Monday, July 12, 2010


I think I am becoming my father.

I know it.

My Dad was a miser when it came to electricity. At first I was not allowed a night light when I was a kid because it was deemed a terrible waste. Later we compromised; I could fall asleep with the light on and then he would come in and turn it off.

Not that I blame him. Waste is waste. But as a kid and even as a young adult I thought him a bit overly scrupulous. Mom would out of room for 30 seconds or so, Dad would swoop in and turn off the lights and Mom would come back, arms full of laundry or something and call out, “Who turned off the lights?”

Now I’m that guy.

It happened about 10 seconds after I became a pastor. I can’t stand for lights to be left on around the parish. Before I had other priests living with me I pretty much had the lights out in the rectory in the evening. I memorized the layout of the place in order to navigate it in the dark. Great idea until I got a black dog.

My suite is in the front of the house giving me a view of both the church and the hall. It is not difficult to miss a switch in the church and leave a light on. Getting to sleep late at night – tired – finally being able to enjoy the comfort of bed, I slide under the sheets and turn off my light. It is then that I notice an extra light on in the church. I close my eyes and pretend that I didn’t see it. But my Father’s voice echoes in the back of my mind “Think of the sacrifice someone made to donate to the parish – they did without so that you can leave lights burning all night for no reason!” So I get up, get dressed, walk over to the church and switch off the light.

That is not as bad as getting up in the middle of the night and noticing that someone left the hall lights on. I only meant to up for a second the ease nature, now I’ll be walking a half a city block at 2AM to go turn off lights all the time mumbling a rosary against someone.

And doors! Especially when the air conditioning (which is not all that great to begin with) is on! “What? Were you raised in a barn?” But somehow I believe that if I explain it I am less annoying to others and Dad was to me. “If you leave this door open then the house will not stay cool.” “By leaving all those lights on for no reason we waste a lot of money that would be better spent giving a teacher a bonus!”

It doesn’t work. I am still annoying. I know it – because I annoy myself. I’m the annoying guy. I’m my Dad.

A gentleman pointed something out the other day that made me feel a little better. “Look at this picture a Mass at Saint Sebastian from the 1950s,” he said. “Notice that only the front two lights are on. Monsignor did not believe in turning on more lights for Mass than was absolutely necessary.”

Maybe there is something to be learned here. At the Easter Vigil everyone gets along just fine without any lights whatsoever.

Maybe . . .


Anonymous said...

As a parishioner, I appreciate your work to save money.

If indeed you are becoming your father over this matter, how did your father turn out? Will you want to do likewise? The evil one tries to wear us out doing good works, so that ultimately, we become overburdened.

MJ said...

I think some of it comes from just getting older. I'm the one constantly turning lights off at home. At church as sacristan I rarely turn on lights in the sacristy unless it's too dark to see and it makes me crazy when people leave the outside doors open doring the summer when the AC is running.

Robert M Kraus Sr said...

we are all alike . . . i could go today to that electric panel outside of what was then the priest's sacristy (if it still there) and tell which set of lights each switch controlled . . . I was an altar boy, and I did what Monsignor said. Our kids call me a miser and a cheapskate because I insist that lights be turned off when you leave a room. Don't feel bad Father . . . stand up for what you believe in.

Margaret Comstock said...

Such a typical progression - I only leave a light on for my cats and they can probably see better than I.

melody said...

I'm a mother (like yours) who returns to a dark room with a basket full of laundry in my arms, forced to call for help. I also often find myself suddenly enveloped in darkness while doing laundry in the basement. Or groping through the shadows of the book room or bathroom. You see, the fellow who previously owned our home believed in a plethora of convenient light switches, meaning the lights in the basement can be shut of from the first floor and the lights to the book room can be manipulated from the hall. The outside lights have a switch 4 locations around the house and there are two kitchen light switches within 8 feet of each other.

Ultimately, this means that my husband, who seems to have some of your father's tendencies, can locate and extinguish most household lights with obnoxious ease.

So, it's probably better for all those involved at your parish (those late night rosaries are particularly edifying) that you do not have easier access to such switches. Can you imagine the poor souls trapped in the tarry blackness somewhere on the property as you reach neatly for a switch in the rectory? Dangerous, Father! :)

Anonymous said...

the three "L's" of being a pastor: Lights, Locks and Little. Stuff nobody else ever pays attention to.

Anonymous said...

oops, that was "Lights, Locks and Litter."

Anonymous said...

It's not so bad to become like our fathers. Every so often my husband calls me "Stanley" because I act like my dad.

Mary Bruno