Saturday, March 3, 2007

THE PRIEST AND THE BIRD

Walking out of the store yesterday I saw a pleasant enough looking young lady riding in a car. She had the window rolled down, her hand extended and her middle finger pointing toward God. At first I thought the thoughtful gesture was aimed in my direction, but then she caught sight of me in my Roman collar and her finger wilted like a wet, hot noodle in boiling water. Simultaneously there was apparently something that she wanted to look at intently in the exact opposite direction from whence I was standing.

Sometimes people wonder if religious garb is passé or unnecessary. Hollywood clearly thinks otherwise. If you need religious symbolism to get a point across, out come the habits and the collars (and the candles and the statues . . .).

I find it patently unfair that when some organizations (who shall remain anonymous) want to raise money all of a sudden out come pictures of nuns in habits that they have not worn for years. But that is because they know the symbolism does something. (That is not to say that there are not perfectly good nuns who do good work who do not wear habits.)

Think of a pan of a crowd in a news segment that catches a priest or sister in religious garb. For that instant, thoughts of Church, God, and Catholicism pop into mind.

When I was a baby priest, occasionally I would be walking down the street and catch a glimpse of myself with my collar on in a store window. It would jolt me into remembering that I was living a very public Catholic life involving powerful symbols and that my actions meant something to other people. It is not about me, a humbling lesson to learn, but about that collar and what it is supposed to represent.

For good or bad, symbols play a huge role in our lives. What a blessing to use this gift to remind people that even in a parking lot of a strip mall on a Thursday God is still present and that we should live our lives accordingly.

9 comments:

Rob said...

I am glad you feel this way, father. Having been born in 1972, I have, of course, known many priests who only wore their "clericals" (is that the term?) during some sacramental celebration and then quickly exchanged them for jeans and a T-shirt. Now, there were good men among them, but recently the area I live in has received several new priests who do not simply wear their roman collars, but also wear the cassock!

I love the cassock because, while the collar seems to say, "I am a priest. How may I help?", the cassock says, "I am here to kick some demon @$$!" (also, it reminds me of the Monty Python skit "The Bishop!").

However, in all seriousness, a priest reminds us, when we see his collar, that we also need to be visibly and publicly Catholic and not dissimulate our faith.

Anonymous said...

Ditto! I am soo disappointed when I see priests around town dressed....like us! I know some are avoiding the looks associated with the scandals however that's why it is so important for them to wear the collar! Keep it up Father. God Bless.

sattvicwarrior said...

you say!!!!!
for good or bad, symbols play a huge role in our lives. what a blessing to use this gift to remind people that even in a parking lot of a strip mall on a thursday god is still present and that we should live our lives accordingly.
i say!!!!!!!!!
DUDE!!!!!!!!! SYMBOLS DONT MAKE THE MAN . [ OR WHAT IS TRUTH]. IT ONLY ADDS TO MORE MISCONCEPTION, DILUTING THE ESSENCE OF THAT WHICH IS>
I WAS APPROACHED NOT TO LONG AGO IN BARCELONA BY A LADY OF THE NIGHT".
AFTER BOUT 1/2 MIN. SHE HAD THIS LOOK ON HER FACE. AND SAID. "OH EXCUSE ME FATHER.. I DIDNT KNOW YOU WERE A PRIEST". HUH???????
DUDE. IM NOT A PRIEST!!!!!!. SO WHERE DID THAT SYMBOLISM COME FROM?? CONDITIONING ????????/. FALSE CONCEPTS AND INDOCTRINATION . ??????????. [ PERSONALLY I HOPE SHE MADE A LOT OF MONEY THAT NIGHT . I PRAYED THAT SHE WOULD…. HONEST. I AINT KIDDIN YA. !!!!!!! tis a TRUE story........
it [ symbolism] is ALL smoke and mirrors . and detracts from the TRUE essence of what CHRIST consciousness is all about!!!!!.
but DONT take MY word fer it!. find out fer your self. [ and we KNOW that aint gonna HAPPEN ]

sattvicwarrior said...

LOVE the PIC of the BRONZE ANGEL on your friday post. . can i USE that on MY post??? please?
please advise!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Fr. V said...

Hey sattvicwarrior,

That picture was one of the photos in the JP II Night of the Arts at the sem.

