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Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Nov 17, 2003

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Last year the USCCB website initiated an abecedary of "Religious Men and Women Worth Knowing." Some of the goofier specimens bordered on self-parody:

Kookaburra Watcher Sister of Charity Marty Dermody is a photographer and also a birdwatcher who has bird-watched on five continents.

Masseuse at Ground Zero Sister Mary Fran Davisson is a licensed massage therapist and a member of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati-sponsored Crisis Response Initiative team who spent a week in New York offering free massages and Reiki to policemen and firemen working at the landfill and at Ground Zero in the aftermath of September 11.

Tattoo Remover Sister June Wilkerson, OP, helps young adults make better lives for themselves as she directs Providence Holy Cross Hospital's tattoo-removal program in Los Angeles, California. Through this program, young adults, mainly ex-gang members, can have their tattoos removed in exchange for community service.

Puppeteer, Clown, Writer, & Artist Glenmary Father Bruce Brylinski in Olive Hill, Kentucky, draws upon the arts for evangelization. Father Bruce also serves as sacramental minister for two Glenmary parish missions led by lay pastoral coordinators in rural Appalachia.

Not surprisingly it was an assemblage "with an attitude" -- "AIDS Worker Franciscan Father Ralph Parthie" turns out to be a self-declared gay priest and activist, for example. The 2004 collection is neither as exotic nor as edgy, but what is striking -- and disturbing -- is the utter absence of regard for authentic spiritual interests. Sure it's cute to mention nuns who coach golf and priests who trim poodles, but the overall impression is of people who have lost the compass, who are without spiritual clarity and without strong faith and who settle for a Parade Magazine-ish brand of hobbyism.

Last week CWN linked a story about the hardships facing Wisconsin dioceses on account of the priest shortage. I went to these dioceses' websites and read up their vocation pages. None is remotely as flakey as the USCCB's, but their profiled priests likewise tend to focus on benefits incidental to the priesthood -- "I love being with and helping people," etc. Service of God at the altar is not wholly neglected, but it's lost among a welter of good things that layfolk also accomplish perfectly well. Perhaps the vocation shortage will end when churchmen return to the realization that the "religious men and women worth knowing" are those wholly devoted to knowing God.

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