A priest made a list of things that do not work in the Church; his book became a bestseller in Germany
“After 30 years of service, I leave my activity as parish priest and my active service in the diocese of Münster. I resigned and left the field that set up, for decades, my days, my life, my person. ”
Father Thomas Frings was pastor of the city of Münster, Germany. Now he decided to leave the parish and spend some time in a monastery. He is discouraged by what he considers a “useless effort” of a “sclerosed and inadequate pastoral”.
After your decision, you wrote the text Road Corrections! (“Corrections of route!”), Which he divulged among the faithful, and the book “Così non più fare il parroco” , which clarifies the reasons for his decision. The book is among the top sellers in Germany.
Father Thomas makes a list of things that do not work in the German Church, but which can refer to any other Church in the world. They are problems that alienate people and weaken the ecclesiastical institution, leaving it strange in the eyes of many people:
1) The error of desecralizing the churches
The priest believes that it is a great mistake to desecrate places of historical worship to which communities feel attached.
“They are points of reference and places of memory, you can not undervalue the churches, neither in the countryside nor in the city,” warns the priest in his book. “For example, on the island of Mull, Scotland, there is a charming fishing village which has three churches. The first one turned into a restaurant, the second in a supermarket that sells pizza and toilet paper. Only the third remains the house of God, although it is closed from Monday to Saturday, “says the priest.
“How many churches will we have to desicralizar to arrive at the moment in which people no longer relate the building with the image of the house of God?”, Provokes the priest.
2) Few vocations, much confusion
According to Thomas Frings, one of the figures that generates more distrust is that of the seminarian. Being a priest seems the same as belonging to a complicated, almost titanic company. Whether it be for bonds as hard as celibacy and the promise of obedience, or because it is not easy to define one’s future in a context where there is a lack of priests and faith.
“In 1980, I began to study Theology. In Münster, we were 40 seminarians that semester. We were only half over 25 years ago. But the prospects were good: 3 chaplain positions in 4 years, then parish priest. In the structures of the time, it was doable. Whoever starts studying Theology today will probably no longer find this path. Thirty years ago, esteem for this vocation was still very high. One did not choose to be a priest for this-at least normally. But loss of consideration certainly does not help to be motivated for this. (…) We are not a company. But would anyone advise a young man to be part of a company with these perspectives and with celibacy and promise of obedience? “Asks the priest.
3) No more infertile discussions in the parish councils
Another mistake that leaves the Church unattractive is the discussions that are often repeated in the parish organs.
“What impression would a non-believer or a person of another religion participate in the discussions of parish councils in which the places and times of our celebrations are negotiated? When you negotiate half an hour before or later to give you time to do the garden work, sleep late or watch a football game? When you talk about customs and food, instead of discussing the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection? (…) How can light and joy, hope and conviction spring from the Mass, when it is no longer as important as a later breakfast or a game between Cologne and Bayern Munich ? ” priest.
4) Change yes, but without hurting feelings
One reflection that the German priest often repeats in his book is that today many priests do not understand the context in which they find themselves. With this, the distance with the faithful increases.
“Sometimes I attend liturgical celebrations and, at the end of them, I wonder if I would continue to go to that church. At the end of the Mass, I feel truly ‘dismissed’ in the literal sense of the word. Sometimes, even as faithful, I leave the Eucharistic celebration and do not know if I should feel angry, sad or even affected. This does not always depend on the celebrant or the homily; usually depends on the picture as a whole. If, for example, you want to change customs and traditions, you must take into account the sensitivity of the faithful. … “A companion said, visibly moved, that they gave him a kindly warning after his first Mass in the parish. A man approached him and said: ‘Father, in our parish we must distribute the communion more slowly. We took a lot of time to commune. The warning and its formulation spoke volumes of the atmosphere that prevailed in the Eucharistic celebration and in the relationship between the people of the community. In addition, that warning fell on a field willing to receive it, “says Father Thomas.
5) The unfulfilled baptismal promise
“We promise to raise our son in the faith.” Anyone who has ever attended a baptized knows this phrase. And many have already spoken it, more or less consciously.
Today, the crisis of the faith, especially among the young, is very much due to the distance of the families from the Church, who have withdrawn from the promise made at baptism.
“I once met a couple who had left the Church and wanted to baptize their son only so that he could attend a diocesan school later. I did not baptize the child. But the parents found another priest who, perhaps, had other good reasons for doing the baptism, “laments the priest.
The priest thinks that a solution could be the “introduction of a longer catechumenate” for parents, godfathers and bridesmaids of the baptisms. “It would probably be a path, but it will only work if all the parishes follow him.”
6) First Communion? A show!
On the problems of the First Communion ceremony, Father Thomas grabs heavily. Today, it is increasingly difficult to convey to the children the importance of the first “encounter” with the body of Christ.
“There is a great deal of nervousness everywhere. The lounge is airy, clean and decked out. Banks are reserved and the program with the development of the ceremony is printed. Several flags are placed in the way of the entrance and in the facade of the church. Then they arrive, the little protagonists, for whom they spend so much time and money. They go dressed as if they went to an old and prestigious Gran Hotel, with clothes and adornments of small adults, “says a passage from the book.
In the light of these experiences, Father Thomas proposes another model of preparation for communion: in one hour the children would receive the explanation of the Eucharistic celebration, at another time they would rehearse the celebration and on Sunday they would already participate in the celebration. In the end, everyone would be invited to follow catechesis as a further preparation (not before, as it happens today), in the form of groups, with meetings and participation in the Sunday Eucharist.
7) Understanding and helping couples
Marriage may be the time when the bride and groom will find their faith again. And to start living a new Christian life after a period of spiritual detachment.
But priests generally do not give the bride and groom the opportunity to know in depth the value of what they are going to celebrate. To do this, one must understand the history of those who will receive the sacrament.
“One day a young couple came to me who had rediscovered their faith. They told me this and they also said that members of their families could attend the wedding, but not a Eucharistic celebration. For the couple, it was very important that the Communion was given to all, but their guests would not know what to do with it. However, they did not want to renounce the Eucharist. On the other hand, they could not exclude the rest of the family from the celebration. The solution was simple. Marriage was celebrated with the Liturgy of the Word, and later the newlyweds received communion at a Mass later, “the author exemplified.
8) Bad example
The bad example that the heads of the institutions give with respect to the style of life and the ostentation removes people from the Church. Father Thomas writes: “Before administering the sacrament of confirmation, a bishop wanted to have a friendly conversation with the confirmands. He asked the believers to ask them everything they wanted to know about a bishop. He told them, ‘I am one of you, you can ask everything.’ Then one of them replied, ‘Monsieur bishop, as long as you dress like that and walk in that car with a driver, you will not be one of us.’ ”
9) A true “service center” for the faithful and for the rest
“If I see the church as something I have in front of me, then I can desire something from it, just like the customer in a restaurant where he is king,” explains the German priest.
“It can be argued that in the Church people are spoken with love and that they can not come with demands. In fact, this should never happen in relation to the sacraments, but between the two extremes – the request and the demand – there is a long way. And whoever is approaching should be welcome, “concludes Thomas Frings.