In his letter to Titus, Paul lists a sobering set of qualifications for a bishop or church leader: blameless, not arrogant, not irritable, not a drunkard, not aggressive, not greedy for sordid gain, hospitable, a lover of goodness, temperate, just, holy, and self-controlled, holding fast to the true message as taught, and able both to exhort with sound doctrine and to refute opponents. Of course, Paul also says a presbyter is supposed to have children who are believers and who are not rebellious. Really? Maybe that’s why the Church instituted a celibate priesthood, because if a man had kids, he could hardly ever qualify!
In all seriousness, though, Paul’s extensive and demanding list of requirements takes particular import as we continue to grapple with the sexual abuse crisis, and as we examine more closely how priests, bishops, and members of the Church hierarchy exercise their power. Pope Francis has issued strong challenges, and it seems the leadership of the Church has a long way to go and much reform to undertake before we reach the ideals Paul set forth.
Yet I don’t believe this list should apply only to priests, bishops, and church leaders. As with all of scripture, we need to examine the logs in our own eyes before looking for the specks (or logs) in the eyes of others. So what about us in the pews? Would people outside the Church recognize this list as an accurate depiction of a Catholic congregation? In our parishes, are we humble, hospitable, just, holy, and self-controlled? Are we living models of Christian discipleship?
Ultimately, of course, the parish will not reflect those values until the people within the parish do. So each of us must take a hard look at ourselves. In that light, I began down the list and compared my own behavior. I am not a drunkard, as I rarely have more than a glass of wine at any one time. But I reluctantly must admit that at least at times I have fallen down in each of the other areas, especially the one about being irritable! We all fall short of the ideal. We all have a long way to go and much reform to undertake before our parishes, liturgies, ministries, and lives individually and collectively reflect Christ.
Since change has to start with each one of us, for this month I resolve to post Paul’s list on my bathroom mirror. Each morning when I arise, I will remind myself of who I want to be, how I want to treat people, and what God is calling me to become. When I get ready for bed, I will read the list again and reflect on how I did that day and where I could do better. It won’t change the Church in a day. But it will change me, and allow God to better use me as an instrument of healing, faith, and love. If we all do that, we will change the Church. Do you have any space on your mirror?
Amy Florian is a teacher and consultant working in Chicago. For many years she has partnered with the Passionists. Visit Amy’s website: http://www.corgenius.com/.