03 March 2009

Peace, joy and pancakes

Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, brother to Pope Benedict XVI, once said that life “can’t all be peace, joy and pancakes,” noting that one “has to expect resistance.”

His is a phrase that has long stuck with me and, in the past couple of days, has come to fore of my thoughts.

After Mass Sunday morning a parishioner confronted me in the aisle and upbraided me for my preaching. She argued few people get anything out of my homilies (whatever that should mean) and that I needed to put my text down and speak “from the depths of my pain to her pain” (how that would have connected to the readings of the day I do not know).

I mentioned to her that I know that many people very much enjoy my homilies because they tell me so after Mass, around town, through e-mail and Facebook and through other means. She disagreed.

I neglected to say – probably wisely – that her second claim was rather self-centered and that I could not simply speak directly to her but had to speak to a great number of people, each in different circumstances. At the same time, the point of a homily is not to talk about myself.

In addition to this, she was presumptuous enough to declare that the motivation with which I preach with a text was to let people know how much I know. When I disagreed with this audacious claim she retorted, “Yes, you do.” I simply turned and walked away, offering to meet with her another time. I don’t expect she’ll take me up on the offer, though it still stands, if a greater degree of civility will be given me.

In reality, I preach with a text to keep me on task and point. I have a great tendency to follow every tangent and generally forget where I came from or how the tangent came about in the first place. Preaching with such a tendency is not helpful, for such reason I use a text on Sundays and holydays.

Yesterday morning a letter was found for me in the lobby of the parish center. It, too, upbraided me for preaching with a text, telling me both that my homilies were poor but that I am also a good preacher (I’m confused about that and will hopefully respond to the letter later today).

The encounter on Sunday left me very upset for the rest of the day, despite the assurances of many people, most notably those in the RCIA. Monday’s letter did not help. Both the encounter and the letter started with a direct attack against me, both of which seemed to me and to others completely unwarranted. Both individuals seem angry that I do not speak directly to them. If they want me to do so they should simply contact me and I will do so.

Last night as I was considering all of this and remembering the words of Msgr. Ratzinger, one of the high school students sent me an instant message on Facebook. He began, saying [punctuation and capitalization added]:

Hey, what’s up?
That was a rockin’ homily Saturday night.
That was all I needed.

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