Sunday, March 16, 2008

"Hey, do you remember me?!?!"

I hate to break to folks, but this question is usually a 'death knell' to a priest. In the last few days, I've had this question repeated to me frequently, as I hit a few places that I hadn't been in a while.

One particular conversation sticks out:

Me leaving the confessional, encountered by an older gentleman. He says: "Hey, do you remember me?"

Me: Blank Look "I'm sorry, but I'm drawing a blank, can you give me the context?" (I was trying to be nice.)

Him: "Oh, you heard my confession back a few months ago!"

Me: "Oh, great, well have a great day."

The truth was, I didn't have a clue. I tend to maybe recognize faces, but even that can sometimes get me in trouble as people have unknown identical twins out there. But for the most part, I don't remember.

It is a shame, really, and in a way an honor that you've been able to connect with someone by doing something that they remember, even several months (or years!) later.

The difficulty now, though, is that I see and talk to so many people in my position, I don't stand a chance of remembering everyone, so that person that walks up and says: "Hey, you remember me, you had Mass in my parish a few weeks ago!" ummmm... Can you be more specific on the time frame, there, I have Mass in so many different places, which one was it?

On a deeper level, though, it shows the respect that is still out there for priests. People tend to love their priests, and want to give him the benefit of the doubt; it is a reminder of the unique role that the priest plays. As the line from Fishers of Men states: "You walk in, semi-stranger; but because you are priest, you are a part of their family." Gets me every time.

So to all those who come up to that priest who was a seminarian in your parish, perhaps a long ago associate, or just a one week visitor, help him out and give him a clue. It is good to know the impact we have with one or two people, because it is also a reminder of the impact we have countless others through our ministry.

Have a great Holy Week!


barb said...

I can relate to that a little bit, Father. I taught school for five years, more than 20 years ago, and I have former students come up to me and ask me if I remember them. Of course, they were in their early teens when I taught them and now they're in their 30's. Amazingly, some of them I can recognize, but not all.
Fortunately, if they tell me a name, I can always remember. I'm just thankful they can still recognize me, despite a few added pounds and wrinkles!
I'm glad you'll be able to enjoy your Holy Week, Father. You really are doing an awesome job as vocations' seems I hear about you being so many places and being so visible to the young people of our archdiocese. It's bound to make a difference. I'll keep praying for you and those vocations!

Adrienne said...

I never, ever assume someone should remember me. The idea of putting someone in an uncomfortable position makes me, well, uncomfortable.

Adoro te Devote said...

Yeah, I'm with Adrienne..I don't typically assume someone would remember me, unless it's an obvious event. ie: "Do you remember me? I'm the one that fell headfirst into the baptismal font..." Um....that never happened, but you see how that woudl be a memorable event for ALL witnesses, including the priest, although one, if it were me, I'd NEVER bring up. :-P

You know, though, I might have found a way to be remembered, and I discovered it by accident. A few years ago, one of the newly-ordaine priests was assigned to my parish, and I greeted him after Mass. Everyone was telling him who they were so I of course gave him my name and said, "But you'll never remember me so don't worry about it."

The following Friday, I went to confession, happened to go face to face, and at the end, as I was getting up to go, he said, "And I remember who you are! I don't remember ANYONE ELSE but I remember your name!" (I'm not sure I wanted to hear that after! It wasn't a big scary confession with lots of bad stuff, though, so his comment at that point was fine.)

A week later, I was STILL one of the few names he could remember....all becuase I acknolwedged the obvious and said there's no way he would remember me.

He's been our Associate for a couple years now and will very likely be moved this spring. We'll miss him a lot as he's a wonderful priest, and a wonderful confessor. Guaranteed, in a year if I go visit him at whatever parish he's assigned to, he'll likely no longer remember who I am! Whew! :-P

uncle jim said...

I had one of those experiences a couple of years ago.

A priest, who at the time was the president or rector or whatever the correct title is, of a major seminary in OH, was being elevated to auxillary bishop in a MI diocese.

I read of his 'promotion, and sent him an e-mail of congratulations. I started out in a similar manner ... "You probably won't remember me because it was almost 30 years ago when you were an associate pastor at ___ parish in ___ MI."

I gave my name and some other particulars. I just wanted to congratulate him.

He graciously replied with a thank you, and a comment like "Yes, I do remember you ... but we won't go there, will we."

Shortly before MY leaving the parish, my job was taking me to another state, we had had a difference of opinion on some things and it probably didn't end on too friendly a note...and he apparently remembered.

Oh, well - I sincerely was congratulating him and have prayed for him numerous times since.

Praise God for we humans he uses to accomplish His works.

Mom said...

I do remember you but since Rome it has been a few weeks since we saw each other.

You might get the not remembering names honestly as I am the world's worst at remembering names.