” After that, it’s….”

That line above appeared in two recent movies on modern British royalty: The Queen and The King’s Speech in which a stranger to royal protocol is cheerfully instructed to only use the full honorific once, then afterwards that it’s the decidedly non-posh “M’am as in HAM, not MAHM as in palm.”

This gives me a chance to make a point about titles and terms of address specifically as it pertains to ME.

Not for the first time, today I was greeted by a Catholic (in this case at a Funeral) with the words “Hello Pastor!” I don’t know what it is with funerals or this particular funeral home but this is how I’ve been addressed too often in this particular situation since I got here.  To be fair, this first started when I was made the pastor of Saint James Church in Seaford eleven years ago. For twenty-two years of priesthood I’d been addressed as “Father”; then all of a sudden I was being addressed in speech as “Pastor”.

Today I replied to the good-hearted cheerful soul who addressed me as such with blunt but humorous reply “I aint’ no Lutheran, call me Father”.

I make this point because it marks (at least to me) another diminution of Catholic culture that if not corrected would simply be another item on the “There’s another thing people don’t know today” list.

OK, here it is: In the English speaking world Roman Catholic diocesan and most religious priests are addressed as Father. It was also the custom that secular (i.e. priests not members of religious orders) are also addressed by their last or family name: not their first name. This is a custom I prefer; hence I refer to myself as Father Hewes. If I were a monk or a friar I would properly be called Father Robert, but I’m not. As for the occasional Father Bob, the least said the better. J

The modern cult of never using last names has produced some interesting dialogue at times along the lines of:

Father, do you know Father Bill in Cape Spondoolic in Florida?

Oh, what’s his last name?

I don’t’ know. He’s just Father Bill.

Oh yes, he’s the only priest named Bill, of course, I know him.

Now, what about “pastor” then?

First, “pastor” is my title, my job description so to speak. It’s the office I hold. (By custom Lutheran and some other Protestant clergy are called “pastor” as a form of address, but not Catholic priests.)

When you had a “Monsignor” as pastor I bet nobody greeted him with “Hello, Chaplain to His Holiness!”

Or to use a secular example: if you had occasion to visit a medical specialist you probably said “Good morning, Doctor” NOT “Good morning, gastroenterologist!”

While I hold the office of pastor, I’m still a Catholic priest, so kindly call me “Father”.  (Unless one day I get to add a set of purple buttons to my cassock: then I’ll write another blog like this.)

And that, ladies and gentlemen, (not “men and women”) is my lighter-than –usual latest blog.

May 9, 2011

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