THE DAY ON WHICH I BECAME INVISIBLE

I popped into the Co-op this morning to buy some soya milk for Mrs MadPriest. For five minutes or more I stood next to a woman from St. Francis - not one of the troublemakers. Even though I know I caught her eye, she completely blanked me.

I am going to have to learn to get used to my new leper type position in the neighbourhood as I will be remaining in my present house for some time to come. The congregation will divide into three groups in respect of their attitude towards me:

1. Those who will carry on speaking to me as if nothing has happened.
2. Those who will not speak to me because they feel embarrassed.
3. Those who will not speak to me because, in order to cope, they will have projected all their guilt onto me, or they never considered themselves at fault in the first place.

Those who deliberately orchestrated the hate campaign towards me in order to get rid of me, who will have done so coldly and with feelings of self-righteousness, not guilt, will mostly fall into the first category along with those in the congregation who are confused and disgusted by what their fellow "Christians" have done.

To those of you who may think that there will be two sides to my story I would point out that a couple of days ago, one of those in authority over me, referred to mine enemy as "evil." Which is nice, although I would have preferred him to have done something more pro-active before the whole thing switched to mob dynamics and careered completely out of control.

Comments

THE DAY ON WHICH I BECAME INVISIBLE — 35 Comments

  1. There is a type of person who is influenced by titles and positions, MP. These people will be the worst towards you in the situation you now find yourself. They tend to be fawning and obsequious in their manner when you are in the “position”. (They respect power as they see it. Rectors and doctors are their favourites). They see only the externals, not the inner substance. They tend to be literalists and they think very concretely. So you are a “priest” when you have the “job” and have the favour of the Bishop. Once you are no longer in the job they feel they no longer have to give you any respect at all. In fact they are so annoyed and galled by their previous and, as it would now seem unnecessary, obsequiousness that they almost fall over themselves in their rush to be rude and injurious towards you. Watch out for them.

  2. Blanking you – well that’s bloody nice.

    Boaz might be right, or in fact she might just have felt spotting you was a bit uncomfortable, which is of course no excuse for handling the situation very rudely and very badly.

  3. Well, and, MP, I would venture a slightly more benign reason for some of their behavior. Sometimes, when people don’t know what to do, they simply short-circuit and it’s just easier to squint and pretend you are not in the room. Then they don’t have to deal with their feelings, whatever they are.

    When one is in the helping professions, as we both are, this is difficult, because our tendency is to help others. A part of us wants to help THEM because it’s obvious what is happening in them. You know this as well as anyone.

    But right now, you need some healing yourself, from people who will acknowledge your presence in the room. For now, simply give those who won’t talk to you to God and allow your own healing.

  4. Not to give a greeting is such a petty thing. Generally, when I run into a person with whom I am acquainted who won’t speak to me or acknowledge me, I greet them aloud by name. At least then we are both clear about what’s taking place if the other doesn’t respond.

  5. Please note: I am not looking for sympathy in publishing the above comment from Anonymous. I just wanted to give you all a nice “Thank God I’m not like that twat” moment to start your week off well.

  6. As Kirkepiscatoid says, sometimes people really just don’t know what to do. I am often one of those people — a real freezer-upper in the face of awkwardness. Then I go home and berate myself for years over what I could have/should have said. I think there are lots of us out there.

    (((MP)))

  7. Oh, that’s an interesting packet of sweets on the counter. I must fix my eyes on it to the exclusion of all else.

  8. O Crazy One, sad to say, I have had similar treatment from a parish, some loved me, some would ignore me and one actually stuck her nose up at me. All I can say is that I have had to ignore my extroverted self and say “that’s all about YOU, not ME” It helps.

    You did what was needed to be done–you did what God called you to do– for better or worse they have denied that message from God. Kick the dust, dear one. I know that in the UK you don’t have much familiarity with dust–but if you have ever lived in a vicarage, you do! Kick the dust!

  9. For goodness sake we all have these experiences, they are not the priviege of the clergy! I’m with the Grandmère approach, speak first, loudly and clearly.
    Don’t chase them down the street begging them to acknowledge you mind, that never llooks good.

  10. Don’t chase them down the street begging them to acknowledge you mind, that never llooks good.

    Thanks for the tip, TheMe. From now on, I’ll leave off that part of my strategy.

    My WV is “comin”. I’m a-comin after you if you don’t say “Hello”.

  11. MP,

    Could there not be a fourth category, those who speak to you and ask how you are doing? Or want to know more about what went down?

  12. It’s like someone’s died, only you’re the dead person. I’m so sorry about all of this.

  13. A variation on Grandmère’s idea is to approach and express your concern for their obvious distress.

    “Good morning, Ms. Fuzzlebrain. You seem troubled today. Is everything alright?”

    This could afford a teaching moment…that priests are servants called by the Almighty, not Rowan (or Bennie or any other man).

