Go Go Catholic Priesthood, Part 2!
On with the show!
I think I will write on Father Jester next. He was the Chaplain of my University’s Catholic Newman Club for the first two years of my membership, and is also the Vocations Director for my Diocese. In layman’s terms, he goes out and finds new young men to take a crack at joining the Priesthood. I first met this man at the tail end of a dark time in my life. I will not go into gory exposition about my past sins, to call them hideous suffices. I was very lost, and in searching for my footing (and running from my true calling, as far as I can discern what it is right now), and for whatever reason I got it in my thick skull that I should be a Priest. I think some of this was me wanting to play the hero, which I confirmed later when reading The Seven Story Mountain by Thomas Merton and realizing that he had done the same. So I made the call to Father Jester, and met with him to discuss the situation. Shortly afterwards I wound up being forcefully removed by the Hand of God from my own Darkness, and had to bashfully admit that I was mistaken in my choice.
When I showed up at the Newman Club a few months later, it was shocking and uncomfortable to find that he was our assigned Priest. My fears were unwarranted, for he has never once, ever mentioned the fact that I even spoke to him about becoming a Priest. Not even breathed a syllable. He was also uncompromisingly friendly towards me, with no hint of being let down by my awkward decline. He was generous to all, often taking us out to dinner or buying the entire Club pizza with his own paycheck, so that our group had more funds for greater works on campus. I can hardly remember a time when he was not cracking some sort of sarcastic joke at his own or our expenses, in fact, his good humor was the chief thing I remember about him, even though his complete lack of self-importance and other finer qualities were by far more important. I recall one day while we were all sitting around, that he was talking about the larger than average Seminarian group that had joined up this year. As a result, his budget had been boosted, and other departments had received cuts. He quipped that the Pro-life Office probably had a hit out on him for that.
Father Hippie is the Pastor at a Parish very near to my house, in my hometown. I see him fairly often, as the church has an attached 24-hour Eucharistic Adoration Chapel that I attend. He also taught some Religion classes at my High School, though I never had him as a teacher. Like Father Kinship, he usually sports a nifty sweater-vest, though his are generally patterned argyle, or whatever those patterns are called. I am no fashionist. When you meet him, you will note that his hand gestures and posture are somewhat like Obi-wan Kenobi’s, or some other venerable Jedi Knight. He is the least intimidating man I have ever met, despite his height being about mine, for he is soft-spoken and nearly unflappably even-tempered. The only time I have ever seen him become annoyed is when I tried to wheedle around a sin in Confession. I was caught off-guard by the look he gave me, and quickly silenced myself like a tiny child. His temperament serves him very well in his position, and moreso in his Ministry, which involves regularly counseling mothers who have aborted their own children. He is so non-threatening that his powerful words are like harmless dust that floats about your head, which are subsequently inhaled. Once in the body, they reveal their true nature as powerful anti-biotic agents, destroying sinful or poorly thought out morality and eating away at your inner fears. His keen insight echoes into his homilies as well, it is a rare day when I come to Mass at his Parish and come away having not learned something awe inspiring that should have been obvious to me from the beginning. Father Hippie’s manner of speaking is light and airy, like the whisper of wind that is God passing by. He is very much in awe of his Creator and Creation, and were he not so excellently Catholic, it would not be amiss to see him in a tie-die shirt and bell-bottom jeans, in the middle of an aggregate of Flower Children. He moves and breathes to imitate Christ in his demeanor, and has that Meek and Holy Strength that few ever attain with any degree of accuracy. Again, like so many of his compatriots, he walks through life blissfully unaware of his own greatness, and turns all the Glory back to the Son of Man who set him apart for this noble task.
