With a personal crisis resembling a dinner theater production of "The Book of Job — The Musical," and the double punch to the gut of the current (can we say ongoing?) scandal around Church hierarchy, I have been, to put it in ecclesiastical terms…down in the dumps.
The remedy I found for my twin disasters is…gratitude, and it came to me from an unlikely pop culture source.
A few weeks ago, the first televised pre-season football game was on the air — the Hall of Fame game. When I was a child the first pre-season football game on television also usually coincided with the first promotional ads for the Jerry Lewis telethon for Muscular Dystrophy.
These television milestones meant we were on borrowed time. Summer was coming to an end and it was only a matter of time before the Sisters at St. Elizabeth’s convent would be calling our mother asking if she had some children to spare to help them clean and prepare classrooms for the upcoming school year. At least God gave us football.
As an adult with great big adult problems, I no longer see televised practice games as a harbinger of anything other than another turn of a season that makes me all that much older. But this year, the Hall of Fame game was different. First, I was feeling lousy, with my personal problem, which I don’t need to go into here, and my very public problem — the scandal in the Church — which I don’t have to say all that much about either because so many people are saying so many things about it already.
I was so desperate for distraction I even watched the Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Normally I would watch the infomercial about the remarkable fishing lure before listening to a bunch of jocks pontificate about their past glories.
But the induction speech by former Green Bay Packer Jerry Kramer was Divine intervention for me.
When I was a boy I loved the Green Bay Packers, Jerry Kramer was one of their great offensive linemen whose block in the Packer’s “Ice Bowl” game in 1967 was played over and over in instant replay. The block allowed Packer quarterback Bart Starr to sneak in behind Kramer’s body and NFL mythology was forged.
The years fell away, Jerry Kramer retired, and the Hall of Fame did not beckon him. Packers fans were irate, Jerry Kramer suffered, if he suffered at all over the snub, with patience and quiet dignity.
Finally, more than 50 years after Kramer’s playing days were over, he was inducted into the elite club of the NFL Hall of Fame and his acceptance of the honor is what jolted me out of my own personal malaise.
Jerry Kramer did this by being simply thankful.
He didn’t complain that it had taken too long for the Hall of Fame to recognize his greatness. He didn’t complain that lesser football players had gotten in before him. He didn’t mention one of his Hall of Fame class member’s refusal to attend because he felt he was not given the deference he deserved.
He was just thankful, and he was inspiring.
It all comes down to gratitude.
I am grateful for the increased connection to Christ and his cross my personal issue has given me. And as far as the more public mess that got me down, I turn to Winston Churchill, who said democracy was the worst form of government…save for all the others.
The same can be said of the Church. Catholicism has a long history of abuse, neglect, outright corruption and human failing…It sure looks like the worst kind of organized religion imaginable, but to paraphrase St. Peter, “Where would I go?”
I will stay where I know I must and I will be grateful for the saints, the example of holy priests and bishops and I will strive to be a better follower of Jesus…and I will remain grateful.
Despite the trials of public or private nature, the call of action remains the same. I will rely on the cross, leave my worries and my sorrows at the feet of Jesus, trust in Him and pray to accept whatever it is He has in store for me.
And it will take patience. Our popular culture has conditioned us to expect results immediately, but the Church has never been able to mirror that kind of timetable. That’s not to say the scandal does not require as rapid a response as is humanly possible but that, alas, is above my pay grade.
I must suffice with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the taking of Jesus at His word.
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