A PRIEST’S VISIT AS THE ‘HOME CHURCH’
Fr. Marek Łuczak talks with a religion sociologist prof. Wojciech Świątkiewicz about the sense of a priest’s visit, its evolution and about why a priest should not be ‘borrowed’ for a visit
FR. MAREK ŁUCZAK: - What is the sense of a priest’s visit based on?
PROF. WOJCIECH ŚWIĄTKIEWICZ: - A priest’s visit is a meeting of a parish priest with parishioners at their homes. The sense of a priest’s visit is expressed in an individual and direct meeting of a priest and a parishioner at his home. A priest’s visit is connected with a prayer and blessing of the Church, but it remains inseparable with a meeting at home. A parish priest and parishioners can meet together and do meet in various places, but, mainly, during Sunday religious services in the church. In other words: it usually happens that believers come to a priest. It is different with a priest’s visit – it is a priest, the Church that come to them, where they live. If it is often repeated that the Church should be where there are people, it is just a priest’s visit which is an excellent illustration of this principle. During a priest’s visit an idea of a parish as the community of the ‘Home Church’ becomes realistic.
– Is any evolution seen in this practice during the recent years?
– It seems that this evolution is based on the fact that everybody is in a hurry and wants the visit to be as short as possible: both a priest and a parishioner. The rule used in fast-food restaurants: ‘as quick as possible’ spreads also into priests’ visit.
An important problem is the fact that the rhythm of social life has changed. Once obvious regularity of work time on the so-called changes today stopped being binding in most cases. There is also definitely more mobility, travels to work, sometimes in far distances. Whereas in the church everything is as it used to be: parish priests hardly perceive these changes and are shocked that – especially in big cities – at the time of a planned visit nobody is at home.
– What can we say about the religious significance and the social significance of a priest’s visit?
– I cannot understand the practice of ‘borrowing’ a priest for a visit. It is a big misunderstanding, negating the idea of the parish appearing in the community of the ‘Home Church’. The ‘borrowed’ priest does not know social-religious problems of a parish, is not included in the life of a parish and does not have a role of a person uniting a parish society. Certainly, the function of blessing home is maintained, but in the social sense also a priest’s visit may seem to be an excessive manifestation of the function of an ‘envelope’.
– Doesn’t collecting donations during a priest’s visit distort its pastoral essence?
– It depends on local customs. Surely the pastoral essence of a priest’s visit is distorted by a situation when the ‘envelope’ seems to be the main purpose of a priest’s visit. Such a situation is favoured by the above-mentioned rule ‘as quick as possible’ and a priest’s visit through a ’borrowed’ priest.
– Can a priest’s visit be going out onto peripheries, as pope Francis would like?
– The tradition of a priest’s visit in Poland precedes the idea of going out onto peripheries. A priest’s visit is just visiting social peripheries, understood in all ways. Sometimes the visit is the only meeting of a parish priest with parishioners from peripheries in a year. The problems is sometimes the fact that priests lack a deeper understanding of the religious-social significance of such a meeting in peripheries.