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.
Jumpin' Jack Flash says
Sometimes there are teachers that are “rule enforcers” to the max. For example, they assign detention for every dress code violation, tardy to class, forgetting to bring a pencil, etc. There are police officers that are the same way…no mercy on your soul for being 7-miles over the speed limit. or failing to use that turn-signal before hanging the left at the intersection. I think this priest, although he is failing to welcome new members into the church or bring back some veteran Catholics that went off the reservation, is simply an old-school “rule enforcer.” He is just “by the book.” Perhaps he could be a little kinder about his rules, such as “I am sorry ma’am, but the rules of the church prohibit you from receiving communion. I encourage you to go to confession and attend a few services, then you can participate in Holy Communion once again. Thank you for coming and please pray with us.” But he instead delivers a “no soup for you” blow to anyone that is not spiritually prepared to receive communion. Try to focus on the positives that have come from the Catholic Religion…think about all the universities and hospitals that are among the best in the world and based on the Catholic faith. Have a pleasant day.
Stephanie Jankowski says
I can’t tell if I should admire your steadfast faith, or if it’s part of the problem. Don’t hate me for saying that 🙂 People like this–regardless of their title or job–are MEAN. If Jesus treated everyone the way this priest has, imagine the tenants Christianity would be based on: 1 wrong and you’re out? No such thing as second chances? Let’s make a person feel so low that they have nowhere else to turn? It just makes me sad. That said, I do appreciate the many, many contributions of the Catholic faith and while this particular priest isn’t exactly representative of kindness, I think the religion as a whole is certainly a different story.
Chris Carter says
Oh Stephanie!!! LOVE your response here. And this post makes me SO SO SAD AND SO ANGRY!!!
How dare one person shadow God’s light on another soul!! How DARE this ‘man of God’ REJECT someone who WANTS to COMMUNE with GOD!!
Oh, how this leaves me with such a heavy heart. How will God’s love EVER reach all his children with PEOPLE LIKE THIS building bars to separate them!
Your poor mother. And I am SO sorry you have to testify to this atrocity. I’m SICK about this…
Wow. Just wow. I am a recent subscriber so I had to track back to the original post about the falling out and the email that prompted it. I was stupefied at the original grievance (which wasn’t appropriate by any means & would have prompted me to find a new church) and then I came back to read the rest of the post about the second incident. Mind blown.
I am a non-practicing Catholic and your incidents just go further to cement my non-practicing status. That is not to say that I do not have faith, I simply lost faith in the Church and because I was (a practicing) Catholic for such a long time I wasn’t (am not) willing to join another Christian denomination.
Girl I wish we were friends so I could call you and talk about this, I know exactly how you feel. I have a love for the catholic church, but the last few years I’ve been kicked in the shins a few times and I’ve been left wondering “who are these people and how can they seriously treat people this way when the church is suppose to be the one place in the world you can always feel welcome?” I grew up in New England and was raised catholic, but I’ve moved to a few different places in the south and had to find new churches. We couldn’t get my daughter baptized in Dallas, TX after months of paperwork and meeting with a priest we ended up taking her back to my hometown and my home church. She didn’t get baptized till she was 11 months old (much to my mothers dismay) and I had started the paperwork for baptism before she was born! We’ve moved from Dallas, but to get her into preschool at our new church was an almost laughable process. Like I said I love the church, but man where do they come up with these rules and how come these “rules” aren’t followed by every church? I’m sorry about what happened to your mom, that is horrible and shame on that priest. I hope I didn’t write too much, but I feel like I know where you’re coming from on this topic. Also, I love your blog and your Facebook posts!
Penny at Mom Rants and Comfy Pants says
Oh Steph. I remember your first post so well and it’s AMAZING to me that this same priest is the very one who was so awful to your mom. I mean, what are the odds???
Anyhoo – I practiced Catholicism for most of my life. By. The. Book. But I felt very empty and very lost and our priest was a cranky, judgmental, a-hole. Sorry God but you know it’s true!
When Mason was a baby, I joined a non-denominational, Christian, bible-based church and have never looked back. There are many things I miss about Mass (I liked the traditions I suppose) but I don’t miss the judgement. If you have ever seen the movie, Passion of the Christ, the Catholic priests (that I personally knew) remind me a lot of the Pharisees that ultimately crucified Christ himself.
How will people ever look at Christ’s message as “Good News” when we are made to constantly feel “less than worthy”. After all, it’s not about religion. It’s about relationship.
*gets off soap box* I will pray for healing for you and for your mom. I’m sure she is a wonderful human being. After all, she raised you!! Peace, my friend!
Stephanie Jankowski says
“After all, it’s not about religion. It’s about relationship.”
Kathy at kissing the frog says
this makes me mad as a catholic. I know there are “rules” and whatnot, but come on. I would be out of there, too, if someone was not welcoming. That’s just not.very Christ like. Way to rise above.
Stephanie Jankowski says
I feel like the rules differ from church to church these days, and the inconsistency is not only a bit confusing, but gets my hopes up when we have a rock star priest and then….don’t. 🙂
Fill those buckets!
I honestly have to say that there are A LOT of adults that would benefit from reading that book and giving it a go! It’s amazing what a discussion on if an action is bucket filling or bucket dipping can do to a kiddo.
That being said, I’m Catholic and we are just starting to get back to going every weekend. We did really well last year for a while and then I ended up hitting a bump in the road and we stopped going for a few months. Danika will be making her Communion soon and we want to go back for the kids.
We’ve had a lot of priests at our church and there were some that we were truly sad to see go – there were also those who we had to stifle our cheers for they made the announcement they were leaving. What I’ve learned is that the priest is NOT the church. Priests come and go but the congregation is what makes a church. Now, I’ve never had as arrogant a priest as this guy you’re talking about . . . but I am a true believer in Karma, so he will get his. If nothing else, God will have a few choice words for him about his interpretation and handling of his flock.
Seriously, priests are suppose to be COMPASSIONATE and CARING. They shouldn’t be “kicking you when you are down”.
Hugs to your Mama. 🙂
Stephanie Jankowski says
I’m all for giving every adult in my life a copy of this book!!! Thanks for being a kick ass preschool teacher and introducing it to my man 🙂