About our Pastor:
Born and raised in Seattle, Fr. Joseph Altenhofen holds degrees in psychology from the University of Washington and a Masters of Divinity and Sacred Baccalaureate from Mundelein Seminary. In addition to serving as pastor to Sacred Heart, he's also chaplain for the Newman Center on the campus of Western Washington University.
Weekly Reflection - 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 19, 2017
A few of my priest buddies and I were sitting around recently talking about pet peeves of ministry and the topic came up around what we termed the “Dairy Queen” parish mentality. Basically, it’s the thought process that often seeps in that views a parish not as parts of a single ministry of Christ, but more like competing franchise locations or used car lots. Obviously, it’s way more convenient to only have to drive three—rather than fifteen—minutes to get your ice cream, so you are far more likely to visit the closer restaurant, which also increases sales. It’s just that we’re not peddling a product and we’re certainly not in competition with one another. While it’s beneficial in most businesses to do things better than your counterparts, as a parish, we are in the business of bringing Christ to people—and in that regard there are a few key things to remember.
First, we are one. Regardless of the parish’s name or who the priest is, it’s the same Jesus we receive when we go to Communion. Since Jesus is all we care about, everything else immediately becomes less important.
Second, we’re not selling anything! Jesus comes to us free of charge and doesn’t even hold it against us. It sort of puts things back in perspective to remember that. All too often in our culture we spend so much time focusing on ourselves that we forget that the reason we go to church is to worship him and not us. I can’t tell you how often I hear the phrase, “Mass doesn’t do anything for me...” Can you imagine if Jesus had pulled that line when the cross was presented to him? “Oh no thanks, it just doesn’t do anything for me,” or “I just don’t feel like it today.” It’s our job as Christians to conform our lives to him, not demand that he provide according to our whims.
Third--and most importantly--as populations shift and culture changes we need to recognize that the Church we grew up with is not always going to be outwardly the same. For instance, people used to have more kids and bigger families, so being open to priestly vocations was much, much easier. Now, with smaller families, the idea of following the call of the Lord into ministry touches on the possibility of not having grandkids. I was heartbroken to hear from many of my seminary classmates how their parents’ reaction were tears of sadness, not joy, when they were first told their sons wanted to be priests. Also, the rising Spanish-speaking population means an ever greater demand for Mass and ministries in Spanish, particularly out here on the west coast, which is something new for many of us.
But what saddens me most is the response I have often heard in my time in ministry: “I want such-and-such Father, and if putting more money in the collection basket will make that happen, that’s what I’ll do.” That always strikes me as the liturgical equivalent of, “Supersize my value meal and hold the pickles.” Lord, prepare our hearts for what is best, not what we want!
Fr. Joseph Altenhofen
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