Do Whatever He Tells You
One month ago, a media firestorm came about over the decision of a Catholic Priest from the Archdiocese of San Francisco, California, to have male-only altar servers. Fr. Joseph Illo shared with his parishioners the reasons for his decision, one of his main reasons being the “essential connection between the Church’s male priesthood and the acolytes who assist them in their high priestly office.” Being an altar server is meant to inspire in males a consideration of a possible vocation to the priesthood. In Fr. Illo’s decision to no longer have altar girls, he said that “we consider that developing an all-boys and father-son acolyte program will strengthen the community as it has in many parishes by bonding boys and focusing their efforts on the Mass as sacrifice offered by the priest.” There remain many roles in the parish for the girls to help out with. Despite this, many girls and women shared their direct opposition of this change in Fr. Illo’s parish with the media, stemming from the offense that they took. One parishioner said “it’s disturbing”, while a parent from Fr. Illo’s Catholic School said “They’re definitely taking a step in the wrong direction.” One girl in grade seven at the school, Star of the Sea said that “It just kind of makes me feel that I’m not good enough because I’m a girl. I feel kind of insulted.”
I am not trying to spark a debate here of whether or not girl altar servers should be allowed, but rather, discuss how we should respond in the face of decisions that our priests and bishops make, whether they be made in the mind of Holy Mother Church, or from a personal belief or opinion. When our priests and bishops make decisions, like that of Fr. Illo, that impact parishioners, school parents, etc, it can be very difficult to accept, especially when it is not a decision that we understand or personally agree with. Fr. Illo wrote a blog post in response to this, and in this blog post, he said:
“Vatican II (Lumen gentium 25) defines a Catholic as one who exercises “religious submission of will” to the Church’s teaching authority. At the parish level, this simply means trusting your priest. Catholics used to trust their priests, and there are various compelling reasons most do not trust them today. But to be Catholic means to regain that trust, both in the Church as mater et magistra and in the local bishop and priest. How can priests serve their flocks as spiritual fathers if their spiritual children do not trust them?”
Christ call us to be like Him, and as such, to be obedient as He was obedient (Philippians 2:8). While anyone can be obedient, a pure and holy obedience requires trust, sacrifice, and a willingness to find out what Holy Mother Church teaches (if we do not already know), so that we can be properly informed and understand the rationale. It requires trust in our priests, and our bishops, in their teaching authority which has been given to them by Christ through their ordination. It requires a sacrifice of our will, for us to allow God’s will to reign in us. It also requires that we find out what the Church teaches when we do not already know. We need to be willing to put aside our feelings and personal beliefs in order that we can seek God and what He desires for us, trusting that His will for us is good. We need to cooperate with God and allow Him to raise our understanding so that He can make our hearts more ready when obedience is requested by our superiors. If we are open and obedient to the Lord, especially within the context of our Catholic communities, it will not only allow our communities to grow, but will also help us to grow in virtue.
St. Bernard said that “A truly obedient man does not discriminate between one thing and another, or desire one employment more than another, since his only aim is to execute faithfully whatever may be assigned to him.” Recalling the story of the wedding at Cana, Mary said to the servants when the wine ran out to “do whatever He tells you.”
Our priests and bishops are the ministers of Christ in the parish or diocese in which they serve, and when they exercise that ministry, they do so with His authority. Just as Jesus said to his disciples, “he who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me,” he invests his own authority in his ministers today.
I encourage you to be ready to be at the service of our Lord and His Church; to respond obediently to the direction of our pastors, and seek to properly know and understand the decisions that they make, from the mind of Holy Mother Church.
Extra Resources for you because we love you:
Some great resources to learn more about the beliefs of the Church are the Catechism of the Catholic Church, whether the Baltimore Catechism, or the newer version of the Catechism, or even related encyclicals or letters.
Posted on February 23, 2015, in Altar Boys, Catechism, Catholic, Catholic Clergy, Christian Life, Current Events, Fr. Illo, Girl Altar Servers, Obedience, Trust and tagged Altar Boys, Altar Girls, Catechism, Catholic, Catholic Clergy, Fr. Joseph Illo, Obedience, trust. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.