Bro. Brian Poulin
Memorial of St. Agatha
This past month has provided me with several gentle reminders that I have less control over things than I pretend, and that even my being in control is no guarantee that things won’t get mucked up. In short, my experience of the past several weeks has been an appeal to detachment, gentleness, and humility. I’m working on it.
The really anal part of myself—which may be closer to 97% than half of me—could be tempted to divvy up recent frustrations into the categories of “my fault” and “not my fault”. The thing is, nobody cares but me. With one or two notable exceptions, most of the things that bothered are probably long forgotten by everybody else, if they were ever noticed in the first place.
First, there was a technological glitch, filed under “not my fault” (I couldn’t help myself!). I had January’s blog entry ready for January 8 but it could not be posted until weeks later due to problems with our website. I’m sure my loyal readership was heartbroken having to go without.
The most amusing comedy of errors occurred at the funeral Mass for our beloved Bro. Phil Robert. I was asked to act as altar server. Although I have a strong preference to not take on such a role, I also try to avoid saying ‘no’ to requests unless it is truly necessary to do so. I stated my discomfort along with my willingness and was told that everything would be fine, not to worry. Although my doubts persisted, I was determined to be a good sport, so I simply told the priestly celebrant that I would need very explicit stage directions throughout the Mass.
Nothing interesting enough happened to make an amusing story. My ineptitude was apparent to a presumably small few, none of whom were bothered by it. We still worshipped, shared Communion, honored Phil, and nobody had any cause for offense. The funeral was “successful” by any measure in spite of whatever incompetence I brought to the table, simply because my faults—in that situation at least—did not actually matter all that much. Nonetheless, I have come to learn that it is typical for my personality type too seek security by acquiring competence. To publicly display my shortcomings was unnatural for me but insignificant to anybody else.
I’m not going to continue with a narrative of every mishap the month has brought. I will fast forward however to a student Encounter retreat I’ve been helping with this week in Miami. Some student leader have clearly made mistakes, but that’s how they learn. Some witness talks have gone long, guest contributors have arrived late, etc. I could make a nitpicking list where I split every hair, and yet I can also state with more appropriate simplicity that the retreat is perfect. It is not perfect because of anything the leaders or anybody else did. It is perfect because God was present and students’ hearts were touched.
Someday I will learn that my exaggerated tendency to notice imperfections is due to my imperfect vision. Why do wee so easily imagine God as a harsh critic, when God’s perfectly loving vision surely sees our own perfections more easily than anything else. Copy editors do important work, but God is not a copy editor.
I’m not sure whether I will ever learn to not notice all the little things that bother me. Over time, I have learned to be less bothered by them and to mention fewer of them. I maintain perspective more easily, though never perfectly, I’m sure.
There are times when it is important to fix certain mistakes, to smooth over some glitches. At other times, the best way to deal with an annoyance is to simply not be annoyed by it.
I once had a brother remark naïvely to me that I don’t make mistakes. Needless to say, that was early in our time living together. He had no trouble picking up on some of my errors as time went by. In fact, just for fun (and to save myself the trouble of proof-reading on a night when I need to get to sleep), I will end my writing now without correcting any of the mistakes in my initial writing to which I would normally attend. In fact, I have gone back and deliberately added a mistake or two this time, just for amusement.
And it will still be as good, or bad, as it is regardless.
This month’s ‘ear candy’ was a favorite of mine when I was in high school—a somewhat ironic tune by Robert Cray that works as kind of an anti-blues. Everything goes right for the singer no matter what, but things go so right that they’re wrong again. What a complicated world! The ‘brain food’ hits a different, much more somber note. In a departure from my normal routine, I choose it not because of any thematic similarity with this month’s offering, but simply because it is so important. This cri de cœur speaks to the heart but will hopefully engage your mind as well, given the important implications of its content.
Ear Candy: “I’m Just Lucky that Way” by Robert Cray
Brain Food: “My Daughter Was a Gay Catholic Who Died by Suicide. Here’s How the Church Must Protect LGBTQ+ Catholics.” by Joyce Calvo
Come back on the first Saturday of next month for a new post!