pastoral morale i

I saw the article below posted on a colleague’s social media. It failed to crush my spirit. Instead, it toppled a readily unstable wall of silence and made way for new construction…

10 Ways to crush the morale of priests

First, from the tone of this article, it sounded like the writer needed a vacation. Second, it promotes a limited, pre-conciliar mis-informed theology that neglects the presence of Christ in the Word and in the assembly. Finally, it simply doesn’t seem accurate to me.

Priests aren’t the only pastoral leaders whose spirits get crushed from time to time. The sources of heavy discouragement are usually not the kinds of so-called liturgical abuses mentioned in the Aleteia article. Most of the time the discouragement comes in the form of small remarks raised in passing

As an un-vowed, unmarried woman, I appear fully available for conversation at all times. Social functions, dinners, parties and after-mass chit chat can be fun sometimes, but often they are awkward and overwhelming. I gave up drinking many years ago, so the only thing I can do to “loosen up” is show up late and leave early. I also eat very clean, and most social functions only have items in the buffet that I would use for building a scale model of the Taj Mahal with a spork on Chinet. Furthermore, my idea of ‘light conversation,’ usually involves some reference to Hart-Seller, the history of the Rite of Penance, or my newest obsession with pneumatic shuttle systems. I don’t do small talk, only big talk, often about deep and heavy things. Ask me about the weather, I’ll tell you about my latest disaster contingency plan, and I’ll pull up the diagram on my smartphone which shows you where I stashed all the Cento canned caponata in the basement of my house.

I have come to avoid these social situations whenever possible. Often, they become forums for parishioners to express valid dissatisfaction with one area or another of parish life. If I’m in a position to address the area, its difficult for me to keep track while trying to figure out a way to configure the food on my plate to make it look like I’ve eaten. If I’m not in a position to help, its difficult to say that in a friendly social atmosphere. At these kinds of events, all I really want to do is eat an avocado, maybe a piece of chocolate and break out my Napoleon Dynamite style dance moves.

One of my awesome coworkers once advised me that whenever a concern is raised, it should only be presented with a possible solution.

So here is my concern:
grabbing my ear and complaining about music at mass or the lack of altar servers while I’m trying to reconstruct a UNESCO World Heritage Site from string beans on my plate at the potluck dinner is veritably crushing my spirit.

And my solution:
When you see me at the next Beef & Beer, ask me if I want to dance. Teach me how to Lindy- I still don’t know how. In the words of Chaka Khan, tell me something good. Tell me an appropriate, kid-friendly joke. Talk to me about the Yankees, or the Phillies or the Brooklyn Dodgers. I know nothing about baseball, but I’m happy to hear about your passion. Show me pictures of your grandchildren. Tell me about your dissertation or your recent trip to Macchu Picchu.

Before raising a complaint, take your time and determine where you fit into the equation. If you don’t like the music at mass, think about what you can do, personally, to make it better. Maybe it just means singing louder. Maybe it means stepping up your guitar skills so you can join an ensemble. Maybe your concern about the lack of altar servers means offering time to help train some new ones.

Then, instead of presenting your concern while I’m demolishing the leaning tower of cucumber slices (yay, finally something to eat that won’t give me 3 days of stomach cramps,) call me in my office around 2pm on Monday. Bring up your concern and your proposed solution. If we decide to move forward, show up for a meeting, bring a friend or two. I promise I will give you the tools or training to support your initiative.

I’m really grateful for the wonderful people who understand all this. There are a few of them in our parish. When I run into them at the gym, sometimes they ask about my weekend and listen. Other times, they say “hi,” and keep walking. There are a few others who are great people to have at the table because they know their lives are interesting (which they are) and they tell great stories that have nothing to do with the problems we are trying to solve in the parish office. If you are one of them and you are reading this, thank you for building up our team! We hope that we can do the same for you!

There’s more commentary on the “10 Ways” article. You can read Part 2 of my thoughts by clicking here

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