I hate going to the doctor!
Going to the doctor means that I have to admit that there is a problem. 8 years ago I fell off a horse and broke my wrist. I have since learnt that your wrist is made up of 8 tiny bones. I broke one of those tiny bones called the scaphoid bone. Because it was only a small break in a small bone, I initially didn’t think that I had broken it. I just thought/hoped that it was probably a bad sprain. I spent the next 4 months living with the pain of a broken bone, hoping it would get better by itself…
I finally went to the doctor, had an x-ray and found out the truth.
It was only when I was willing to admit that there might be something wrong and seek the right help that I was able to begin the journey towards healing.
Now, I know that many of you are probably out there thinking ‘what an idiot. Why didn’t he just go to the doctor?’ Well the answer was that I didn’t want to face the reality of the situation. A broken bone meant that I couldn’t work for a while, probably some time in a cast, possibly added expenses etc.
As I read chapter 3 of divine I couldn’t help but see the parallels between my broken wrist and the way Fr James writes about the need to be honest with ourselves and acknowledge the pain that can often be present in the Church and its members.
Admitting there is a problem
This chapter is a raw and, at times, brutally honest look at some of the issues the Church is facing today; the pain of the sexual abuse scandals, the pain of seeing the Church in decline, the pain of unmet expectations of both priest and congregation and many other pains.
While reading I felt like I was getting an insight into the pain that is felt most particularly by our priests, the shepherds of our faith communities.
It was clear that the only way to move beyond this pain was to acknowledge it, to bring it into the light and to grieve it.
The brick wall
What struck me the most though was the pain that many priests feel after their ordination, when they enter into parish life. Fr James used the phrasing of flying 100 miles an hour into the “brick wall” of parish life.
It must be difficult for some of these men who have decided to give over their lives to serve the Church in this way, who have spent years studying, who come out of the seminary full of zeal, passion and fervour to then go into a parish setting where that passion and zeal and fervour may be seen as an unwanted intrusion into the status quo of the parish.
This challenge is animated by an anecdote in the book where Fr James is asking one of his parishioners to join an alpha group and the parishioner’s response is “Look Father, I am just not that religious”. If this is the message our priests are getting it is little wonder that their passion, zeal and fervour may wane over time.
It can certainly be a difficult thing to acknowledge and to talk about our pain. There are many reasons why it is just easier to go on as if there is nothing wrong, to simply limp through it. But as I discovered with my broken wrist, it is not until we name, acknowledge and grieve the pain and the loss that we suffer that the healing can actually begin.
We at the youth evangelisation office encourage you to join us in reading Divine Renovation.
Chapter 3 can be a bit of a hard read, but it is exciting to see what can happen in our faith communities when we have the courage to
ask some tough questions.
You can grab a copy from www.bookdepository.com/Divine>Renovation
Jeremy is the parish support officer for youth ministry
in the Archdiocese of Brisbane. He is married and has
an 8 month old son. Jeremy is passionate about
promoting the dignity of the family and the human person.