Jimmy Mac forwarded me a letter from Angela Howarth of Liverpool to the Tablet editors:
In our parish I am very fortunate to be part of a Conversation Group that meets once a week to share and reflect on the readings for the coming Sunday. The depth and honesty of sharing never ceases to amaze me and when listening to the homily at the Mass, the priest never fails to see it from a different angle which enriches the readings further. The readings for me have taken on a whole new meaning.
So there I was at Mass last Sunday (Vocation Sunday) and waiting for the homily. Alas, I was to be disappointed as we had a letter (in the form of a CD) from one of the bishops, auxiliary Thomas Williams, about vocations. I found myself getting quite annoyed at the message that was being presented through the speakers.
As it was about vocations, it was addressed only to the men of the parish, and within that group, only a tiny percentage at that. I couldn’t help looking around and gathering statistics in my head as the voice continued:
- one priest – male
- four altar servers – 3 female
- several Little Church helpers – all female
- one reader – female
- four Eucharist ministers (I carried on gathering throughout the Mass) – all female
- organist – male
- choir – mainly female
Instead of enjoying some quiet, reflective time during communion, I made a point of “viewing” the congregation as they came forward. There were a lot of women, so the bishop’s appeal wasn’t relevant to them. And what men were there were either parents or quite elderly, so they wouldn’t have been interested in the request either.
Ironically the bishop finished with a quote from a woman doctor who had given her life to helping those in DR Congo. It’s a shame that the opportunity wasn’t taken to call all of us to some sort of vocation.
There are so many levels of nincompoopery in this approach it’s a wonder there are any priests at all in Liverpool or its diocese.
1. A recorded letter is used in a lot of places, audio and video. I’m not convinced, despite widespread episcopal approval and usage, that this is a valid or appropriate means of delivering the homily. In my thinking, it’s a liturgical abuse close to the level of adding raisins to eucharistic bread. Ms Howarth is accurate in her feelings of annoyance.
2. A recorded letter like this is, as Ms Howarth suggests, a shot in the dark. Ill aimed. Not unlike coming to a seaside and throwing a harpoon in, hoping to catch a whale.
3. Calling the baptized to a vocation: what a concept! Wouldn’t it be great to have a priesthood rooted in the prime sacrament of baptism, and with experience in living a baptismal life? Instead of a religious subclass trained to be serviced like some sort of pseudoaristocracy. They might be great throwing harpoons, but if you are serious about evangelization, even an outreach to bolster a clerical society, you can’t get beyond the need for one-on-one contact.
In my sleep I could have given a better homily encouraging priestly vocations, and that wouldn’t even have been legal. So an aux bishop tapes a chat and mails it in. Do you suppose any parish in that diocese got a real live body in the pulpit that weekend?