You know that particular type of open-toed sandal that trendy priests wear? You see them, and immediately try to dampen down your antipathy and persuade yourself to be charitable and give the guy a chance. And then the Mass starts, and the first thing he does is to omit the Sign of the Cross. And as he goes on, changing the liturgy for the sake of change and making things up as he goes along, you realise that your prejudice has been confirmed once again.
That's how it was on Sunday. We were away visiting my parents for the weekend, and although I knew the church we went to, I hadn't come across this particular priest before.
Now, I try to respect the environment and to make as little mark on the world as possible. We have a car, but we don't use it for short journeys, and we take the train to and from work every day. I try to drive in as economical way as possible and get the greatest number of miles per gallon that I can. I keep the central heating on low and make New Man put on an extra layer if he complains about the cold (I knew this might be a bone of contention when I discovered last winter that he kept his thermostat SIX DEGREES higher than I kept mine - and that's Celsius, so in Fahrenheit it's even more degrees). I was taking my own reusable shopping bags to the supermarket long before it was trendy, and I have recycled glass, paper and cans for as long as I can remember.
You might wonder why I'm mentioning this now. Well, this priest chose to make his homily into a huge long tree-hugging rant about how we're destroying God's beautiful earth and we must all start wearing silly sandals and growing our own vegetables (OK, I made up the bit about the silly sandals). To me, this is the biggest turn-off ever, and makes me want to go out and buy a gas-guzzling 4x4 and use it to go to the supermarket half a mile down the road every day. I would rather be encouraged than berated, especially when the person berating me knows NOTHING about me and the way I live.
Anyway, it wasn't just the homily. He then kept weaving all these awful tree-hugging 'prayers' (which were actually digs at the congregation and exhortations to buy those sandals and start hugging more trees) into the liturgy. The worst was when he started on (I can't remember the exact wording, but I promise you this is pretty accurate, but maybe a bit shorter than what he said): "This is the Lamb of God, who died for this beautiful world which we are destroying. May we reflect on the effect that our way of life has on the environment, and may He take away our grievous sins towards this world. Happy are we who are called to share in this beautiful meal."
At the end of his performance, I really felt in some doubt about whether I had actually fulfilled my Sunday obligation to attend Mass. I was also having distinctly unchristian thoughts about this man.
He then compounded his sin after Mass. It's a small church where the congregation meet for coffee after Mass. New Man and I had borrowed two of my nieces for the weekend, and I was holding the 23-month-old as Father Sandal-Wearer approached. I told my niece to say "Hello Father" and he said, "Oh no, call me Pat. That's much easier to say, and much nicer, isn't it?"
Well, I'm sorry, but I think children should be taught to show respect for priests, and should call them Father. Or am I just being old-fashioned?