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Fr. Glenn: ‘We Call Those Happy Who Were Steadfast’

on February 10, 2019 - 9:02am

By Fr. Glenn Jones

Well … almost a month absent from Los Alamos already. One thing is nicer for these old bones here in Albuquerque, though: it’s a lot warmer—averaging 10-15 degrees warmer daily.  Yet … ponderosas are scarce … canyons almost non-existent ... mountains more distant … the coyote chorale simply a memory. Ah, the remembered blessings of LA…

Now have been a month at the new job—with lofty title of “Vicar General”, but more descriptive would be “paper pusher”, for large part. Sometimes in conversation Archbishop Wester refers wryly, with a bit of sarcastic sting: “When I was a REAL priest…”…wistfully remembering past parish flocks, ministering to the sick, counseling the doubtful and hurting, celebrating marriages, etc., all those things for which we really enter priesthood. The care for the flock is certainly still there, but his (and, by extension, mine as assistant) are positions somewhat analogous to doctors in supervisory roles in hospitals: longing for the fulfillment of battling in “the trenches”, but knowing that ours are jobs necessary nonetheless.

Such is that to remember. Like many in administrative positions, looking over the never-diminishing stacks of paper on the desk—problems, complaints, requests … endless bureaucracy … one has the temptation to throw up the hands and flee, screaming: “The heck with it! I’m getting nowhere with this mess!” But … in the end, most paper warriors know that there are good—and in many cases, even vital—reasons for what we do, even though ready fulfillment may be lacking. And so … we continue to storm the bureaucratic Bastille … defying bean counters, pinching yet another accursed ream from paper storage. All for the cause!

“Yeah, well … sounds thrilling, Padre” (yawn). Okay, okay … but even this less-than-arresting tale touches upon an important theme and virtue: resiliency. Steadfastness. Determination. Tenacity. Stick-to-it-iveness. 

Absent resiliency and determination, it’s easy for one to throw up those hands and abandon the work … quit the goal. Surrender. But, then … what good will be accomplished? This is why we need always keep the goal of our work—hopefully the good that we work toward—ever before our eyes. The motivating factor which drives us onward … through difficulty … through resistance … even through monotony and boredom.

Serendipitously, I was considering this theme of resiliency at Mass Saturday when, by the Lord’s goodness, we had readings of overcoming fear, frustration and aversion, culminating ultimately in the conviction and resiliency without which no good can be realized.

First the prophet Isaiah describing his vision by which he was called, and his accompanying angst: “Woe is me…For I am a man of unclean lips…”…and yet recognizing the goodness of his call, and Who was calling … ultimately accepting with determination: “I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?’ ‘Here I am,’ I said; ‘send me!’” (Isaiah 6:5,8) 

Secondly, St. Paul, who declares his own unworthiness: “I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am…” In many places Paul describes his trials in preaching the Gospel, such as: “Five times I have received…the forty lashes less one. Three times…beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times…shipwrecked; a night and a day…adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure…” (2 Corinthians 11:24-27) Paul, of course, would eventually be martyred … and yet, it is on his writings—because of resiliency—that much of Christian theology is based.

Finally, Simon Peter who, at witnessing the divine power manifest in Jesus,“…fell at the knees of Jesus and said, ‘Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.’…Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.’” (Luke 5:8,10) And eventually Peter—as did all the apostles—went to preach Jesus’ Gospel to the known world … all of them except John being martyred witnessing to what they had seen and heard: resiliency even to death.

Now, for we Catholics in these sorrowful times of abuse revelations, bankruptcies and the like, such recollections become especially important: the resiliency of faith. Some ask: “Why remain Catholic when such things had occurred?” Because, dear reader: the mission Christ gave to His disciples remains unchanged, regardless of negligent, and even treacherously criminal, actions of some. The many disciples of Jesus recognized Judas Iscariot as grossly aberrant (and his actions abhorrent) to the apostles as a whole, not as the rule. Should the other apostles have been disheartened and quit at the thought of Judas’ treachery? Or, rather, should they not have simply been ever more mindful of their mission … their call to holiness? Been resilient?

Yes, resiliency is such a very important virtue—in faith, in work, in science, in physical challenges … in any field of human endeavor worth pursuing. The times I have not been resilient in some venture or trial, simply surrendering to the easier path, are things that I now—and ever will—regret. No más…no más. Never again.

So … see y’all later; I’m off to the office! Storm the Bastille!!

Rev. Glenn Jones is the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and former pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Los Alamos.