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Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Best are Still the Best

This is not a golden age for the Church. It is anything but. However, despite all my negativity - and I am the first to call myself a hypocrite here - despite all my negativity, two Catholics have jumped to the fore in recent years. They are quite simply, Cardinal Collins and Archbishop Prendergast.

I have criticized them in the past, sometimes to their faces, sometimes under my breath, sometimes with indirect allusion. But, compared to these two, I am the one seriously lacking.

Archbishop Prendergast is one of my best friends in the world, and as those who know me know, I don't like anyone. The more I have come to know him, the more I have come to esteem him. He is a father and a confidant, one of the only people - perhaps the only person - whose opinion I trust always.

Cardinal Collins once disappointed me when he was my rector in the seminary, and however one might split hairs about who was right, today he is the one expending every last ounce of his introverted strength (which, believe me, as an introvert myself, is hard!) over the cause of euthanasia. A friend stopped by yesterday who happened to be in the Toronto Archdiocese on Sunday when the Cardinal's message was delivered in all the parishes. Based upon this friend's description, I called it "a model and a case study for the new evangelization."

All of this is preambulatory to my notice here that I am removing the blog, Sign of Contradiciton, from the SCCB list. I have a pretty liberal policy here. I list a lot of blogs, some of which I don't wholly care for. Previously I have only felt the need to remove one other based upon its content. I am doing this because this blog is discouraging of two pastors who are, frankly, the best of us.

Some of us have a immature sense of the priesthood. It's not that there is anything wrong with models like St. John Vianney and St. Charles Borromeo. It is that the critics of our two great bishops don't recognize that (a) the lives of our saintly models were much more complex than many books lead us to believe, so much so that most of us would not even have recognized that these were saints had we come across Vianney and Borromeo in their lifetimes, (b) the good that our two great bishops do is truly heroic.

As a student of history, I happen to know that all saints did not appear as saints in their lifetimes. Sts. Ambrose and Augustine did not care all that much for each other when they met. Borromeo and Neri seemed to have disliked each other (I think I am right about this latter one, if memory serves me).

When I was a young, idealistic convert, I looked down on the married vocation. I thought it was in essence lukewarm Catholicism. From my immature vantage point I could not see the complexity, difficulty, self-sacrifice, discouragement, perseverance, etc., that went into holy Catholic marriages.

I spent two years living with priests when I was a young man. What an important experience that was. I saw what priests do. It's not glamorous, but it is worthy.

Glamour was one-tenth of one-percent of the lives of Vianney and Borromeo. It is perhaps even less for Collins and Prendergast. But does this not prove how heroic their ministry really is?

Sure, us armchair bishops know what bishops are supposed to do. How great are we! We all know what they should do about the Catholic school system, the parishes, the pro-life movement, wayward politicians. But not every bishop was born with this kind of infused knowledge, and so they have to look at the complicated facts at hand, the inside-knowledge to which they - not we - are privy, and so on.

The fact is, laity, your lives are a mess! Did you raise perfect Catholic children? Doubtful. How, then, do you suppose that bishops can do so for thousands of souls when you can't even do it for a few?

For as critical and negative as I am, I will not be a party to the discouragement of the best of us, and the best of us are Collins and Prendergast.