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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Note to the RCCL: Please DND

I promise I will write about my mother-daughter experience but I have to get this off my chest first. I also think it's important to know what preceded it.

While we were visiting, a Eucharistic Visitor from the local RC church came by to bring the Holy Sacrament to my mother. I was really appreciative of that wonderful gift and felt happy that my mother would be able to partake in Holy Eucharist, even though she was unable to attend church.

A woman in her mid-70's, she appeared to be very professional if not in a uniform of sorts: A green plaid pleated skirt, solid green, tailored jacket with several pens neatly lined up in the chest pocket, a white button-down lightly starched shirt, the 'peter pan' collar straining to be held together at her neck by a silver religious pin that said, 'Eucharistic Visitor'. She wore black orthopedic shoes and black tights. She also wore a cross with a corpus in obvious agony hanging from her neck and held in her hand a very large well-polished silver ciborium that was wrapped into a computer-generated list.

You would never confuse this woman with the 'TV Lady' or even the Nutritionist or Physical or Occupational Therapist.

She was the very model of efficiency. I'll just call her "The RC Church Lady." That's RCCL for short.

The RCCL said 'good morning' to my mother who, in turn, introduced my daughter and I, going at lengths to mention that we were visiting from NYC and NJ. RCCL glanced over our way and gave the most miserly small, what could only be described as very sour smile (no, I was not wearing a clerical collar).

The RCCL looked up at the clock over my mother's bed as she asked, "How are you doing today?" in a way that told you immediately that this was a strictly perfunctory question.

As my mother politely answered her question anyway, the RCCL made a great fuss about unfolding her computer visitor list and then, interrupting my mother's response mid-sentence asked to verify her name. "Why yes," my mother said sweetly (I recognized the tone immediately and knew exactly where this might lead).

"And you're Catholic, right?"

"Yes, of course," said my mother, as if to say, "D'uh!"

"I'm Catholic, too," I heard myself say. My daughter quickly chimed in, "Me, too!"

It was very fleeting, but I do know that a tiny smirk appeared in the left lower corner of my mother's lips. We've had this conversation before. My daughter and I are 'Anglo-Catholic' and we refuse to let Rome claim sole propriety on that word. Even my RC mother gets that.

That smirk on my mothers lips as she recognized the boldness of her daughter and grand daughter dissipated her own need to show the RCCL, as my mother would often say, "the backside of my hand."

The RCCL never looked our way, much less offered us the Sacrament. Instead, she snapped a pen from her jacket pocket and placed a check by my mother's name. "Okay," she said, getting right down to the 'real business' of the visit, "It's time for communion. Let's say the Lord's Prayer together," adding sternly, "Girls, I know your mother taught you this, so you say it with us."

Ah, sweet inclusion!

"Yes, course," I said, startling myself at how much I sounded like my mother. The RCCL forged ahead, blessing herself as she said, "In the name of the Father, and the Son . . . ."

I decided to let go of any anger that was brewing within me, close my eyes, and pray with and for my mother. But, as we ended that wonderfully familiar, universal Christian prayer, something in the RCCL's voice annoyed my ears. I looked up and saw that she was saying, " . . .and lead us not into temptation . . ." while looking up at the clock and writing down the time on her paper.

My mother didn't even have a chance to say a full 'Amen' when the ciborium was popped open, a small, paper-thin, round communion wafer emerged and the RCCL was saying, "Body of Christ" in the same tone as she might say, "Today is Tuesday."

As my mother said, "Amen," the RCCL snapped shut the ciborium, smiled one of the most inauthentic smiles I have ever witnessed and said, "I hope you feel better. I'll be back tomorrow."

And, without so much as a fair-thee-well or a a fiddle-dee-dee, the RCCL turned on the heel of her black orthopedic shoe and left the room.

My mother looked over to my daughter and I and, noting the stunned looks on our faces, performed the second miracle of the day. She said something to us that she has never, ever said before - well, at least concerning her church.

"I'm sorry," she said, apologizing for the woman's obvious rudeness and bad manners.

"It's okay, VaVoa," my daughter rushed to comfort her grandmother. "It's not your fault."

"Never mind about us," I offered, "We're fine. Think how awful it must be to be a daughter or grand daughter of hers."

