(Got a complaint? This could be your calling, right.)
Knoxville, TN: Our Lady of the Sorrowful Heart Parish in Oak Ridge has a unique approach to vocations.
They're suggesting the complaining parishioners become diocesan hermits.
Nathan Jubilante, a long time parishioner, had never heard of this form of consecrated life before Fr. Raymond Smith suggested it to him. "At first I was skeptical--I mean, I thought he was just trying to get me to stop complaining about the choir. But then I thought, you know, I could take my complaints to God full time... and God can take it better than our liturgy committee could. So I'm talking to the bishop and thinking seriously about it."
The choir has been a source of "more than a few" complaints, according to choirmaster Juliana Motlen. "We do our best, but people either prefer more traditional, or more contemporary, or more silence, or more clapping. And Gloria Lenfield, bless her recently departed soul, was a stalwart member who loved God and loved cracking those high E notes. I went to Father Smith in tears, saying 'I can't take it anymore!' And he said, 'I've got a plan, Juliana--God's plan.' And he presented the Sorrowful Heart Hermit Vocational Drive, popularly abbreviated SHH."
Fr. Smith, when interviewed, said "SHH is really quite simple. Someone complains to me--about the choir is where it started, but it worked so well we've expanded this to all complaints--and I listen, nod thoughtfully, and say 'You know, I hear you, but I want to ask you something. Have you ever considered that God is calling you to be a consecrated hermit?' It's stunning how many people say others have already told them they'd be a good hermit. I give them some literature, invite them to a Saturday retreat on the topic, and now we've got 15 potential hermits from our parish. I tell you, it's the miracle of God's work in the world."
Jubilante is catiously optimistic about exploring this vocation. He says that the vows of chastity and poverty are not difficult, given he is a devout widower on a limited income. Obedience, he admits, "isn't always my strong suit. I get riled up, people say." But others from Sorrowful Heart Parish, who declined to be named for this article, are excited: not only does the SHH initiative break records for consecrated vocations from one parish in a year, the parish council has been completely wiped out, due to all members being in discernment.
"The one thing we didn't expect--since we had no expectation regarding the success of SHH--was how to offer this option to married couples, " said Fr. Smith. "So when a married person complains, we ask him if he has considered becoming a third-order hermit. We're talking with secular institutes to determine how one can even be a third order hermit, but I think this is the creativity of The New Evangelization coming into play. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!"
Fr. Smith will be speaking at the Cathedral tonight on the SHH program, in a talk titled "Have a complaint...or a vocation? Why God may want you out of my parish." The program begins at 7pm.