Friday, December 7, 2012

St. Ambrose and Plan A

St. Ambrose reads a 4th century text message.
Over the past few months, I've had some discussions with a group of guys concerning the vocation to the priesthood. One of the themes is "Do Plan A, Don't live a Plan B life".

What this means is that if God is calling you to the priesthood and you are attracted to it, then that's Plan A. It fits. Your life is oriented for it. It's in your nature. Pursue it. Even the difficulties will be things that you're cut out for.

However, sometimes we don't want to do Plan A. In the case of priesthood, we may not have any good role models in the priesthood. We may not have many (any) peers who choose the call. We don't get encouraged by our friends or family. Chicks won't dig us. So we go to Plan B.

Plan B is the next best thing. It's like instead of a Porsche, we get a Corolla and just drive it really fast. We settle. Why settle? For reasons listed above. The priests we know or are aware of may be lazy, boring, old or worse. We may have been turned off by the scandals of pedophilia and Bishops covering it up.

We don't have any friends who want to be priests or see religion as important. We feel alone in the decision because there's nothing like priesthood. It's particular and unique.

We may have no friends or family who support us in the decision. The pressure to marry, have kids, make money and do other things that would make us happy (according to them) keep us from pursuing it.

And chicks won't dig us. They will. But it's sort of counter-productive. And the quality of chick can be a little different from the usual girl next door type.

If Plan A is priesthood, and that's God's plan for you, it will be with you your entire life. You can suppress it, hide it, and try to ignore it, but it's on you. You can do whatever it is you want. Free country. You can do Plan B or C or D with your life. But why live a second best life?

If God wants you to be a priest, he'll give you what you need to do it. Which leads us to the saint du jour, Ambrose.

St. Ambrose was born around 339 in what is now France, the son of the Roman prefect of Gaul.  Following his his father's footsteps, Ambrose embarked upon a career in law and politics and by 370 AD, he had become the Imperial governor of Northern Italy.  When the episcopal see of Milan became vacant in 374, the people demanded that Saint Ambrose be made their bishop.  The neighboring bishops and the Emperor convinced him to accept this call as the will of God, and so the catechumen Ambrose was baptized and ordained first deacon, then priest, then bishop, all in a single week! 
St. Ambrose would later make a Christian of St. Augustine

This politician-turned churchman was profoundly aware of his lack of preparation for this great responsibility and so set himself immediately to prayer and the study of Scripture.  His deep spirituality and love of God's Word married together with the oratorical skill acquired in law and politics made St. Ambrose one of the greatest preachers of the early church. 

God pursued Ambrose so fiercely that he even got the complete RCIA process in a week (which made him a better Catholic than some who go through Sister's 2 year sharing-and-journeying process of enlightenment and empowerment)!

Ambrose was fit for it. He faced heretical sects that even had infiltrated the highest offices of the Church. SHOCK AND HORROR! He was threatened to turn away from Catholicism and join in the heresy. It would have been easy but the easy way didn't work for him. 

It wasn't Plan A.

I got this line from an old cop show on teevee. On an episode of "Crossing Jordan", the director of forensics or something was leaving his post and having doubts. Jordan, who crosses, told him, "This is what you're good at. No one has gone through the five stages of death and dying in this position and survived like you." Or something like that.
Crossing Jordan was a real thing. Seriously.

If you can die and rise in a vocation, it's yours. And for Christians, dying and rising is the way we live. It's Plan A.