February 22, 2010

Pastoral Care of the Petty Criminal

Like a lot of religious and priests, I'm not one for conflict and confrontation. When I have to challenge or confront someone, I get this urgent and frightened queasiness in my guts. Over the course of my work as parish priest, however, I've gotten better at it and now I can even confess that sometimes I almost like that feeling.

After Masses this morning, when I went into church to light some candles and make some new holy water, I had a chance to confront our local would-be poor box thief, who often hangs out in the back at that time of day. I love what I said:

[walking up to him and pointing]

"You got caught! Saturday after the funeral, you were seen trying to steal from poor St. Anthony! Now get out of here before I call the cops!

[He skulks out, and I yell after him]

And say a prayer for me!


Qualis Rex said...

Wow. I really didn't think that would be a part of your job description. Confrontation, yes. But not thwarting crime. Boy, am I naive

I think you handled that very well. I guess if certain people are a) addicted to drugs or alcohol b) mentally disordered or c) just have no conscience a church's collection box would be an easy target. Very sad.

Brother Charles said...

Mostly it's just sad to me. With all the crime of this world, someone who fiddles around in church for an hour just to get a couple of crumpled dollars seems so uncreative to me. Have some ambition!

But it's those little dollars that keep the lights on, so parishioners need to know I'm about protecting them.

Steve said...

Sad indeed, but I find myself snickering at your last words to him. OTOH, stealing from the poor box? Dude!!Heinous!! We had someone break into our parish and steal the coin box for candles! It was more expensive to repair the door they pried open! I dont support crime of any kind, but what happened to even the smallest sliver of everyone knowing whats right and wrong?

Daily Grace said...

After all has been said and done, it is a humours little story. I'll say a prayer for the both of you; maybe you can say one for me.

Being a human being does have its challenges.

God bless

Brother Charles said...

I shall!

Anonymous said...

He might have figured that, being poor, taking from the poor box was the "least bad" way of feeding himself.

I might have said, "Caught you, you thief; if you're not using that money for bread, St Anthony will curse you! If you are using it for bread, come see me, we'll help you out."

Brother Charles said...

Good points, Anonymous! Next time I see him lurking about, I'll mention the parish office food pantry!

We also have a box labeled "help students for the priesthood." I've suggested to the pastor that we just give the key to the seminarians who come by to pray from time to time.

Qualis Rex said...

Anonymous, um...I'm certain St Anthony doesn't curse anyone from heaven. Humorous response...just not too theologically sound.