by Father Mark Goldasich
Several years ago, I uttered these words in the drive- thru lane at Wendy’s. Managing editor Anita McSorley and I were heading back to The Leaven and decided to grab lunch along the way. After placing our order, Anita decided she wanted something else instead. When she asked me to amend the order, I replied, “No changing!”
With utter disbelief, Anita said, “What do you mean, ‘No changing’?” I insisted that once an order was placed, that was it. It was set in stone. This was the unwritten, immutable rule of drive-thrus.
Anita wasn’t buying it. She said, “What?!? No! Just speak up and tell the person you want to change something.” I shook my head. Nothing doing, wasn’t gonna happen.
“What is wrong with you?” asked Anita. When I looked over at her, she had a bewildered and somewhat frightened look on her face, like, “What am I doing in this car with this lunatic?” The total absurdity of the situation hit me then and I started to laugh hysterically, so much so that I couldn’t even talk. Poor Anita had to yell her new order into the speaker from the passenger seat.
When we got to the pick-up window, I knew that we’d be arrested by the Fast-Food Police: Order Changing Division. However, instead of giving me a sneer at totally disrupting the kitchen by altering the order, the cashier said not a word, just greeted me with a smile, took the payment and handed over the order with a cheery: “Have a nice day!”
The ride back to The Leaven was unbearable, with smug Anita triumphantly munching on an “I-told-you-so” French fry.
Oh, would that my inflexibility was limited to Wendy’s. Sadly, it oozes into my work at The Leaven. When a completed page comes in for me to read, I hate, hate, hate it when there’s a “late change.” And, goodness gracious, after I’ve proofread something, if an article needs to be pulled for something urgent or more timely — well, let’s just say that the staff sits outside my office door, drawing straws on who has to come in as the bearer of bad news!
I draw some comfort, though, in knowing that I share a kinship with our ancestors in the faith, who at least a dozen times in the Scriptures are admonished for being “stiff necked.” If your neck is rigid, you develop tunnel vision and fail to grasp the rich panorama of life all around you. That’s one of the things that’s most comforting about Catholicism: It’s a “both/and” — not “either/or” — faith.
One of my favorite saints, no doubt because I was taught by the Jesuits, is St. Ignatius of Loyola, their founder. Being a former soldier, he always struck me as a law-and-order, black-and-white kind of guy. Imagine my surprise to read a nugget about him written by Father Mark Thibodeaux, SJ, in his forward to “Busy Lives & Restless Souls” by Becky Eldredge.
In commenting on Ignatius’ rule for the Jesuit order, Father Mark notes humorously that the “headstrong Basque” tells his Jesuits that “such and such must be carried out exactly in this particular way, but then adds, ‘unless it seems prudent to do otherwise.’” Furthermore, in his Spiritual Exercises, a full retreat divided into four weeks, Ignatius says definitively: “[T]he Exercises will be finished in thirty days . . . a little more or less.”
Wow, if even St. Ignatius could be so flexible in something as critical as the spiritual life, who am I to be so rigid about things of much less importance. So, my assignment as a new school year looms is to work on being much less rigid.
I’m starting small by taking myself — and my opinions — a lot less seriously and by accepting that life is often unpredictable. I’ll even try to see that unexpected changes can actually turn into opportunities.
Who knows where all this will lead? Heck, one day, I may even head to Wendy’s . . . just to change my order!