Allison Salerno, a frequent writer of guest posts at "Why I Am Catholic" had a very interesting post this past week that has been lingering in my thoughts in a profound way. Her topic "Because Parish Life Isn't Easy" rang true for me in so many ways. Allison wrote about how difficult it is to get along with others in the parish, especially when you are deeply involved in parish life and get a front row seat to everyone's foibles.
Last fall, my husband Paul and I had taken an active role in establishing a youth ministry in our large parish along with several of our friends. We did not have a youth minister in our parish at that time. Since then, the parish staff member who was assigned to help establish the youth ministry, has been hired as the permanent minister in this position. The teens love her, so we thought that was wonderful! However, she has pretty much dismissed the rest of the adults who had been working so hard to plan and chaperone social, prayer and service events in the parish. Her idea is to let the kids plan and run the events from now on without adult supervision except her own. Feelings are hurt, are course.
Add to that the fact that she does not have any type of theology background. She continually asks me questions like, "Anne, you know, are we allowed to have a Mass without a priest?" Scary! And of course, when she asks me questions like that, she doesn't mean that as a compliment, she means it as a dig. It is clear to me that she believes I am over the top in my faith, while it is clear to me that she is under-prepared for this position.
What I've just written, of course, is completely my point of view, my bias. The Youth Minister, on the other hand, may see things completely differently. She may think that I am a bossy know-it-all who always has to show that I know more about the faith than anyone else. We know that there are always two sides to every story, don't we?
Allison is so right, parish life isn't easy. But I love her rationale..."parish life is hard because life is hard. You don’t get to pick your parents and you don’t get to pick who sits next to you in a pew."
She goes on to say that what continues to draw her back to Mass, in spite of the difficulties that are sometimes found there, is the Real Presence of our Lord in the Eucharist. I so agree! But I also know that the Real Presence is equally found within each and every one of us. God is looking at us right now and saying "Wow! I am so in love with her/him!" And we need to be looking at one another and saying that as well. Such a challenge, isn't it?
I just finished reading a very interesting book, "The Future Church" by John L. Allen. He talks about ten trends that will change the church. He concludes with this enlightening passage:
"The raw truth is that Catholicism is enormously complex, often enormously ambivalent, and much of the time it lifts your soul and breaks your heart in equal measure. Faith in the Church has never meant believing it does everything right; it means never abandoning hope despite all of the things it does wrong."
If I am to continue on in my Catholic faith, I have to accept the fact that we all come from different backgrounds, we all believe just a bit differently. The person sitting in the pew next to me, who has God deeply embedded within his soul, may be completely different from me in how he lives his Catholic faith. He may prefer Latin Mass, or maybe he is wishing to go back to the guitar Mass folk music days. He might not accept the fact that we are to fast for one hour before receiving communion and merrily chew on gum during the Mass. He may sing off key or have an annoying cough during the entire homily In short, he may get on my nerves in the worst way. But still, he calls himself Catholic, and he is there in church, participating and living his faith as best he can.
And then again, that person that grates on the nerves of those sitting nearby... just might be me.