Coronavirus - Polishing Teachers and Punishing Priests

Friday, March 13
I remember going to the grocery store that night. It was during the days of the great toilet paper hoarding. Remember those days? As I walked through the store, empty shelves everywhere, I overheard one woman telling another person how much she hated teachers. The lady then looked up and glared at me – I think I taught her niece last year. Later at the checkout I met up with another teacher whom I work with. She was somewhat frazzled. The upcoming coronavirus shutdown, coupled with the anger delved out by so many people in town, was taking its toll. Quite frankly, we were the most hated people in town, and we knew it.

At the time the provincial teachers’ federation had announced sanctions on teacher work time. There was a contract dispute, and this was the response. For me, it meant I had to stop doing recess floor hockey with the students – a hurtful occurrence for the poor students (and myself). The sanctions were tone deaf to the max. Bickering over a contract while the world is freaking out is hardly rational. Most importantly, it was a disservice to our students. Regardless of my opinion, collectively speaking, teachers were hated.

The following week I packed up all the school supplies, artwork, and random mittens, while bidding goodbye to many a tearful student.

Since then? First, teachers have a contract. There are no more sanctions. Thanks be to God. More to the point, we’ve turned to online learning. It’s no secret that online learning is not working overly well. Many families have decided to stop school all together. Obviously, I love what homeschooling can give. But homeschooling has to be chosen. Nevertheless, as teachers we’ve done our best. There have been phone calls to all families. Frequent communication. Dynamic videos made (or at least attempts at dynamic videos) to entertain and engage students. It’s all been done knowing that the actual learning will be far less than the effort put it. Think of the men of Gondor riding to battle in Osgiliath, knowing they have no chance of success. But it’s called doing your job.

What has the past 2.5 months brought? This morning I was emailed results from a recent survey sent out to all parents in our school division. The results were… endless praise and gratefulness for what the teachers have done. Parents gushed over how the teachers have tried so hard to engage students and help them, even if the results weren’t showing. It was a complete 180 from March 13th.

Why is this so? People are so rattled and confused. Nurses and doctors have been called heroes. Grocery store workers and gas jockeys have been lauded endlessly. Even ordinary teachers simply “doing their job” has been looked on most graciously. Let’s not overstate things, people just want normalcy. I suppose they appreciate it when it happens.

Now let’s turn to the state of the Church. The beginning of March was somewhat normal for the Church (apart from the endless scandals, of course). Priests were priests. Bishops were bishops – for better or worse. The life of the Church carried on normally. Then the coronavirus hit. All hell – perhaps literally – broke. The sacraments were removed, as was the presence of many bishops and priests.

To be fair, many priests have been simply fantastic since the beginning of March. The creativity in bringing the sacraments, such as various outdoor confession setups, has been deeply appreciated. I can think of half a dozen priests, off the top of my head, who have been very willing to minister to their flocks – come what may. Such a priest might say, “I’m only doing what I’m supposed to be doing,” and that’s true. But again, we take what we can get these days, with a deep sense of gratitude.

But I would argue generally speaking, many priests and bishops have simply disappeared. Occasionally a peep arises, perhaps with a letter saying how we need to stay isolated, and to ask for money, but such peeps only stoke a fire of anger. Yes anger. And confusion. Let’s face it, many faithful Catholics feel abandoned by their shepherds. They are not wrong. “What do they do all day?” “Why don’t they at least try to have confession?” “I thought he was a good priest… why does he talk like he’s a medical official and not an alter Christus?”

In other words, many priests and bishops have not done their job, or at least attempted to do their job. God have mercy. The result is that trust is waning; confusion growing. As we all know, trust doesn’t just get built overnight. This could have a devasting impact on many parishes.

I do not say all this to slam priests and bishops, much less to laud teachers (we surely don’t deserve that). Far from it. I say this to simply highlight a reality so often overlooked. That is, the devil goes after priests ferociously. An everyday teacher, flawed or messed up as he is, can attempt his job with minimal effort. On the other hand a priest, who has the power to call down Jesus on the altar, suddenly becomes paralyzed and unable to lead his flock - when they need it the most. This can only be explained by a great spiritual attack being released on our priests.

Never forget that we are in a spiritual battle, first and foremost. And we need to support and pray for Christ’s ordained ministers. A kingdom divided surely cannot stand.

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