9 days ago I arrived at the airport in Milwaukee, and one of the first things I saw after getting off the plane was a little boy sitting on his dad’s shoulders wearing a cape. As they turned the corner and faced me I saw the boy was also wearing a mask. I couldn't help but smile and laugh a little and I thought back to my cape wearing days. My grandma made my younger brother and I Batman capes, the Batman sign outlined in different colored paint so we could tell the two apart. Much like the little boy I saw at the airport, my brother and I had no shame in where we would wear those capes. I think there was a short amount of time I actually thought I was Batman.
If you really break it down, isn't our interest with super heroes kind of bizarre? Grown men dressed in tights, wearing masks and capes are adored… huh? Their stories compel us, motivate and inspire us. We idolize and hold these made up characters that run around in tights and capes in such high regard, kids dress up like them, heck even adults do sometimes. We remember “facts” about them, we talk about them as if they are real people, we talk as if we know them personally. We believe in these made up people. Don’t get me wrong I loved the Avengers and I've waited in line more than once to watch a superhero movie at the midnight showing, but isn't there more we can hope in and for? Obviously I would answer yes, Jesus gives us that hope, but what about men we can look to who are living today or who have lived in the last century? Who are the men whose character exemplifies that of Christ, who are truly heroic?
I believe there are many men who fit that description who are currently in Rome about to enter the Conclave, not to be confused with the Bat Cave. These men who are gathered from across the world will meet to play a huge role in the future of the Catholic Church and the world. These Cardinals are merely men who have committed their lives to Jesus Christ in an extraordinary way – as a Roman Catholic priest. The Cardinals have been called on in a special way because of their holiness – their love of the Lord. They assist the Pope in the governance of the Church. Their primary role is to come together as the College of Cardinals to elect the next Pope. Everything about the life of a holy priest is heroic. They sacrifice their wants and often their own good so that they may serve others, they live to serve, they exemplify and radiate Christ. Most of them have had incredible internal struggles of discernment – of whether or not to pursue the priesthood. The men that answer that call are heroic. Yet to a good part of our culture they’re useless, frowned upon, even hated. Those words I used to describe priests above are the same words that come to mind when we think of super heroes: sacrifice, service, struggle, adversity – but priests don’t get that credit. In the picture above I'm not trying to make a prediction here but I had to include Cardinal Dolan's self titled "Batman pose".
I came across this photo this past week on a Catholic Facebook page. He is a hero of mine and I would guess that people across the world are storming heaven asking for his prayers as the Cardinals begin to meet and select the next Pope. This man lived in a way that was an incredible example of Jesus Christ. His story is incredible and this meme captures the beauty and triumph of his life:
Batman went to the Bat Cave as Bruce Wayne and left as Batman, Clark Kent went into a phone booth and appeared as Superman. 115 Cardinals are entering the Sistine Chapel for the Conclave, one of them will emerge after white smoke pours out of the most watched chimney in the world with a new name and new garb and he will be introduced to the world. He will be the Vicar of Christ on this planet, the leader of the Catholic Church, Papa - Pope. Our world, literally our WORLD, every news station- will stop to look and listen to this man as he makes his first remarks as Holy Father. No, that’s not a movie or a fictional character I'm talking about, it is real life and it is absolutely heroic.
Let’s pray for the Cardinals and especially for that man whom who will soon represent Christ in a way that very well could affect the course of history. Let's be heroes, let's be Saints!