Today’s guest blogger, Joe McHugh, is a spiritual director, retreat leader, teacher, and writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the National Catholic Reporter. His book, Startled by God: Wisdom from Unexpected Places, will be published by Franciscan Media in September 2013. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My head got bumped last Sunday at Starbucks when some noisy and apparently clumsy person occupied the table behind me. I proudly resisted the temptation to turn around and glare at the intruder, but after a couple of minutes, I refilled my coffee just to see who unceremoniously dared to disturb my peace.
Turns out it was a cherubic-faced twenty-something guy wearing a roman collar and black cassock. I’ve seen plenty of priests wearing roman collars there before, but the cassock—that really threw me. The only conclusion I could draw was he was doing his bit to witness to the Church’s presence in secular culture.
I’ll bet there were people there who admired his gutsy wardrobe choice, but others probably just wrote him off as an anachronism or even hated him for what he represented. I get the need for witness, but I have to admit uncertainly about how to do it without alienating those you want to influence.
Like many (woops, I was going to say “too many”) young clerics, he probably believes the Church needs to confront culture. But I can’t help wondering if a witness that challenges rather than confronts might have merit. Can the Church and culture complement each other rather than just be adversaries? In other words, does all witness today have to be confrontational and absolutist? For the sake of both Church and culture, I hope not.
But maybe this baby-faced priest has something to teach me. Next time he comes in, maybe I’ll risk a conversation.
Featured photo: artur84/freedigitalphotos.net