I switched churches late last summer and am in love with the parish I now attend. St. John's has two priests who handle the Masses, the resident pastor, Fr. Steve, and an assistant retired priest, Fr. George (although, you'd never know he was retired given how much he does). Before I began going to St. John's, someone warned me that Father Steve was a little "too outgoing" and often required congregation participation and that that was a major turnoff for them. I didn't know what to expect, but I wanted to give it a try.
Father Steve is amazing. It turns out that "congregation participation" just means that he asks, albeit exuberantly, how everyone's doing or whether or not we're going to take the bulletin home or some other similar question, and he actually expects a response (and he'll ask again, until he gets one). I can imagine that a lot of people think Mass is a time for quiet reflection and don't feel comfortable "talking back" to the priest (also, I think there's an attitude against this in a lot of Catholic churches because it can tend to be a little too "call and response" and that may seem a little, uhm, protestant maybe...or maybe that's just me?). For me, Father Steve is outrageously funny and I adore the Masses that he leads. I think his most endearing quality is that he is human (and accessible in his humanity) and isn't afraid to show it to his parishioners; he doesn't appear to inhabit an untouchable, holier-than-thou realm (oh, the irony!), as a lot of priests can (at least, most of the ones I knew growing up were like that). For the record, Father George also comes across this way and is a rather delightful little man in his own right.
I had the schedule nailed down. Fr. Steve would do the 8:30 Mass one Sunday and the 11 o'clock the next. I tried my best to follow the routine because I find Father Steve's homilies to be very thought provoking (and good for a few great laughs) and, usually, just what I need to hear - without even realizing that I needed to hear anything.
Last month, we had a couple of big storms that made it difficult for me to get out of the driveway on Sunday, so I ended up missing Mass. No worries, right? I went the next Sunday and it ended up being Father George. Now, don't get me wrong, Father George is a very lovely man who knows his religion. I tend to think of him more as a little professor who gives a history lesson within his homily (for instance, I now know more than I once did (read: nothing) about basilicas and can even tell you that there's now one in Maine (who knew, right?). Don't get me wrong, Father George delivers a beautiful Mass, but I just look forward to Father Steve more because I'm selfish like that.
Well, no matter which Mass I've attended for the past three weeks, the celebrant has been Father George. I felt a little twinge of disappointment (and, yes, immediately felt guilty for feeling that way) when I realized that it wasn't going to be Father Steve that morning. It turns out, though, that when I put aside my silly little expectations and just sit there and listen - truly listen - the experience is just as fulfilling and I also hear what I need from Father George.
Just another example of how good it can be to be wrong.