I had a professor in the seminary, a priest who was a bit narrow. If he was mentioning anyone who had a good idea, he would add that the person was Catholic. Apparently a good idea from a Catholic was much better than the same good idea from a Methodist. This was pointed out to my professor. One of his students pointed out to him that Thomas Edison was a Protestant. But the electric light bulb would have been just the same had he been Catholic. The professor blew his stack.
Wisdom is like gold; it is where you find it. We cannot be picky about the sources of our gifts. Which gets me to John Calvin. Surprise! He was one of the principal reformers of Protestantism. I think he was less Catholic than all the others. His ideas of the pre-determination of souls makes me very nervous. However, he had another idea that, I think, was a real gift. He said that in our striving for God, our first awareness is not of a loving God, but of our own sinfulness. In other words, we really become aware of a loving God when we become aware of how much we need Him.
I do not know if this fits everyone, but it sure fits me. I always believed in God, but I became a real believer on the day when I could not see how I could make it through until sunset unless God did something. My being out of control and powerless led me to the God who has all power.
It is like a baby. Does a baby need his mother or love his mother? Well, both. They go together. But which is greater, his love or his need? My need for God is greater than any baby’s need for his mother. My love for God and my need for God is all mixed up.
And so, John Calvin, I thank you for this piece of wisdom. It is okay to need God before you love Him. That is only recognizing the fact of our creature-hood. Our needs lead us to love. It’s true you were not Catholic but I do appreciate your spiritual wisdom.
Fr. James O'Leary
Creating your own monument
The above project involves two questions.
No. 1 – What would you like to be remembered for?
No. 2 – Who would you want to be your museum curator?
Very probing questions! Let’s look at no. 1.
If you were going to be remembered for one thing, what would it be? What one thing in your life really expresses the real you? What would you stand with? All of us have a horrible memory that we hope the whole world will forget. At least I do. But it is easy to laugh at our foibles. What are we most proud of in our past life? How would we like to be remembered two generations from now?
It would not have to be a great thing. Few of us have aspirations to go down in the history books. The little things may best show who we are. I know a woman who, I think, would say her greatest moment came in taking care of her dying mother. I know another who would say that rising above the hurt of her husband’s adultery and going on loving was her finest hour. No one really knew what the cost was to both of these women during their shining moments.
Which leads to question No. 2. Who do you want to remember? Our first moment may be an anonymous moment. What if our time of heroic virtue comes and no one notices? This would be intolerable for me. I realize that God knows, but I have to have someone else. Just one person! Who would that person be for you? Who do you want to take care of the lasting treasure that is you?
I invite you to think about these two questions. The answers will tell you who you are; the answers will tell you what you are about.
Fr. James O'Leary