This is why my blog is now called "No Boxes Allowed." And why I sometimes need to be reminded of the need for not putting people in boxes. Not metaphorical ones anyway.
Went to Mass yesterday, like I always do on Sundays. I saw the procession getting lined up to go in and noticed that we had a guest priest. One that I had never seen before. And he seemed out there. Weird hair. Weirdest robe and vestments I had ever seen. Seemed kind of out of it, too. Looked a bit like this:
So I was bracing myself for a barely understandable Gospel reading, an incoherent Homily and who knows what else.
Then he opened his mouth. Boy, was I wrong.
I am guilty. I unfairly put this man in a box before he had spoken a word. Stupid and hypocritical of me.
Our priest at Mass yesterday was Boniface Hardin, the founder of Martin University in Indianapolis. Correction: Father Boniface Hardin. Until yesterday I had no idea he was a Benedictine monk who had graduated from St. Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana.
By the way, the robes and vestments? For African Catholic Mass rituals. Approved by the Vatican.
One of the best ways to impress me as a priest is to understand the Bible. Not just the words and lessons of the Bible, but the history of Bible, the historical context of the times of the Bible, the language of the Bible ...
And Father Hardin knows it. Discussed during the Homily how yesterday's Gospel had originally been written in Aramaic, which caused translation and interpretation issues. Discussed the parable of yesterday's Gospel (a rather weird parable: an enemy planted weeds among a farmer's crops; did people actually do this?), and how Jesus Christ, as He tended to do, explained that parable with ... another parable. Confused and annoyed the Apostles like nobody's business.
Father Hardin's mind is as sharp as a scalpel.
And he talked about his own history a bit. How his mouth sometimes gets him into trouble (yeah, that never happened to me ...), how he has sinned, how he has not always been in the right ... but he tries to learn from it. To learn from it and grow in furtherance of God's work.
Didn't see one shred of evidence of intellectual atrophy in him. Examining oneself is a healthy sign of curiosity.
Friendly, laughing, self-deprecating and outgoing. Then he got to the Consecration of the Eucharist.
At that point, Father Hardin seemed to me to have become a different person. Much more serious, focused, reverent. Let me repeat that last one: reverent. He displayed a reverence for the Eucharist.
Now, to be sure, pretty much all priests do. For those of you who don't know, the Eucharist is the center of the Catholic Mass. Unleavened bread and wine changed to the Body and Blood of Christ. But I can't say I recall ever seeing such a palpable change in demeanor as I saw from Father Hardin when he transitioned from the Homily to the Consecration. The change struck me as indicative of the deep love this man has for God, Jesus, the ROMAN Catholic Church and the meaning of it all.
I left Mass yesterday very, very impressed with Father Hardin. Smart, funny, humble, caring, educated and, indeed reverent -- intelligently reverent -- for the ROMAN Catholic Church for which I care so deeply.
Father Hardin can now count me as a fan. Whatever he may have done wrong in the past, he is a credit to the Church, to the community, to the city and to Martin University. We are all blessed to have him in our midst.
And I left Mass yesterday having learned again about my own penchant for not always practicing what I preach, for not treating others as I expect -- no, demand -- to be treated. And how I need to do better.