Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What I mean by "The Priesthood is like Spider-man"

IN 1962 Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created a character which has lived on well beyond any of his animated and even live action film incarnations...Spider-man.
Spidey, of course, is really Peter Parker, a mild mannered kid who got bitten by a radioactive spider. This bite conferred upon Peter such abilities as super strength, the ability to cling to surfaces, agility, perfect equilibrium (not matter what stunts he pulls off), and (let us not forget) spider senses.
With all of that, however, Spidey is not the strongest, not the fastest or agile, and is certainly not clairvoyant. All the same, he remains one of the best and brightest.
What I believe to be Spider-man's greatest strength is also at times his greatest weakness. Simply put, for all of his powers, he is incurably human.
After all, how many times do we read about Peter finally giving it up, tossing the costume into the East River and setting out for a more normal life. There are even times when his powers started to fade--only to resurface the moment his conscious urged him to action.
Not only that, but Spider-man was one of the first superheroes that I read about whose most dangerous enemies were at some point his the hell does that happen?
And then there is the issue of the loss of Gwen Stacy during a fight with the Green Goblin--certainly a turning point in Spider-man's work...
So, how does all of this fit the priesthood profile? It's not as if this whole thing couldn't fit other people's vocations--I think that is why Spider-man is so accessible. I also don't want to give the impression that clergy are super-powered individuals, but just bear with me.
As anyone can guess there is a certain costume that a clergy person has to put on--it's not just that we protect a different identity, rather it is a mechanism by which a clergy person is never all too human. So, when "the shit hits the you-know-what", the clergy person is still sterilized enough emotionally to properly respond.
Also, there is this whole idea of never being able to get away from this vocation. Whether we retire, quit, just never seems to end. We always find ways of getting back at it in one way or another.
Finally, the whole human factor is all too real. When the day is done and we've either taken an emotional beating, or even shared in some really joyous experiences, we're still the clergy person. We go home afterward and need to be ready for whatever comes our way next. And for all of the sacramental responsibilities, we can't always take away pain, enliven joy, or really help everyone no matter how hard we'd like to try.
Well...that's all for this entry. Remember this is only a random thought--not an in depth study. Eventually the comparison breaks down, so don't look too closely. Next time I may compare the clergy to Pink Panther, you never really know.