Friday, November 27, 2009
"These clasps have come loose. They need to be fixed."
He flung the purple robe in my direction and I caught it as he turned to greet another parishioner. Once again I was stunned by his abrupt way of asking for something to be done. Perhaps one day I will not be reckoned mute by the words that sometimes come out of other people's mouths, my parish priest, included.
For months I took offense at his abrupt way. Every single Sunday he'd give me what sounded like orders and then my lips would purse tightly together as I attended to the request of the moment. "Does he have any idea he sounds like he is ordering me about? I bet he thinks he is asking." I thought about telling him just that but I knew my anger would spew out with the conversation and so I didn't. Instead I fumed. I took the cultural differences personally. His clipped ways often triggered for me feelings of being a powerless child. He had no idea how close I came one Sunday to sticking out my foot and tripping him as he went past my pew at the end of Mass.
I complained loudly and often to Father Charlie about this priest, all the while knowing and feeling irritated, that my reaction to this priest was my problem. Father Charlie had little to say, mostly he let my anger hang in the air. I talked about how my anger seemed out of proportion to the events that triggered it. Eventually I told Father Charlie that I wouldn't bitch to him one more time until I'd spoken to the priest in question. Which I did. I brought up something that really needed to be addressed and left his office still feeling like kicking him. And so it went.
It took nearly a year for me to see what a scapegoat I'd made of this priest. Misplaced all my anger right on his shoulders. It was only through the anguish of this past summer that my intense anger towards him subsided. One Sunday in particular, when I was feeling bruised and broken emotionally, this priest's simple and kind "Good afternoon" to me as we readied things for Mass brought instant tears to my eyes. My tears caught me totally off guard. I continued with my tasks and then went to the back of the church to get things ready for the processional. A few minutes later this priest came to where I was standing and asked if I was okay. Tears were still leaking out the corners of my eyes and I could only shake my head 'no' as we assembled for the procession.
Somewhere in the simple kindness of his greeting, my anger evaporated. I ceased dumping it on his shoulders. Of course years of cultural differences were not going to disappear in a day. When I stopped kicking against that reality the fight went out of me. We've had a decent relationship ever since. Father Charlie only smiled when I told him I finally owned my anger.
I thought about all this today as I emptied my change purse onto the kitchen table. Out rolled 5 pennies, 3 AA medallions and a lone clasp. I'd taken the loose clasp off the purple vestment way back in April and stuck it in my change purse for safekeeping. With Advent about to begin on Sunday, today was the day to fix it. As I sewed the clasp back in place I was grateful for the time to do some mending.