The moment I moved into the parish I was told by the pastor that I was not ever to speak about Humanae vitae, and other than this, I was to visit the hospitals and nursing homes. I assiduously visited the hospitals and nursing homes all over that spacious city. But I did have a great fault that got me reported to the bishop forthwith, and removed just as quickly to another parish.
That summer there was one weekend on which the readings were all about faithfulness in marriage. I preached on the beauty of male and female in marriage being the image of God. On and on I went about why there is indissolubility and exclusivity and openness to life, generosity. I did in fact speak about Humanae vitae in that homily – just a couple of sentences at the end, ever so gently, the truth in all charity – because I had heard the pastor saying the exact opposite of Church teaching from the pulpit and figured the sheep were without a shepherd and had been thrown to this wolf who was ripping them to shreds. Little did I know that I was pretty much too late:
- When I turned around from the pulpit I saw the pastor not sitting down but standing at the altar, literally shaking with anger, his face gone deep purple in rage. I didn’t know what to do. I stood at the side of the sanctuary. He was glaring fiercely. I was actually thinking about what to do should he get a heart attack. When I tried to do the deacon thing of turning the pages during the Eucharistic prayer, the pastor would suddenly play helicopter with his arms, repeatedly almost belting me with his hands. I stepped waaaaay back and he ordered me closer only to do the same thing. I couldn’t believe it. It was as if Jesus didn’t matter in the least. It was all about violence. Here’s the deal: if sex isn’t open to life, it only tends to violence and death. Yep.
- When I got outside after Mass, in front of the church, I was shocked that no one in the parish greeted me. Instead, most all gruffly walked past, loudly voicing their complaints that I had said anything about Humanae vitae‘s contents, you know, the ol’ “Why I never!” “What gall he has!” “That’s not what our pastor says!” “How dare he bring this up!” “We’ll show him a thing or two!” “I’ll not give in the collection when he preaches!” “We’ll be happy when he’s gone!”
But the worst was yet to come. The pastor that night ordered me to come to his “den”, sat me down, and proceeded to reprimand me up one side and down the other. It was all about him feeling discredited. He said that he had been training the parish in to believe (or not believe) in his own manner, and that he expected me to be his mirror image as that was what training in my diaconate summer was all about. You would think that training for the priesthood was all about the priesthood of Jesus… Anyway, he went through his own personal history of rejecting the teaching of the Church on pretty much everything, and what a mistake it was for the Church to ever have said anything about marriage, ever, particularly from the Council of Trent onward. He mentioned specific instances such as the interventions of Pius XII. He was absolutely livid. And while he praised my going to the hospitals and nursing homes all the time, he said that that was cancelled out by my homily. He insisted that I wasn’t ready to be ordained a priest and he said he was going to recommend to the bishop that I be delayed for ordination.
Perhaps I’m just supremely arrogant, or evil and bad, but I was wanting to think that I was being faithful to our Lord Jesus in caring for His flock. And it is His flock, not the flock of us deacons and priests and bishops. The sheep belong to Jesus. He’s the one who died for them, for all of us. I tried to be respectful, saving my huge smile for suffering for the Lord Jesus until I got out of the room. I was so happy to get out of that room. Tooooo creeeeepy. Thank you Jesus.
Again, just to say, I did become a priest. :-)