Buzz, buzz

Thursday 4 September 2014 — Homeport: Falmouth Harbor — Paul Harvey’s anniversary of birth (1918)

You know me, dear readers, I have a sense of humor that keeps me seriously dedicated to the ministry. This is not always easy. I’ll give you an example. When I was a young seminary student, it fell to me one day to lead Morning Prayer for the whole community of priests and seminarians. It was the feast of St. Cecilia. Back in the day, a verse on St. Cecilia’s feast read, “Busy like a bee, thou didst serve the Lord.” The moment I recited this antiphon, an anonymous rascal in the congregation began to make soft buzzing sounds. Others soon picked it up. Suddenly, the whole congregation was buzzing. The faculty was not amused. Whatever possessed my peers to play such a trick on yours truly? A buddy suggested that perhaps it was payback for all the tricks I had played on my classmates. This I find difficult to believe. By the way, the current translation of the psalter has deleted that antiphon entirely. 

The ecclesiastical symbol for St. Bernard of Clairvaux is the beehive. This is due to the fact that St. Bernard founded 68 monasteries. According to St. Bernard, a proper monastery functions like a beehive — all the monks working together for the good of the community, each monk busy with an assigned task. I suppose there would also be a lot of buzzing in the monastery, were it not for the religious vow of silence. 

Father Frank Wallace (aka FXW) recently told me a story. He related how, many years ago, a woman casually commented to him, “You do realize, dear Father, when we lay people get together, we usually end up talking about you priests.” “That’s perfectly acceptable, my dear,” answered Father Wallace. “When we priests get together, we usually end up talking about you lay people.” 

Over the years, I have found that woman’s comment to Father Wallace to be true. It never ceases to amaze me (when I just happen to accidentally overhear a snippet of conversation in restaurants) how the conversation invariably turns to ministers, priests, and the occasional rabbi. I must confess, dear readers, I do occasionally cock my head, lean over, and discretely cup my ear so that I might better hear what is being said in the next booth. It’s surprising how much information you can pick up if you have good hearing. Unfortunately, my sense of hearing is diminishing with age. As a result I sometimes find myself out of the loop when it comes to the latest buzz.

When you think about it, though, to have lay people chatting about their priests and ministers can be a good sign. It means that their clergy are important to them; their Church is important to them; and their faith is important to them. It’s good to be so much a part of people’s lives that your name crops up in casual conversation. 

The riposte given by FXW was also right on the mark. I admit it, dear readers. We priests talk about parishioners all the time, without of course violating confidentiality. This is due to the fact that the lives of our parishioners are important to us. We want to know their names and faces. We want to know who has fallen ill. We want to know who is experiencing hard times. We want to know what family is expecting a baby. We want to know what relative has died. We want to know which teen-ager is acting out. Simply put, we want to know our parishioners. This is a vital part of being a pastor of souls. 

Father Peter John and I meet at least daily for a debriefing. The morning chats take place over a cup of hot coffee well before the day’s activities begin. We are also likely to have another chat at the very end of the day. In the morning, we discuss our schedules and what the day may hold in store for us. We also share our thoughts on that day’s Scripture readings for Mass and how we might develop a homiletic theme.

At night, we share with each other what our day has been like, how our homily was received, what happened that day in the parish, and, of course, any important developments in the lives of our parishioners. There are always surprises.

Peter John and I try to use proper names in our conversations so that we can associate the name with the person. Neither Peter John nor I are very good at remembering names, which can be a handicap in ministry. Naming names helps us both in our ministry.

People are naturally curious about what goes on at a rectory and what a priest does all day. Many have no idea at all. Perhaps this is one reason there are fewer young men entering the seminary these days. The simple solution is to routinely read this weekly column.

Here you will find all the latest buzz. But you know that. Why else would you be reading this?

Anchor columnist Father Goldrick is pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Falmouth.

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