Thursday, 7 August 2014

Mr, Fr, Msgr or something else?

I had to visit someone yesterday. He is elderly and frail and I had been to the chemist for him. He was also waiting for a priest to come and give him Holy Communion.
I let myself into the house as I always do and he asked if I could wait for a short while and let the priest in as it takes him several minutes to get to the door.
"I don't like to keep him waiting,"he told me, "It's very good of him to come."
"It's his job," I told him.
"I suppose it is but he always makes me feel so guilty about not going to church. He likes to be called "Father" too - and he's young enough to be my grandson."
Oh. I know quite a few elderly people and, because of it, I know a number of priests, pastors, ministers and other "clergy". Like the rest of humanity they are a varied bunch. I like some of them more than others. I call all of them, even the very elderly Catholic priest, by their given names. It's what they expect, indeed have asked me to do. I once tried being what I thought was polite to a retired Archbishop and he gently corrected me and asked me to call him by his given name. "I'm retired - and I never much cared for the title anyway."
I know there are times when titles are useful - useful because they put a shield between the person and the position. They are important in places like a court of law where being sentenced by "Your Honour" or similar is not the same as being sentenced by "Mr Smith" or "Mr Jones" or even "John Smith" or "John Jones".
But I wondered at the young priest insisting on being called "Father".
I let him in but he did not introduce himself or offer to shake hands.
Perhaps he does not feel secure in his position yet? If he doesn't then he needs help from people like the elderly.
He also needs to learn to introduce himself and shake hands. Is that too much to ask? 


Anonymous said...

I have kept my maiden name, though married. (My husband did, too!). I like to be called by it. I do not really like to be called by my given name by strangers, professionals etc though this seems to be the modern way, and is probably considered more "friendly", "user friendly", "breaking down barriers between the doctor and patient" etc. I am sure younger people do not mean to be bad mannered or pushy or disrespectful.

The priest (above) insists on his "proper" term of address, though it may make others uncomfortable.

I would prefer to be more formal than current society is, but can live with the informality because I think it is generally used to encourage a more human face to (business type) interactions and has spread from there more generally.

(And knowing someone's given name only gives them a little more privacy in this time of widespread availability to information?)

Helen Devries said...

I'm not too worried about the use of given names....but that he did not introduce himself or shake hands makes me think that he needs a course in manners.

catdownunder said...

Anonymous - I think it is the barrier he is putting up that bothers me. The older people in his congregation seem to sense it. (Had a conversation with someone else after I had written this and they said much the same thing - and indicated others felt the same way.)