From the Pastor: My Office Looks Like The Church
During the past 30 or so days my office has resembled a dumping grounds. I very rarely have a clean, tidy desk to begin with since once I put something in a file cabinet I forget about getting back to it. So instead of training myself to routinely open the cabinet and check on things like wedding files, upcoming events, letters that need responses, etc., I simply pile those things on the desk where I have to see them on a regular basis. Eventually, I have to move them around a bit, restack and reorganize the piles as priorities change or emergency things come in, but sooner or later everything on the desk gets taken care of. But for some reason this Advent the piles just kept getting deeper and deeper. Christmas gifts, both those I received and those I purchased for giving crowded out my floor space, too. My mailbox was also overflowing so much that I had to keep emptying it and adding all of the unopened letters, periodicals, newspapers, cards, and whatnot to the ever-growing piles of stuff on my desk. On top of that (not literally, thanks be to God) my voicemails, emails, text, Facebook, WhatsApp, Viber, and Flocknote messages just kept outpacing my ability to read, let alone respond, file, or delete. In a world where everyone expects immediate responses to each and every form of communication, dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people must have thought that I was dead.
I am finally getting things organized. I have opened up most of the Christmas cards and sent out Thank You notes to those who gave gifts (I am especially thankful for the gifts of Masses and Spiritual Bouquets) if I could find an address and read the signature (one or both of those were sometimes missing, so I will include a general “Thank You!” here for those I have missed and will miss as I open still more cards). I have been limiting myself (or trying to, anyway) to a maximum of 2 hours a day reading and responding to emails. I get several hundred every day, most of which are junk but still need to be clicked and deleted. Many times it is impossible to tell if the email is something I actually need to read or if it is simply spam or an advertisement, so I have to open it before trashing it. Some are pretty clear. If it is from a store, it is an ad. But some are not so clear. For instance, I might receive emails from seven different offices at the Diocesan Pastoral Center. I cannot just delete them, even if I think I know that they will not be useful to me, because what I assume to be just a weekly bulletin about something that I have no need of knowing might actually be a notice of an upcoming change of policy or an “invitation” to a mandatory meeting. So I have to open each one. Then, of course, I am on the mailing list of seemingly every Catholic organization that exists and it is very often impossible to determine without opening the email if they are sending me donation materials or if a real person is actually trying to reach me from that organization. It takes a lot of time to open, scan briefly, and trash. As for the FB, I don’t even have it on my phone anymore and anyone who tries to contact me through its Messenger better be prepared to wait a couple of weeks even in a normal time! Sorry, that’s just how it is. My biggest problem with both emails and texts that I want to get back to but simply cannot answer as I first see them (this happens especially if I get it from my phone, which requires a single finger typed response rather than the rapid-fire thumb movements of you younger folks) is not knowing how to keep them up at the top of the stack as I can do with the stuff on my desk. Texts are especially bad, as it doesn’t have a “search” feature like email does to help find one that I know is there somewhere but may be a hundred and two spaces down the list by the time I want to answer. (Or is there a search feature of which I am unaware? Let me know if there is one!)
So why am I writing this? Because, as the title states, this is also how the Church seems to be right now. Just this week the book about priestly celibacy written by Cardinal Sarah and Pope Benedict was in the news because it was coming out. Then it was in the news with the accusation that Pope Benedict never saw nor OK’d it. Then it was in the news because Cardinal Sarah provided proof that Benedict did indeed write, see, and OK it. Then it was in the news because Cardinal Vigano... well, I see this one little thing in the Church combined with the clutter of other matters -- such as the rewarding of homosexual-activity-promoting priests and bishops, the push toward a One World Religion, the denial of the ontological change in the sacrament of Holy Orders and so, so many other confounding issues promoted by Church hierarchy -- looking almost exactly like my office. But like my office, I hold out hope that it will all be organized and cleared out one day (or year, or decade, or century!). In the meantime, the more chaotic it gets out there, the more this parish grows!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka