So, it has been a long time since I posted anything. I guess it would be appropriate (given the title of this blog) to say that I had a few "dragons" to tame. Is that not what the Christian life is all about--taming our dragons? No, these dragons were not very big by comparison with what they could be. My recent "dragons" were dealing with an unexpected change in my assignment as a priest. I am still serving as the pastoral administrator for St. George community here in Republic, Missouri (for which I thank God daily), but I have also been reassigned in the Diocese of Springfield/Cape Girardeau as the administrator for two other parishes: St. Susanne in Mount Vernon, and St. Patrick in Greenfield.
This means that Bishop Edward Rice called and asked if I would be willing to change my assignment from assisting a few other priests as their associate pastor, to being the full time administrator for these other two parishes who were in need (not being a part of this local diocese, I can only technically be an "administrator" for the parishes, rather than an actual "pastor"). This was not a "dragon" in the sense of severe trial or temptation, but it did need a bit of "taming" per se, because I now have the responsibility of caring for three parishes.
Although it was unexpected, I am glad to be able to help out this diocese. It is a sign of the communal and fraternal nature of the Catholic Church (and I must admit, I love it!). This brings me back to the subject of the precepts of the Church that we were discussing before. We are still learning about it on our weeknight study time (which I had to juggle from Wednesday to Tuesday with the recent additions to my schedule). You may ask, "what do the precepts have to do with the change in your assignment?" Although it may not appear like much, they have a lot to do with it.
When things happen to us unexpectedly, it is the precepts that help to keep us on track. They are given (as I said before) as a "minimum" of faithfulness. This means, that we can use them as "bare minimums" or we can use them as reminders; reminders of the five things that make up our spiritual disciplines. If we use them as merely "bare minimums" then we will say "oh, I did the minimum so I'm okay". If we use them as reminders, however, we will say "I've got extra on my plate right now, so I need extra devotion to God to help me get through these things".
God does tell us that when we are asked to go "one mile", He wants us to go "two". Therefore, when given a "necessary minimum" we will not be satisfied with the least possible; we will look for how to do more for our Lord. For example, faithfulness means that we will not say "I fulfilled my Sunday obligation," (i.e. precept number one) "so I don't need any more"; instead we will say "with more burden on me, I need to go beyond the minimum and attend mass more than once a week". Taking precept number four, we would not say "I've already observed the proper fast days, I'm good"; rather when life is harder we should say "I should abstain from something else so that I can increase my spiritual health."
So then, where do you put your effort when more responsibility comes on you? Do you let your spiritual disciplines slip and then assume you can get by with the "minimum"? Do you forget about spirituality all together? Either one of these responses is to let the "dragon" come into your heart and settle down. My brothers and sisters, do not let this happen. When our bodies get sick, we look for medicine, but in order to stay healthy in the first place, we try to exercise, eat right, get plenty of sleep and take some extra vitamins; what are you doing for your soul that will help to keep you strong when challenges arise? What are you doing that is more than the minimum?