I went down to school today to attend the Mass/induction-ceremony for the Delta Epsilon Sigma Honor Society. It's a national honor society for students attending Catholic Universities that I learned today is actually not that easy to get into - you need a minimum 3.67 GPA (mine is 3.97...still don't know how that happened), you must demonstrate a level of intellectual curiosity - which is essentially providing them with a list of all the books that you've read since starting college - being a book-geek that was no problem for me, I had about 200 on my list before I ran out of room on the application; and you have to provide proof of community service - again, no problem, between the soup kitchen, senior center and a ton of church volunteering I had that one covered.
The priest presiding over the service, Fr. J, asked me to do the introduction/welcome to the Mass. His instructions: Comment on why we're celebrating, include a tie-in to one of this week's lectionary readings, keep it under 3 minutes, and email it to him for review (??!) a week beforehand. Since I haven't attended a Catholic mass in many, many years I asked him for some direction as to how general/specific he wanted me to be in regards to the reading, "It's up to you" he said, "you set the tone." Great! I can do that. I decided to focus on the 1 Corinthians 13 reading where Paul says "I will show you a still most excellent way": Love God, love others. I emphasized the community service aspect of being a DES inductee and how we were not celebrating our own accomplishments but rather the gifts that we've been given to help others. I spent a few days sweating over my 3 minute copy and emailed it to Fr. J Tuesday morning. With no response by Friday I was starting to worry that he never got it, so I emailed him again - "I'll look at it tonight" he assured me.
I spent this morning working in the church thrift shop, got home at 1:30 p.m. to an email which read "thanks for writing the introduction. I have edited it stressing the part of thanksgiving in the service".....ok.....a) I did not expect him to edit it and b) if he wanted a "thanksgiving" tone he could've told me that up front. No sweat, I can live with change....so I opened the document and BAM! Not only had he moved entire paragraphs around so they didn't flow as well, but he reworded the heart of my message making it into something I had not intended it to be. Aaarrrgghh! To top it off, English is not Fr. J's first language and it showed in the grammar/awkward phrasing of some of the additions he made.
Ok, I know I have to get over this fear of editors given that I will have run-ins-a-plenty with them in seminary. Although I've been lay preaching fairly steadily for quite some time I know there's still much for me to learn: Polishing my delivery, editing out repetition, making my points clearer, reading deeper into scriptural meaning - these are all things I need to work on....but I HATE having my words moved around to the degree that they no longer express the message I was trying to convey.
I could not in good conscious read what Fr. J. had written - so I spent the two hours I had before the ceremony re-writing his re-write. Point-of-interest: I had never met this priest before, for all I know he may have thought I was a 20-year-old neophyte rather than the aged and experienced preacher (ha!) that I am (puff puff puff goes my ego).
All my puffing came to nothing. I showed Fr. J my revised copy prior to the ceremony and explained to him that he had misinterpreted what it was I trying to say, and he was fine with it. (in fact when I showed him my copy he said "yes, that is what I wrote"….no, that is what I wrote, so nanny-nanny-poo-poo).
God Lesson for the day: Editors are a fact of life and so are last-minute re-writes. Don't get so full of yourself that you can't take a little constructive criticism; but if you honestly feel that the criticism is more destructive than constructive, open your mouth and say so.