I was interested to learn from Fr. Giussani about the development of parishes in the Church:
«The most recent studies show that first the apostles and then their successors, the bishops, long resisted the tendency to multiply local communities out of their desire to preserve true unity in the Church. Thus at first many cities, or dioceses if we can call them such, remained linked to an apostle; then for a long time the dioceses remained centered around the bishop, and the "parishes" - in the modern sense - were few at first. It was only in feudal times that the number of parishes increased; and the clergy remained bound to their own Church, and to their own piece of land ("benefice") rather than to the bishop. One of the spiritual consequences of this was a weakened sense of ecclesial communion and contact with the life of the universal Church. This in turn led to a decadence of the clergy, who tended to isolate themselves and settle for the very limited religious needs of the people.»(The Journey to Truth Is an Experience, p 110-111)
When I read this passage, it's clear to me why the bishops now reassign priests periodically. It's so that the pastors will continue to be a sign of catholicity to the parishes. And the people, even if they don't move around, need to adhere to the bishop so that they too, will announce the presence of Christ who draws us ever deeper into communion with the totality of the Church.
During Advent I had the opportunity to experience this catholicity during a reconciliation service at a parish other than my own. There were 15 priests there including an auxiliary or emeritus bishop. During this service this parish went beyond the parochial vision - it became the locus for the universal Church. One could see then that it was no longer the church of Corinth but the Church herself in Corinth.
As I lean into Lent, I want to remember those instruments that cultivate in me an ever greater awareness of the totality of the Church. Fr. Giussani reminds us that the early Church used letters of communion (Litterae Communionis) to bind each place in the Church with the whole. And so, I want to be more faithful to Traces - the magazine whose particular mission it is to build up this communion among all. And also, I want the Good Friday Way of the Cross to be a more public sign of communion in Christ.