Do you take your faith to work? Or does the mere thought evoke a nervous…
10 easy ways to be the worst parishioner ever
Maybe it’s time you kick it up a notch and move from being just a bad parishioner to becoming the worst parishioner ever.
Don’t get nervous. You may already be among the Top 10 Worst Parishioners in the United States today. With just a little more effort, a little more criticism, a little more … well, who are we to tell you what it takes? These are small reminders to help you claim the crown from that long line of grumpy parishioners dating back to the first century — before there even were parishes! Back to when the title was Worst Member of the Local Domestic Church.
So let’s get started.
1. Time, talent and treasure. Ha! Look at that. A solid foundation already spelled out for you. Talk about a freebie. When some brave parishioner gets up at Sunday Mass to talk about this trinity (lowercase “T”), give a tiny huff, slump your shoulders, turn to a neighbor and roll your eyes. What more could you possibly do? Hey, how about muttering, “Again!?” and shaking your head and asking, “Where did she get that blouse?” Needless to say, you won’t be forking over any of your time, talent or treasure. You contributed in those ways five years in a row 10 years ago. Been there, done that, Blouse Lady, so wrap it up and sit down.
2. And speaking of time, here’s a great tip. A great gripe. Complain to others if Sunday Mass runs longer than 60 minutes. Or, complain if it’s less than that and “Father just rushes through all those beautiful prayers.” Really. He works one day a week and he’s got to be racing through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass because … why? The first NFL game that day starts early? Seriously, talk about Father’s cushy job. No. Seriously. Talk about his cushy job. And the benefits! (Free rent, for example.)
3. And how about all those other parish staff members? Remember dear Father So-and-so who worked so hard with only a parish secretary to help? Well, yes, he had to leave after his little breakdown, but he’s what one wants in a pastor. Or — and here’s the beauty in all this — use the appointment of a new pastor to gather reinforcements for your side in the often less-than-civil war between parishioners. You know what we mean. Depending on your allegiance, it’s Father Kumbaya being replaced with Father True Church. Or Father Pastoral being replaced with Father Rigid.
4. Not that you don’t talk to (or — God help us all — “interface with”) Father or the others on the staff, but if you really want to be the worst, never do that unless it’s a complaint. You’re not critical. You’re honest. And that’s a virtue. For instance: Why do we have to have so many Latin hymns? Or, why don’t we have more Latin hymns? And, why are your sermons so simplistic? Parishioners (that is, those other parishioners) need to hear some sound Catholic doctrine. Or, why do you make your homilies so academic? Not everybody has a Ph.D.
5. Here’s one criticism almost every complaining parishioner can agree on: Yes, we all need continuing education in the Faith, but no, I’m not going to any program or evening that’s continuing education in the Faith. And, in the next breath: But the parish should do something. They certainly have enough (generously paid) staff for it.
6. Complain about the donut selection after Sunday Mass. And the strength of the coffee served. (Nuff said.)
7. Here’s a can’t-miss suggestion: Remember that all your worst (or striving for worst) behavior doesn’t have to take place on parish grounds or depend on interaction with parish personnel.
Hello, gossip, my old friend! I’ve come to spread some dirt again. There are hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people in your parish. And if you happen upon a crumb (or loaf) of delicate information on any one of them, share it as quickly as possible with your coven or cabal … uh, with your closest (like-minded) friends from the parish. Want to give your pals and yourself a good laugh, too? Make them solemnly promise they won’t tell anyone what you’re about to reveal to them. When vying for the “worst” crown, gossip is gold.
8. You know it shouldn’t be “us vs. them” when it comes to the mix of parishioners, but there are just so many “thems.” Long-timers who never let you forget it’s their parish. Yes, please tell me more about what a wonderful, close-knit community it was when Lyndon Johnson was president and every family in the neighborhood was Catholic. The other side of that coin? Newcomers who have no respect for tradition — that is, how it’s always been. You have to admit there may have been some “discussions” based on shifts in average age, citizenship status, language, race, ethnicity, culture, married, single or divorced, household income and where the tabernacle should be. Of course, of course, “many parts one body,” but somebody has to be the brains of the outfit. Somebody just like you.
9. Danger! You must avoid the temptation of believing the old, “If you want to make changes for the better or keep a solid status quo, you have to get involved. Sign up for … whatever. We could really use your help and expertise with such and such.” Ha! Isn’t that pretty much what the serpent told Eve?
10. Play the long game here. Remember the pendulum will swing, and when it slides over to your side, take every advantage possible. Your ascent (decline?) to “worst” will take time.
You can do this! You’re playing chess; they’re playing bingo.
But be careful. You can easily blow your chances of being the worst parishioner ever by frequently thanking Jesus for inviting you to be among the “two or three gathered in his name” at this time and in this place. Because then you just might put that thanksgiving into action.
Bill Dodds writes from Washington.
|OR … IF YOU WANT TO RENEW YOUR PARISH CULTURE|
In his new book “Made for Mission: Renewing Your Parish Culture” (OSV, $16.95), author and speaker Tim Glemkowski shares that despite the fact that Catholic parish life in many parts of the United States seems to be fading, there are many committed, faithful Catholics who want to stem this tide. But what steps do we take? How do we start, and how do we continue? How will we measure success — and how long will it take? Glemkowski offers four keys that can radically change parish culture:
Implementing these four keys over time, parishes can become not simply gathering places for worship but seedbeds of discipleship and missionary outposts of the New Evangelization. For more information, visit osvcatholicbookstore.com