“Would you rather be a thermometer or a thermostat?” asked our priest one Sunday morning, during his homily.
I heard those to the left and right of me whispering. “What is he talking about?” one man harrumphed to his wife.
“I don’t know, that’s just Father.” she began digging through her purse.
A thermometer measures the temperature, he explained.
“If you check the thermostat in our church, you will see it measures exactly 70 degrees. No more and no less,” he continued. “No matter what the weather is outside, you can count on the temperature in here, being 70 degrees.”
I heard papers ruffling behind me as the family behind me began paging through their bulletins.
“A thermostat reflects the temperature in the room. That is all it does, reflect the temperature,” Father said. “Now, what about a thermostat?”
At that point, I began smiling. I knew where this was going.
“The thermostat is in charge of controlling the climate,” he said. “It regulates the temperature. It can change the climate; where the thermostat does not do anything but reflect the climate. If we set the thermostat at 55 degrees, the thermostat will change the temperature. One of the mores expensive units can be programmed to change the temperature during different times of the day or week.”
Thermostats are cheap instruments and readily available at the dollar store. On the contrary, thermostats can be intricate units that are much more expensive than the thermostat. Thermostats are valuable devices, without them, your home can climb to 120 degrees in the summer or 30 degrees in the winter. Without the thermostat, life is really uncomfortable and out of control.
In the Church, those who have become thermostats merely agree with the masses. They allow others to shape them. The agree with the loudest, middle of the road or most obnoxious viewpoint because they choose to allow others to shape their environment.
On the contrary, the pricey little thermostat is unafraid to challenge others, to jump in to make decisions, to volunteer, to stand up for the right thing and to make moral decisions that may not be popular. I see often in the Catholic Church, so many thermometers that follow the loudest or most boisterous decisions because they do not wish to make waves. This is the reason that the Church is so divided today–we have too many thermostats who are willing to follow and allow their moral judgements to erode. If we had more thermostats willing to step up, speak out and defend the Catechism of the Catholic Church, I believe we would not be in the crisis we were in today.
We can be thermometers and allow the Church to shape us, or we can be thermostats and shape the Church.
Which are you? The thermostat or the thermometer?