Speaking of humility, I know no man more humble than Father Humble. He, like Father Hippie, has a quiet and reserved nature, and remains calm through much. He is the current Chaplain of the Newman Club, and Pastor of a local Parish at the same time. Some may overlook the man due to his simplicity and unassuming posture, and those souls that do would be unfortunate to an extent that is disheartening. He holds Saint John Vianney in high regard, and tries to emulate him as the ideal Priest. He is resoundingly successful. The man is a spiritual workhorse. He goes about his duties without complaint, and without the slightest sense of fanfare. I have never seen him once mention being tired, or needing a break, though lesser men, myself included, regularly do, for far less difficult tasks than managing an entire congregation and a group of college students simultaneously. His homilies are practical, short, and to the point, as are his Confessions and his helpful spiritual advice. Yet, all these qualities are nothing compared to his reverence before the Lord. How Father Humble prays, and how he celebrates Mass, are things I have never seen before. He stands before the Lord as a little schoolboy receiving instruction from an Almighty Schoolmaster. His reverence is complete, and flawless as far as my mortal senses can tell me. Surely, such humility before the Lord has led to his miles-above-par servant leadership throughout his Vocation.
On to the Religious Priests. We shall begin with The Most Interesting Priest in the World. For shorthand, I shall call him Father Interesting. This man has been all over the place. South America, Mexico, Canada, Europe, and I think even a few places in Asia, though I am not entirely sure. He has several degrees beyond his schooling at the seminary, most of them in Science and Engineering. His interests include being epic, military history, history in general, various branches of science, philosophy, theology, and sports. The man is an embodiment of the life of the party. He has more anecdotes, and ones of a more wholesome nature, than Mick Jagger and Keith Richards combined. He is a member of Legionnaires, a roving order of Missionary Priests. Father Interesting has fished for marlin, and done well at it, catching at least one massive swordfish while in South America. His order is devoted to traveling wherever they will exercise the most spiritual influence on people, be it hundreds of schools that they visit and/or run, or the offices of prominent businessmen and politicians seeking moral guidance. He can lecture and discuss almost anything under the sun for hours on end, and, like all great men, loves J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. He serves as co-Chaplain at my campus Newman Club, and helps proselytize the campus and invigorate our hearts and minds with the Gospel at every opportunity. Often times he is called upon to run games of Mafia at our parties, during which he carries a large NERF rocket launcher that he fires at those who the Mafia has murdered during the night. His order runs a camp for boys somewhere in the wildlands of Indiana, where the theme ranges from sports to Lord of the Rings. The camp itself is on top of a steep hill, by a pond, and at its base is what I have dubbed “THE Catholic Man Lodge”. It is a beautiful three story house heated by fireplaces and nothing else, with enormous windows to look out at the farmlands and woods surrounding. It has a wonderful rustic and outdoorsy feel, complete with multiple animal heads (all named, of course), antler racks, pictures of Mary, Blessed Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, rosaries, battle maps, and crucifixes. Attached is a large wooden shed that is more of a barn, and on the second floor a chapel for Mass, and a giant plasma TV for movies. My compatriots and I are taken on Men’s Retreats there, and oh, the grand tales of feasting and laughter, the quiet, solemn Masses, the excellent discussions of Faith and Manhood, and joyful hours of hard labor chopping wood or making repairs, or expanding the boy’s camp at the top of the hill.
Among men, Father Interesting is a natural leader. He knows how to master a situation, directing people where to go and what to do, and jumping in himself wherever things are going slow or there is a gap in manpower. Person to person, he is concise, to the point, and practical, and becomes even more so when in Confession. He is a man who gives the impression that he knows exactly what he is doing, and that impression is anything but false. Again, like so many others, he does not seem to understand, or even care to dwell on, how amazing it is that he travels the world in the name of Christ,with no permanent bed to call his own, relying on his Order and the kindness of strangers for his sustenance and the very roof he sleeps under. To us, he is a General decked out in medals. To himself, he is an average man who happens to be a Priest, one who sees his Vocation as important, but at the same time views it as one among the millions of different jobs contained within the Body of Christ.