    On the other hand, you get the petty (though real) pleasure of killing with kindness. Your call.

  14. Too bad, MP … but it definitely says everything about her and nothing about you. Wasn’t there a statement in scripture that went something like “the ignorant you will always have with you.”

  15. When the diocese of Chicago removed my from postulant status, I encountered most of those types. I was the guy who because of parish politics was dumped and had the cheek not to leave. I was told by a deacon (still there) that I had become an “intrusion.” Dear heaven I was the guy running the acolyte and lector programs!

    So, I tried to be invisible; dropped out of choir; surrendered my lay licenses and tried to move on. Guess what? I got criticized by among other the same deacon and his wife, for not being ‘friendly.’ I fear my language in dealing with that did some damage to the building.

    People over invest in other’s vocations. You were the priest in their lives and they do not know what to do with that now. I was merely a postulant and it was a problem. I shall always treasure the comments from some really hateful types who told me directly how happy they were about it all.

    I think Mimi’s advice is pretty good. Be open, friendly, welcoming and to use the American slang, spit in their eye. “Hi Mary, how are you doing?” and the like.

    Do not expect the feeling of estrangement to pass any time soon. I cannot begin to tell you when it ends. I still know people who would be happy if we went to another parish, 20 years later.

    FWIW
    jimB

  16. My heart reminds me what that was like! I worked for a year in an inner city parish where the rest of the staff had grown up there in an Irish enclave. But now the area is as inner city as a city can get and that older staff resented the newer arrivals….for some reason they hated the Hispanics more than the Cambodians. (go figure!)So I came along and didn’t share that predjudice, in fact I conbined the kids all in ine group for F. Communion and same for Confirmation. They sure let me know that I was leaving at the end of the year After
    I left I volunteered to work with a program helping immigrant, mostly Hispanic Mothers, held at a neighboring RC Rectory. We met on the 3rd floor. One night I had stayed to talk to a young mother.
    After she left, I started down the 3 flights of that beautiful old staircase when 1 of that staff met me on the stairs. She (a friend of the sister at my former parish)
    skidded to a halt and said “YOU!”
    I was stunned because I didn’t know this woman and yet she was furious with me. Following week the grad students who were running the program told us that the parish staff there told them they would have to find another place to meet sooner, not later.

    So I concluded that if u do the job that u were sent there to do, you make enemies no matter what u do to be friendly.
    A few years later, I was passing the old parish, and there was a new sign naming it in cement! In big letters it said XXXXX of theXXXX of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
    BUT THE SIGN WAS IN SPANISH!! I stopped the car, got out on the sidewalk and stared at the sign and cried!! I realized that since the regular staff had delayed the integration, I had been assigned there to do it, and I did. For that I was fired and became an enemy of both parishes.
    Welcome to Christian ministry, Jonathan, just greet them pleasantly and go about your business, the seeds that u have planted will flourish where they have good soil.

    Nij

  17. BooCat, I like that a lot.

    I have to say, Fr. Jon, you have had some interesting impacts here as well as in the parish. I do NOT discuss my experiences often and NEVER in public.

    FWIW
    jimB

  18. Dear Jonathan,

    I haven’t chimed in before this because the same thing happened in my parish to my priest. It still hurts like hell three years later, even though I suffered only collateral damage.

    You are fervently in my prayers.

    Alison

    P. S. This is an amazing community you’ve created here.

  19. Another stupid thing people do is pretend they don’t see you when they can’t remember your name. To those types: Just Fake It. It works! I often forget names. Small talk provides a venue for them to drop hints.

    word verification: wiffi

    1. what you get when you are sitting under the 802.11.z city-wide transmitter. ff as in music

    2: some advertising guy’s submission for naming the new household cleaning product.

    3. your condition after drinking only one pint of beer / stout / ale / fruit-flavored Belgian ale. You aren’t squiffy quite yet, need to have at least another pint to get even close.

  20. I hope that you find some people saying that they miss you, and some people wanting to socialize but who felt awkward doing so as long as you were their parish priest.

  21. My mother’s approach was to say hello, then, if ignored, to say, “I said ‘Hello!’ Are you deaf or merely raised by inept parents?”

  22. Oh, Maddy!

    Career “authorities” don’t actually do anything about evil. If they did, the Kingdom might come, then they’d be out of a job!

  23. This is so tough! Of course all the advice is right, but it’s also sometimes impossible to follow. You just can’t keep pretending that you’re not deeply upset, and the damage limitation costs you more than it costs them. Some days you feel you’re doing the right thing and that you are winning and have taken the moral high ground, other days you feel you’re trying to stay in an abusive relationship allowing others to run roughshod over your feelings for no valid reason at all.
    It gets easier with time, but it never quite goes away.

    I know you don’t want hugs, so Waffles sends you a big lick instead.