Speaking of S Clement’s… One of its former members, Br. Stephen, posted a great selection yesterday from the writings of St. Charles Borromeo whom we celebrated at mass last night. Again, I confess, I don’t know the writings of the Counter- and Post-Reformation Roman saints very well. What little time I have for study these days tends to go to the patristic and medieval saints who, happily, we have in common. In any case, these words deserve to be more broadly circulated:
Would you like me to teach you how to grow from virtue to virtue and how, if you are already recollected at prayer, you can be even more attentive next time, and so give God more pleasing worship? Listen, and I will tell you. If a tiny spark of God’s love already burns within you, do not expose it to the wind, for it may get blown out. Keep the stove tightly shut so that it will not lose its heat and grow cold. In other words, avoid distractions as well as you can. Stay quiet with God. Do not spend your time in useless chatter.
If teaching and preaching is your job, then study diligently and apply yourself to whatever is necessary for doing the job well. Be sure that you first preach by the way you live. If you do not, people will notice that you say one thing, but live otherwise, and your words will bring only cynical laughter and a derisive shake of the head.
Are you in charge of a parish? If so, do not neglect the parish of your own soul, do not give yourself to others so completely that you have nothing left for yourself. You have to be mindful of your people without becoming forgetful of yourself.
My brothers, you must realize that for us churchmen nothing is more necessary than meditation. We must meditate before, during and after everything we do. The prophet says: I will pray, and then I will understand. When you administer the sacraments, meditate on what you are doing. When you celebrate Mass, reflect on the sacrifice you are offering. When you pray the office, think about the words you are saying and the Lord to whom you are speaking. When you take care of your people, meditate on the Lord’s blood that has washed them clean. In this way, all that you do becomes a work of love.
This is the way we can easily overcome the countless difficulties we have to face day after day, which, after all, are part of our work: in meditation we find the strength to bring Christ to birth in ourselves and in other men.
One of the enduring problems that I see in the Episcopal Church is this confusion about the role of the priest. Most parish expectations are not clear, diocesan expectations are not clear, and in the seminaries where I’ve been this topic seems to be assumed far more than discussed. As a result, most clergy come out thinking that they are a mash-up somewhere between non-profit CEO, social activist, witch doctor, and entertainer. Throw in “being missional” into the mix and you have a guaranteed recipe for confusion.
One of the most encouraging things I heard from M concerning our diocesan clergy conference was that our bishop emphasized the importance of clergy as people of prayer. Prayer is not something that clergy should do when they have time to fit it in around the tasks of ministry—rather, it is one of the fundamental tasks of ministry. Now all we need is for the bishop to post that prominently on the diocesan website to inform congregations and vestries and to remind the clergy…