It seems like my pastor is asking me to do everything at church and I feel like I can’t say no. Is it OK for me to say no? When is too much, too much?
A stretched pastor would be hard pressed not to admit that some of his favorite phrases are: “Yes, Father”; “I’ll take care of that, Father”; and “Anything else, Father?” These words are like music to his ears. That being said, pastors must also be realists. These gestures of good will cannot and should not come too often, even from the most generous of people in the busiest of parishes. The swiftest symphony must include a rest. So within the orchestrations of parish life, how does the generous parishioner say, “No, Father.”
Oddly, the most acceptable “no” comes from one who has first said “yes.” A wise spiritual director once said, “Remember, you cannot burn out unless you have first caught fire.” God gives us talents in order that we may use them in His service. If we sit on our talents and do not practice them or work to make them better, they will be lost, along with all the good we might have accomplished using them. However, once we have done our share, felt the burn and, for the time being, thought enough is enough, it might be time to say no.
To discern and get through this moment, prayer is essential. God will guide us when we take care of ourselves as the temple of His Holy Spirit. It may be difficult for a pastor to have a request turned down, but there is no force on earth that can fault someone who says, with sincerity, “Father, I have prayed about this and I am afraid I have to say no this time.” It means that there is discernment backing the decision. There is no weakness or sloth, but rather a strength and diligence behind this type of no. The discerning pastor, then, may understand that the same God who sent one generous parishioner will also inspire and send another. If we do our part, God will always ensure the music goes on.
By Father Woodrow Pace
Director of the Mission Office