Just when we thought he couldn’t get any cuter. He discovered superheroes.
You may have thought that he was a preschooler, but really he is a defender of justice and freedom. This is him in his super suit. Note his power belt, boots and mask (to hide his secret identity). Bed time has become the most exciting time of day. Mind you, we spend all day saving people, but at bedtime, properly attired, things really step up a notch. To say he is obsessed may be an understatement. And we are happy to encourage him.
This interest of Isaac’s has led him to the inevitable question: are there any real superheroes in this world? Initially, we talked to him about firefighters and police officers, who are legitimate people-savers. But recently, as we talked about the sacrament of Holy Orders with our 7th graders, it clicked: who are the real supers among us? Priests! And not just in a “self-esteem-boosting” kind of way. Check out these very real parallels:
Superheroes get their powers from some physical change… a spider bite that fuses arachno-DNA to their own, the effect of the Earth sun on alien orphan, etc. A priest is made priest by the act of ordination- an ontological change. An indelible mark on the soul. Priests are priests forever, even if dismissed from the clerical state.
Superheroes wear “super suits” when performing herioc acts to define what they are doing and hide their identity. Priests wear vestments when offering the sacraments, especially the Eucharist– also to hide themselves. When administering sacraments, they are IN the person of Christ.
Superheroes’ jobs of saving the world are very taxing on their personal relationships, especially romantic ones (I love the way the Spiderman movies tackled this topic!). Priests are celibate for this reason– sacrifice for their Bride, the Church.
Superheroes have, well, superpowers (duh). Priests’ superpowers are way cooler than x-ray vision, super strength or even the ability to shoot webs from their hands. Priests can forgive sins, bring people into God’s family, confer upon people the Holy Spirit and turn bread and wine into Jesus’ Body and Blood.
Superheroes save people from death. Priests can save people from eternal death.
Why do we have a shortage of priests? I think because the vocation is often presented as: Priesthood=be a nice guy who can’t get married and does some nice things for people here and there. Who wants to sacrifice their whole life for that? Where’s the adventure? Where’s the sense of what’s at stake? We need priests in order that the rest of us may live a sacramental life of grace. What’s at stake is salvation! When it comes to saving the world, more is done at the altar of each daily Mass at each little parish than a bazillion fundraising rock stars, or five trillion government programs could ever hope to do.
So, yes, we will encourage our little superhero to pursue the noble pursuits of peace and justice, motivations placed in his heart by his Creator. And we will teach him to hold in high regard those true “supers” in our midst.