Sunday, July 22, 2007

Way to Evangelize, Bonehead

St. Fortunata, in East New York (Brooklyn, for the uninitiated), is a Roman parish with a significant Nigerian membership -- mostly Igbo. But according to the Times, a number of the Nigerians will be leaving for another parish. Leaving in a huff. And why?

Apparently, their priest preached too long one Sunday. Not too long for them, mind you -- they like and expect sermons that are much longer than most American Catholics are accustomed to. No real surprise there; lots of people do. Baptists, for example, and especially (but not exclusively) the black ones. The great Renaissance homilists often went ninety minutes or more, as (apparently) did some of the Church Fathers. Anyway, this guy is reported by the Times (click link above for details) to have run a half hour.

Oooh. Half an hour! Call out the guard dogs.

Which is apparently what the pastor of the parish, Vincent Miceli, did when he stood up after the sermon and and said, "Thank you, Father. In the future, please limit your preaching to twenty to twenty-five minutes."

As we used to say at summer camp: Oh, snap! The crowd went wild. The African majority was offended, and registered its offense; while the non-African minority reghistered its support for Miceli by clapping. Instant schism, which will become official at the end of the month when the Nigerians begin to worship elsewhere.

We have to give Miceli credit. This was a display of virtuoso indelicacy. He wasn't just rude to a brother priest -- he was rude in public. In front of laypeople. Better yet, he was rude to a brother priest in front of laypeople who had liked the guy's sermon -- and probably been refreshed by the familiar African-ness of it. But that's not the best part. The best part is that he took it upon himself to be rude in public in the middle of Mass.

In the Times article, Miceli seems unrepentant -- he blames the Nigerians for not working harder to assimilate. There is no doubt some truth to that; but it has been our observation at the Egg that immigrants are much more willing to respect your customs when you don't publicly insult theirs.

No comments: