On reading this again, it is apparent that it also applies to any job: it describes a Christian attitude to work. Please letÂ us know what you think.
Most of us have known someone that worked in the Church and yet displayed a less than Christian attitude in the midst of it. You know the type: the woman that dusts the windowsills and gets very upset when flower-holders are installed that get in her way. She makes everyone miserable while congratulating herself on the faithfulness of her service to God. Or how about the man that has read the Scriptures at church every third Sunday for 19 years, and now can’t cope with a change in the placement of his chair, or the Bible translation he is to read?
If you are starting to be active in the Church, through lectoring, singing, teaching, or whatever, you would be wise to consider the bad example of so many and begin to pray earnestly to avoid the pitfalls of Church service.
Many priests, nuns and brothers take vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. These are known collectively as the Evangelical Counsels, because the Gospel recommends them. A married friend of mine, married a very long time, says that we all take these vows: Poverty because we can’t have everything we want, Chastity because we can’t have all the pleasures we want, and Obedience because none of us can do everything we want. Lay people sometimes have problems relating to these counsels, though, so I would like to suggest another three that can be derived from Scripture, and will help us serve our brothers and sisters in the Church without succumbing to the temptations of “Church work.”
Worldly people often sneer at monks, priests and nuns and say “That’s easy for them! They don’t have to fight for their bread every day like us!” As lay people, we can take pride in our accomplishments and think that we are tougher than people who have “escaped the world.” We can begin to consider ourselves as more important than others, and more capable of dealing with the “hard realities of life.” This is called Pride, the worst sin of all.
If we work in the Church, we may be tempted to examine the importance of what we do relative to the work of others in the Church. We may begin to think that we “own” the ministry we are engaged in. Even our pastor may be afraid to dislodge us, because he needs the help, and doesn’t want to lose us. We may become petty tyrants over altar cloth or prayer services. We may even lose sight of our Lord in our obsession with His work.
In humility, we do not minimize our work, but we do evaluate it in the “big picture.” If we are successful in business, we may realize that we have a duty to be fair and honest as a witness to the worldly. In humility, we acknowledge that the cloistered brothers and sisters support us by their prayers constantly, as they pray for the whole Church. We offer our help humbly, to the Church, to the young people starting out in business, to our customers. We remember that all good comes from God, and that He can take it away, too. We are stewards of the money we receive, and we must spend it as God desires, not just for our own entertainment.
Performing Church work with humility brings joy to us and to others. We take pleasure in knowing that our pastors or other leaders can ask us to change times, locations, methods or duties without worrying about our reaction. “Remember that he whom you serve is the Lord.” This does not mean that we never say “no”, but that “no” comes from a good reason, not from pride or habit. We may feel that a change in the time of our service would impact our family in a bad way, or that some practice will be irreverent. Honest and open communication in a spirit of Love really works among holy people. If you are not blessed with holy leaders, do the best you can. Whenever possible, “defer to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
Humility puts us in a right relation to God and others. This is an essential starting point for service in the Church.
More: Padre Quadrupani
A good question when buying a car: ask the salesperson what kind of car they drive. If they won’t buy the brand they sell; why not?
Any Catholic that works in any kind of ministry is engaging in a kind of teaching ministry. The Eucharistic Ministers teach the sanctity and importance of the Eucharist, and testify to the Real Presence. Altar servers teach the sanctity of the Mass, as do the singers, altar society and ushers. Those that work to help the homeless or that protest abortion teach us about the sanctity of life. Every Christian action in ministry is the Church fulfilling its role as herald of the Truth.
Once we commit ourselves to humility, we know that God makes demands of us, and that we are subject to the teaching of the Church founded by Jesus Christ. If we do not obey Church teaching, and are not repentant, we are not good servants, and still have pride. Like the car salesperson, if we won’t live the teachings of the Church we claim to work for, we are hypocrites, saying one thing and doing another. Of course, we may say the Church is wrong, but then we are spreading doubt, not faith, because if we say we know better in our twenty or forty years than the Church does in all the Saints and ages, why should anyone put faith in any of it? Like so many parents say as the children wander about at the open door: “In or out, in or out!”
Get a copy of the new Catechism of the Catholic Church, and read it. If anything bothers you, study and search for an answer. Try hard to accept it. Talk to a priest, or several people that you know have given the matter thought and can express themselves clearly. Mail me if you have to, but keep knocking until you get an answer you can live with!
As any parent knows, obedience is difficult to develop. We have strong wills. Pray for the humility to be obedient.
Once we are on the road to humility, and are committed to obeying the teachings of the Church, charity (also known as love) becomes possible. Without humility, we may invent our own kind of (self-serving) love. Without obedience, our love will be lost for lack of a shepherd. In humility, we accept God’s definition of Love. In obedience, we commit to carrying out the demands of Love. Love perfects zeal, brings endurance and oils the parts of the Church, which is us. In love, we can bear patiently the faults of others. Love is a great power, and allows us to serve God through others past the point of exhaustion. A life filled with God’s Love is a great light to the world, and draws many people to Jesus.
A life of service rendered to God’s people in Humility, Obedience and Charity will be truly fertile: attended by conversions, beauty and joy. Why would anyone desire less?