This was my second city parish in my diaconate summer in the mid-1980s. The very first thing the pastor said to me was that I would be preaching all five weekend Masses and that I was just to introduce myself a bit because, he said, the one rule he had in the parish was that there was to absolutely no preaching about Humanae vitae because, he continued with the motivation, there was a car dealership in town and they provided a new car to the parish every year and they didn’t like to hear talk about Humanae vitae.
Now, there’s some great training for my priesthood! //end sarcasm. But actually, it was great training from Jesus, who was continuing to show me what was happening in the Church, His Church, not our Church, but His. That’s an education.
Anyway, of course, you know the rest of the story. I did introduce myself in that first homily, but I also spoke about Humanae vitae. I figured, you know, that if the pastor had forbidden this, the sheep hadn’t heard anything about the beauty of marriage, about the generosity of being open to life, about true love and trust in the providence of Jesus. Soooo….
You can guess the rest. The pastor being furious. Blah blah blah. Boring. Jesus is my life, our life… He’s full of life. Jesus is life. What is anything else. How can we not speak about Jesus and of human life – humanae vitae – ?
Anyway, complaints went in again to the bishop and I was called on the carpet. The result was that the bishop wanted me to go back to Rome to study at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family and then, when I returned, be appointed to be head of the Diocesan Marriage and Family Apostolate. The vocations director was furious with the bishop, but the bishop is the bishop.
And, just to say, I did become a priest. :-)