A Brief Meditation on”Other Duties as Assigned.”

121813-PopeI think all of us who embark on a certain career path, or status or vocation have a certain file in our life called “other duties as assigned.” Priests, and especially pastors are no exception. Since most of us live on site, there are many custodial duties that often find their way into our “other duties as assigned” file.

Often for example since we do live on site, (I affectionately refer to it as “living above the store”) we are the failsafe when keys are forgotten and doors must be opened. So it’s 6:00 AM, and the youth group is off to an early morning bus trip. But three of the kids and two adults must get into the school to use the bathroom.  “Well just call Father, and have him come down and unlock the building!”  So that goes into the “other duties as assigned file” and is  subfiled under “keeper the keys,” “opener of the doors,” and “the failsafe.”

The Picture at the upper right is me in 2005 in the parish play, “Purlie Victorius” where I played the part of “Old Captain Cotchipee”  Filed under “other duties as assigned.”

This weekend, I realized how much I miss our maintenance man, who recently had a stroke. And though we have some part-time help, recent snows meant that the leaves went unraked out front.   So there I was, before the next snow comes raking the leaves cassock  and all. Neighbors walking by wistfully asked,  “Msgr., don’t you have anyone else to help you with that?” “Ah!,” said I, “A little exercise is good for the soul and the body!” And I filed it under “other duties as assigned.”

But perhaps one of the wildest examples of other duties as assigned happened this weekend also, in the middle of our main Mass. Just at the end of the homily, terrible sounds began coming out of the basement boiler room. I knew it once what was happening. The bearings on the flywheel of the blower have come loose recently, and parts for the old mechanism have been ordered. But meantime, the friction burns up the grease,and the screeching sound signals that the flange is eating itself up, send sparks out and all. Not good, I thought.

It may or may not surprise you to know that pastors, especially those with older churches are skilled  boiler mechanics! Usually it results from living above the store and being the one on-site when the boiler does bad stuff. For some reason, boilers like to act up at 2:00 AM in the morning. And so we learn a lot the hard way, on the phone to the HVAC people: “OK Father, it sounds like the pneumatic system, so reset the compressor and tell me if that helps….Alright Father, try bleeding down the boiler to blow the sludge…its the valve on the right….etc” Along the way, we just learn a lot by osmosis and probably know just enough to be dangerous.

So there I was, at mid Mass, and the prayers of the faithful have just concluded. The Church is already growing cold and the grinding sounds are worse.  A quick word to the nearest choir member: “Sing some extra verses!”  and off I dash down the back stairs to the basement, vestments and all, grabbing the grease gun from the tool room as I go!

The blower housing and coil are the size of a truck trailer and it took a moment for the vacuum seal to let loose. But then, in I went. Now that’s a sight! Inside the blower housing, greasing the flywheel and motor, in full vestments, which are swaying in the wind from the fan still slowly turning at the back of the unit.

Back out, seal the door, fire up the unit! She ought to be good now, at least for the next few hours, “Hang in there baby!” Up the steps, tripping as I go, into the sanctuary, the cross and candles are just now leading the bearers of bread and wine up the aisle. “Thank you Jesus!…right on time!” The MC whispered, “Msgr. we were worried, thought we’d lost you.” “No concerns,” I said, “Just, other duties as assigned.”

Ah yes, we all have them, those things never appeared in the job description and will never go on our resumé or curriculum vitae, but there they are, other duties as assigned.

The Lord says, He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much (Lk 16:11). Please Lord, keep faithful in the lesser things, the unexpected things, so that one day I may be found worthy of the greater things too.  Help me never to begrudge “other duties as assigned.”

Somehow I am mindful that the Lord also had “other duties as assigned.” One of the most touching and moving scenes in the Gospels is on a certain resurrection morning, at the lakeside in Galilee. Peter is eagerly swimming ashore to see the Risen Lord. And there is Jesus, the very Son of God and Lord of all, cooking breakfast for them (Jn 21:7). Yes, Jesus Christ, Eternal Son of the Father, Divine Logos, Universal King, Savior of the Nations, and breakfast chef….”Other duties as assigned.”

17 Replies to “A Brief Meditation on”Other Duties as Assigned.””

  1. What an excellent post! You are so good natured about these things…that’s the right way to be! 🙂

  2. Did you borrow that outfit from Colonel Arlen Sanders. You look like the Pope of fried chicken.

    1. You look great in that white suit Monsignor. It might come in handy one day if you are assigned to a parish in Florida.

  3. Yup. You are a Father, indeed, not of biological children but of spiritual children of your parish. Like us fathers, yup, other duties assigned we must do. The mothers of the family prod us to do the nitty gritties and The Mother Church prods you to do, not only the spiritual aspects, but the nitty gritties as well in order that the house be spick and span. Spick and span, spiritual and the brick and mortar Church, as well. GOD Bless you, Monsi.

  4. I hope your parishioners appreciate all you do for them! The picture I had of you is a priest who is studying and writing most of the time! I (and I include myself as part of your flock) certainly appreciate all you do.

    Love the picture! God bless you, Monsignor!

  5. As a wife and mother, I can certainly relate to this. If I had only been given a job description, it would have helped. It took me literally years to realize that I was supposed to be my husband’s junk mail secretary. 😉 Going through stacks of papers that I assumed were Important, I discovered that most of them were junk mail addressed ro him, which had never been opened.

  6. !!!
    I loved this. It’s a real gift when we can laugh at how comical life can be. I loved JPII for this. His joyful humanity made him like a living magnet. Thank you for writing.

  7. I’d also like to comment on the “other duties as assigned” that may not be so trivial. I am so very proud of my parish priest, because he is incredibly good at showing God’s mercy. He recently shared a story about a funeral where he was asked to preside at the death of a child even though the family members were not parishioners. He walked in to find the mother of the deceased child holding the dead child. The funeral completed, and all of the attendees and the funeral director conveniently left leaving him there with the grieving mother still holding the child. He gently affirmed that the child would be with the mother forever in her heart and helped the mother place the child in the casket. I would like to commend all of our priests who see us at both our best and our worst and still continue to show God’s mercy and His presence in our lives, especially for those extraordinary duties that you perform. .

  8. Those Pastoral/Custodial duties give a whole different meaning to the “office of the keys”!

  9. I do not understand why the Church got rid of the Order of Porters in the post Vatican II reforms. They kept the keys to the Church, rang the bells, and generally did a lot of this sort of work so that the blessed hands of the priest would not be soiled by greasing furnace blower bearings during the Sacrifice of the Mass.

  10. ‘Other duties as assigned’ spice up our duties and make us sensitive to the needs of others. Thanks to Msgr for the post.

  11. Wow! I never knew Msgr. Pope you could act. God gives us different gifts and talents!

  12. Very good Msgr, not only are you great with deep theology, but are able to point out the Divine in the Every Day as well!

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