The Catholic Moment: The diamonds in the rough
October 21, 2011
By Father Kyle Schnippel
Liturgically, November is certainly my favorite month. Beginning with the two great celebrations of All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day and usually concluding with the start of the new liturgical year, there are many things to celebrate. We are naturally called to focus on the question during these last weeks of the church year of just where we might end up in the life to come, considering whether the pattern of our lives and the way that we have cooperated with Christ indicates if we will take the elevator up or down when called to account.
While there are many criteria that are used to define who, officially, makes it into the choirs of heaven, there is one thing that unites them all. It is not that they were perfect, have a particular talent, academic ability or lived in a particular time or location; saints have come from every land and every age of the church. Rather, what unites all those who are venerated as saints is that they have a deep, profound and lasting love for Jesus Christ.
When Jesus turns and looks at Peter towards the end of the Gospel according to St. John, it is not a question of “How could you betray me even after I warned you?”
Rather, Jesus looks at Peter in that deep love and asks him to simply reaffirm that love back: “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you!”
Certainly our goal on this earth is to be able to echo this same statement of faith.
The challenge that this presents, however, is that it becomes very difficult to identify this deep and profound love in those we meet. While this identification will certainly manifest in outward action, it may not always be easy to spot. Among some, this manifestation will be very evident; among others, it may not be so.
In my particular work as vocation director, this reality has to be kept in mind, for it is easy to only keep tabs on those who manifest great talent among the Christian people, those who have that personality that simply attracts others to Christ. In working with parishioners, this is often the criteria used to identify potential candidates.
Yet, strangely, it is often that quieter young man, the one who is not so much for the limelight, but does the right thing anyway, especially when no one is looking, who forms the backbone of our clergy. So often, we get caught up in looking for the next Pope John Paul II that we miss the St. John Vianney in our midst.
Instead of walking the world stage, as Blessed John Paul II did so marvelously, St. John Vianney toiled in the relative obscurity of a backwoods French town for years. While he achieved a certain fame, he just toiled in the confessional for longer hours, striving only to build up his little corner of the Kingdom of God.
What is needed in our church today is this “worker bee” mentality. We need men to be priests who will do what needs to be done simply because it is there for the doing. While there are glamorous aspects of the priesthood, more often our days (just like those of parents) are long, tiring and tedious. It is in these days that true holiness shines through.
Pray for these men to be raised up as priests. Be on the lookout for the quiet, dedicated young men who simply do what is required. These are the men who will lead not just by voice, but by their more powerful example of life. These are the diamonds in the rough who shine so brightly in the eternal crown of our Lord.
Father Schnippel is the vocation director for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.