Hold, please

Monday 12 May 2014 — Homeport: Falmouth Harbor — National Etiquette Week begins

The world is impressed by the simple lifestyle of Pope Francis. Although a Jesuit, he has adopted the manner of a Franciscan Friar. It seems to me, dear readers, that the Franciscan charism is currently trending worldwide. For example, I read somewhere of how Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriquez Maradiaga, speaking recently at a meeting of Franciscan Friars in Florida, wore a Franciscan habit for the occasion. Cardinal Rodrigues, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, must be an honorary Franciscan. He is actually a member of the Salesians of Don Bosco religious order. Cardinal Oscar is also, by the way, the coordinator of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals. 

As an aside, dear readers, I once bumped into Cardinal Oscar in Tegucigalpa. I was visiting the diocesan mission in Honduras and somehow ended up attending one of the cardinal’s day-long clergy conferences. With a cue from Cardinal Oscar, the priests began the meeting by exuberantly singing a rousing hymn in Spanish. I don’t speak Spanish. A handful of monsignors were singing even louder than the others. I later learned the reason they sang so enthusiastically. Cardinal Oscar had composed the hymn. Father Craig Pregana has on his cell phone a photo of Cardinal Oscar with his arm around my shoulder. The cardinal and I were busy after the meeting discussing how much we admired Whoopi Goldberg, but that’s another story. Sometimes I wonder how I bumble into these situations.

At any rate, I have known a few actual Franciscans over the years and I, too, admire their life of simplicity. One Franciscan of my acquaintance is Cardinal Sean O’Malley, formerly Bishop of Fall River, now Archbishop of Boston and also a member of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals. One day, Bishop O’Malley was out to lunch with a group of Fall River diocesan priests, including yours truly. At the end of the meal, the bishop, over our protests, insisted on taking the check. He reached into the pocket of his traditional brown Franciscan habit and pulled out a single credit card. “I never leave home without it,” the bishop joked. 

Msgr. John Perry, retired pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Falmouth, visited me the other day. As we were chatting, the topic of the parish credit card came up again. The name still had to be changed from his to mine. It was not a burning issue. I have had no reason to use the card in the two years I’ve been here, but just in case I ever needed it. Since we both had the time and we were both sitting there, we decided to make another attempt to change the name. All other information would remain the same. It seemed a simple task. It wasn’t. 

First, monsignor had to make the call, identify himself by name, give the last four digits of his Social Security, and ask for a name change on the card. His job was now complete and I was put on the line.

“What is your full name, please, including any middle initials?”

“What is your social security number?”

I gave the last four digits.

“I’m sorry, sir, but we need the complete number.”

I provided it.

“What is your address?”

“It’s the same one as on the card.”

“You need to give the address.”

“OK. It’s Post Office Box 569, Falmouth, Massachusetts.”

“Is that your physical address?”

“No. That’s my mailing address.”

“What is your physical address?”

“511 Main Street, Falmouth, Massachusetts.”

“Is that spelled F-o-u-l /M-o-u-t-h?”

“No, Falmouth, not Foul Mouth.”

“Thank you.”

“What is your mailing address?”

“I just gave it to you!”

“You have to give me your mailing address at this time.”

I did.

“I have one last question, sir. What is your mother’s maiden name?”

I answered.

“Thank you. Hold, please and a member of our Cooperate Card Transfer Team will be with you shortly.”

Insipid music followed.

“Hello, is this the party to whom I’m speaking?”

“Yes.”

“What is your name?”

“What is your Social Security number?”

“What is your mailing address?”

“What is your physical address?”

“What is your mother’s maiden name?”

“I’ve already answered these questions!”

“I’m sorry, sir, but I must ask you to answer them for me.”

I did.

“Thank you. Please hold and the executive co-chairperson of our Corporate Card Transfer Team will be with you shortly.”

More elevator music played. Monsignor waved goodbye and went off to get a haircut.

“Hello. Is this Timothy Goldrick?”

“Yes.”

“What is your name? What is your Social Security number? What….”

It took almost an hour to change just one line on the card.

After that experience, I now wonder just how complicated it is for parishioners to reach me on the phone — or in any other way. Perhaps I, too, should simplify. I’m still considering the matter. Let me get back to you. Hold, please. 

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

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