Can one say that writing for the third day in row is keeping a commitment? Perhaps it is better described as living into a commitment. Experience suggests that I am called back to the keyboard because I have been cheered on by people I don’t even know!
Thankyou – it has been puzzling and mystifying to see e-mails from WordPress saying someone “liked” my post. I am reminded of Sally Field’s oft-ridiculed comment when she won her Oscar: “You like me! You really like me!”
The approbation of others is a dual edged sword. In this world of duality, it can be taken for granted that if someone loves you, some else is likely to hate you. One risks all when one pins one’s sense of value on the opinions of others, but we who are performers of any nature (writer, musician, pilot, etc) still look outside of ourselves – at least to some degree – for validity of our craft.
Father Mac was a terrible homilist. So awful was he at giving sermons that the music director, when faced with sitting thru the same horrible sermon for the second and third (and sometimes fourth) service, would actually get up and walk out. This would not be so bad if Mr. Barry and the organ resided in choir loft. However in the updated arrangement of the church, the organ sat to the right of the altar. When Mr. Barry got up to exit, he had to walk behind the altar to exit stage right to the sacristy. Mr. Barry wore an off-white robe – so there was no chance of his fading into the gray stone wall behind the altar. His departure was readily available to everyone in the church. He had ritually timed his escape to coincide with Father Mac’s stepping to his place behind the pulpit.
Now, that’s a statement.
Father Mac was our parish priest for more than 10 years – a longer time than most dioceses allow. He wasn’t kept there because of his sermons. They were long, boring, sometimes unintelligible, but they were sincere. Of course the more prominent members of the congregation would compliment his sermons each Sunday as they shook his hand after the mass. I don’t think Father Mac took the compliments seriously. He was not good at sermons, but he was not a fool. What he excelled at was keeping the costs down – his Scots-Irish inclinations were a bright spot in the diocese cost center. Father Mac was also a kind man – and he excelled in individual counseling. That was his gift. These were reasons he got to stay 10 years.
One Christmas, when I was the choir director (and Mr. Barry had long since departed for a warm Floridian church), Father Mac gave a sermon that had to come from divine inspiration. It was a barn-burner. It brought tears to many an eye. It was a gift to us. It was the finest sermon I ever heard him give. The choir agreed – we were all quite buoyed by this astounding sermon. I am confident that even Mr. Barry would have stayed for every service just to hear it again and again.
I talked with Father Mac about his sermon a couple weeks after Christmas. I told him how wonderful the sermon had been and how the entire choir had been moved by his Christmas offering. He admitted that he actually felt badly about the sermon for a couple days after Christmas. He had in fact received many, many compliments on this particular sermon – more than usual. However, there was one old lady, a life-long member, head of various committees, with married children and grandchildren in the parish – the parish Countess – who told him it was the most awful sermon she’d ever – and she emphasized EVER – heard. He was embarrassed and crushed and fell into a deep depression about her comment. I asked him what brought him out of the funk – as he seemed pretty good as we talked.
Father Mac said that human beings take things way too seriously. As he thought about the Grand Dame’s comment with a little perspective (and probably a little Scotch) he’d realized he’d gotten 99% positive feed back on his sermon and only 1% criticism from her: it HAD been a great success.
He told me to remember not to let a few poor comments deter me from whatever I attempted to do. Accept the good with grace, expect the bad, take it with a grain of salt, and be faithful to your self and to God. Amen.
So by way of concluding, I will leave Sally Field’s comments behind, and embrace Father Mac’s wise words. Thanks for reading my blog!! Your encouragement is appreciated. See you tomorrow.