Pass the Rolls

On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving my former pastor always gave the same homily. Sometimes he incorporated his advice into that Sunday’s message as well. But it ended with “Pass the Rolls.”

He was talking about his favorite phrase to say at Thanksgiving Dinner if things got tense. He would say, “Instead of getting upset and engaging in an argument just say, ‘Uncle Dan, can you pass me the rolls please.'” He was imploring us to focus on family rather than arguments or political discussions or all of the things we don’t have in common. A recipe for family harmony and an easy way to overdose on carbs during dinner!

I haven’t heard this homily in a few years since he was reassigned and I’ve since moved and joined a new parish – but it rings even more true now than before. While I agree that the Thanksgiving table isn’t the time and place for very heated political discussions, I do believe that we need a way to have these discussions.

There are so many heated discussions happening in the world, in the arena of politics, and even now in the Church – over Liturgical preferences, reception of Communion, covid-19 precautions, and even what the new Mass times should be. Everything seems to be the “hill to die on” and is without compromise and listening.

Our parishes should be a safe place to have a healthy debate about faith, to express our doubts and find consolation hearing from someone else’s experience. Some parishes are the place for this, I won’t deny that – but some aren’t. Some people are hurting so deeply from their life circumstances that they bring that into the Church and inflict hurt on others. We need to find a way to listen to people, understand what’s going on, and help them bring their hurt to the Lord.

As a first step, I propose preaching and teaching and offering opportunities to really listen to understand. Sit down with people and have real conversations that invite them to share their perspective without judgement or even a solution being offered. Many times the only solution to heal our wounds is to bring them to the Lord in prayer over and over again. To really listen instead of sharing the reasons why they’re wrong or passing judgement on some of their decisions.

Listening to Understand is a key empathy skill. And empathy, really sitting with someone in their hurt, is a key Christianity skill. So along with the ‘pass the rolls’ advice, give empathy advice to your parishioners this year. Provide a place where they can sit with one another and share their hurt. Remind your parishioners that no matter what’s going on in the world, you’re there to listen, to walk through dark times, and to practice a ministry of presence with them.

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