a lonely existence".

      There are other options that would allow you to keep your faith, your vocation and resolve your loneliness.

      I am glad that you had the wisdom to seek support in counselling. The counselling and therapy I underwent in my late 30s and early 40s led to great personal and spiritual freedom for me.

      I am glad you still trust in the goodness of God. He is TRULY GOOD and loves you more deeply that you will realise this side of the grave.

      There is a way.....................................

      Pat

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  6. Thank you Pat. I do. The book is called Jesus Before Christianity. It is a seminal theological work.

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  7. Priest of D&C's comments is so moving. It speaks of great sadness at a life trying to be faithful to the ordination vows that he took many years ago. He evidently has struggled, and only sees loneliness and emptiness for the future. I agree with +Pat that he is evidently in touch with his own feelings and his humanity, given that he realises what is happening to him and how he feels about it. So many clergy just muscles on through without much reflection, often doing damage to themselves and collateral damage to those around them, not least to the people they minister to, their parishioners. D&C Priest is streets ahead of them in his self-awareness and no doubt in the way he will minister to people with sensitivity and mercy. He is right also about the displacement activities/compulsions/addictions that many clergy use in order to compensate for their internal unhappiness and lack of integration, emotional, psychological and affective health. The requirement of compulsory celibacy and all that goes with it is, in some ways, a form of abuse, I believe. In years to come people will be amazed that the Church coerced men into such a way of life in order to be ordained, and it will be considered some form of institutional abuse. Most clergy may have said 'yes' to it when they were ordained, but it was a coerced and unfair 'yes' which has little validity. The solution is for clergy to find ways that are healthy and integrated in order to work their way through and around this unreasonable imposition. For those who are ordained and do not want to give up on what they are called to by God, I believe they have a right to engineer their personal lives in order to find the love and affection that they so rightly should be able to enjoy. Many clergy do this with responsibility and find a relationship of affection and love which is supportive and respectful of their ministry and their priesthood. Celibate bishops and VGs concentrate on the genital nature of such relationships which may, or may not, take place. That says more about their inadequacy and frustration as about anything. There is nothing worse than a professional celibate to interpret everything through the prism of the loins. I respect men who in their given situation make the best choices they can to keep them healthy and integrated and in ministry.

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  8. The Modern Church needs 4 pillars to be effective - Tradition Scripture Experience & Reason I notice a priest above asked is it too late to leave Ministry. It is never too late but priesthood Never goes away

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  9. May I thank the contributor at 19:22.
    I also feel that compulsory celibacy is a form of abuse, and I have done myself enormous harm by trying strenuously to observe it. I've realised too late, the absurdity of believing that every Priest must also have this mysterious calling to celibacy. I have more often observed it in my own life and other Priests as a call to selfishness.
    It is an unfolding tragedy and if people knew the real story of Priesthood in Down & Connor it would render them speechless.
    I live on the edge of despair but I hide it well, and try to do my best for my parishioners. I used to think my struggles would be easier as age progressed, but I actually find my sense of alienation is growing.
    Who in their right mind thinks this is how the Good Lord wants his Priests to live ?!

    Priest of D & C.

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    1. Dear Fr at 23.43 I used to visit 2 old nuns at Nazareth House Sligo. One had Dementia The other had a preoccupation to be assured her sins were forgiven. I often thought if anyone knew their real names or if anyone gave a shite. I was scared of ending up like that

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  10. D&C Priest, thank you for being so honest about this important matter. Many other priests do not have the courage to voice what you have said about yourself. So many priests do the muscular christianity thing and push on through with consequent damage.

    I have stopped listening to other clergy who tell me that celibacy is a 'joy and privilege'. I just tell them that I don't believe them, and that they are deluding themselves, but I refuse to be deluded anymore.

    Some will tell you that it is a sacrifice that is required of them by the Church, by God, and by their vocation. Well, you have to balance this self-righteous sacrifice, which perversely makes them feel good, with the damage done by the sacrifice - if not to them, then most certainly to others around them.

    Some priests may be called to celibacy as a special charism. Great ! I am all in favour of that, and all in favour of the grace that they bring to the Church by their witness. But, the vast majority of priests have no natural, or even God-given, calling to celibacy. Fact. And what they bring is not a grace and blessing, but sadness, loss, unhappiness, damage and a hindrance to their ministry which is shackled by the way they are required to live their lives.

    Let us remember, as we know from history, that compulsory celibacy was introduced as a practical matter of discipline, control and for financial reasons. Only thereafter was it given a spiritual justification. Note also that in so many other ancient Christian traditions, celibacy is not the norm for clergy.

    In addition to the celibacy requirement in the RC Church, other aspects of clerical life cause disfunction. The control exercised over clergy, the infantalising relationship between bishop and clergy....etc. etc. etc. That's for another post.

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    1. Thank you for that thoughtful, well informed and honest comment.

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    2. Thank you D&C Priest. In the Wing i despaired when I heard the difficult lifestyle of celibacy being swept under the carpet by formators. There was the memorably laughable moment when it was described by one visiting priest in Drumalis as "were buns". Well, it wasn't for him, as it can't be for many who are as honest as some contributors here have intimated.

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  11. I am a priest in a religious order. Our congregation used to preach parish missions and retreats but there is much less demand for that type of ministry now and I'm involved in counselling and working with support groups.
    I have no difficulty with my vocation or with my vows. There is an old joke that we in the orders take the vow of poverty but the secular clergy keep it. Probably true. I enjoy the support of the other priests in the house, the fun and the banter although some of the confreres are odd and off their trolly. Living with others has provided company,support and a sense of sharing.
    I feel so sorry for many of the men working in parishes. Often in big barracks of houses on their own. The loneliness and sense of isolation must be crippling. No wonder so many of them turn to drink and women. Being told that their vocation is a gift from God can be hard to swallow for an increasing number of them. God help them in their distress and often their despair. They need much a better support structure and they shouldn't be made feel that they are weak or moaners if their share their vulnerability

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