by Father Mark Goldasich
“My gosh, Mark! Look at all the stuff back here!”
Father Mike Stubbs, my page 14 neighbor below, said this a couple of weeks ago with a laugh. The “back here” was the back seat of my car.
Here’s what happened: Father Mike, Father Phil Winkelbauer and I have season tickets to the Kansas City Rep Theatre. Since Father Phil lives close to me in Leavenworth, we usually drive in together to meet Father Mike for dinner before the show. On this particular night, I drove Father Phil to the Plaza.
All went well until after dinner, when Father Mike made a perfectly logical suggestion that we all head to the theater in one car. Mine was the closest. Uh-oh. I’d only planned on one passenger that night and my back seat was a tad disorganized. As Father Mike opened the back door, he uttered the words that opened this column. Luckily, Father Mike is a runner and in good shape so he was able to shoehorn himself — somehow — into the seat with just a slight bit of rearranging.
I didn’t think the back seat was actually so bad until I emptied it out later. Hoo-boy! What I thought was merely a mobile storage unit actually looked more like a landfill.
Here’s what I uncovered:
a light jacket and a heavy coat (darn unpredictable Kansas weather); a stocking hat; two pairs of gloves; five magazines; an impressive assortment of empty plastic bags; a brand-new gourmet knife set with two cutting boards and some kitchen shears; three baseball hats;
a shoehorn; a unicorn; an illuminated magnifying glass; four programs from shows; two newspapers; a gym bag; a memorial card from a funeral; one parish bulletin;
a St. Patrick’s Day card; an organ grinder’s monkey; a coupon for $5 off at Logan’s Roadhouse (that expired on 11/3/13); notes from a Sunday homily; a pack of gum; two CD cases (one broken); a statue of Mary; an HDMI cable two-pack; a packet of Splenda sweetener; some Milk-Duds from when I was in the sixth grade; a bag of Pupperoni dog treats; and a broken plastic laundry basket.
OK, with the exception of the unicorn, the organ grinder’s monkey and the Milk Duds, everything else really was in that back seat. A few more items probably rolled under the front seats, but you get the idea. How embarrassing. All that junk defeated the true purpose of the backseat: to provide passengers with a comfortable place to sit. (I’m not even sure that Father Mike was able to find or use his seatbelt.)
My mess reminded me of an image from the Rev. William H. Hinson. When animal trainers go into a cage of lions, they carry whips and pistols. But they also carry a stool, which apparently is their most important tool.
The trainer holds the stool by the back and thrusts the legs toward the face of the lion. The animal tries to focus on all four legs at once. In the attempt to focus on all four, a kind of paralysis overwhelms the lion. It becomes tame, weak and disabled because its attention is fragmented. (Adapted from “1001 Illustrations That Connect,” by Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof.)
Based on recent conversations, I’d say that many of us are like that lion. Our lives — like my car’s back seat — are so full of stuff, that we not only lose focus, but our perspective as well. With all of that junk — both physical and mental — it’s impossible to devote ourselves to what is most important in life, particularly our faith.
With Holy Week on the horizon, especially the days of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil, are you planning to attend those special liturgies at your parish? Although it’s the high point of the church’s year, so many don’t choose to attend, due to other commitments. Make this the year to put these church celebrations first on your calendar — now — and then shoehorn in your other activities, instead of the other way around.
There’s no better place to be in Holy Week than with your parish family. And anyone who tells you something different is just “lion.”