Thursday, September 26, 2013

Arrogant or tone deaf? Regardless, the new pastor is brave

We begin this morning's exercise by giving a name to our new pastor. In his case, for reasons that will shortly become apparent, we will have to give him a first and last name.

As always, this is not the pastor's actual name. Nobody that appears in these essays is called by his or her actual name.

I do this to protect my own anonymity -- and, more importantly, my family's. In this particular case, the need for anonymity takes on a special relevance because my wife teaches in the parish grade school. Her job provides our health insurance benefits; there have been months where hers is the only income we've had. Too many months, lately. So -- while I'm not saying retaliation would be likely were I unmasked -- I live in fear. My last tenuous toehold on the middle class could be lost, at least for awhile, if I make my identity, or the new pastor's identity, too obvious.

In providing a name, I have searched the Internet, confirming (as best as I am able) that there is no person named Fr. Timothy X. Warnn. That said, I hereby dub the new pastor, Fr. Timothy X. Warnn. I apologize to anyone named Timothy X. Warnn, living or dead, and assure you that I'm not talking about you personally.

Heck, I even apologize to our new pastor. I know I'm not being nice. I much prefer to be nice. But I think I'm being fair. You, dear readers, will not be able to judge whether I am being fair, because you only know my side of the story. You can only decide if you like the stories.

And, so, without further ado, today's stories....

Attendance at Saturday's 8:30 a.m. Mass was larger than usual because the school football players were in attendance, along with at least some of their parents.

It is a tradition in our parish to have the junior varsity and varsity teams attend Mass on game days, when possible.

In the old days (when Oldest Son was playing) this was easy: All the games were on Sunday, and the teams attended 9:00 a.m. Mass, with all the boys in uniform, and the widgets (what we called the JVs then) in their jerseys and pads because their game was played first and they would go directly from church to pregame in the school gym or (if it was a road trip) possibly to the park where the game would be played. The kids all sat together in the front pews, on either side of the center aisle, the widgets on one side and the varsity on the other. Coach Gallagher and all the assistants would be in attendance, too.

Over time, this became complicated. Coach Gallagher had children of his own. As each new little one came along (Coach's oldest is a year older than Youngest Son), the logistics got harder and harder and, eventually, the 9:00 a.m. Sunday Game Day tradition had to be scrapped.

But it all worked out. Conference alignments changed and games were sometimes played on Saturdays instead of Sundays. One memorable weekend, when we had a Sunday game, we had a special anticipatory Mass on Saturday afternoon in the Monastery next door to the church. It was a very nice, intimate service... until one of the kids, who'd been battling a flu bug but didn't want to tell anyone lest he not be allowed to play, suddenly -- and dramatically -- lost the battle.

The real virtue of the kids coming to a regularly scheduled Mass, however, was that the parish could see the boys and feel a tie to the parish school (which the parishioners have so generously supported over the years). It never hurts to renew and reinforce those ties.

So it was on Saturday that the teams were in church for the regular 8:30 a.m. daily Mass, sitting down in front (just where, you'd think, the new pastor would want them) with their coaches. Yes, they were wearing their game jerseys.

Fr. Timothy X. Warnn, the new pastor, presided at this Mass and, to no one's surprise, he mentioned the boys sitting down front in his Homily.

What surprised, and angered, the kids' parents was how he mentioned them.

I never liked football, Fr. Warnn told the congregation. It's just one group of thugs beating on another group of thugs.

Oh, my.

There have been priests before in our parish who were not great football fans. They were easy enough to spot. But they had enough sense to offer a few words of encouragement for sportsmanlike behavior, cooperative teamwork, determined effort -- all the positives that football -- or any organized team sport -- can provide. At the very least they offered a prayer for the safety of the boys and for their opponents.

When we heard the story, we asked our informant about any qualifications (as above) that might have been offered by the new pastor. Nope, we were told, none whatsoever.

"How arrogant!" I fumed. "Well," said my wife, "maybe he's just a little tone-deaf." (Blessed are the peacemakers.)

But there was no making peace with the next person we ran across who mentioned Fr. Timothy X. Warnn.

She is, shall we say, a lady of a certain age. And she knows her own mind. Sometimes rather forcefully.

I think this is characteristic of many women of a certain age. Take my mother-in-law the other day. She was livid that someone had had the temerity to tell her what she should, or should not do (it was in regards to a social matter). "I will not be told what to do," she fulminated. "I'm 80 years old and I can do what I please."

And you'd better let her, that's all I can say.

Anyway, this other woman of a certain age said she'd come up to Fr. Timothy X. Warnn after Mass to ask him about something or other.

She addressed him as "Fr. Tim." In our parish we have traditionally addressed our priests as Fr. [First Name]. You've read here about our last pastor, Fr. Ed, for example. (Having a touch of the anti-clerical about me, I will often address a priest by his first name alone, dropping reference to his occupation. After all, I am not generally referred to as Lawyer Curmudgeon.)

But this lady of a certain age called the new pastor "Fr. Tim."

The Sun went behind the clouds. The temperature dropped 20 degrees. The pastor actually bristled. "You will call me 'Fr. Warnn,'" he said.

The lady of a certain age told us all this and asked if we knew yet of any petition drives to get rid of this new pastor. "I'll sign," she said.


Our new pastor may be un-American. He certainly is a control freak. And he may be either arrogant or tone-deaf -- but no one can deny that he is b-r-a-v-e.

Deliberately ticking off the ladies of a certain age? The core constituency of any parish ever? He must be brave.


Steve Skinner said...

He could also be suffering from a mental illness.

Ruan Peat said...

Oh dear, I ssad to say very much enjoying the blogs about your new priest! having seen some come and go over time I know how hard it is to make change you want or to bring every one with you, but that is daft, is a higher up wanting your parish shut down? is there infighting that has meant you have this 'twit' making waves so you accept the next one with less moans? or is he being set to fail!?
My Grandmother would never speak to one who came to her church because he tried to use her first name! and she wouldn't have that! he went on to become the bishop of the area but she always muttered to her dieing day about him :-)

Anonymous said...

Well lawyer Curmudgeon when you got to the part about Abeulla not liking being told what to do I had to laugh. I am 61 and not long ago my son was saying something to me about something i did and he thought I shouldn't do it anymore. I said those exact words to him. "I am 61 years old and you are my son, not my husband, and not my father and I will do just whatever I want."

I agree that he was being totally rude to the football players and their families.He's just mean.