Today’s question is: How do you deal with the reality that all people, believers and non, always have very high expectations of you?
While at Grad School, everyone knew I was a Jesuit. It was part of my shtick. One Sunday, in my second year, I was asked by a fellow community member to take over a Mass for him in a suburban Syracuse parish. The entrance hymn started up and I began to process down the aisle. Suddenly, a female voice — one of my fellow students — announced loudly and clearly, “Oh, my God. He’s a priest.” I immediately began imagining what some of the parishoners might be thinking…
No fear of anonymity where my sister was concerned. She had the habit of introducing me to everyone as, “This is Paul. He’s a Jesuit.” When I asked her why she didn’t just say that I was her brother, she told me that she felt that she had to warn people. About what? That they couldn’t be themselves with me? That they should watch their language?
People here at work think they’re being complimentary (and they are, to a great extent) when they tell me that I’m the most “normal” priest they know, almost like a “regular guy.” I think of myself as an ordinary person, but when I wear clerical garb, even my my colleagues seem slightly reserved around me – just because of a change of clothing. Very odd.
Gear head that I am, there will be no Jaguar or BMW in my future — no matter how old or battered. (A 6 year-old low milage Jag costs no more than a new Corolla, but people would be scandalized to see me in one.) There are simply some things I can and cannot do. It’s part of the deal and you get used to it over time.
Famous people struggle with fans and paparazzi, politicians deal with lobbyists and contributors, I cope with boring transportation and not being able to sport a purple mohawk… (compared to the stars and the pols, it’s not that onerous, actually.)