Bulletin Letter Regarding Our Odd Missionary Visit

Last week I expressed my gratitude for the generous participation in the annual collection for the Missionary Cooperative Appeal. The response of our parishioner was really great.  In addition to extending my thanks I discovered last weekend that there is still a bit of unfinished business with regard to this year’s appeal.

When a pastor turns over the pulpit to a visitor there is a hopeful expectation that everything that is said by the itinerant preacher will be appropriate.  I was chagrined to learn that this was not the case during our recent appeal.

The fact that the masses on that particular weekend were at least fifteen minutes longer than usual was an inconvenience for many.  On the other hand, there really is no legislation that indicates how long a mass should be.  It could be argued by some that in order to be celebrated worthily, prayerfully and meaningfully it needs to be more than an hour.  Also, if indeed it is our most important event of the week, why would a few extra minutes really matter?  Of course we do have the matter of “local custom,” and if local custom is for a little less than an hour, I don’t see the advantage of significantly extending that.  But this matter is open to discussion, and is really not the cause of concern.

What needs to be addressed are three statements that were repeated back to me by several parishioners.  (1)  That evidently “there are no sinners here because nobody was at confession.”  (2)  That most likely “everyone will be coming up to communion although they did not go to confession.”  (3)  You should all be going to confession “once a month.”

First of all, it is not the prerogative of anyone to make any inferences one way or the other about the participation or lack of participation of people in the Sacrament of Penance.  I find the statement that was made to be rather arrogant and insulting.  If it were my place to make an apology for something said by another person I would tend to do so, but frankly I don’t believe it makes any sense to apologize for something another person did or said.

Second, the church makes it clear that the only thing that would prevent a person from participating in the communion procession is serious sin.  This is a matter between an individual and the confessor of her or his choosing.  To assume that a number of persons are in serious sin and to suggest that publicly is appalling.

Third, there is no legislation that requires a Catholic to participate in the Sacrament of Penance on a monthly basis.  Of course frequent confessions are encouraged and welcomed, but the Code of Canon Law is clear that the Sacrament of Penance should be celebrated at least one a year if the person is in a state of serious sin.  Our very large Lenten Communal Penance Service with more than a dozen priests facilitates this expectation very well and as an adjunct the sacrament is also available every weekend.

One of the persons I called for confirmation regarding the statements of the missionary reported that indeed this is what was said but, “He said it in a joking way.”  Well, while I’m not a licensed counselor I’ve taken enough psychology classes at the graduate level and have had enough life experiences to know that there really isn’t any such thing as “joking.”  When people are “joking” they’re saying what they really mean, but in such a way as to avoid taking personal ownership for their statement.

Again, I don’t think it’s up to me to apologize for another person, but you can be sure that I will bring this matter to the attention of those who need to know about it.   All this being said, I did receive one report from a parishioner who appreciated our visiting priest and his message.

Allen F. Corrigan, Pastor


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