“I almost blew it last night”

As we approach the end of 2012 we often reflect back on the year that has been- on what went well but also on those things that we could have done better. With spirit of reflection and contrition in mind, I share the following story.
I have often been struck by the similar roles played by priests and bartenders. In many ways our jobs are the same. We both listen to people talk about their problems, we both offer advice and mediate disputes and we both try to give folks a sense of comfort. It is not at all uncommon for someone in a bar, upon learning about my vocation to begin unburdening their soul to me.
It is worth noting that this pattern of behavior is not limited to bars, it happens in the park, at the grocery store and waiting in line at the DMV too. Once, a car salesman all but abandoned his efforts to sell me a car in favor of telling me about his pain and longing to be a musician. Anyway, the bar/confessional scenario happens frequently enough that I have to wonder if we wouldn’t get a higher participation rate if we just pulled the confessional out of church and set it up next to the jukebox instead. But onto the story that inspired me to write this…
The other night I was enjoying a few beers and ran into someone that I knew but hadn’t seen in some time. After alternating catching up and discussing the various craft beers that were available (Oskar Blues, Erie and Brooklyn- I liked the Brooklyn 1). But then out of the blue my friend said, “I gotta tell you, I almost blew it last night.” I asked what they meant. Apparently they were at a party and ran into an old flame. This is significant because they are soon to be married and moreover, their finance was out of town. According to the story this was not just a meeting… as it turns out, the old flame came on hot and heavy. My friend was tempted but did not succumb.
I must confess that I was surprised… not because my friend was tempted but rather because this is never the kind of confession I get to hear. In fact, it is really gratifying to be pleasantly surprised by one of these impromptu confessions. Much more often, they end up making me sad and tired and just generally detracting from the enjoyment that I hoped to get out of my trip to the tavern. That doesn’t mean that I resent hearing them or will refuse to hear them in future… it goes along with the job, even when I am off the clock. People will always need to get stuff off their chest and sometimes the bar is just the place to do it. I know it won’t be long till the next time someone tells me their sins or troubles over a pint.
As we wind down this first year of “So This Priest,” I want to thank you all for your support. I look forward to 2013 and a full year of sharing thoughts, stories and reflections about the blessings of beer.

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