Updated: Jun 22, 2021
The other day someone knocked on my door. What poor, desperate soul was going door-to-door during a pandemic? It was a nun! (I know, "nuns" are cloistered, so she was a sister, not a nun gone AWOL.) She had a serious wimple on her head, and a serious tool kit in her hand. She hailed from a new order, one founded to mend the world, starting with broken rosaries. She offered her services gratis. Grateful donations could be mailed to the motherhouse. Did I need her help with anything? We chatted in the living room as I kept the toddler away from her miraculous ministrations. Clarification: Most unfortunately, the above story is a contribution to the nascent genre, "21st Century Catholic Fantasy Apostolates." There is no such order of sisters. But what if there were? These sisters could save us from drawers full of guilt, they could salvage antique beauty, they could be God's needle-nose pliers of mercy. When they came to a rosary-less home, they could fix other items, or answer questions from curious citizens, or give out a free rosary with an attractive tract. Our homes are full of ill-made mass-produced wares that cost less to replace than to fix. As we live our best disposable lives, we stewards ignore God's tutorials, i.e., the ways He has designed nature to renew, recycle, and repair itself. The world as we've made it NEEDS mending, God knows, and He must be frustrated that we let it stay so broken.
Fantasy Apostolate #2: "Book Ends" This ministry helps seniors whose grandchildren, for reasons of geographical or religious distance, are not attending Mass with them. These seniors are paired with a young family needing a little help. They sit at either end of the pew preventing the 18 month to 3 yo crowd from bolting up the aisles. These seniors are already making terrific "how dare you" faces at Mass, but now they can train them not upon faithful mothers but upon those children contemplating making a break for it. Repurposing those scowls will forge peace in the pews, and might lead to beautiful intergenerational friendships. Fantasy Apostolate #3: "Memento Mori" When the Senate of the Roman Republic awarded a triumph to a general, it was no small matter. At no other time was the army allowed to march inside the city walls; power corrupts, after all, and republics are delicate things, and armies don't do delicate. During a triumph, though, the general's army would march through the city streets, singing bawdy fight songs, flaunting their captives and booty, and basking in the glow of Rome's admiration.
And the general, the imperator himself! Driving a chariot with four white horses, his face painted red to look like Jupiter's statue, wearing royal purple, preceded by rare animals and musicians, bathed in flower petals floating from rooftops, the conquering hero processed from the Porta Triumphalis, a gate in the city walls only used for these occasions. What has an ancient Roman triumph to do with a Roman Catholic apostolate? Everything. The politics and theatrical spectacle of a triumph remind me of celebrity culture in the modern age. A certain president pined for a military parade in DC, influencers parade themselves at all times, people post news of victories over recipes on Instagram. Great stuff! But the ancients knew it carried great risk, so here is the part that inspires me: Behind the triumphant one stood a slave who whispered, "Remember that you are a mortal." So here's how this works. If you are in a position of power or celebrity, or perhaps you are a bishop, and you find yourself tempted to believe your own press, you can subscribe yourself (or someone can subscribe you, perhaps as a birthday gift) to a special service. Every month, you will get a call. The person on the other end won't ask you any questions or exchange any pleasantries. He or she will remind you that you are simply a person, making too many mistakes, and that your fame won't save you. The caller (minister?) tells you that you are a mortal not a god, and that you will certainly die and answer for all your silliness to God Most High. Get over yourself and get on your knees. Honestly, everyone could benefit from this last one, and I'm ready for it to happen to me. So... if you would like to show up at my home and fix my rosaries, show up at my parish and sit with my kids, or show up at random and tell me that I'm not that great, go for it. We're all in this together, and we shouldn't wait for these things to be official. *photo by Jesse Orrico on Unsplash