My first 2 years in h.s. a young assistant priest changed our lives. He was a down-to-earth great homilist, humorist, kind, compassionate...and handsome. We name such priests, "Father What A Waste"! Instead of 5 Our fathers and Hail Mary's his unique 'penances' were something like, "Take a 15 minute/or more daily rest/nap... bake your favorite dessert, enjoy it - forget the calories...hug your kids, treasure their gifted return...enjoy shopping...don't work so hard, the dust will be with you...honor how hard you work...read a favorite book to your children..."
Few women worked outside the home with no handy amenities. Joy and smiles lifted the heaviness of rules and suppression. Women laughingly shared, "Life is so fun now ...I have new happiness...I smile more...I am more relaxed...I am less cranky..." This compassionate young pastor transformed the whole congregation. I never heard what 'penance' men received. When he was transferred the lightness Faded back to the usual heavy guilt and shame. I now realize he was kindly teaching true Self-love and compassion 50 years ahead of time. Bless him!!
As a shy transferred junior, weekly confession was required.. When I confessed, "I was disrespectful to my parents", the old priest asked, "How many times?". (Let's see there's 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours a day ....yipes there aren't that many zeros!!!) You never lie to a priest so my, "I don't know's", were met with loud screaming and yelling echoing the church. Finally the loudest, "I WILL NEVER GIVE YOU ABSOLUTION UNTIL YOU GIVE ME HOW MANY TIMES"! throwing me out of the confessional to the horrified eyes of the nuns and all grades of kids. The heat from my reddened shame felt like I would melt. I wished I could. There was a lot of withdrawal by everyone. I now wonder if other kids thought I was one quite wild gal!
An elderly Jesuit shared with me that when in seminary it was encouraged to flog themselves of their humanness. "It was nuts. Life is hard enough without added pain". So he took the ropes and hit his bed and, with an added wink and twinkle,"I gave intermittent moans!!!" The wisdom this young seminarian had simply deepened in his years as a tender shepherd. His love for humanity and acceptance radiated.
There is a difference between punishment and discipline. Short definition - punishment induces anger and shame; discipline creates learning. If you are anything like me, I don't learn in humiliation, fear, exclusion and shame. I thrive in an loving, accepting, compassionate environment. This is one of the great gifts of our SACC family. Many of us wish we were privileged to grow up in such a loving faith community as Saint Andrew.
Dear Creator, thank you for your tender mercies, love and for our SACC family who accept, tender and love one another - young and old!!!
(Jody Gyulay is a member of Saint Andrew. She is a retired hospice palliative care nurse and now works part time as a social worker at The Hospice House. She can be reached at