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Friday, October 31, 2003
"EVERYBODY CALLS ME JOE."

This has nothing to do with Hollywood, but everything to do with the collapse of the sense of reverence and beauty in the Church.

I have been going through a dark, uncharacteristic anti-clerical phase for the last couple of years, largely because the recent scandals and consequent ecclesial rationalizations used up all of the respectful resignation with which I have been enduring terrible homilies, sloppy liturgies and pastoral sloth for the last quarter of a century. (And, I guess, anger makes me speak in run-on sentences?) I particularly don't have a lot of grace for baby-boomer priests who are still clinging to the license and liberalism that has gotten us mired in all these messes since Vatican II.

So, then, a lot of rancor was stirred up in my otherwise happy consciousness last week when I met a non-clericals wearing Jesuit at a meeting. I saw the SJ on his name-tag so I said, "Hello, Father," to which he replied (in a tone which said, "I'm a grown-up and you're not"), "Everybody calls me Joe."

Here's what I wanted to say.

No. I will not call you "Joe." You are a priest, and that dignity supercedes your Joe-ness. It has very little to do with you. You were called by God, formed by the Jesuits, paid for by the People of God, and now your life is for us. You cannot put your priesthood on and off like a coat. At least, let us call you Father Joe.

This is not my problem, it is yours. You will probably need help to get over the weird “anti-authority” thing that keynotes you baby-boomer priests and religious. You all seem to think that a patronizing gesture is your part in assaulting the mountain of hierarchy that you resent particularly because gen-xers like me DON't resent it. It's Psych 101 that by diminishing your office in the vineyard you seek to magnify yourself as an individual. In fact, diminishing your role in the community of believers is much more arrogant than accepting humbly that “what I have been set aside to be and do is now of greater note than who I was born.”

Jesus Himself preferred some formality from his friends, saying, “You call me Teacher and Lord, and it is fitting because that is what I am.” When Mary Magdalen recognized him Easter morning and called him “Rabboni!” he didn’t say, “Hey Mary, chill. Everybody calls me Jesus.”

You have lost something of value here. Your spiritual father, St. Ignatius had a reverence for the priesthood that is missing in you. Even after his ordination, for which he had spent six years preparing, he could not bring himself to say his first Mass for an additional full year so as to ready himself spiritually for the gravity of it. There have been “multi martyri” among the Jesuits whose sole crime was their identity as priests.

I don’t want to call you “Joe.” I’m not your friend, your family member or one of your brother Jesuits. You, as "just Joe," are basically irrelevant to me, and in fact, kind of creepy, because I'm a single woman not looking to initiate casual friendships with incognito celibates.


But what I actually said was, "Hi. You can call me Miss Nicolosi."