There's a lot of talk going around right now in the Catholic Church, because of Pope Francis and the general agenda of the Holy Spirit, and common sense, about how we need to stop being so self-referential and actually change our minds (aka be converted) about how we deal with those with distant, loose, or no ties to the Church.
So it was interesting to me to just experience something very similar in a different context: the public school system.
My son wants to try going part-time to the public high school this year. I made a call today for the information. It went like this:
Me: I'm considering enrolling my son as a part-time student. He has been homeschooled in the past. Is there a list available of which classes are offered at which time?
She: My guidance counselors have that list.
Me: (after a brief pause in which I thought I would hear more) Is there a way I could have access to that list?
She: None of them are available right now. They leave at 2. Eight to Two!
Me: When I call back tomorrow is there another number I should call, or whom should I ask for?
She: What's the kid's name?
Me: (I tell her, even though I have no idea what it could matter since we've had zero past dealings with the school)
She: Mrs. [Thing]
Me: Mrs. T-h-i-n-g?
She: Yes, Mrs. [Thing.]
What the exchange taught me is that the woman to whom I was speaking had every expectation that I should simply already know the who, what, and when pieces I was missing. She knew. Everyone in her office knew. So should I. Silly, irritating potential student parent.
But I've never been in this system. It is brand new to me.
It is amusing to see how this plays out, and does not speak well of the humanity of the "system" I am reluctantly entering.
But when this sort of thing happens in a Catholic context, or Christian context, where we are not naturally positioned to respond in the most helpful and welcoming way (without going gushy-overboard, you know) it doesn't speak well of the humanity of the Christian system either. And that is a scandal for which we need to do penance. Because, yes, unfortunate things happens with those initial contacts, too. People leave a phone number and never get a call back, or get a call back with no knowledge of why the original call was placed, or get a terse message to "call so and so to sign up for RCIA" (wait, what?), or get intrusive guesses about why the person wants to become a Catholic. Or they are even met with statements about how they don't really want or need to become Catholics! Don't believe it? I've heard stories about every single one, and have had three of these happen to me, four if you take it out of the calling-the-rectory scenario.
Evangelization skills start with humanity skills. It's as easy and as difficult as that.