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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Yes, Father

Did you ever notice that in the movies when they want to portray a priest as being especially sensitive or pastoral (or just as often manipulative and creepy), he says to the person that has come to see him, "Yes, my child." Now I don't know about you, but I don't know of a single priest that refers to others as "my child," except perhaps in a sarcastic way. It's just not done. However, many people do insist on calling you "Father," and this takes some getting used to. Not that this is wrong or anything, it kind of goes with the job, but when one day people are not calling you that, and the next day they are, it can seem a little strange.

I thought it would be easier to adjust, because it certainly wouldn't be the first time. During my years of formation I was known to dress in clerics when I was working, and I got used to people calling me Father then because, hey, I was dressed like a priest. In the beginning, I would correct people and explain to them that I wasn't a priest. But, often enough, they would respond with something like, "I understand, Father." It eventually just became easier not to bother to explain.

But the weekend of ordination it was suddenly different. People were calling me Father when I was wearing civilian clothes! This was a clear indication that something had changed! Still, some of those people knew me before, and so some were still comfortable enough with just calling me "Mark."

But this week I arrived in my summer assignment here in Frankfurt, Germany. Besides learning German, I'm serving as a priest for two English-speaking communities. They don't know me as "Mark." They only know me as the priest, as "Father Mark." So, besides settling into this new language, I'm simultaneously settling into this new identity. And, for the next couple of months it will not only be "Father," but also at times "Vater."

I start German classes tomorrow morning. So please remember this "Vater" in your prayers. You might also remember the German football team. Unfortunately, tonight they lost the European cup (which I'm not totally upset about, because that means tonight it will be easier to sleep than if they had won--still, that would have been fun too!). Tschüss!