Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Quadragesimo Anno
Family matterws

by Father Mark Pautler, for the Inland Register

(From the December 17, 2015 edition of the Inland Register)

Father Mark Pautler My 67th birthday was Nov. 18. On Dec. 8 I enjoyed lunch with two dear friends, Sister Dorothy Byrne and Mary Jane O’Neill, whose birthdays are Nov. 17 and 18. Thank you, Mary Jane, for initiating this tradition. Not invited to the lunch, but also celebrating his birthday near this time, is Prince Charles. He was born on Nov. 14, 1948. I remember my mother commenting that she and Elizabeth were expecting at the same time. Now Charles is expecting to reign as King of England. I am not.

Entering senior status, a.k.a. retirement, has brought changes in my life. This month, let me share a few reflections on one of those changes – my family.

We frequently refer to the “parish family.” As a pastor, I promoted this ecclesiology. How can you do otherwise when the default mode of addressing a priest is “Father”? Thanksgiving and Christmas were especially important occasions for the ecclesial family. For most of my years in parish ministry, I was able to double dip. The liturgical celebration of the parish family had priority. It never occurred to me that I was missing something because I could not be with “family.” I was with my family. I would have the opportunity later in the day or in the days to follow to visit my parents, but my first family was the parish.

Times have changed. The structure of the Pautler family has changed with the deaths of our parents. Departure from parish responsibility has changed my relationship to the parish family. While I remain well connected to Sacred Heart, I am less inclined to see it as the locus of familial relationships. Bonds with my siblings, their children and grandchildren become more significant as I consider what constitutes my family. Thanksgiving of 2015 was spent with family in Seattle. At the time of this writing, my plan is to spend Christmas with family in Reno.

This is a new chapter in family life. What is my role? How eager am I to fulfill it? If experience is a guide, my efforts will be clumsy. Having neglected the roles of brother and uncle for so many years, I’m not sure what I ought to do. All I know is that I want to be more connected and better connected to the family that always was mine but that now is available to me in a new way. Maybe I will get better at it in time.

What kind of King will Charles be? He’s had a lot of time to think about it. What kind of a family man will I be? I need to think about that, too.

(Father Pautler is Judicial Vicar and Chancellor of the Spokane Diocese.)

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