Monday, October 10, 2011


Another week without cartoons!  Things are just too busy around here.

I readily admit that I am not a very social person. It takes an awful lot of energy for me to be with a large group of people. Interestingly enough I find most of my priest friends to fit into the same category.

Before I was a priest I used to have a little (not too much - but a little) anxiety about going to another parish for Mass. “How do they do things at this other parish and will I stick out like a sore thumb?” I would wonder. One time a remember going to a parish at which you were supposed to take a pair of tongs and put your unconsecrated host in bowl to be brought at the presentation of the gifts. I did not realize this and then worried that if I went to Communion would that mean somebody else couldn’t. Or going to another diocese where people stand and kneel at different times, or coming across a priest that has a stern policy about only receiving in the hand (or on the tongue – I always seem to be doing the very thing the locals are working against no matter how hard I try.) One time while in Switzerland I actually walked out of Mass to confirm that it was indeed a Catholic things seemed so strange to me. And the ultimate fear was in a parish where Father is walking about asking questions and my entire prayer becomes, “Please don’t come by me, please don’t come by me!” (Locals might notice I don’t to any of these things because I so loathed them as a lay person.)

Well, things have not changed much. Priests are asked to go to different parishes now and then to help out. Once again I am faced with the distress of “how do they do it here?” I envy guys that just go and do it and don’t sweat it in the least. I do. I want to know how we go in, where I am to be, how do you do Communion here, how you get out, etc. I hate to have to be thinking these things out while trying t pray the Mass.

Sometimes I purposefully ignore the “way we do it here”s. For example, if I am told that they leave out part of the required part of a Mass in a particular place I will simply say, “Well, today we are going to do it.” Other times it is not so easy. In wondering how to distribute Communion to the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion I’ll be told, “Distribute to the people on your right first, and then the left . . .” Now, I am a little dyslexic (dyslexics untie!) and so start to sweat it out at Communion, “hand with index finger and thumb extended forms an “L” and that is your left.”

Even typing this I feel ridiculous. “Why the anxiety?” Part of it is not wanting to be a distraction – wanting the focus on the Mass and on Jesus, not on me – part of it is not wanting to look like an idiot. Interestingly the only part that does not bother me is preaching and doing the Eucharistic prayer. I always feel at home there.

How about you?


The Wild Optimist said...

Dear Father,
It's nice to read that it happens on your side of the altar, too. .. When my parents died, a good part of my anxiety was worrying I wouldn't know what to do/when in their Church. I got a hairy eyeball from the Celebrant the first time. I will be extra kind to our priests now, after considering this- both new.

lgreen515 said...

I don't feel like I am socially anxious (thank you Toastmasters) but I do love, love, love being alone. I get most nervous at parties. I deal with it by telling myself that everyone else is more socially awkward than I am, and I try to make them feel comfortable.

Chuck said...

As commander of our Knights of Columbus Assembly, I can relate to Fr. V and feel that anxiety leading our honor guards at all of our turnouts. While serving many parishes within the Assembly, I feel more or less the same anxiety from First Communions to funerals, from procession to the ceremonial rite, from church to cemetery, and everything in between. But, knowing that our support of our priests and bishops with our presence and raising the sense of dignity and honor of what we celebrate while giving all the honor and glory to our Lord… brings me comfort.

Anonymous said...


My pastor has instructed the lectors to wait a bit before getting up to read, so as to have some periods of silence. One time we had a visiting priest. You should have seen the look on his face when, after the opening prayer, no one got up right away to read.

MJ said...

At my former parish I was often asked to lector at daily Mass but said no because I was too nervous. Some people didn't understand why I wouldn't read because I am a teacher and in front of 30 some students every day. However it's very different talking in front of 12 - 16 year olds than in front of adults. I eventually did start reading at daily Mass. Now at my current parish the sacristans (I am one) are being asked to lector at 12:00 Mass on Sunday because we can't find lectors for that Mass. So again I am very nervous!!!!

Cracked Pot said...

Father, this post is an encouragement to me for when I head a project (unwillinglly) and don't feel like I fully know what I am doing. I do the project anyway, because the Lord has put me in the situation.

As a layperson visiting a different parish for Mass, I really worry when it is time for Communion-- where to stand and when to start toward the altar if I am the first person in the first row.

Anonymous said...

Pope Benedict has a reputation for being "reserved," yet he is doing quite well serving the Lord and His people.

frival said...

This reminds me of a special little moment. Normally our Priest or Deacon will take the various vessels and linens as the altar servers bring them up and set the altar as they see proper (each priest seems to like a slightly different arrangement it seems).

One day we had a special priest visit who didn't know the usual arrangement and sat in prayer in the presider's chair as the altar servers brought the vessels to the altar. My son, the more senior - and certainly the more take-charge - of them all was at the front of the line. The bewildered look on his face as he waited for what was "supposed" to happen was priceless.

Then he realized he would have to set the altar himself. If nervousness could ooze from a person this was a building-filling flow. His eyes were like saucers as he figured out how to open the corporal and then slowly and solemnly placed all the vessels and the Sacramentary in place. When he was done he looked, looked again and looked a third time to make sure he hadn't missed anything. He then strolled back leisurely as if nothing at all difficult had just happened.

The special priest, by the way, was our Bishop who had given our pastor a surprise day off. No pressure at all there for my dear boy. Despite reports to the contrary Daddy did not nearly faint from holding his breath the whole time. Honest.