"Yeah," said my daughter, "She was just a jerk. One bad apple. Don't let her spoil the whole barrel."

"No," my mother said sadly, "They're all like that. They are all so full of themselves and too proud of the privilege they've been given. They're wrong. You're right. And, I'm sorry."

I'm not sure, but I think the heavenly chorus started singing at that very moment. Then again, it might have been something over the hospital intercom (over which they also say the Rosary promptly at 8:45, immediately preceding the announcement that visiting hours are over at 9 PM. My mother thinks the woman who leads the recitation of the Rosary is this woman's sister. "She's very annoying," my mother says.)

I'm told that this hospital has started a new classification of religious affiliation. There's "Catholic" - clearly, 90% of the book. There's a much, much smaller "Protestant" section - which has sub-sections of "Methodist," "Lutheran," "Episcopalian," "Baptist," "Pentecostal, "Jehovah's Witness," "Non-denominational" and even, "Seventh Day Adventists."

But, the section that is even larger than that is the one entitled, "DND".

That stands for - are you ready? - "DO NOT DISTURB".

That's the newest 'religious category' and it's the fastest growing, I'm told.

If I'm ever a patient in that hospital, promise that you'll make sure I'm classified "DND." Otherwise, this mother's daughter just might have to show someone "the backside of my hand."


Muthah+ said...

Thanks for this "expose". I find this kind of "eucharistic visitor" enough to DND on my admissions papers too. The other groups that I would like to be not disturbed by are the hot eyed evangelists who want to know when I was 'saved'.

Bill said...

Ok, I guess I’m doing it all wrong. I always start up a conversation when I visit folks with the Eucharist. For the most part they are shut-ins in various assisted living facilities. I give them the latest news from the parish and the world. I tell them what the weather is like outside. I tell them where we are in the liturgical calendar and what to look forward to in the coming weeks. I know every LEM does it a little different but I like a little formality in the service. They always get the gospel of the day and the collect for the week. If the appointed psalm isn’t overly gory I will read that too. I always set up the cross, the linens, the chalice and the plate. I try to make it as much like the church service they cannot attend as I can. It makes them feel connected with the congregation and they appreciate the effort. To just walk in, check off a name on a list, and only if their Catholic, is something I could never do. Those ladies need a wake up call.

Jim said...

I have a prosthetic knee. When the nice lady cut my leg off and re-attached it, I was in hospital for a while. Your mom is correct, they are all pretty much like that.


RomeLover said...

My heart bleeds for all of you for this encounter.
Not all RCCLs are like this.
I met one once in a DC hospital, while visiting with a friend and her mother. The RCCL came in and asked if we (emphasize WE) would like to receive communion. I was very upfront about not being RC, but that as an Anglo-Catholic, I would like to participate. My friend and her mother nodded their agreement. The RCCL (who really was a warm and engaging person, I shouldn't call her an RCCL!) had no problem with a group.
It is a very special memory.
My friend died the following year. At her memorial service, all believers were invited to receive. (She was from California--they do things differently in a good way, sometimes.)
The Kingdom can be seen through the veil on such occasions.

stumpjumper said...

Oh, sweet Jesus on a biscuit!

Does this broad commute DE? She sounds exactly like the disrespectful thing that came to my room while I was at Beebe two years ago.

If I hadn't been heavily medicated I would have had a few choice words for her. She didn't really want to be there, and made no bones about it.

You, your mom, and daughter done good.

Grace said...

God have mercy! You wonder why these folks even want the job of RCCL with this kind of attitude.

But, I'll tell you, Mother Kaeton, there is nothing worse than dead, unloving, legalistic religion without a relationship with Jesus.

It can make folks vicious. My mother-in-law lives in this apt. complex for the elderly, a mix of Italian and Irish Catholic people, and some Protestants.

Since, my mother-in-law had the audacity to show up at a Protestant led Bible study, she was told that she would no longer be welcome at the RC fellowship.

Some of these older ladies who are so involved with the church are the most exclusive, and are positively wicked gossips to boot.

My mother-in-law is extremely friendly, and does have a bad reputation, since it's thought she is after everyone else's men.

Mother Kaeton, the woman is 84years old!!