Brother Canadian is, in fact, a Canuck. He is Father Interesting’s apprentice of sorts, a Priest-in-training, if you will. I would be hard pressed to name a more helpful and friendly person than him, if you asked. He looks like the image of any popularly depicted younger Priest from the 1940’s-50’s, and behaves with the same quiet grace and dignity. As he cannot do much aside from give us spiritual advice at this time, there is little to say about his capabilities in that regard, although judging from all his other attributes, when he does turn his hand to that branch of Ministry he will no doubt be exemplary at it. He is an inquisitive fellow, always full of questions about what the rest of us have been up to, and his eagerness to know our habits and our hearts is entirely genuine, as opposed to the current trend of asking after someone out of empty formulaic politeness. It is rare to find him at rest, even during these conversations, as he has a sort of dynamic energy about him that usually gets spent on tidying up, gathering things, or hustling through tasks he has been assigned. I have often spent the first hour or so during our Men’s Retreats talking with him while we prepared dinner, myself answering his questions and taking things he hands to me while he is shoulder deep in the expansive refrigerator searching out choice bits from the vast quantity of food therein. One might think him overly submissive, but I would have to adamantly disagree. The young man, not much older than myself, actually, is simply incredibly considerate and polite, in the honest manner that so many of us have forgotten or deemed anachronistic. In a nation of rowdy, angry, often-rude, ill-contented people, he is a startling and wonderful breath of fresh mountain air. Speaking of mountains, he may not look like it, but he goes rock-climbing and hiking all the time. The gentleman who seems so meek and mild in a kitchen or domestic environment is exactly the man you want at your side when you happen to be facing a trek through some very real and very dangerous wilderness.
Father Aragorn I had the pleasure of meeting through The Most Interesting Priest in the World and Brother Canadian. Now, my friends and I have mock combat with full-contact LARPing weapons on a regular basis (think Role Models without the uncalled for vulgarity, perversion, and weird costumed finery), and I was explaining the principles of the various weapons to Father Interesting on one of the Men’s Retreats. He explained that every Summer at the Boy’s Camp, they hold a Lord of the Rings week-long camp that deals with virtues and basic concepts of Good and Evil, and that at the end of the week, they have a mock battle with similar weapons. I was promptly told to contact Father Aragorn and explain to him what I did and how to construct more effective safe weapons for the boys. After a few phone conversations, I was invited to their local Order House that they stay at when in our area to show them the weapons I had made and explain some of their options and tactics they could teach the kids. After an introduction over breakfast we talked for an hour or two, I did as I was asked, they found out I had a Ringwraith costume, complete with sword, and I lent it to them. I was then invited to give a talk on proper use of the weapons they had available, basic group tactics, and spiritual warfare. While I waited for the boys to be assembled, I had another chance to talk to Father Aragorn about a range of things, including their plans for the camp. It turned out that Father Interesting and Brother Canadian were running a Work Camp at the Catholic Man Lodge down the hillside, and that the ten or so teenagers they had there had played orcs that occasionally attacked the young boys on nighttime raids, with all sorts of special effects and sneaky optic tricks. For example, they had flaming arrows powered by ignited hand sanitizer, and one of the Priests pretended to be shot and run away with a burning arm that was literally on fire. I was summarily invited back to be an Uruk Hai (I was the tallest person there, barring Brother Canadian who like me is around 6’3″, but he was with Gondor for this fight) at their battle at the end of the week. It was great fun, with charges and continuous retreats (You try fending off 30-something smaller people you have to go easy on for fairness’ sake, especially when they have arrows and you have no shield…), firecrackers and smoke bombs, and, at my suggestion and Father Aragorn’s gleeful assent, my return as a cave troll with my home-made 6’6″ sword. Words will never express those boy’s faces when they had the orcs on the run and I came lumbering up behind them, bellowing like mad, while Father screamed, “CAAAAVE TROOLLL!!!! CAAAAVE TROLLLL!!!!” I will admit, I have not gotten to know the man very well, but you cannot deny, awesome is a perfect word to describe him.
And that is everyone. Now that all is said and done, I suggest that the next time you see a Priest, you thank him for his work. They deserve every drop of gratitude we give them.