The Ents awaken

The Ents awaken

A friend told me a story last night that I want to share. It seems he and his wife were asked to give a talk to a group of elderly, retired Jesuits. These are all highly educated men of the Greatest Generation. And while they are solidly orthodox, they have been put on the shelf by those of the following generation—mostly Boomers—who are, shall we say, less orthodox. My friends spoke to the priests about the younger generations, how people in their 30s tend to be more orthodox their immediate predecessors and people in their teens and 20s are even more thirsty for truth and solid ground and ancient wonders. And they said that the younger the crowd, the more hungry for “solid food” they were.

Well, this got the elderly priests all fired up. They were so excited to learn that there are those who want what they have to offer. They had been led to believe by their confreres in the Society that their brand of faith was passe, that their time had passed. My friends told the priests that they even though they’re retired, they haven’t stopped being priests. They told them it’s not enough just to sit in their home and pray for renewal, but that those who could do so should go out there and make it happen.

One priest approached my friends after the talk and told them that he had been asked to be a chaplain at a women’s college. When he showed up, he was asked by an administrator not to wear his college because it would intimidate the women. The poor man, not wanting to offend, agreed, but now he asked my friend whether he did the right thing. My friend told him that as a priest, it is his right to wear the collar. In fact, it’s his duty to be a witness to the office of the priesthood. The collar does not symbolize power, it symbolizes service. It is a sign of the priest who acts “in persona Christi”, who brings Christ to others in a special way. It is a sign of the presence of the Church. Incidentally, this is why clergy sexual abuse is horrific and why it is so important to prevent an abuser from being able to wear his collar any more.

Anyway, as my friend related his story to me he said the whole thing reminded him of the scene in The Two Towers in which the Ents—ancient and powerful beings who thought the world has passed them by—were awoken and told they were relevant, that the “war” had come to them whether they liked it or not. And the Ents were roused to action and marched forth.

I thought this was a great story that illustrates that hope is never lost, even in an institution that seems as corrupt as the Society of Jesus. Among those who have stripped it of its meaning and mission, there are the few, the young scholastics, the middle-aged, and the elderly who maintain the spark. As much as we whitewash the whole order, there are some great priests and brothers within, and they just have to realize they are stronger than those who have told them they are weak and passe.

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli

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