Have you ever been given a gift and not opened it? Or, have you ever been given a gift and partially opened it?
In the 1985 movie, Agnes of God, a prosecuting attorney (a lapsed Catholic) interviews the mother superior of a convent regarding a potential crime believed to have been committed there. As their relationship deepened, the two found themselves beneath a gazebo on the convent grounds. On a crisp and cold Canadian morning, weather conditions were such that their every breathe was visible. After awhile, their conversation turned to the subject of faith and the hardened prosecuting attorney asked the old nun a question that has remained with me through the years.
As a child in Catholic school, I remember hearing the stories of the prophets and saints. But, given our world, do you really believe that God continues to make them today?
To this day, I distinctly remember the nun’s response:
As difficult as it may seem, I do, I really do.
One Sunday morning, I traveled to another parish to celebrate a baptism for an ailing deacon friend. Upon arriving there, I met with the sacristan, parents, and baby. And after vesting in a simple alb and white stole, I began the Rite of Baptism.
As we moved through the Rite, we had reached the point where the Sacrament is conferred and I proceeded to pour water upon the baby’s head and prayed the familiar words:
I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
And on that morning, the quiet that followed was deafening. It was as though the Holy Spirit had removed my capacity to speak and said: “Behold this miracle.” And we did. For what seemed like an eternity—parents, godparents, family, friends, and deacon stood around the baptismal font and gazed at this six-week-old baby boy.
In the Rite, immediately following the Sacrament, comes the second anointing with Sacred Chrism and the following words:
God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin, given you a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and welcomed you into his holy people. He now anoints you with the chrism of salvation. As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life.
And once more, I remembered the conversation between the attorney and nun. “Given our world today, do you really believe that God continues to make prophets and saints?” And in my head, I nodded a resounding “Yes, I do, I really do.” Prophets, after all, are called by God and sent to do a special work in the building up of God’s kingdom.
For those born and raised in Detroit, the story of Fr. Solanus Casey, O.F.M. Capuchin, is well known. Ordained a “simplex” priest and assigned the humble role of porter, Solanus poured out his life to the people that God had placed in his midst. In his biography of Solanus, Thank God Ahead of Time, author Michael Crosby compiled many of the Solanus stories. Crosby recounted an eyewitness of this prophet who noted that…
When Solanus was speaking with you, you felt that he was constantly God-centered, on fire with the love for God, and constantly God-conscious, seeming always to have his eyes on God. He seemed to see everything as flowing from God and back to God.
Through the years, God has held up individuals like Blessed Solanus Casey to encourage us to consider the many possibilities in our own lives. On the Baptism of the Lord, may we recall our own baptism, the day when we were anointed Priest, Prophet, and King. And in doing so, may we be ever challenged to continue opening this miraculous gift in order that we may become the prophets and saints our world so desperately needs.