Fr. Peter Daly
July 10, 2007
“Summer time, and the livin’ is easy.”
Why? Not for the reasons that George Gershwin wrote in Porgy and Bess.
The livin’ is easy because there are fewer meetings; way fewer meetings.
No Pastoral Council meetings. No Finance Council meetings. No Priests’ Council meetings. We have no advisory board meetings, hospital board meetings, staff meetings, diocesan committee meetings. We have no ministry meetings, interfaith council meetings or neighborhood meetings.
Mysteriously, everybody takes the summer off.
It is amazing how many meetings we don’t have during the summer. It is amazing how pleasant life is without them.
I used to think that summer was the time to go away. Now I know it is the time to stay home, because there are fewer meetings. Go away in the fall when they schedule the meetings. (“Sorry, I will be out of town!” That’s a great excuse.)
Something wonderful happens to the rectory in the absence of all those meetings. It actually becomes a home.
Our summer seminarian, who lives with us for two summer months, gets the whole wrong impression. He thinks rectory life is peaceful. Ha!
He thinks there are no meetings going on in the living room. No interruptions of dinner. He probably thinks we even have dinner most nights.
Summer is human. The pace of life changes. We actually have time to read, think and even pray. It is a miracle. It is a pleasure.
There is no wolfing my dinner down to run off to night meeting.
How did the life of the parish priest become so scheduled? How did we decide we would get to Jesus through meetings?
I think it has something to do with the modern idea of ministry. It is a good idea. It requires collaboration.
Since our priestly ministry is collaborative, we are not independent operators. We need the help of hundreds of volunteers to make parish life happen.
In my parish we have about 250 people who give at least one hour per week to parish service. They work as religious education teachers, sports coaches or scout leaders. They organize liturgies, practice with choirs, serve at the altar, visit the sick, or help with hospitality. They clean the church, take care of the buildings and grounds and help with outreach to the poor.
All these ministries require coordination and collaboration.
Coordination and collaboration require meetings.
Except in the summer, praise God.
Then, miraculously, we all take a break. Just when the weather is nice enough to go outside, we don’t have to go anywhere.
This is what God intended.
We sleep. We eat. We rest. We live like human beings.
I love summer. It is just great.
There is only one problem. People have caught on to this sabbatical rhythm in the year. People say, “Father, since we don’t have to do the routine stuff during the summer, let’s do something extra.”
You know what that means. Meetings.
We schedule trips and outings. We schedule picnics and camps. Our parish has five camps this summer: work camp for teenagers, volleyball camp, drama camp, recreation camp, and vacation bible school. They are all wonderful. Only one problem, they require meetings.
They never mentioned any of this in the seminary. They told me that people would be coming by the rectory to discuss the mystery of the trinity. They said people would want to read theologians and debate the details of the Arian heresy. So far that has not happened.
But we do have meetings.
Lots of them.