Another man angers me, but not because of his presence. He’s an old guy from my parish who participates in a couple of the same church groups as me. He looks to be in his 50’s and tall, but stands and walks as though he has an anvil hanging from his neck. His lips always seem parted and his facial features appear as though he’s still recovering from the anesthesia of a dental procedure. That’s not to denigrate his looks at all, but to illustrate what features of his somewhat bug me on the surface. He’s not talkative and is rather shy. When it’s his scheduled turn to be one of the prayer leaders for one of our prayer group meetings, something suddenly comes up that will keep him too busy to prepare for it. It’s really about stage fright. The ironic thing is that although I can’t stand his hiding behind excuses to cover up stage fright, silence and general introversion, I have those same traits. I don’t like having those traits, but it’s easier to detest them in someone else instead of ourselves.
I participate in what is called Eucharistic Adoration. Many Catholic parishes have a consecrated Host in a monstrance set on an altar for Catholics to revere and adore consistently 24 hours per day. Some parishes do this for a couple days per week, while others do it 24/7/365. Adorers commit to at least one hour each week, so that there is always someone present. The adorer I used to relieve had one habit that drove me mad. When he went to leave the chapel, he waited for the door to close and then pulled it again to double check that it has locked. It’s a perfectly fine habit, right? Yet, it bothers me.
The door is automatically locked from the outside whenever it is closed. It’s very easy to tell whether or not the door is closed—by looking at it. Whenever the guy before me left, I would literally have to brace myself for when he pulled on the locked door. I gripped the arms of my chair tightly and clenched my teeth as that little annoying sound of the door being jarred reverberated. I was relieved whenever someone else substituted for him, because I wouldn’t have to hear it. How ridiculous does that sound? I was well aware of it at the time, but the feeling persisted. For unrelated reasons—I was taking on too many consecutive hours and it was wearing me down—I stopped coming to Adoration that hour. Overcoming the feelings so the door-checking wouldn’t bug me anymore would have been the ideal goal, but at least I didn’t have to deal with it after that, which I’m grateful for.
On the topic of church, there exists a situation that occurs during the Mass that also makes my blood simmer. It hurts me to admit this, but when I attend Mass with my father he tends to get on my nerves part of the time. This is one of those issues whose root cause remains outside the realm of my consciousness. For some reason, I cannot stand it when my father and I are doing the same things during Mass. You would think it obvious that everyone in attendance is supposed to do the same thing. Well, I’m not referring to anything that is mandatory. I’m talking about little things.
For instance, I cannot stand it when my father is holding his hands together in front of him as we’re standing if I’m doing the same with my hands. I routinely check from the corner of my eye what he’s doing. If his hands are together in front, I rest mine on the back of the pew in front of me. If his hands are on the pew, I bring mine together. When seated, if I see his hands are folded in his lap, I separate mine and rest them on my legs. When kneeling, everyone has their hands folded and resting on the pew in front of them. However, if my father is resting his forearms on the pew, I make sure my elbows are resting on the pew instead. I look over occasionally to see if he has changed his position.
There are particular points in a certain prayer in which bowing one’s head is optional. This is difficult for me to ensure I do the opposite of my dad because it happens so quickly. I glance out of the corner of my eye to see if he’s going to bow his head. If he does, I stop myself from bowing mine. If he doesn’t, then I bow. But, sometimes I start to bow and it seems he notices me and decides to bow himself a moment later. It is maddening for me. Postures seem to be what I focus on most, because Mass is not a time for side conversations anyway. Whether we are standing, kneeling, or sitting, I’m determined to make sure my posture is different from his in some way, no matter how minor. It’s very unfortunate because it distracts me from the Mass. Instead of keeping my focus on God, I’m focusing on this strange dance between my dad and me. The good news, aside from the coming of the Kingdom of God, is that these negative feelings aren’t as severe today. Thanks be to God!