You may remember I had some beef with my priest a while back. Beef is putting it mildly. Shortly after that episode, I wanted to go to a different church, which was sad because that’s the church we had been married in, had our children baptized in, and generally felt welcome in. But I tend to hold grudges–it’s not an attractive quality, I know–and had a really hard time letting bygones be bygones. A change in Mass times partnered with the chip on my shoulder and the decision was made for us: we would go elsewhere.
And elsewhere we went.
Our current church is beautiful with kind people, but I don’t feel…connected. I personally don’t believe I need a church to be one with my faith, but there is certainly something to be said for the sense of community that comes from an awesome church with an inspiring leader at the helm.
Just as I was really starting to miss “our” church, life threw a monkey wrench at us. More specifically, at my mother. She fell and busted her pelvis, landing her in a physical rehabilitation facility for more than a month. She was there over Christmas, our very favorite time of the year, and lemme just tell ya: it was not easy navigating that germ-infested place with three small children during cold and flu season. The holidays weren’t as happy this year, and stress was at an all-time high. Sadness and frustration overwhelmed my family much of the time, but we kept on keepin’ on because when life hands us lemons, we say EFF THIS NOISE, yell at each other because when helpless, it’s easier to be angry than sad, add vodka and make the most of what we’ve got.
Wow, I’m full of attractive qualities.
On a particularly blah day at her rehab center, my mom wheeled herself to the community room to participate in an informal religious service. Leaders of different denominations regularly held prayer services in that room, and for whatever reason on that day, my mom felt called to be a part of it. Like many of the other men and women in the place, she needed her bucket filled.
Stop it. That wasn’t a euphemism.
My 5-year-old introduced me to the idea of filling buckets from what he learned in preschool: whatever makes a person happy is a Filler, and we all have the ability to fill another’s bucket. That said, we also have the ability to empty buckets, but as any preschooler will tell you, it’s better to be a Filler.
It should go without saying that those who have chosen people as their profession, namely teachers and religious leaders, would be innate Bucket Fillers, right? Not so much.
So there’s my mom, in her post-rehab glory, sweaty and in need of something, and who’s leading the prayer service that day but my former priest. He is surrounded by people yearning for various kinds of saving, longing for the same sense of community I had been missing since leaving our old church. My mom had chosen to be among them that day, which wasn’t easy for her because she’s generally not very public or forthcoming with her faith, and because she knows my past beef with the priest.
And then, as she was waiting for her Bucket Filler, in front of everyone, she was told she wasn’t welcome.
Priest: I haven’t seen you here before.
Mom: I’ve only been here for a couple of weeks.
Priest: I see. And to what local perish do you belong?
Mom: I belonged to St. Martha’s.
Priest: That has been closed for quite some time. Do you go to church now?
Mom: Not as regularly as I should.
Priest: When is the last time you received Communion? Went to Confession?
Mom: When you married my daughter 8 years ago.
Priest: It has been that long?! You will not be receiving Communion today. You can stay for the prayer, but you can’t participate in the Mass.
My mother went to Catholic school as a child, my grandfather saw to it that they never missed Mass, and when I was newly engaged, she adamantly insisted my wedding ceremony be in a Catholic church. Despite having struggled with Catholicism for most of my life, my soon-to-be husband just happened to be Catholic, and my mom was up my arse about being married as such, so I decided at that very moment to carefully pick and choose my battles. My relationship with God wouldn’t be affected regardless of where I was married; I just knew I wanted Him to be a part of the day. So a Catholic church it was. Catholic hymns they were. Non-Catholic friends and family were explicitly told they were not allowed to participate in the Mass…
The writing had been on the wall for a long time, but because I was picking and choosing my battles, I tried to excuse what can only be interpreted as repeated attempts at alienation and ostracism for “old school” tradition. But when someone who is supposed to represent the epitome of kindness kicks a person who is so, so down, I choose that battle.
But I won’t contact him about how he treated my mother when she needed his guidance. I won’t call him out for repeatedly insulting and disrespecting my family, and I won’t put him on blast for his terrible business savvy; he totally blew the chance to re-introduce a lost soul to her faith. No thanks, Catholic churches are bursting at the seams with young, enthusiastic active members……………………Unlike this priest, I will heed the words of my 5-year-old and try to be a Bucket Filler.