Some people are quick to judge, and some remarks are designed to hurt. A month ago I received a letter from someone I haven’t met but who is nonetheless convinced of all my faults and more. She wrote to tell me how outraged she was about how she sees our church approaching its work in the local community.
My chief sin, it turns out, is that I’m not a certain predecessor of mine. “You have turned that lovely, caring community run by lovely gentle gentlemen in my time, into a modern-day business, bent on efficiency,” she asserted. It seems the glorious amateurs have been replaced by hard-nosed professionals—me chief among them. “When I think of the saints who worked there, I could weep.” The rhetorical dial went up a couple of notches: “Shame on you.” And then the big ending: “Don’t sleep easy in your bed tonight. And tomorrow roll up your sleeves and do some of the dirty work.”
She didn’t explain precisely what this dirty work is. It took me back to a rather conflictual relationship many years ago, when a parishioner detonated the nuclear judgment: “You have failed this community as a priest.” No answer to that. The scar abides.
I got an insight into the dirty work later the same day….