From a reader…
Can priests be trusted with all parishoners or do they have hang-ups with particular types of people?
I am a single woman and I feel like the priest at my church doesn’t like to be called Father because, well — I don’t know. What should I do? The priest won’t speak to me because I think he understands he was inappropriate.
Firstly, after reading this a few times, I must say that I’m not sure what the heck she is saying. I think I know what she is trying to say. That said, I gave this question to Fr. Ferguson because, well, see above. Also, his responses often make my laugh aloud. By the way, I am not inviting the peanut gallery to opine about what she is trying to say. This is the ASK FATHER feature here, after all, not the ASK EVERYONE feature.
With that… I think Fr. F gets it right.
GUEST PRIEST RESPONSE: Fr. T. Ferguson
It often comes as a surprise to people that priests are, generally speaking, human beings. We are subject to the same temptations, struggles, personality quirks, aversions, neuroses, and physical conditions as everyone else. We have bad days. We get colds. We get tired. Some are freakishly afraid of spiders. Others are allergic to strawberries. Some simply dislike white wine. Some have brown hair. We have grumpy days. We get lonely. We drink too much coffee and have that combination of high energy and the need to spend time in the loo. We take a nap that goes on too long and wake up disoriented. We get fifteen robocalls in a row and then answer the phone in an agitated state. Some are fascinated by Byzantine history. Some could watch hours of bowling on TV. Some are jerks – most are jerks at times. They – like all human beings – have hangups with particular types of people. Some are better at managing this, or hiding it than others.
Some, like this priest, apparently, does not like to be called “Father.” He may have made a poor choice in vocation, considering that’s pretty standard these days. You have two options – continue calling him Father and let him learn to deal with it (the option that I would choose) or call him something else. “Jerkface” might be appropriate, but would probably not win you his friendship. I would recommending calling him “Bob,” especially if his name is not Bob or Robert. If he doesn’t talk to you, the best response is to laugh at him, “O, Father, errr, I’m sorry, ‘Bob,’ I know you’re having a bad day, but the bathroom downstairs is acting up again. Have a great day!”
It seems that, in recent years, there has been a rising tide of thin-skinnedness in society. Everyone is getting offended – and often by minimally offensive things. It is not conducive to a healthy society. We all have to grow up a bit. People are going to insult us. People are going to take something we said the wrong way. People are going to call us by names we don’t like or don’t appreciate. People are going to be bullies and jerks. We should not tolerate abuse, but neither should be cower and cringe in the face of it.