Carter looked good in his collar, a priest in the making.
He related his brief life story to us at church last night. Carter, 25, is five years into a seven-year effort to become a diocesan priest. I’m his former calculus tutor. As he told about 40 of us in the Saint Joseph Room at the Church of the Nativity in Leawood, Kansas, “…at this point it would take an act of God to derail my plans to be a priest.” We might say literally it would take an act of God.
I want to write this for everyone, rather like the Creedence Clearwater Revival’s tune Wrote a Song for Everyone:
Saw the people standing a thousand years in chains,
Somebody said, ‘It’s different now,’ look, it’s just the same.
Pharaohs spin the message ‘round and ‘round the truth;
They could have saved a million people. How can I tell you?
Wrote a song for everyone;
Wrote a song for truth…
If memory serves, the song played on the Green River album. It was likely written by John Fogerty; most CCR songs were penned by him.
We are not all supposed to sing from the same hymn book. Even as I love my faith and religion, as I love the Mass and my fellow Catholics, we are not all to sing from the same hymn book.
There are too many people to get everyone singing the same songs in the same language at the same time or on the same day. Admittedly, the Catholic Church has done a magnificent job of getting the Mass to read the same, in hundreds of languages, on the same Sunday. That is pretty amazing. But then, the true Son of God (or the Jewish carpenter from Nazareth) had quite a message for us all.
I believe in the United States. Literally the states, united, plural. We are a collection of states, each with the power to levy war and conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. All Americans should recognize those words from the Declaration of Independence. Indeed, we are all created equal in the eyes of God. How could it be otherwise?
A priest once told me that a person need not be Catholic to embrace everlasting happiness and glory. “You do not have to be Catholic to get to heaven,” he said. “You do not have to be a Christian. I’m pretty sure you do not have to assert a belief in God to get to heaven. How could it be otherwise?”
Those last five words will forever reside within me… how… could… it… be… otherwise?
Angel from Montgomery, by John Prine, comes to mind:
There’s flies in the kitchen, I can hear ‘em there a-buzzin’
And I ain’t done nothin’ since I woke up today
How the hell can a person go to work in the morning
And come home in the evening and have nothin’ to say?
…Just give me one thing that I can hold onto
To believe in this Livin’ is just a hard way to go.
We should inculcate our children to believe in something bigger than themselves. The human animal has a genuinely spiritual side; we’re not all logical like Mr. Spock from Star Trek. We have a social responsibility to encourage children to dream and to reach for the stars when families too often fail. Do we ever literally reach for the stars? Yes, we do. Praise God. Yes, we do. Through life’s difficulties we do.
Finally, Carter had a little Q-n-A after his talk last night. I asked my former student, “Is there a fundamental conflict between science and religion?”
“No,” he said. He paused for a good five seconds before expanding on that answer, tempering his authoritative remarks flavored with Catholicism with a genuine slice of humility and deference to the all-powerful Creator. Carter would have made an excellent engineer, he assumes very little that is not in direct evidence. Carter will make an even better priest.