Greg Erlandson

I often follow along in my missalette the words of the entire Mass, not because I am pious but because I am a chronic daydreamer. Looking at the words on the page and thinking about them can keep me focused … for a while. But then something sends me off again.

For example, in Eucharistic Prayer 3, which is recited at most Sunday Masses most of the time, there is a passage that reads:

“Be pleased to confirm in faith and charity your pilgrim church on earth, with your servant N. our pope and N. our bishop, the order of bishops, all the clergy, and the entire people you have gained for your own.”


One time, when reading this, I wondered: Why is it in this order? Why do the laity trail at the end, an undifferentiated mass, a shuffling herd following all those splendid N’s and bishops and clergy? And what about the religious — men and women?

In fact, who comprises the pilgrim church on earth if not the laity? We vastly outnumber all those N’s and B’s and C’s — not just on earth, but in purgatory and heaven too.

Indeed, if the pope is the servant of the servants of God, and the bishops and priests are, by extension, also the servants of the servants of God, then who, of course, are the servants they are serving, if not the laity?

By this time, of course, we are past the Our Father and the kiss of peace, and I am busily rewriting in my head Eucharistic Prayer 3 to read:

“Be pleased to confirm in faith and charity your pilgrim church on earth, the entire people you have gained as your own, all the clergy and religious, the order of bishops, with your servant N. our bishop and N. our pope.”

What got me thinking about this was a book on management by Ken Blanchard called “Lead Like Jesus.”

According to Blanchard, the traditional pyramid view of management is appropriate when it comes to establishing a vision for the company and setting a direction. And in such a model, the pope is at the top of the pyramid. The vicar of Christ sets the direction, the bishops take note, as do the priests, and finally the people.

(This is how it works in theory, anyway. Reality is always messier. One of my favorite quotes is from the 18th-century Pope Benedict XIV: “The pope orders; the cardinals do not obey; and the laity do as they please.”)

But when it comes to operations — the actual implementation of vision — Blanchard inverts the pyramid. The CEO is at the bottom, enabling the managers to manage, and the managers enable their staff to accomplish what needs to be done. Each level serves and supports the one above it: a servant of the servants.

The Christian idea, established by Jesus, is that the leader is not waited upon, but serves.

Pope Francis has been scathing in his criticism of clericalism: Both clericalism that allows the ordained to seek special privileges and power and keeps them from “smelling like the sheep,” and clericalism that has the laity seeking those same privileges and power in the guise of clericalized ministries and offices.

Instead, Pope Francis is telling us to get out into that field hospital and serve.

After all, isn’t this why, at the end of the Mass, we are told to “go and announce the Gospel of the Lord”? We aren’t supposed to be hiding away in the sanctuary, fussing with the candlesticks. We, the entire people Christ has gained as his own, are called to go out and share the good news.

That’s my daydream anyway.


Erlandson, director and editor-in-chief of Catholic News Service, can be reached at