I just spent sometime on a retreat with youth. I had a desire to speak about one of the symbols of faith that was important to me. So I had chosen in advance my chalice, which was a gift from my parents and sisters for my ordination. To me, the chalice is a powerful symbol of the priesthood, holding forth the cup of salvation for the sake of those whom I am to serve. But being my disorganized self, I packed it up and totally forgot to bring it to the room in which I would speak to the youth. So I picked the only other symbol I had on me…my collar.
The first thing I told them was, that I had intended on bringing another symbol, but forgot. They laughed…yes, typical Fr. Chris.
In any case it is my view that often innocent mistakes are the result of the Holy Spirit directing me down the right path. So I popped the collar out and began talking about its importance to me. That it is a symbol of service, something that I am called to live.
Here are some after-thoughts. When I was ordained, one of the first things I did was I got rid of a great deal of my clothing. I no longer needed to dress like everyone else. I had my uniform, and the rest could go to the poor. Now, I did not get rid of everything, but most of it. I have some regular clothes for sleeping, camping and a few nice things (but every month my closet gets a bit smaller as I continue to learn simplicity).
So the first experience I had with the collar was: “this is what I will wear for the rest of my life.” At first it seemed grand. Later it became bland, and in that sense: good. Bland is good because its simple, and keeps me from vanity and obsessing about myself.
Second experience I had while wearing it was…people are looking at me. Oh…I guess I better behave. I should be careful what movies I watch, what language I use, as I am a visible sign of Christ to others now, in the priesthood. Now, that is not to say that I am not called to live out such virtues with or without the clothing on. When I put my PJ’s on at night, I’m still called to virtue. Although the idea of clerical PJs has always interested me (people: its called a sense of humour, if you didn’t laugh…*shake* loosen up!!)
But here is one of the most powerful reasons. While the New Evangelization needs to be made public, on facebook on twitter, what about in the mall, on the high-way, at Tim Hortons? If we only do public acts of Christianity in the Church, guess what…only those who go to Church will be evangelized. So that it goes without saying…we need to, as a Christian people break outside of the church walls and meet people where they are…literally.
This is WHY I wear a collar: Some priests have done harm to the Church through sin, while wearing that collar. And thus have added a very negative meaning to it (stigma/stereo-type). So it is actually not easy for any priest to wear. haha…a little while ago I walked into Toys R Us for my niece’s birthday gift…awkward.
In any case, I wear it because instead of hiding that grief that society has experienced, or keeping it segregated to the Church building, I would prefer to do good with it on, to bring about an alternative view to the priesthood through its most common-symbolic expression. The collar represents service. If we wear it and serve at the same time, perhaps that healing can begin.
I get knocked down a few notches, but its not really by people outside of the Church, for wearing the collar. But that is neither here nor there.
Wearing the collar – MUST accompany charity. It would be better for a priest to never wear his collar if he would cut people off while driving, or eat fancy meals and drive expensive cars. The priesthood does not need to be undermined so publically. When I went to Tim Hortons, it was my day off, and I almost did not wear my collar to just grab a coffee…conscience said otherwise though, so I obeyed.
It was around Christmas time and there was a man ahead of me in line. He looked at me a few times, almost perplexed. Then finally he said, “I wasn’t sure if I was going to say anything, but I am.”
I think to myself…”Oh crap…is this going to turn into a public declaration of hatred towards priests” (as has happened in the past). Nope.
The man shared with me how he was not Catholic, but his wife was. She had died last year, but one of her wishes was to hear Christmas Caroling. The kids in an elementary catholic school sang to her before she died, and it really impressed him. Then at the funeral, the priest arranged to have that same choir sing at her funeral.
He was having a difficult Christmas without his wife. When he saw the collar he was reminded of how God had been present to him through the Church and it gave him consolation. He literally said, “I didn’t know how I was going to get through this Christmas, but then I saw you.”