Sunday, December 31, 2006


What's a kvetch? It's yiddish for a complainer - or a bitch. This is Helen Thomas - not that she's a kvetch - I just like her smile.

Anyway - I got an email from Ray who obviously has nothing better to do on New Year's Eve than surf the net and read parish bulletins. It was about SJA! St. Joan of Arc parish in Minneapolis. The pastor had shared some kvetching he hears from his parishioners when he dares try to adjust the SOP of his parish.

There is just no accounting for church people, is there. When I grew up one would never dare question the pastor - he was in charge of the parish like a little pope. So it's not just the more Catholic-than-the-pope parishes that kvetch if something is tweaked a bit, it's the progressivist faith communities as well. And not just parishes, religious communities can be the same way.

The Church As Police State

(I'll post a snip from Fr. Debruycker's pastors page at the end of my anecdotes. God bless our priests who endure such criticisms.)

  • One local Church pastor has received complaints and criticism because he went with a different parish calendar this year. I hear it is more modern, I don't know if it's the art or there are no fish symbols on Fridays in Lent.

  • Another new pastor was criticised because he had to limit the daily Mass schedule due to fewer priests available.

  • In another instance, a pastor received objections for placing the new Advent wreath in the sanctuary.

  • I know of a chaplain who decided to celebrate Mass ad orientem - facing the tabernacle - instead of facing the people, to the objections of many.

  • I was once close to a group of nuns where some bitterly complained their chaplain never used the word "sins" at the penitential rite when beginning Mass.

  • I also heard of a pastor who limited the wearing of the cassock for Sunday liturgies only - and didn't take the objections well. The rule remains however.

  • Another nun complained that the same priest did not pray the ritual prayers or use holy water when he blessed a sacramental, or when he heard confession without a stole.

  • A priest I know who had been invited to a wedding, danced with another guest. A member of the wedding party asked him to stop since it was scandalous for a priest to dance.

These are just petty annoyances - but I know many priests get a lot of critical email, oftentimes scathing and mean spirited. Priests have a tough enough job as it is, I think they deserve more respect and better treatment - no matter how liberal or traditional they may be - but don't overdo it with the pompous ones.

So here is Debruycker's kvetch - not his - but a few he received in the mail:

Pastor's 2 Cents: Fr. Jim DeBruycker:

"I thought it time to catch up on some e-mail responses. (Of course I will answer them from my point of view and sound like a martyr.)

1) Why don’t you lose some weight; you are so heavy you make me feel uncomfortable?

I’ll try.

2) Why do you have to say Body of Christ so loud; can you turn down the mike?

I have been preaching for the last 20 years in Churches with a poor or non-existent sound system. I’ve developed a booming voice; friends kick me under the table at restaurants and shush me all the time. Also, our family starts to go deaf at my age. I’ll try and turn it down.

3) Why do you have to talk so fast?

Blame Miss Lentz in grade school. She was my speech therapist. I used to lisp and stutter. After years of work she got me past that, but the speed is an ongoing problem. I’ll work on it.

4) I bless you in the name of the Creator, Son and Holy Spirit. It’s in the name of the Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. For God’s sake get a script!

Actually, that blessing is a less than adequate gender compromise which was made up by God knows who, so I made up my own which at least allows for some kind of a personal God. I did write my own script.

5) Where did the seating arrangement come from? Is it being imposed by the chancery?

When I arrived at St. Joan’s I had a couple of concerns. The mike in the middle of the altar was so clumsy you said mass around it. I was told it had to be that way because of the guest speakers’ and lectors’ needs. I suggested a separate pulpit which was ignored. After Fr. Egan’s funeral the Archbishop requested we have a separate place for the liturgy of the word. This request was brought to the Liturgy Committee whose response was, “We will do it, but not until we can theologically justify it.”

My other concern was that the Eucharist was part of a show-mass at the ‘uptown bar.’ The music is great, but it would be nice to have a separate area for the Eucharist where we could put more emphasis on it, while still being true to St. Joan’s communal spirit. In early fall Vicky Klima, the Archdiocese Liturgy Director, made a pastoral visit. We discussed different Church arrangements to heighten communal involvement while maintaining the integrity of the different liturgies taking place, as well as the music accompanying these liturgies. What you see in the gym is a result of that brainstorming: the different pods for the liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist, and the people engaging each other by facing each other in their seats. However, the building fights against this arrangement for a variety of reasons, including sight lines, sound, etc. It is a work in progress. I believe we had over 100 comments, out of 10,000 parishioners, mostly against the present arrangement, neck cramp being the most mentioned problem." - St. Joan of Arc

Pray especially for priests engaged in the "reform of the reform" - there are many starting gates in this race. Fr. Jim is doing the best he can, given his starting gate position.

"What comparison can I use for the men of today? What are they like?
They are like children squatting in the city squares and calling to their playmates,
'We piped you a tune but you did not dance,
We sang you a dirge but you did not wail.'" - Luke 7: 31


  1. It IS amazing what kind of flack the priests have to take from people. I'm amazed that they seem to stay so calm in the face of such ridiculous demands.

    And that crack at Fr. DeBruycker about his weight! That has GOT to be one of the rudest, most hurtful things someone can say! And not even under the guise of "health". It was done in an "it's all about me" attitude. Unbelievable. My heart just goes out to him.

    I got that e-mail too, by the way.

    I think people forget that priests are people, too, and they should be allowed to be human. It's not like they can avoid it!

    Stuff like this just makes me love and appreciate our priests that much more.

  2. Me too Adoro, me too! It makes me love them so much more and I hope I'm never critical of any of them ever again.

    Fr. DeBruycker is a good man!


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