I just got back from ministry at St. Ben's and I am mad.
Seriously, I am f'ing pissed.
Twice this day people tried to use my status to make me feel guilty, and that is something I cannot stand. Just because I am a Catholic, a Christian, a Latino, a friar, a man, or whatever is used to define me does not give anyone the right to either make assumptions about who I am or the right to tell me what I should be doing. That is a strict rule of mine. I will gladly explain how I live my life, and how I make the choices and decisions that I do. I'll even tell you the benefits and consequences that you face if you are in a similar situation. However your life is your own to live, and whatever choices you make are your own, and whatever choices I've made belong to me.
Before this turns into a long ramble of me venting my own frustrations, let me explain the happenings of today that caused me to get so riled up.
Today while doing paperwork in the office, I got a call from a gentleman calling from California.
"Is this the St. Benedict the Moor Mission?" he asked me. No one calls us St. Benedict the Moor unless it's official (church) business or it is in regards to money.
After I ask how I can help him, he asks me: "So this is the home of the Storm Novena?"
If you know what the Storm Novena is, then great! If not, don't feel bad. I didn't either. I'll take time later to explain the history of it and its relationship to the St. Ben's Church. For the sake of this discussion, I will tell you that it is a novena that was prayed by the kids here at St. Ben's. It was a prayer with open arms done 9 times during the day in front of the Blessed Sacrament. It was written in the 1940's, and hasn't been used in quite a long time. When I give talks about St. Ben's, the Storm Novena is not something I mention, nor is it something that comes up.
As I tell this guy that I am unaware of this novena he's talking about, he proceeds to talk to me like it's my first day there at the parish. I've busted my ass talking, helping, working, and trying to understand the social aspect of trying to be the caring person I've been called to be, and some ass calls the church for the first time because of a prayer that's from 70 years ago and feels he has the right to tell me that I need to know the history of the church!
I could have said all of that to him. I could have told him that he has no clue what St. Ben's is, why it is a mission and not just a church, and that if I wanna pray, I go to the prison and pray. However part of me doesn't want to spoil his dream. He feels so inspired by this prayer that he chose to call from California.
Damn me for caring about other people!
About an hour later, I had a gentleman call asking about the bus ticket program. Giving out bus tickets is serious business; we're the only place in town that gives them out on a regular basis. Since a bus ticket is the new commodity of the poor, there are certain restrictions and stop-gaps in place to make sure it doesn't get disorderly, misused, abused, or confused. Still, some people try to get around the system.
This person calls and wants to talk to the person who handles the distribution. I tell him that he's not in yet, and asked if he'd like to leave a message on his voice mail. He then starts to give me a story and tells me he needs bus tickets. Being an ex-salesman, I know the difference between a story and "a story." As a salesman, I'm not the only one who's good at lying. Many of my buyers had no qualms lying to my face about things, a unique skill that's carried over from my previous life.
I tell him he needs to be here and in line to get tickets, and if he's not here, then he needs to talk to the man in charge during the Community Meal. He starts to get loud with me, and wants to know my name. I tell him I am Br. Vito. He tells me that if I were a God-fearing man...
And that's the last of what I remember him saying.
And then I went off.
When my life is finally over, and I have to stand before God and attest for what I've done in my life, I know that I will have to explain for my personal transgressions. What I will not allow is for other people to tell me or manipulate me through the use of my faith, my role as a friar, or through my sense of duty.
Coming back to read this post hours later, I don't feel the anger I did earlier. However I do recognize that "hot button" that is within me. If there's one thing I've learned from today is that not everyday do you feel appreciated by your work. Sometimes you feel used or misunderstood. In a way it's quite ironic: coming from a work experience where I was never taken at face value, you'd think I'd deal with these issues better than others.
(As promised, I will talk about the Storm Novena later.)