Always Be Thorough and Intentional
Patience, forgiveness, love and mercy are critical at every moment
Several years ago I returned home from a vocation director’s convention in Boston carrying many helpful suggestions for ministry as well as a 12-pound Roman Missal in my luggage. The convention had obtained a free, regular-sized Roman Missal for all attendees, and I was excited to take this new addition back to the parish. My luggage was overweight when I went to the counter to check in and the clerk informed me as much.
“Oh, I know,” I said, “I have a missal in there.” Those were probably not the best words to say in the airport, and soon, I found myself standing with a TSA agent.
“Oh, no!” I exclaimed. “It’s not an ‘m-i-s-s-i-l-e’; I have a Roman Missal; a very heavy prayer book for Mass!”
Those pesky homophones almost cost me a trip to the slammer, but, thankfully, once I showed them what I had, we all had a laugh, and I learned a very important lesson — always be thorough and intentional.
Ministry can offer us many moments of miscommunication and presumption that can lead to hard feelings and frustrations. I remember a priest friend telling me once that a man had donated a beautiful Marian grotto to his parish, and he wanted it placed at the front entrance of the church. There was no room for it at the front doors, and so it was placed in a garden adjacent to the Church. However, the man, in his great zeal, began to work on excavating the area in front of the church and was highly offended when he was told by the maintenance man that the grotto was not wanted there.
The donor even came into the rectory shouting that everyone should be ashamed of themselves for not loving the Blessed Mother and that they were surely on the road to perdition. Finally, once he calmed down, he was informed that Mary was indeed wanted, just placed about 10 feet away from where he had planned.
Thankfully, God always knows what is in our hearts, and prayer is a great source of strength and consolation. Jeremiah 17:9-10 perhaps best explains such a sentiment, “More tortuous than anything is the human heart, / beyond remedy; who can understand it? / I, the LORD, explore the mind and test the heart.”
The best of intentions can go awry, even as we are oblivious to it, but that is why patience, forgiveness, love and mercy are so critical each and every moment.
A music director at a parish wrote to me in an email that he placed a sign in cutout letters on the church marquee stating, “Come, sing with us!” He hoped to attract new members but was horrified when he discovered that the “g” had fallen off, much to the amusement of the youth group. I hope that this June offers us all a chance to rest in the heart of Our Lord, who understands our intentions, even as it draws the ire and amusement of others.
FATHER MICHAEL ACKERMAN is the director of vocations for the Diocese of Pittsburgh and chaplain at Central Catholic High School and Oakland Catholic High School.