39. The parish, a christian community
1. The Phalangist knows only three hierarchical and fraternal communities in the Church : the papacy, the diocese, and the parish. Rome is the seat of infallible sovereignty, holy and supreme. The diocese is the seat of tutelary authority, local and dealing with everyday matters. But for each member of the faithful, the parish is the constant, normal and providential locale for his worship of God and his fraternal charity. The parish priest, its pastor, receives his powers from the bishop, so that he might be at the service of all in accordance with the habits and customs of this primordial community.
2. Despite the efforts of revolutionaries and reformists to replace this basic, territorial and immemorial cell of the Church with floating, spontaneous communities of freely gathered individuals owing no territorial allegiance and sharing no common past, the parish must remain. Because of its territorial foundation, the parish alone can and must guarantee, over and above any individual whim, the preaching of the Gospel, the worship of God, the administration of the sacraments, and the direction of souls. In this way, it will strive to keep all its children under its wing from birth till death.
The parish constitutes a community of life and destiny, recognised as of right. The free community, on the other hand, floats according to the good pleasure of its adherents and subsists only through the initiative of its chance leaders. The parish Church in the village centre and its prominent bell-tower indicate that all human reality is gathered up so that it may be consecrated to Christ throughout space and the span of generations.
3. The Phalangist is a good parishioner ; he loves to find himself amongst the ordinary members of the faithful and to be one of them in the shared and permanent essentials of the Christian life. In this he is unlike certain intellectuals and a supposed elite who despise the parish and avoid it because of its promiscuities.
At this lowest rung, the Church’s life must be realist, communitarian and traditional. It is good that an elected council of churchwardens, under the honorary presidency of the parish priest, should administer the property of the parish and watch over the maintenance of religion, respecting what is holy and the traditions.
To be instructed in the catechism and by the Sunday homilies, to receive the sacraments in due season, to take part in the liturgy, in devotions, sacramentals, charitable, apostolic and missionary works – all this defines the popular religion which is, in its parish setting, the fundamental, aesthetic, and ethical mysticism of the Catholic people throughout the ages.