Last week saw my anger flare up more than it has in a long time.
Each student brother has some special duty around the priory. Mine is to purchase office supplies, toiletries, and snacks for the student brothers.
It is a great privilege to serve the common good in such an apparent way. There is a certain joy in seeing brothers in class using the pencil I picked out (it was the cheapest per millimeter of lead for its strength) on the filler paper I ordered (buy enough and you can get the price of quality paper to under one cent per page).
But last week things didn’t run quite so smoothly. FedEx Home Delivery missed a drop off last Wednesday. I checked with the front desk: “Did it come during a dinner break? Do you see a missed delivery hang tag?” At the point, I did not think much of it. They will try again, and everything will be fine.
Two missed deliveries and three phone calls later (including one where the local station hung up as soon as I was transferred) I was furious. Could they not find the front door? Do they know how to ring the bell? Is it possible to talk to the driver to see what happened? Why couldn’t the store use UPS? I never thought I would sing the praises of the boys in brown so loudly. I said to call center reps at both FedEx and our supplier, “You know I’ve never had this problem with UPS.”
Any institution involving human beings is bound to fail our expectations sometimes. Many people have had similar experiences with the Church. A parish secretary may have refused to schedule a baptism for their new born, or a priest refused to give them a blessing, or some older parishioners glared at their under-dressed children. Human failures have long made people angry or uncomfortable with the Church as a whole.
Just as I found myself longing for the day when UPS brought my packages, many of those angered at the Church join “affirming” ecclesial communities with daycare, coffee shops, and “seeker-sensitive” sermons. Or maybe they just spend their Sundays watching football instead.
My rage at FedEx cooled when on my third phone call I was assigned a “customer advocate.” Unlike the usual customer service rep, who relies on a script and computer commands to deal with a situation, my customer advocate can actually investigate the problem, work out a solution,† and call me back. Having someone understand my problem and start to work on a solution was a great relief.
One of the objectives of the Year of Faith is to call those who have been turned off from faith back to the Church. We can all do our part by acting as “customer advocates” for our friends and neighbors who have been angered or hurt by bad experiences with believers.
Faith is ultimately a supernatural gift from God, but we can help to remove human obstacles to belief by understanding others’ problems and advocating for them in prayer, and, if needed, we can help them find the people who can provide solutions (e.g., perform that delayed baptism, regularize a marriage, and the like).
The Church is a divine institution, and as such enjoys protection from error in her doctrine and the assurance that the sacraments “work,” but the failures of her human actors can still cause serious harm to the people she is meant to serve. If a customer advocate can cool attitudes toward purely human endeavors, imagine what can be done under grace.
†The packages finally arrived on Monday, even though they usually only do deliveries Tuesday–Saturday.
Image: KeepCalmStudio.com, Keep Calm and Pray On