Q: I have had a particular parishioner who has been a successful thorn in my side when it comes to rubrics. It’s a lay faithful person, and they always question what I do, critique it, compare me to other priests, have indicated I am a subpar priest compared to others, etc. I present them with the rubrics from our liturgy books (i.e. Roman Missal, Marriage, Exposition, etc.), and once I show that what I’m doing is correct, they still will adhere to other priests who are doing whatever rubric being discussed in a more traditional manner.
My approach has been to show this individual the rubrics, and let the Church actually show that they are in the wrong.
My question is, being a liturgist with all the education and training behind your belt, how have you dealt with similar individuals over the years? Also, how have you used these moments as opportunities to draw closer to our Lord?
A: I’m sorry you have to deal with this, but all of us priests deal with difficult people in every parish, and some parishes have more than others. I try to remember that the person is coming in good faith. They have thought about this. They have experienced some disquietude with the priest’s practice and their own faith. They are courageous enough to speak about it to the priest who is causing the question for them. All of this is commendable.
I also try to remember that sometimes I misread the rubrics. Even when I’m looking at them, I may be interpreting them my way instead of the way that they read. Sometimes a person with a question sheds light on my practice. I grow from these encounters.
Every priest does something that he cannot defend from the rubrics. Every one of us. The people notice these discrepancies better than we do because they watch more priests preside than we do.
I’ve learned that there are some people I cannot help. Someone else may be able to help them, but for whatever reason I’m not the guy. As corny as it sounds, I really do try to love people. When I do that, I can receive their criticism in peace.
So I thank God for their faith, for the challenge, and recommit myself to service to them and to all the church.