by Christopher Howse RUNNING a parish can be like running a hospital geriatric unit, Professor Peter Millard told a conference of 40 priests and two bishops on the identity of the priest, last week.
Professor Millard. head of geriatric medicine at London's St George's Hospital, Tooting said that both the doctor and the priest had to tackle the problem of getting their patients standing up when they were lying down, using the team which they had available. "You've just got to manipulate the flock you've got," he said.
"How do you get us as your flock to work, to visit the people, to come to church, to do things? You have got to praise and to discipline us. It is a difficult task, but the same one that I've got. I do not pay the salary of any person who works for me every person is paid by someone else," From his knowledge of geriatric medicine, Professor Millard warned against the dangers of 'the disengagement theory of aging'. "All of us set out wishing to change the world in our lifetime. We want to climb to the top of the tree as a successful changer. We will try hard and then we will realise we cannot, and then we will become a raconteur, explaining why we cannot.
"We will write rigid rules to protect what we've achieved, and to stop others who wish to change things changing it their way. This is why you'll get conflict in the priests' houses between the young and the old. It is no good saying 'I have tried that, it's not worth doing,' in fact, as in my department. you should say, 'What a good idea'."
Bishop Leo McCartie, at the same conference, at Maria Assumpta Convent in Kensington, chaired by Fr Peter Bristow and organised by CRIS, the Italian body which runs international meetings for priests in parish work, analysed the Pope's vision of the priest's identity by referring it to his admiration of Blessed Maximilian Kolbe, the Polish priest who died in Auschwitz, Bishop McCartie, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham. said that he had wanted to be a priest because of his admiration for the local curate. Pope John Paul had also identified the true role of the priest by referring to one man. He had said: "Fr Kolbe replied to the jailer's question. 'Who are you"? by saying am a Catholic priest'. As a Catholic priest he had accompanied his wretched flock of nine men condemned to death. It was not a question of just saving the life of the tenth man — he wanted to help those men as they died." Bishop Howard Tripp investigated the mystery of the relationship between priests and their bishops.