1. Sunday mornings, we have Divine Liturgy at 11:30 after the main parish celebrates their Liturgy. They leave us any leftover donuts. So we are confronted with donuts at 1:00 PM. It's usually up to me to decide the donuts' fate. I remember the face of the starving child's photo that my parents posted in the dining room table when I was young as I throw away the leftovers. Do homeless men want or need day-old donuts?
2. Heaven forbid if I give priest-husband a tea while he skypes with the old country early Sunday morning. It doesn't matter that Divine Liturgy will be finished at one o'clock; he is expected to fast from everything from midnight on.
3. I need to be prepared to be insulted for my less-than-stellar old country language skills when on the phone with an unknown person. Everyone here is amazed that I speak the language at all and that I dress the children, named very old country-ish at my insistence, in traditional clothes for holidays. Luckily, I have escaped most ethnic-difference problems with our own parishioners.
4. Yes, it is true that his cell phone is always on and he will almost always answer it immediately. There is no secretary-gate keeper here.
5. Just to let you know- when you so kindly ask my husband to perform your baptism/wedding/funeral/house blessing, it really makes life difficult when you insist on a certain day and time with no regard to his schedule. Yes, I know that you reserved the party hall months before you informed him that he would be the chief celebrant, but we are trying to build a mission on Saturday nights. It really destroys any community we are building when he has to cancel. Also, my husband's ministry cannot be bought for a $50 stipend, so no, he cannot overlook a previous marriage or excuse you from actually meeting with him. Please don't put me in the middle. I might look like I am in charge because I lead singing and wash the dishes, but in terms of sacraments, I have nothing to do with it!
6. The hardest part of being a priest's wife is trying to find a balance for my kids. I want them to leave our house as believing and happy Christians. Being in the thick of things and seeing the humanity and sinfulness of God's people can make that difficult. We expect a lot out of our children, and I hope it isn't too much. But then some people say we have made too many compromises to worldly pleasures (for example, the older two have read the first three Harry Potter books, they don't wear a veil in church, they sometimes wear jeans- though never in church).
Is it enough that the big girls get an ice cream after yet another church service? It can be difficult when they aren't seen as real Catholics by friends even though they assist at a Saturday vigil, early Sunday morning and late Sunday morning Masses every weekend. Will they rebel when they realize that their father is taking on another Mass- this time in Spanish? He tries to sell the Mass as a way to learn Spanish. True, but I dread the day that they refuse to tag along. At this point, the big girls are very helpful with cantoring and other church-related activities. The little ones don't do as much (just Saturday and Sunday services plus the occasional Wednesday Bible study and hospital Mass); I stay with them.
Perhaps we should pick a 'side' instead of trying to find an impossible balance between the world and heavenly perfection. Some of my choices for my children might seem rather arbitrary (or hypocritical). We homeschool, but we use a public charter school to pay for our outside activities. They have read the first three Potter books (yes, we might lose friends over this), but I'll never let them read something like Twilight. I sometimes listen to 'adult contemporary' music in my car, though it is always sacred music before Liturgy. I encourage my children to be charitable, but I try not to force the issue (for example, they are expected to say hello to a elderly disabled person, but I don't force them to embrace him).
They might grow up to say that I was a hypocrite, but if they are honest, they will know my intentions are good. There is a pressure that we put on ourselves because we are about the only young priest's family we know. We don't want to be a source of scandal for others. What if someones sees my family not working perfectly? Perhaps that fit my two-year old had will be the reason why a person left the church. The fact that we don't veil might be scandalous to some, but if I started to veil that would be a scandal for others. So, we will just attempt to please ourselves and God. At this point, I can say that we have found the perfect balance for us. We don't fit in anywhere. Hopefully, we are fitting in with God's plan.
7. This morning I got a phone call from a person I don't know in the old country, wanting money because she doesn't have electricity. We get these kinds of calls a lot, usually not Byzantine Catholic or from my husband's region, so I don't know why we have been chosen. I always feel a pit in my stomach when I realize what the call is about. I know that they think we are very wealthy. In the old country, the priest and his family (when the political situation isn't killing them or sending them to Siberia) are one of the wealthiest families in the village. While he might not make much money, the people take care of this family well with produce, meat and stipends. And if the priest is doing well in her village, shouldn't we be as rich as Brad Pitt?
It doesn't matter that we don't have the use of our furnace or dryer or that I have been unemployed with no unemployment insurance paid for eight months. Yes, I could be working at McDonald's to raise money to send to them except my closest family is nine hundred miles away (which would be countries away in Europe). We don't receive a stipend for having children like European countries. I just don't know what to do. I know family and friends right next door that could use financial help. We give financial help to some people and we tithe. But must we respond to random people we don't know? But when I don't give, I feel like Ebenezer Scrooge saying, "Are there no prisons?!"
This past Christmas morning, we had family visiting (yes, from far far away) and my husband had just got home from celebrating a 6:30 AM Mass as a 'supply' priest for the Roman-rite parish. We were in the midst of opening stockings and preparing to leave for our Christmas Divine Liturgy an hour away when the phone rang. I picked up the phone, assuming it was family. Who else would call a priest's home on one of the busiest mornings of the year? I was wrong, so wrong. The caller was a man who had written my husband a letter, asking for money. he wanted to know if my husband had received the letter. I said yes and then tried to explain to him that my husband was between Liturgies on Christmas morning and he would have to talk later. Does he have an email address where they can communicate? No- no email address (it always intrigues me- they all found my husband on the internet yet none of them have opened a free email account). he insults my language abilities and then calls me 'lady.' He is angry. I am able to get off the phone politely (I asked my husband and family- they agree I wasn't rude).
In my husband's home country, politeness is an art form. A lady wears heels to take out the trash. Like in French with its tu/vous forms, you can tell right away when someone is acting too familiar in his language. My husband still uses the formal 'you' with most people older than he. One greeting is "I kiss your hand"- this can be said from a man to any woman. I can use it as a sign of respect to someone older than I. In his language, one uses the proper title like Dr. Engineer or Madame Dentist. If someone doesn't use a title, it is a not-so-subtle way to show disrespect. So, am I really supposed to send money to a man I don't know who doesn't call me Matusha and doesn't call my husband Father? Even in my husband's country where Catholic/Orthodox relations are very strained, each church gives the other the proper title.
The phone rings again a minute later, and my brother-in-law picks up. He says "hello," and the caller unleashes a barrage of four-letter words in English. So my Christmas started with a bad feeling and a bad headache. Of course, the men are better at laughing it off, but I know that my husband is being slandered in his home country. It isn't easy, but I am still blessed to be living this life.
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