| By Sister Mary Judith O’Brien, RSM

The Lord in the Light Silent Sound

Last fall, I greeted visitors at the door of a diocesan event. One gentleman asked – demanded, actually – to know whether I would distribute Holy Communion to a named politician. When I responded that I preferred to not discuss that now, he exploded. Perhaps he assumed that my answer would be in disagreement with his position. Really, I prefer to avoid attacks that seem mean-spirited, especially when it is pointless: the politician is not in this area and no one’s opinion would be changed. The man stomped off, then returned about five minutes later, and announced that I had destroyed his evening, as my response had forced him to be angry.

The gentleman was accompanied by others who sheepishly avoided me. In the midst of his tirade, he identified himself with a Catholic organization, as if to give merit to his harsh rebuke.

At the risk of offending, I will give two more examples of familiar reprimands: individuals so dedicated to Catholic school traditions or memories that they will not accept change or are critical of parents making other choices; and pro-life supporters who cross the line in unforgiving remarks. Perhaps you have your own examples of unbecoming criticism: toward parishes (in the celebration of Mass in English or Latin); regarding the appearance or dress of others at Mass; about the absence of teens and young families… the list goes on. And please do not assume that hypercriticism is an attribute solely of a specific age group.

Rudeness turns people away from the Faith or at least from the affiliated church or Catholic group. Even the Code of Canon Law addresses this concern:

Canon 227: …in using this freedom (in secular affairs), however, the Faithful are to ensure that their actions are permeated with the spirit of the Gospel, and they are to heed the teaching of the Church proposed by the magisterium, but they must be on guard, in questions of opinion, against proposing their own view as the teaching of the Church.

A “welcoming parish” needs to be assessed, not presumed. Does your parish or school allow individuals with a strident voice speak on behalf of others, perhaps in faith formation or among the ushers? What steps are needed to rectify polarizing parishioners in order to truly receive others?

There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire—but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound [of God]. (1 Kings 19: 11-12)

May the light silent sound of God’s presence echo in our hearts with a gentle, respectful greeting to our neighbor.

Sister Mary Judith O’Brien, RSM is a member of the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma. She serves as chancellor of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw.