Thursday, January 8, 2009

Be Heroic, Unheroically

My latest for the Catholic Telegraph, diocesan paper for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, is published this week. Regular readers will note a strong similiarity to this post (it was too good not to share!):

Everyone's a hero in their own way, in their own not that heroic way.- Joss Whedon, Zack Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen, and Jed Whedon, from Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog, 2008.

In a conversation last week on things in the Vocation Office, the Fishers of Men DVD was mentioned. Stunningly, one of the group mentioned that there are priests who absolutely cannot stand the video, which I think is terrific. “It is too heroic,” they say; “it doesn't match up to reality.” (As an aside, the scene that usually elicits this response is one where a teen is severely injured in the car wreck and a priest runs up to anoint and absolve him; which is based on a real life event.)

Because so much of what we do as priests can be seen as 'humdrum,' we can sometimes forget that we are called to be living witnesses to the Gospel; that we, as priests, are called to be heroes.

It happens in my own situation at times. I sit here at my desk, in my office, writing a column, going through paperwork, waiting for a phone call, answering emails, not to mention all the things that I should be doing and am not; and I ask myself: “how is this being 'a living witness of the Gospel'?”

For priests who are pastors of parishes, it is so easy to get caught up in the business aspects of parish life: the endless meetings, the balance sheet from the bank, squabbles among the office staff; that the idea of being 'a living icon of Christ the High Priest' is great in theory, not so good in practice.

Sure, when we are preaching on Sunday, celebrating the Sacraments, or visiting the sick; yeah, we can see it then. But really, how much of our time is in that arena? As one pastor I know said: 'I would like to think that way, but I have to pay off the debt!'

The difficulty is trying to identify that even and especially in those things that are not that heroic, that doing them well, doing them with honor, doing them with prayer is exactly heroic! Reading Jesuit Father Walter Ciszek's He Leadeth Me, he was struck with the same thought when serving time in a Soviet Gulag prison camp. He was asked by fellow prisoners: “Why work your hardest? Why strive to do your best when it only serves an oppressive regime?” His response was simple, yet profound: “Because it is my way of being heroic and giving praise and glory to God!” This was his way of living out the Jesuit motto: All for the Greater Glory of God!

St. Margaret Clitherow provides a final example. During fierce persecution of Catholics after the English Reformation, she was arrested for harboring priests and having Mass said in her home; capital offenses at the time. As she was being lead to her martyrdom, she sent her shoes and stockings to her daughter as a reminder to follow her mother’s footsteps. She was an ordinary wife and mother, living her faith heroically, simply out of love for Jesus.

Let us all strive to be heroes, in our own not that heroic way.


Fr. Bud Pelletier said...

Thanks for the reminder this morning, as I look at the budget, answer the emails, plan for the school, and prepare for a day of meetings (and fit in a little web surfing of course). Do them well, do them with honor, do them with prayer. I thank you for the reminder and the boost.

Kat said...

I don't know that I could be so brave as St. Margaret.