Friday, August 15, 2008

Please call a priest "Father." Fathers? Please insist on it.

I'd actually prefer to think that the fad of Catholics omitting a Catholic priest's title comes from a misinterpretation of Matthew 23:9. But I'm afraid that's not true.

It's more a matter of "equality" or "inclusiveness." Or just plain idiocy.

I received a note the other day.

It was about some parish matter, but that's not the point. The note instructed me to give some information to a parish employee named "Bob."

I knew of no "Bob" on the parish staff.

It took me several hours, off and on, to figure out who the mysterious "Bob" was. Turns out he's a priest of the parish. If the note had simply identified him as "Reverend" or "Father" Bob So-and-So, there'd be no confusion.

But my confusion is immaterial when compared to the real issue, which is simply this:

Priests are chosen by Jesus Himself to carry on the ministry of the apostles, which is a tad more than performing routine office matters or being buddy-buddy with the good folks of the parish.

I understand that some priests prefer people to omit the title "Father" when addressed.

(I only know of one. And frankly, I don't care what his preference is.)

The truth, I'm afraid, is that priests are reluctant — dare I say afraid? — to correct their parishioners when they mistakenly address them by their first names.

Understandable? Sure. It's gotta be an awkward situation, and who wants to offend anybody?

Acceptable? Nope.

You are our pastors, our leaders, our spiritual fathers. You are not are buddies, our pals, our casual acquaintances.

We need you to guide us, to shepherd us, to lead us to holiness.

We need your loving authority.

We need your paternal correction, many times.

We need your spiritual fatherhood.

So, fathers, the next time someone addresses you by your first name, grit your teeth if necessary, but correct the person.

There will be probably one or ten seconds of discomfort...and that'll pretty much be it.

And you will both be all the better for it.

Thank you, Fathers!