I met this rather frustrated grade school kid a while back. He was not happy with his parents for some reason.
“They are so weird,” he declared.
He continued to relate a story of how his parents didn’t understand him and vice versa. He even considered “running away” from home at one point but decided against that when he determined he had no real place to go.
He would wait it out.
I commended him on that decision and advised he should continue a good dialogue with his parents to help better understand them.
These “frustrations” happen frequently, not only with young people in families, but with spouses as well. Most come to the conclusion that not only is there no other place to go, but there’s also an awareness that “fidelity” calls them to stay and work things out. We soon realize that there is no “perfect family,” there is no “perfect parent,” there are no “perfect children.”
The “Holy Family” had differences of opinion as well, (See Luke Chapter 2 where Jesus is lost in Jerusalem and his parents find him in the temple.) This type of scenario occurs in many places and situations. The “parish” is by no means exempt.
Parish members find themselves occasionally frustrated with the parish, fellow parishioners, a staff member, church teachings or the parish priest. They may even want to leave the parish or the church. Sometimes the cause is minor; sometimes great. I admire those that stay to understand, dialogue and work things out. Fidelity is also an important element in our relationship with Jesus and his church.
As Vicar for Clergy, I receive occasional complaints about a priest, deacon, parish, church teaching, etc. Some concerns are heart wrenching; some are trivial. Most are worked out through dialogue and mutual understanding.
I find that many have not even had a conversation about the concern or disagreement. That personal dialogue is the first step. (See Matthew 18:15-18 where Jesus outlines the steps of “fraternal correction.” This procedure is important in truly understanding people and circumstances of disagreement.)
I once received a call from a “concerned” parishioner who stated her parish and pastor were not perfect. I was told that the pastor was “quirky.” I was a bit nervous as I certainly fit very well into that category.
After some discussion we determined that the cause may be some “pre-liturgy” stresses on the part of the pastor. Someone to assist in helping in the sacristy before Mass might help alleviate some of the “quirkiness” that was described.
That was certainly a minor incident, but minor incidents can lead to something more significant. Working together as “parish family members” is step one in the effective sharing of the Gospel and in alleviating the spats that make us less effective in that mission. Stay. Talk. Work things out.
Bottom line: There are no perfect parishes, no perfect families, no perfect anything. As Dad used to say, “Perfection is found only in heaven. Don’t expect it here.”
We do, however, work in this world to make the Gospel message of Jesus visible in our families, in our relationships and in our parishes. We stay! Although not perfect, our families and our parishes are all definitely glimpses of the Gospel and how that Gospel is lived. Our parishes are indeed true “Heralds of Hope” in our world.