For quite a long time now, I’ve noticed that Hollywood cannot seem to make a movie without an abundance of special effects. Even today’s commercials are relying more and more on special effects to create the excitement and energy that sells.
In reality, there are no special effects, and reality is where ‘real life’ is lived. Some of the best advice I ever received as a seminarian came from my Archbishop at the time, Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara. I had just come back to the seminary after a two year leave, and Archbishop knew that one of the main reasons I left in the first place was my struggle with whether or not I felt called to a celibate life.
As those who knew Archbishop O’Meara know, he loved to tell stories. He shared with me a very touching story of a St. Louis, Irish nun who was known city-wide for her care for the poor. Anytime someone came to him as a young priest needing help, and he had no idea how to meet their need, he would send them to Sr. Isidore. (that may be a fictitious name!) Much later in his life, while a bishop and travelling internationally on behalf of the Propagation of the Faith, he would often make a stop in Ireland to visit his family and friends.
One trip, when Sister was now retired, he told her he would be stopping in Ireland, and asked if there was anything he could do for her. She asked him to find an older gentleman, a doctor, whose wife had just died and extend to him her condolences. Archbishop O’Meara gladly found the man in question and visited him.
As he visited and told the gentleman of Sister’s greeting and concern, it did not take long to realize that in their younger years, the two had been in love. Even though Sister was in love with this man, she still felt God’s call to join a religious community and travel to America, which she did. She never saw the man again.
Now to the advice… After sharing this story, Archbishop O’Meara then told me that those God calls to a celibate life in priesthood and religious life are not prone from falling in love. Indeed, as humans, we are to love. As priests and religious, we are to love much. But, when it comes to accepting and living the celibate life, the Archbishop told me: “Paul, do not play games with your self. Respect this call, and do not allow yourself fantasy and desires beyond the life God has called you to live.”
Special effects of Hollywood are OK for entertainment, but we must be cautious in that such entertainment does not lead us to desire and search for things that exist outside of the very realistic demands of this life. We all need rest and leisure, but those moments must also respect our vocation in life, and our own personal integrity.
Even though God’s ways are mysterious and demanding, who needs special effects when the Risen One lives with us and abides with us in each and every moment. Seek the things that are above, but live in the here and now. Accomplish the work and will given by God, and live with the hope and faith of the eternal reward that is stored up for us in the fullness of God’s Kingdom!