Have you ever done the right thing, but your heart said, “I’m just not feeling it?"
In other words, do you ever have trouble syncing your feelings with your actions?
I remember such a moment in 1995 in San Jose, Calif. That was where I shared my first Air Force chaplain’s assignment with a Catholic priest named Richard Regan.
Father Regan was a winsome and gregarious guy who was adored by his parishioners. We became fast friends, and he encouraged me to call him Richard. However, when we were around his parishioners, he asked that I call him “Father.” That wasn’t easy to do from my Baptist tradition, but I did so according to protocol.
One morning, Richard and I arrived at the chapel together to begin our workday. As we walked toward the entryway, we saw two contractors hired to refurbish the steps.
The two men quickly scrambled to their feet. They looked past me and gave Richard greetings in a deep Irish brogue.
“Top o’ the morning to ya’, Father.”
Richard returned a polished smile as we walked past them to enter our office suite.
Inside, he happily recalled how he’d befriended the Irish gentlemen a few days prior. He’d introduced himself as a priest and was immediately enamored with their Irish brogue.
I told him that I also introduced myself, but they weren’t nearly as friendly to me.
“Maybe they just don’t know you,” he said, “but I’ll talk to them.”
Richard later came to my office to recount his conversation with the men.
“Did you know that my colleague is also a chaplain?”
The men looked down at their work in an awkward pause.
“Yes, we know, but isn’t he a Protestant?” one asked.
“Well, yes, but I hope that won’t stop you from greeting him each morning, too,” Richard said.
“We’ll greet him if we must,” one replied, “but I’m afraid it’ll be a rather frosty top-o’-the-morning.”
Richard laughed. The men didn’t.
I had much in common with those men. We both were having trouble syncing our feelings with doing what we knew was right.
It was a stretch for me to call my friend “Father” because I was raised with the literal interpretation of Jesus’ words in Mathew 23:9: “Do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.” But I learned to do it because it was a professional courtesy in clerical protocol.
The Catholic men, likely raised in the Northern Ireland conflict, probably found it difficult not to spit on Protestants, but the good Father’s insistence encouraged them to do what was right.
Today, in the current political climate, I’m aware that there are many issues that work to separate us, such as gun control, immigration and abortion. These topics are difficult to decide, but we choose our sides for various reasons based on our upbringing, personalities and experiences.
Yet as people of faith, we do know what is right between each other. Our faith demands we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. We know for certain that we must love God with all our heart and our neighbor as ourselves.
So as the political machines wind up for elections and a U.S. Supreme Court nomination, I hope we will pledge, to ourselves and to our faith, to do the right thing between each other. We will remain civil and kind and will synchronize our faith with our actions.
As for the Irishmen, I told Richard that they’d warmed a bit but still hadn’t wished me, “Top-o’-the-morning.”
“Sounds like progress,” he said.
“If they really didn’t like you, they’d insult you with something like, “May the cat eat you, and may the devil eat the cat.”
I grinned. I suppose sometimes you take what you can get.
Contact Norris Burkes at email@example.com, @chaplain or 843-608-9715.