I still find myself saying “What just happened?!” regarding our COVID existence, and am also completely aware it’s still going on. It was the oddest of times, when we all found ourselves more or less making everything up as we went along – to both respond to the developing situations and to help smooth the way for others.
Being an introvert I at first thought it would be a great time to catch up on my spiritual reading, take long walks and get the garden in order. It turned out to be anything of the sort, with long days spent in constant communication with so many people about their concerns, trials, tribulations, joys, sorrows, lessons, prayers, and of course the overwhelming desire for the sacraments by so many.
All of that is completely understandable, but what has happened in our era of instant communication with 24/7 access, a new phenomenon has spring up where everyone is at home in their individualized setting, needing an individualized response, each with separate suggestions, ideas, etc.
For instance, whereas you usually might have suggestions from the morning coffee group, the St. Joseph Guild, the Finance Council, what have you – it became 1,000 or so people with time to consider everything in-depth, all needing, quite validly, to express their opinion to one person. That was overwhelming until I developed new understandings of people’s needs during the lockdown. People needed to vent. They needed the Eucharist. They needed Confession. Some just wanted to talk. Overall it was a beautiful time of getting to know people more in-depth.
At some point also, I developed a new respect for my privacy. I’ve always felt it a pubic service to be on social media, to type things up on my site so that I could keep in touch with people – and I do keep in touch with some of the most amazing people out there, half of whom are parishioners and so many from all over the place.
But there’s that old adage about public living – 20% will always love you, 20% will always hate you, and 60% are indifferent. The numbers vary according to who tells the tale, but it’s the hate that I don’t necessarily have the time for anymore. You have to have a thick skin to be a priest, to begin with, and more so to have the conversations we’re able to have in our Parish and online. I don’t see many other Pastors bringing in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, undertaking historic renovations and working to make sure it all flows well and is built on a solid foundation while at the same time making sure everyone’s spiritual needs are met to the best of our ability.
There was a saying in seminary that “everything you do or say, can and will be used against you.” I didn’t experience it like that to be honest, mostly because I am an open person – guarded, and not necessarily confessional, but open. It’s even more true in Priesthood that everything you say or do can and will be used against you because as a Pastor some will always hate you. The exercise is to respond in charity, to practice understanding, and to plan in hope, with fortitude. Then let it go.
Sharing so personally is not necessary. I remember in Boy’s State back in High School, I was the Library Club geek who was a projectionist at the Star Trek conventions, in the Key Club, gold medal winner in almost everything but math, First in State in French – pourqois je ne sais pas – surrounded by a bunch of jocks who called themselves the Faithful Five. They ruled the roost like a pack of bullies and they were truly just horrible. They especially didn’t like me, and I was the brunt of their disdain which took shape in every way shape or form possible over the course of that one miserable week, which had so many great and wonderful ideas to offer us about leadership.
At the end of the week, there was a huge emotional ceremony at the State Capital building and gradually everyone started bursting into tears. I was thinking “You’ve got to be kidding me,” surrounded by hundreds of high school dudes sobbing their eyes out for no reason. Gradually everyone in our city (or parish? it was a while ago,) came over and started telling me I was the strongest one there – because the Faithful Five had never cracked me, never gotten me to flinch, never caused me to waver from the course. They were humiliated, and everyone forgot about them. Once I realized what was happening, I had some teary moments also.
Being a Priest can be like that at times.
Psychologically, with everyone’s stress levels raised to about 10,000 times the normal limit, I decided to invest in an online course dealing with Cognitive Behavorial Therapy (CBT) and addictions, known as the Freedom Model. It’s been an invaluable experience, and CBT is recognized as the future in addiction treatment.
One of the most valuable facts was learning how people start to behave when they believe traditional recovery beliefs. For example – one is told they have a disease that’s incurable, it runs in the family, it’s genetic, it’s an allergy. They will have to hit rock bottom, there’s no way to avoid it. Their family learns this also and is convinced their child has to hit rock bottom. The stage is set.
I’ve seen so many people in this doomed mindset. All personal ability to change – to put on the new man in Christ, to cooperate with grace, to simply make different choices, to acquire new beliefs, to learn new habits and to do new, fun enjoyable things – is taken away. “I’m an addict, I can’t help it.” Science shows otherwise and, in our enlightened world where we give so much lip service to science while rarely taking the time to genuinely learn from it (i.e. abortion actually is harmful to women, and life does begin at conception,) it’s time to welcome bright new ideas with solid foundations, which are completely compatible with our Faith.
So begins the COVID lockdown takeaway series.
I have a few new writing projects away from here, and I have to decide if this site should really stay or not. Maybe it’s best just parked away on some back bayou of the interwebz, for random explorers to find. It generates a surprising amount of traffic from time to time. It was getting a bit more focussed in a new direction when suddenly the techs at Kinsta restored some old posts and the newer ones went into the archives. That happens – but the takeaway is that people do need presence from the introverts fo the world. Whether it’s in a more focussed blog project, steady streams of videos, or both and more.
So much to do and see still in life. This has been a grand and terrible time, with many beautiful lessons, from many beautiful people.