In Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography (Regnery, 2005) Bill Buckley tells a story he heard from a prof while a Yale undergrad more than a half-century ago.
It seems the pastor of a small parish labored many years to help his church retire its mortgage.
Finally, the month with the last payment due was approaching.
The priest thought to call the bishop to invite him to speak at the Sunday Mass at which the parish would celebrate the mortgage burning.
The bishop listened and tried to be kind.
But he had to tell the priest he shouldn’t be asking a distinguished person to help celebrate what was really not an important event in a large diocese such as the one the bishop headed.
Couldn’t the priest find someone – maybe an officer at the bank holding the mortgage – to speak at the Mass?
The priest agreed to try to find such a person but some weeks later he called the bishop and confessed he’d failed.
Wouldn’t the bishop please come?
With a sigh, the bishop agreed.
When the Sunday came, the priest entered the pulpit and began explaining his many failed attempts to find a speaker.
He said he didn’t doubt he should have gone about things “in a smarter way.”
The priest concluded with:
”So, my dear souls, having tried my best and found no one less distinguished, I present to you our bishop.”