To the person who came to my offices last week, and then again appeared at the door yesterday and who was obviously irritated by my staff, and who decided to vocalize their frustration with my being out of the office by stating “He’s never here!“ I offer you my humblest apologies!
Perhaps, since I am highly emotional and take things to personally, perhaps since I am known to wear my ‘heart on my sleeve’ and bleed easily, I am reading more into your outburst than is warranted, but I am frustrated and hurt; but if I am wrong, I’m sorry.
I’m sorry that you were inconvenienced by our security protocol and being asked to produce identification and reason for being on campus and wishing to gain entry, but we have over 60 youngsters in our preschool wing that shares our administration offices and none of them deserve to be frightened, intimidated, threatened, or harmed by an intruder! Therefore, there is a safety protocol that we follow for any visitor coming into our secure site during school hours. I am sorry you were offended.
I’m sorry, too, that you think that I don’t work simply because I’m “never” in the office when you happen to decide to arrive absent notice! Perhaps if you had an appointment, I would’ve made myself available, as I so often do for so many others. I am known to keep a very good calendar! Or, perhaps you’re right and I just simply don’t work the hours that you feel I should?
I’m sorry that you were not with me in the middle of the night when I’m called from my sleep to travel to a hospital and administer Last Rites or to baptize a baby who isn’t thriving. I’m sorry that you are not with me when the phone calls come in for counseling, or when somebody is so distraught that they feel there’s nothing worth living for and I am the last resort.
I’m sorry that you are not with me when I’m praying over the gospel and have no idea what the Lord would like me to say on Sunday, and I’m sorry that you were not with me when I get up often at 5 o’clock in the morning to pray for guidance so that I don’t stumble or make a mistake as a broken human being that will harm another.
I’m sorry that you were not with me in the middle of the night when I often find myself weeping because I don’t feel worthy enough to be a pastor or priest, or emotionally cannot seem to get out of my own way.
I’m sorry that you don’t see me fight depression so severe at times that I have almost ended my own life. I’m sorry that I am not in my office, glued to my chair waiting for you to arrive to handle whatever oddity might be plaguing you at that very moment you’re darkening my doorstep without an appointment, but insist I am failing at my job because I cannot read minds and anticipate your arrival.
I’m sorry that you are not traveling with me in the well over 20,000 miles a year that I put on my leased vehicle in order to preside over funerals and to celebrate weddings or where I am called upon to sit for hours and hold the hand of someone who is distraught or grieving or dying, or just to bring communion and companionship to a shut in.
I’m sorry that you are not at the parish when I’m often meeting with various teams, or small groups, late into the night, or when we are gathering as a leadership team long after you go home every Sunday to make sound decisions that will keep us financially afloat for the coming months in order to serve.
I’m sorry when giving is not sufficient and yet bills are still high, and I need to sacrifice what little pay I receive in order that other staff members can receive their paycheck on time, I do so without telling you. I am sorry that you are not with me in home with my family when we cannot make ends meet, but never once stop giving to the same church that takes so much of my time away from them.
I’m sorry that you are not with me as I review budgets, staffing needs, employment applications, and the million other details that go into keeping an enterprise such as ours moving forward so that we have even the remote chance of accomplishing what God wants us to.
I’m sorry that you are not with me when I find myself worrying about the homeless or the marginalized or the forgotten, or those so easily rejected by other churches, or when I’m trying to deal with those who have ailments or diseases or needs that are beyond my capability.
I’m sorry when you are not there in the evening when I meet with my liturgy and music teams to try to fashion a liturgy and worship experience that is mindful of our past, compliant with our tradition, but also harnesses the future in which we wish to trod. (By the way, you may be thinking that I am thinking now of Lent, but – as a priest – my planning is now well past Easter!)
I’m sorry that when I’m sitting down in the middle of the afternoon in the home of someone who is so broken or lost that I’m their last phone call I don’t leave you a note in case you might decide to stop by. And I’m also sorry that you feel that I only work when you decide to need me, but when you and the rest of the world doesn’t, I’m somehow off sneaking away to some fun event or activity only to reappear and work on Sunday morning! (After all, I only work one day a week, right?)
So, please accept my humblest apologies for not being in my office on the two solemn occasions in which you chose to show up at my parish door and I was busy tending to other things. I have no good excuse save I am a pastor and was probably busy tending to pastor things, but that was something that even entered your mind, was it?
I know that I speak for myself, and countless other pastors, priests, rabbis, and imams, who serve doing their level best when I say that we will all try to do better next week!
Bishop James St. George is the pastor of Saint Miriam Parish and Friary in Flourtown, PA. He is also the Bishop Ordinary of the Diocese of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux in the Old Catholic Churches International. Bishop St. George is the provincial for the Order of Saint Francis, Old Catholic. You can visit Saint Miriam Parish at http://mysaintmiriam.org.