Friday, November 27, 2009

Mending Time


"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.

10 comments:

Madison said...

I don't know if I'd let Father Charlie off the hook so easy. Somebody who consistently, abruptly flings a robe for others to catch should hope Mother Theresa is in the parish and has honed her athletic skills. But that's just me.

Patty said...

Very, very nice Hope. Thank you.

Dianne said...

I grew up in Catholic school, church, and spirituality.

Every second, inch, and thought are the moments I have lived.

Thank you for your writing, honesty and work.

You inspire me.

Dianne

Hope said...

Madison, Fr. Charlie is my spiritual director, not the priest in question who flings robes in my direction. That priest has gradually changed the way he approaches things. His rough edges have been smoothed somewhat. I think our culture is as difficult for him to get used to as his cultural ways are to us.

annie said...

I needed to hear this today Hope. Thanks for your example.

Tall Kay said...

I love examples of how we learn to practice these principles in all our affairs. Thanks for sharing this inspiring story.

enchantedoak said...

You're a really good storyteller with a gifted point to each tale. I had a blunt pastor for whom I worked as children's ministries director. He had poor listening skills. He might have had ADD or something. But he was brilliant at drawing people together to accomplish wonderful tasks, and he gave Joe and I terrific premarital counseling, honest and real. I loved him. Warts and all. I have found that true in the AA fellowship too. People with character defects interacting with my character defects sometimes leads to ill feelings, until I realize, like you did with your priest, we all have a softer side, and we can love each other, warts and all.
Cheers, Chris

Gabriella Moonlight said...

I feel the humanity in this post, so clearly and fully in my heart. I have taken so many to heart and personalized their own discontents, it is so amazing to read this post today or on any day, to know that we are not alone and to know more importantly that we mend...and in doing so heal.
Thank you Hope...
Love
gabi

Cat said...

I was pulled back to my home group the other day after I realized that the problem I had with someone ( a stranger I have to see every day) was ultimately my problem...

This reminded me of that.

Thicket Dweller said...

Fabulous. Thanks for sharing this. It gave me a very lot to think about.