OK, so “joys” is ever so slightly tongue-in-cheek… I am swamped in paperwork for the beginning of the year. I cannot WAIT to actually begin teaching. But as with any job, you spend a good percentage of your time chasing people, solving problems, getting information up-to-date and hearing many, many individual stories about why people can’t come to your meeting.
Seriously, the pastoral side of parish life is messy because people’s lives are messy. In our particular area, parents can be pushy and intent on getting their own way. A good principle I heard at the DRE training in Steubenville this summer is to be strict on paper, but more lenient in person. Often, making the right decisions with parents requires excellent intuition in sussing out who is trying to pull a fast one, and who genuinely has an insurmountable problem. Luckily my parish priest has a good nose for this…
Why do we take such a hard-line with parents and insist they come to meetings for sacramental preparation? Because the Church teaches they are the first and the best educators of their children in the Faith (see Familiaris Consortio). In that sense, it is more important that they receive formation than that their children do. Lots of parents think that we or the school form their children in the faith for them. Nope…that’s not how it works. If parents are not living their faith authentically, there’s little chance their kids will either.
At the weekend I realised how hidden and subtle the fruits of our catechetical work are. One of the families of the First Communion children I taught last year were at Mass on Sunday. (Hooray!) The children both received Communion, then their mum took them and her other children over to light some candles. It made my heart totally sing to see the little boy, however, go straight back to their pew right at the back of church, to pray. It was a tiny moment but it gave me joy.