The front-page HEADLINE in our local newspaper on April 6 was “Bishop Offers Blessings to Area Farmers, Animals,” with a large color photo of Bishop David Zubik of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Green Bay in a parking lot chatting with a young boy and his goat, Yang, “during the blessing of animals and farming implements” at a Rural Life Days festival in Brillion, a town close to Appleton. The online version of the newspaper has the headline “Bishop Offers Barnyard Blessings.” The Bishop’s kindly hand is on the back of the goat’s head in the photo.
Many people, myself included, have a lot of respect for Bishop Zubik, a man said to have great integrity and who is showing real leadership in helping the Catholic Church recover from some devastating problems with a few priests in the past – but what he’s doing is downright unfair. How can a small religion like ours compete in the face of such tactics? He’s pretty well got the agricultural vote, the rural vote, and the animal lovers vote all locked up after a single photo-op, knowing full well that competing religions like ours are just too self-conscious to follow suit. Plus, if a Mormon bishop or Protestant leader went around blessing animals and farm implements in the area, not only would it not result in favorable front-page coverage with a beautiful color photo, it might well become a PR nightmare. “Hey, you, stay away from my goat!” People just wouldn’t understand (in fact, I think the Handbook of Instructions tells bishops to pretty much stay away from goats for that very reason, if I’m not mistaken). But no one questions Bishop Zubik (no one should!) – and he makes front page news. I’m happy for him, but as a former bishop myself, I’m terribly jealous.
This is just one more example of how hard it is for Mormons to compete out here in the Midwest. I’ve already noted the unfair advantage the Catholics have with their occasional Polka Mass and superstar coffee events. They also have some of the best bingo in the Midwest, and, well, no one seems to mind the beer at their Sunday picnics. Put it all together, and it’s a miracle anybody comes to our church at all.
In all seriousness, one of the many great things about our local Roman Catholics, in my opinion, is the nuns. I’m hoping to visit a couple of them tomorrow, as a matter of fact (bringing an invitation to an open house our Stake is having for our new Stake Center). Some of the finest and friendliest people in the world! Who needs to compete with that? Let’s just be grateful for what we’ve got, especially our friends of many faiths.
(And I will be suggesting some new robes for our new local bishop, something in a color that goes well with farm implements.)