Some carry small oxygen tanks as they reach for that precious piece of air. Some of them try to deny Time's ravage and bravely struggle and fib a bit that things have not really changed! They hobble with stiff legs and try to thumb their noses at the dreaded reality of aging as they painfully genuflect before the majesty of God. One can almost hear the muted "ouch" as they manfully do the expected rubric.
They come to the Mass, the center of their lives in sacred vestments, and they praise their God with croaking grotesque voices in amateurish singing----which even to an unbeliever with a tad of insight is incredibly beautiful. These are true believers. It is a case of Our Lady's Juggler*. Externally not much. Before God, glorious.
They sit for hours before the Blessed Sacrament, with eyes fixed upon their God, oblivious to the often meaningless swirl going on in the streets outside. All have been activists in their lives but have apparently learned that sheer activism without this deep anchor of personal union with the Master is superficial and possibly ephemeral. As I watch I get the palpable impression of another dimension! Spiritual masters have often warned against the evil of comparison. But it is exceedingly difficult not to wish some kind of "getting like those guys". I am a priest for a relative eon but I seem so far from their powerful love of Jesus that I struggle with a kind of spiritual despair! Yet one can learn just by watching them......even standing close to hear even mundane and apparently banal talk.
For these few days they are focused on the meaning of their lives without the superficialities of the Grind ----the demanding role of the Catholic priest in a world almost totally seduced by hedonism and baubles, a world which generally has no real idea what priesthood means to these sons of Melchisidek. Yet they have a serenity which is so hard to define that only metaphor can touch –“Nescio quid". Have they been touched by God in this brief encounter? What is happening? Everyone is unceasingly pleasant - even courtly. What is this beautiful quickness to open heavy doors for faltering hesitant near dendrite dead oldsters? Or the easy greetings for even those they are meeting for the first time?
The dynamic between the few younger priests and the old is touching. There is almost a tenderness akin to the glowing bond between grandfather and grandson. Nevertheless, there is something deeply shared by these men which smacks of the eternal, the transcendent. The young priests are bright and shiny and confident. They are filled with the energy and bright hope and easy gait. They think of activity and achievement—and rightfully so. This is part of the charm of the young. The old priest is battered and slowed and shaky but filled with a specific gratitude only possible after years of living “In Persona Christi”. When the two, old and young, interface, it is a beautiful thing to see. In such a spiritual, psychological, profound climate, there is a kind of relaxation to be fully oneself, to be with others like oneself, beyond nationality, skin color, accent, education, rank, achievement. There is no need to impress. Only a need to be fully alive as to what one is!