Next Monday I have to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and report for jury duty. It’s one of those things that seem to come to me more often than it does to any one else whom I know, but maybe that’s just my imagination. However, it has happened frequently enough that I can spot the envelope at twenty paces, and I know what will be inside: “Jury Summons” in big letters at the top.
I then go through my usual routine. My first words are always something like, “I can’t believe it! Another jury summons!” I might even throw in an expletive or two. I then examine my calendar meticulously, hoping to find some “unbreakable appointment” which would allow me to whine to the Central Jury Bailiff that I just can’t go. Actually, that doesn’t work any more because I have them trained. For the past several years when a summons has arrived, I’ve told them that I cannot take part in jury duty during the school year because our children have Mass daily and it’s difficult to find another priest to cover for me. I laid out the case that if they insisted I come then the government would be interfering with our students’ free exercise of religion. I then told them, “But I’d be happy to serve during the summer months when our children are on break.” Apparently they accepted my argument and then took my summer offer seriously: my summons now comes during June or July.
Actually, I don’t really mind heading down to the Justice Center to do my civic duty. It’s one of those things that cause an initial bout of complaints, but after it’s over I always think it wasn’t so bad after all. It does make it a rush to celebrate the 7:00 a.m. Mass and then try to fight the traffic to get there by 8:00 a.m. I’ll have to be late, but from what I’ve seen in the past, lots of people show up late. I’m always satisfied that I have a really good excuse, though. After all, the Mass is more important.
Only once have I actually been chosen to serve on a jury, and as luck would have it I ended up as the foreman. That involved an investment of several days, so I’m always hopeful I’ll be passed over. I fantasize that I’ll tell them I believe in capital punishment for parking tickets, or something like that. But I never do. I take a good book and keep my head down. I focus my prayers: I pray that I’ll be told to go home at lunch time.
Oh well, whatever happens will happen. Caesar has his needs, and justice makes her demands. I guess the least I can do is cooperate.