(OAF: a.k.a. bungler, cad, bounder, rascal, blunderbuss, scoundrel, varlet, klutz, bull-in-the-china shop, etc.)
The oaf of my life constantly makes pejorative remarks about John Paul II, my Pope, whom he calls a Neanderthal Pollock out of touch with the times who should be put away in some remote nursing home in Warsaw. This even though he knows that I respect and admire the Holy Father. He says tasteless things about the recently deceased and highly loved Ronald Reagan stating he was really a dunce with dyed hair and rouged cheeks, who didn't know what was going on and who thought he was acting in a B movie. He hopes Ron is now burning in hell. He (sometimes the oaf is a she) snidely comments on my personal devotional life insinuating that my "childlike" devotion to the Mass and the Eucharist and the Rosary is "arrested development" and that I should move into the 21st century and "lighten up." This is usually followed by a forced, theatrical and sneering laugh.
He dismisses with a flick of the hand the sacrificial work and life of the "New" nuns who wear identifying religious habits, who follow a strict regimen of daily prayer, who are personally poor and who actually do something for the suffering and the beaten of the contemporary world. I voice my admiration and appreciation for them for which I receive the knowing look from the superior being, mocking my short sighted vision. He suggests that they should likewise move into the 21st century and be like the other "sisters" who have shed the habit and the strict religious rule, who smoke and have a beer with the boys while doing their "apostolate" working in a travel agency or running some secular civic office. Of course, they say this is only temporary until the Church wises up and ordains them priests. Meantime, they have to balance their personal checkbooks and keep an eye on the oil level of their Toyotas.
When I defend the Church's teaching on sexuality, the oaf of my life springs into high gear attacking not my fairly reasonable theological/psychological positions but ME! In spite of his oft repeated plea for diversity and openness he resorts not to "argumentum ad rem", the issue at hand, but to argumentum ad hominem", the attack on the person. Somehow my sexual observations on porno and homosexuality and shacking up are (to him) real indications of my rigidity. His refusal to allow me to articulate my own view becomes a bane to me - - an irritation - - -an anger. His insensitivities go on and on. And, of course, it bothers me ---that I am so vulnerable to diversion from my planned spiritual course by oafish behavior. Why is he so mad at me? Why am I so mad at him/her? What goes on in me that I am so upset?
Nevertheless, in spite of my advanced age and my years of prayer and grace and spiritual direction, I am strongly tempted (after powerful, negative, interior or exterior language - &*$*#@ ) - - to knurl my arthritic hand into a bludgeoning fist and belt him smack into his oafish, varlet face!!! If the Oaf is a "she" I would, obviously, need some variation to that procedure.
But however valid or healthy my visceral tendency might be, I am constrained by a higher impulse which might be reason or maturity or common sense or pragmatism or spirituality or the Gospel or my Catholic Faith. I am called by the Master, Jesus, NOT to act on my impulses but to act on my spiritual background. Yes. Yes. But how to implement the Godly call!!!
Bruce Marshall, the elegant English writer, gave me a concrete clue in his captivating novel "Father Malachy's Miracle."
It is so good, I think, that I present it in its entirety since I prefer mystery to vagueness, and blind Faith to irritating, diluted, saccharine do-good idioms.
" A fat man climbed into the same compartment as the little clergyman, a fat man with a face that was so red and pouchy that it looked like a bladder painted to hit other people with – at an Italian carnival. He sat down, or rather threw himself down, in the corner opposite the priest and began to read a pink paper in which the doings of horses and erotic young women were chronicled at length. He was followed by a middle aged woman who had a peaky, shiny nose with a funny little dent in the middle and whose hat was one of those amorphous black affairs which would have been, at any moment, out of fashion in any country.
The priest was distracted from his meditation. It was impossible he told himself, with a wry, little, mental smile, to think competently of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost proceeding from both, with such a bulging, red face in front of him and such a peaky, peering woman placing her parcels, here, there and everywhere. How hard it was, here below and with the material and the temporal crowding out the spiritual and the eternal, to love one's neighbor, how hard and yet how necessary. For the soul behind that bulging red face had been redeemed by Christ just as surely as had been his own, and Our Blessed Lord, while He hung on the Cross, had seen the funny little dent in the middle of the peaky, peering woman's nose just as He had seen the broad, bland visage of Pope Pius the Eleventh, and so merciful was He, loved it just as much.
And yet it was difficult to imagine bulge or dent in heaven, unless among the many mansions, there were one which should be one-tenth Beatific Vision and nine-tenths Douglas, Isle of Man. Of course, if it came to the point, it was difficult to imagine the majority of contemporary humanity in any paradise which did not syncopate Saint Gregory and whose eternal sands were without bathing tents and casinos.
He closed his eyes again. If he must love his neighbor, he would love him without looking at him. He closed his eyes and not only did he close them, but he kept on repeating the reflex action in his brain so that, with the bulging red face and the peaky, peering woman, away went the compartment, the train, the station, the world; and, as Scotland went swinging after Scandinavia and Spain came scampering after and Australia flew to join the stars, he was alone with God.
A great nothingness was before him, a great nothingness that was Something. A great nothingness that was All; and in the warm freedom from the tangible he knew his Savior and was absorbed by Him."
I have always known what I SHOULD do with the Oafs of my life
but have rarely succeeded. Now I will keep my eyes closed. My eyes of curiosity. Those eyes which demand that the world see things through MY perception. I intend to practice a kind of psychological "custody of the eyes" to put into real practice what the Master requires!
I will, after the example of the little clergyman called Fr.
Malachy, remember that Jesus the Christ, Who is God, Who
though mutilated by His own creatures, dies forgiving, loving the
Oafs of His life. Let me not be absorbed by red, pouchy faces
of whatever stripe nor by the peaky, peering, nosy, gossips
in ridiculous role poses. Let me keep my eyes closed and let me
be transported into that great Something which is God and Mary
and all my saints whom I hold close to my heart.
May I find my Spiritual Blinders which can make me free!!!!