I wrote this post a while back: Tour Guides and Gatekeepers.
I thought the meaning was obvious… but I heard later that others didn’t really get what I was saying. So a little recap… because it’s relevant today.
At the time, we’d just had a listening session at my parish to solicit ideas about how to staff parishes-without-pastors. The crisis is imminent… there are fewer and fewer priests. All of us lay people thought they really wanted our ideas. We were skeptical, but initially hopeful. Several months later when all of the input was synthesized, we realized it was just a ploy. Read: Will Catholic Priests Ever Get It?
The Bottom Line
Clergy: In a couple years there won’t be enough priests to cover all the parishes. What should we do?
Lay People: Let us help! We can do some of the leadership work which will allow pastors to focus on the sacramental ministry.
Clergy: Thanks for your input. We’ll get back to you.
Tap… tap… tap… our fingers tapping the table for months.
Clergy: Our recommendations are to build 2 new churches to serve larger populations; and combine parishes to serve larger populations.
Lay People in shock and disbelief: What about us?
Fr. Tour Guide or Gatekeeper?
This was my original message for priests…
You are a Tour Guide not a Gatekeeper. As I understand it, your job is to invite and show people the Magic Kingdom. To ride the rides… play the games… enjoy the street performers that will entertain us all on this journey of life… teaching and preaching and praying and living as one who SO loves the Kingdom that you want to show it off. Like Mickey and Minnie: Come! Let me give you the grand tour!
On the other hand is the Gatekeeper… deciding who gets in and who stays out… who gets to make the big decisions and who gets ignored… who is part of the inner sanctum and who is left out in the cold.
When God calls people to serve in ministry… whether ordained or lay… we become Tour Guides. Nowhere does it say we get to be the Gatekeeper too… it’s just not in the fine-print. Jesus says that all are invited to come to the Father.
Why This Is Important Today
Bishop Olmstead of Phoenix has publicly declared himself to be a Gatekeeper. He is withdrawing permission for receiving Communion under both forms beginning November 27… only priest and deacon will be allowed to receive from the Cup. Lay people will not be permitted except on some special occasions… but not on regular Sundays.
Although press releases have cited all the liturgically-correct rationales for this move, I cannot figure out why he’s decided this. As a regular everyday Catholic, none of those “liturgical” reasons matter much. All I see is a bishop who is exercising his authority arbitrarily without any sense of accountability. I’m pretty sure he didn’t ask the faithful Catholics of his diocese what they thought or what they wanted.
Clergy: But the Church is NOT a democracy! (How many times do we have to say that?!?!)
But the point is: You’re going to HAVE to make it more democratic if you want the American Catholic Church to survive.
By nature, Americans don’t tolerate their “Kings” well… aka, oligarchy and the American Revolution.
These people… the ones that you’re deciding what is best for… are the people buying the tickets to come play in the Magic Kingdom. If we are greeted by a Tour Guide, we might stay a long time. But if it turns out we encounter a Gatekeeper, chances are high that you’ll be guarding an empty park.