Betty Duffy

Friday, April 2, 2010

Priest as Witness

Wednesday morning I went to the 8 am Mass. Father, of course was there. Wednesday night, I went back to church for our catechism class. Father was there again. Nearly twelve hours had passed, I was wearing the same clothes, and hadn’t combed my hair since I first woke up. But here we were, regrouping, checking in. Betty was present and Father was too.

This past weekend, Father heard my Confession. I have to admit that I have at times skirted around saying what I need to say in the Confessional by using big adverbs and mumbling through the naughty part: “I firsha smirsha’d dishonorably.” Maybe, he’ll mishear, but not ask me to repeat. Maybe he’ll let the adverb do the talking—so that when he sees me later in the day, he’ll remember only the “dishonor” and not the “firsha smirsha.”

This past weekend’s Confession was brutal, one of those weary moments where the thought of repeating myself, yet again, makes me want to croak. So I removed the adverbs from my speech and articulated my firsha smirsha as though it were my dying moment, and I really would never have to confess it again.

And then I had to stand there in Mass afterwards and be present. I walked up the aisle, opened my mouth like a baby bird, and received the Eucharist from the man who quite possibly knows more about me than my husband.

It may be noteworthy that I am not friends with my priest. He’s eighty something years old, and this Parish is his retirement parish. It was the Parish in which he was raised. There are families in our Parish who knew his family when he was a boy. So if there is a holiday meal to be served, my priest does not come to our house to eat it; he will take it elsewhere.

I don’t chat with my priest after Mass. I don’t go to him for counseling. If I have business to do at Church, it’s at the service of the DRE. But I love the sense of accounting that comes from being present and letting this man witness my life, even the parts I don’t want to say out loud.

During Holy Week, the gang’s all here. We’re here on Thursday, letting father wash our feet. We’ll be back again tomorrow to kiss the Cross. We will go home Friday night with a collective sense of sadness, and be back Saturday, full of anticipation as we enter a dark Sanctuary, waiting for Father to the light the Paschal fire.

We are present. Father is present. I wonder sometimes what it is like to stand at the altar and look around at all our faces, knowing all of our sins. Even to those with whom he is not on a first name basis, he is a witness. And if it is a burden for him to carry all of that, I hope he knows how much better it makes my life.

On Being a Witness to the Lives of Others


Young Mom said...

Thanks for this. I learn so much from posts like this, talking about things that I have never experianced but wonder about.

TS said...

I think it was Woody Allen or Casey Stengel (I get those two confused) who said that 95% of life is just showing up.

as though it were my dying moment, and I really would never have to confess it again.

That's something that rings so true and I wish I'd have written. I must be drawn to your blog for purposes of envy. :)

Karyn said...

I bet priests would love to read what you just wrote - I'm sure few people let them know how much they appreciate their service. We are Catholics in a very Protestant area and I often wonder how our priest feels not having fellow priests nearby; I hope he does not feel too alone because witnessing for an entire congregation must oftentimes be very intense.

BettyDuffy said...

Young mom, glad I could help.

TS, wish it were just showing up. It is the least I can do, but it seems like once I'm there people start asking for things.

Karyn, I really ought to let my priest know he is appreciated. It's one thing to tell the blogosphere, and another to go to the source. I believe I shall.

Cathy said...

These are some of the same feelings I have towards the many priests who have ministered to me. Unfortunately these are not the things the press writes about. I have written many a thank you note this year to all the priests who have helped me keep my faith. I urge all of you to do the same in this year of the priest as it is winding down. God knows they need our love. I cannot imagine how they go on sometimes amid the church scandels and the world as it is today. We often treat them as public utilities-when we turn on the switch we expect them to be there. I hope and pray they are for my children.

You have a way with words-thank you for your blog it inspiring.


Dawn Farias said...

Ha! Once I tried to use those big words and roundabout explanations and my priest at the time told me to "cut the crap"!

And, well, he was right.