Lord help me. I would not want to be the priest or minister in charge, there. I guess it is a real ministry, and outreach opportunity, though. :)

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

While I admit that this one was the absolute worst, unfortunately, this has been my experience with every single RCCL I've ever met. In fact, even with RC priests. No conversation. Sometimes not even the Lord's Prayer. Just all business - i.e, The 'real presence' in the wafer.

Good thing. Nothing else about the visit was the 'real presence' of anything that came near to pastoral.

Say, do you think that's what this is all about? It's about they think they're the only ones with the 'real presence' so all the energy goes into that?

Hmmm . . .never thought about that before.

Hiram said...

I think this "Here's your wafer, Good-bye" style comes from an over-emphasis on the objective nature of the sacrament: "The priest has blessed it; it is now Jesus' flesh; eat it and benefit."

As an evangelical, I do believe in the real presence of Christ in the sacrament -- but not transubstantiation. (The host is still bread, and the body of Jesus Christ is in heaven, but through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, Christ is there, and one may feed upon him by faith.) It is also my conviction that we, as human beings made in the image of God, need to take the fullness of our humanity into consideration -- which means making the emotional connection, helping the person to recognize the presence of the Lord in what we are doing, and praying with and for the person visited.

Even in the midst of a hectic day and heavy demands (Jairus and his daughter), Jesus took the time to look a poor, despised woman in the eye, take her by the hand, and let her know that she was healed in body and soul. If we are his people, we do the same.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Oh, my goodness, Hiram, this may be a first. We actually agree on something Not on transubstantiation, but on the pastoral care and importance of the eucharistic ministry.


Grandmère Mimi said...

Elizabeth, the woman's behavior was outrageously awful, but I could not keep from smiling at the story. Strictly business is the Lord's work for the likes of them. Well, that's too bad. The Lord is present in spite of them, but they could be more graceful for the sake of the patients.

rick allen said...

"If I'm ever a patient in that hospital, promise that you'll make sure I'm classified "DND.""

Do I understand correctly, then, that if you are ill you would prefer not to receive the sacrament at all if it might be administered by someone whose manners or enthusiasm don't meet your expectations?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Rick - Of course not. The efficacy and goodness of the sacrament is not dependent upon the person administering the sacrament.

I am just appalled that there seem, in my experience anyway, to be so many people in the RC church - and, not just women and not only the unordained - who may be sacramentally correct but pastorally disastrous.

I print it here as a cautionary tale for myself and all who are EV's.

just another piskie said...

Years ago, when I was still RC, I was a member of a Eucharistic Minister program at the local hospital for which our church was assigned to provide chaplaincy. We were trained by one priest who was excellent, but something happened to him and a replacement came in.

Father Eddie, the replacement, was a bit of a sour old stick. He wouldn't meet with us to pray before we went to the hospital, but, rather, sat alone in a room upstairs and "said Mass." Apparently he hadn't heard that Vatican II (or some of its fallout) had made that a no-no. You needed someone from each ministry, including ministry of the assembled, to have Mass.

Anyway, soon after Fr. Eddy started, we began noticing names crossed off our lists. It wasn't until a couple of weeks in that Jim, one of the other EMs, took us all aside and told us that the cross outs weren't people who'd been discharged, but rather people whom Fr. Eddy had decided shouldn't be visited: divorced people (whether or not they'd remarried) and others who offended Fr. Eddy's sensibilities.

Well, that was all we needed to hear. From then on the people who'd been crossed off were the FIRST people we visited. We met some great folks, people who were delighted to hear that the church still wanted them, that the bad priests did NOT speak for the church of the people, and that they could receive God from the hands of a young woman with two thick braids reaching to her waist. I have some wonderful memories of those days.

This was 25+ years ago, and I have heard that Fr. Eddy has died. Now he knows better, but I think back to how he was and know that he must have been miserable inside to embrace such a miserable attitude towards sick people. I think he's much happier now.

DBW said...

I don't know... it seemed mild from what I've heard. My wife's youngest brother is one of these Eucharistic Visitor sorts of volunteers, and he is trained to "defend the eucharist" before giving it to someone in the hospital, so he asks people when they've last been to mass and confession before he'll whip out a wafer and lead them in the Our Father.

Kirstin said...

"Defend the Eucharist"?

Since when does God need protection?

I'm sorry--I know. That phrasing just made my jaw fall open.