Can't agree with you on the symbols. A smile is a symbol, a wedding ring is a symbol, these letters are sybols for concepts. Our lives are built on symbols. We'd be immoblized if we didn't have them. The next step though is to see if the promise of the symbols is kept. The only effecatious symbol in the world is the sacraments. The rest is all trust and test. That much I will give you.

If I'm in trouble in the street, I'd be overjoyed to see a policeman all dressed up in symbols driving a car all dressed up in sybols with lights and noises.

sattvicwarrior said...

dude YOU SAY..
Can't agree with you on the symbols. A smile is a symbol,
AGREED [ but also instinctual]
a wedding ring is a symbol,
AGREED
these letters are sybols for concepts.
AGREED [ ALSO PRECEPTS AND NOTIONS]
Our lives are built on symbols.
TOTALLY AGREE.
We'd be immoblized if we didn't have them.

oh oh!!!!!!!!!!!! thats the fly in the ointment dude!!!!!!
TRY TO SEE THIS PERSPECTIVE.. WE ARE " IMOBILIZED BECAUSE WE " HAVE THEM". THE APHORISM HERE IS.
THAT WHICH YOU THINK" IS" IS not. AND THAT WHICH YOU THINK " IS NOT" ACTUALLY IS.
The next step though is to see if the promise of the symbols is kept.
HOW CAN IT BE. ? THE SYMBOLS ALWAYS CHANGE. AND SINCE THERE IS NO SENSE OF PERMANENCE IN ANY OF IT WHAT GOOD IS THE PROMISE??
The only effecatious symbol in the world is the sacraments.
THATS TOTALLY CONTRADICTORY, AS THE" SACRAMENTS" ARE A WORK IN PROGRESS. JUST LOOK AT ITS EVOLUTION .
The rest is all trust and test.
NOPE. TRUST EQUATES TO FAITH. "TEST" IS JUST A PART OF THIS CHANGING ILLUSION WE CALL REALITY.
That much I will give you.
AWWWWW DUDE!!!!!!!!! ARE YOU SAYING YOU AINT GONNA GIVE ME PERMSIION TO USE THE ANGEL?
PHOOEY!!!!!! THE LATIN FOR THAT IS PHOOOOIUS ET MAGNUM TEMPORATUS CONTROLUS VITA [ i think. i took over the years studying another DEAD language SO IM A LITTLE RUSTY IN THE LATIN DEPT... . HAWAIIAN. at LEAST i can HULA to those tunes. :)
thanks for letting me express myself.

Barb the Evil Genius said...

I read a post somewhere a while back by a pastor talking about the great opportunities he had to minister to people because he wore his collar while doing hospital rounds. The collar does indeed show that you are willing to let God work through you to bring help to others.

Adoro te Devote said...

I discerned a call to religious life and I would not consider communities that are not in habit. Why in the WORLD would I want to go live in a house with a bunch of women with gray hair who dressed worse than I do?

No, the habit is necessary; it is not just symbolism; it is reality. Those who give up the world for God, but to live in and to serve the world are set apart and should be recognized as such. (there are parts of the world where this would mean immediate death; please exclude those extremes from my comments).

I spent a semester in Mexico during a time of my life in which I was desperately seeking God but holding on to the world for all it was worth. Turns out, not much. But God is faithful, and when I did pray, He answered. I was about to start a practicum and I had the address but I didn't know how to get there from where I lived, and I was begging God for help because I was down to 5 pesos and a cab minimum fare was 8-10. What to do?

I prayed.

The combi (VW van common to Mexican public transportation) that I flagged down happened to contain 2 Sisters in habit.

I was an American in Mexico, I didn't know anyone, and I did not want to ask perfect strangers what to do, but without published bus routes, I didn't have a choice. The people I knew could not help me; I'd already asked all of them.

But I knew that even if my Spanish was bad, even if someone found out I was American and they happened to dislike Americans, because 2 Sisters were present, no one would laugh at me.

Their presence gave me courage, so I asked my fellow travelers how to get to the Delegacion.

A conversation ensued, most of which I did not understand; even after 6 years of Spanish, one month in Mexico was not enough to make me fluent.

Finally, they described the bus to me, what it looked like, and where to pick it up.

The reality is this; people badmouth the Church and her representatives all the time. But when someone marked as belonging to the Church is present, no one wants to offend them, nor anyone who respects them or their presence.

Those Sisters were an immediate answer to my prayer. Had they not been in habit, I don't know what I would have done.

Sorry so long-winded.

Fr. V said...

Thanks for the comments Adoro Te Devote. What a story. What an interesting life!