Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Traditional Catholic pastoral theology: The priest at home

Another extract from Fr Frederick Schulze's Manual of Pastoral Theology (1914).

361. The good example set by a priest in his private life cannot fail to contribute greatly towards raising the standard of virtue amongst his parishioners. Hence we deem it proper to devote a special chapter to this matter. What we intend to say, however, is the following:

A priest must love his home and retire to it always as soon as his transactions with the outer world are done. It is, therefore, proper that the residence destined as a dwelling place for the clergy be respectable and in accordance with their dignity. Both immoderate luxury and excessive poverty, should be avoided in putting up parochial residences. Of course, regard must be taken of the means of the congregation. If a clergyman for a while is forced to make his abode in an unassuming residence, he should be satisfied nevertheless, and try to seek consolation in the thought that thus he has a chance to imitate the example of our Lord Christ Jesus, who, according to His own declaration, had no place to lay His head.

362. Not the edifice, however, alone constitutes a true home, but the manner in which a clergyman spends his time and the mode which he observes in dealing with those who are his domestics and who live with him under the same roof. Therefore, we take the liberty to make a few suggestions:

The interior of a Catholic priest's house ought to have a Catholic aspect. The pictures, statues, etc., seen there should represent religious emblems, not altogether profane, and still less lascivious. The rooms, in particular the priest's sitting room, should not be filled with a disorderly mass of things that are not consistent with the clerical profession, such as farming utensils, rifles, and other articles of sport. Nor should the other extreme occur of arranging the room like a lady's boudoir. Practical tact and prudence will tell you what is right in this regard.

363. That which we always look for in a priest's house is a well selected library. Books are for the clergy what tools are for mechanics....

365. About his time and the use he makes of it, a priest cannot be too much on his guard. Although it is impossible for one engaged in parochial work to follow a daily plan, as we see it followed by the members of a religious community, yet it is wrong to have no schedule at all and to do what a person feels a liking or notion for just at the moment.... To all the ordinary matters, such as meditation, the celebration of Mass, recitation of the office, instruction in school, visiting the sick, etc., a fixed hour must be assigned. The rest of time ought to be filled out by study and other useful occupation. Recreation also may figure in the plan. It can be sought in various ways, for instance, in music, in gardening, in light mechanical work, and last, but not least, in the company of others. Still, in looking for such company, caution is necessary. It is not advisable for priests to move much in the society of lay people, simply for the sake of having a pastime, but they may and should go now and then in quest of the company of their own confreres. Such mutual, clerical visits, as long as sober manners are kept up, will prove beneficial and be a safeguard against narrow-mindedness. Excess in eating, drinking, smoking, an immoderate use of games, and late hours, must be avoided.

366. The authorities of the Church have always been assiduous in admonishing priests to observe what is called clerical decorum. Certain amusements in which lay persons may freely and legitimately indulge are not proper for ecclesiastics, because thereby they become entangled with the world and unfit for the discharge of their duties....

368. We may add here a few words about the way a priest should act towards persons of the other sex in general. The spirit of the world is the spirit of impurity. Therefore, it is of great importance to avoid all which tends towards causing suspicion in that direction. In particular, we wish to say this:

1. Do not visit, except for strict business, houses or places where women, especially young girls, may offer a sort of attraction. To frequent parties, weddings, banquets, etc., save in case of absolute necessity, is a dangerous thing for a priest....

2. Do not arrange festivities in your own house in which a mixed society of men and women take part.

3. Be careful in admitting too frequently to your own residence the so-called devotees. If they have doubts and perplexities, refer them to the confessional. To talebearers simply close your door under all circumstances.

4. Do not accept presents from women unless you are sure of their pure intention.

5. Do not allow female teachers or organists to board in the parochial residence....

370. The regulating of church affairs and the management of parish matters belong to the pastor. The assistant must perform the work which the rector of the parish assigns to him. When too much is demanded, a kind remonstrance may set things right; if not, recourse should be made to the bishop, but it is wrong and ungentleman-like to become insubordinate and flatly refuse to do what is asked. If the pastor has to say something about the manners of the assistant, the latter should accept the admonition thankfully and not feel irritated.... The assistant, finally, ought not to visit families or parties who are opposed to the pastor. This may lead to bad results. The assistant must never forget his position; he must know that he is to be a help to the pastor, and that in no case he is justified, either directly or indirectly, in trying to undermine his authority. Even in the confessional he should not listen to complaints made against the pastor. A young man who acts on these principles will not fail to draw down the grace of the Holy Ghost upon his work, and he will always win the esteem and affection of those with whom and for whom he is laboring.