—Feast of St. JeromeA friend of mine asked me recently, "If you could be any animal, what animal would you choose to be?" I didn't think about my answer very long.
In the past, before I was a Catholic, I would probably have just lept to the first thing that popped into my head. An eagle, or a tiger, or some other fearsome predator, you know, one that is lethal and smart, such as these.
It never occurred to me that I would be a donkey, for example, or a gerbil. Me killer, me strong! Velociraptor, man, not a duck-billed platypus. The dinosaur is extinct, you say? Bah!
My, how things have changed since I became a Catholic. Here is what popped into my head instead, "I was an animal for too long. Now I desire to be a human being. This is difficult, but I am trying."
Of course, biologically, I have been a homo sapien for as long as I've been around. Created in God's image, just like you. But only recently have I begun to feel like I am making progress in moving beyond the image and actually getting to the substance of being human. A human being, not just a human who happens to be. I still have a long way to go.
Since I've become a Catholic, I have unwittingly been taking St. Philip Neri's advice though. He said,
It is very useful for those who minister the Word of God, or give themselves up to prayer, to read the works of authors whose names begin with S., such as Saint Augustine, Saint Bernard, etc.
And though I'm not a minister (though I am a father) or someone given up wholly to a life of prayer (sounds appealing, but I have father/husband responsibilities), hanging around mentally with the Saints, and their writings, has had a positive impact on me.
Many of them were lost prior to being called by God's grace. Some of them even make me blush with their sinful exploits and damnable ways, before they became Catholics. This passage from the beginning of St. John's gospel was as true for them, as it is for me,
In Him was life: and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in darkness: and the darkness did not comprehend it...He was in the world: and the world was made by Him: and the world knew Him not.
It seems like the world still hasn't gotten the memo, and maybe it never fully will. But as a husband, father, and a guy who wants to become more of a man than I am now, more fully human, the Catholic Church has been the biggest help in this department for me so far.
One salient point about the saints and I will end this post. The saints, just like Job from this weeks readings, never left the Catholic Church, no matter what was going on in their own lives, or in the institutional life of the Church, they stayed true. The Church was (and still is) their home, their fortress, their stronghold. The Church was (and still remains) their refuge. The Saints were what we called in the Marine Corps, "lifers."