Today’s tweeted story got me thinking about sacrifice and service.
So many people find themselves in situations where they feel called to make sacrifices. If this truly is a call from God, then it’s a beautiful thing that usually bears fruit in unexpected ways.
But there might be another type of person who plays the role of the holy person when really, they’re not that holy.
A while ago I wrote that I hadn’t been to Mass over the frantic Easter season, and that I might never go again. Well, that didn’t last very long. And I’m glad it didn’t. Yesterday I visited one of my favorite downtown Cathedrals and saw a person who, in my opinion, is fairly spiritual but also playing the role of “The Holy Helper.”
The Holy Helper brags about being a saint and how people, even strangers, ask for her prayers. But she seems to have a dark side. An unresolved dark side.
Some months ago at another parish The Holy Helper began swearing obscenities at an Asian lady seated in front of me. The Asian lady was calm but also a bit startled. She turned her gaze toward me as if to ask, what the heck is going on here?
I’ve known The Holy Helper for over a decade and have watched her become progressively strange over the years. After cursing the Asian lady the HH began talking to me as if nothing had happened. I couldn’t endorse her behavior by ignoring it, and gently suggested that swearing at others in public is not a good thing. Then I tried to tell her that I went through a challenging phase in my own spiritual development (I never swore at people in public, but was trying to help by sharing my own story).
Before I could get my words out, The Holy Helper became angry and indignant. She knew it all, and I didn’t understand. I suggested she seek professional help. And moments later she started swearing at me. “You are a F***** Loser!” she yelled.
I was shocked and, afterward, somewhat traumatized. Fortunately a Eucharistic minister was present, who gently ushered her out of the Church.
Yesterday the Holy Helper was back at the Cathedral. It’s sort of frightening when I see her. She hasn’t apologized so I don’t know if she’ll start swearing again. Maybe she’s gone even further over the edge and will assault me physically.
I doubt it but am not sure. Keeping my phone set to “video” gave me some confidence. Afterward I wondered what I would do if I captured her swearing at me or someone else on camera.
Would I report her or just let it go again?
I feel that if someone is roaming around verbally abusing people, they should not be allowed to persist. They need help. And if they’re not going to get it themselves then some kind of intervention might be in order.
Why do I tell this story?
Well, partly because I’m somewhat annoyed. When I go to church I don’t want to have to deal with borderline personalities. I just want to pray and feel close to God.
I also feel that The Holy Helper is a great example of someone identifying with the role of being a sacrificial saint without giving due attention to her own issues. Hence, a lingering shadow of resentment builds up. A shadow that comes out in abusive ways.
Anyone could all fall into this kind of mindset if they are not honest with themselves. We’ve all heard stories of nuns slapping, even burning children in their care, priests molesting kids, and so on.
Repression is a nasty thing.
On the other hand, sacrifice can be beautiful but only when in line with God’s will. Everything else is probably based on some kind of psychological compensation. Compensation means we play up real or imagined personality traits that we feel make us superior because underneath, we feel inferior.
That’s not true spirituality. And if left unresolved, a subconscious sense of inferiority can unexpectedly flip into its opposite.
That’s when the innocent have to run for cover.