All of that changes on Sunday. I have been asked to come and help train the first sports-team chaplains in the country’s history. This is a tremendous honor and an exciting opportunity. I will be updating the blog as much as I can during my trip, so I hope you’ll follow along my journey.
But I have to arrive there first. It appears I will be flying (and laying-over) for nearly 36 hours. For a priest, this creates an interesting predicament: do I wear my clerical collar on the plane, or do I go incognito?
That might seem to be a tangential, almost insignificant predicament, but I see it another way. For at least 20 hours of flying time, I’ll be seated next to hundreds of people, many of whom may be dealing with crises in their lives or questions of faith. How can my life, as a priest, be used to glorify God even as the TV on the plane replays the Amazing Spider-Man and I indulge myself in all of the free Coca-Cola I can drink?
When reflecting on ordination and the priesthood, theologian Stanley Hauerwas offered this:
But to be a priest is to occupy an office that requires the one holding the office to learn to live perpetually out of control. After tonight, your life will be constituted by the invocation of the Holy Spirit to make this bread and this wine the body and blood of Christ. At the very least, that means you will never be in control of your life invocating, as you must, a God so wild to make of you and us participants in the alternative reality called the Kingdom of God. So let me put it to you…as straight as I can. You are going to be made a priest…to consecrate is to dedicate you to God. This is going to change your life. Put even more dramatically: From this moment till you die all that you are and all that you do will be determined by your being a priest. To be a priest does not mean you have a job that ends at the end of the day. Rather, to be a priest means that you will go to bed as a priest, you will wake up as a priest, you will buy groceries as a priest, you will make jokes as a priest, you will study as a priest. From this time on, there is no time when you are not a priest. (Without Apology, 117-18)I know of people who don’t want to be identified as a priest on the airplane because they don’t want to engage in conversations. Fair enough. But I’m an extrovert, and I genuinely like people, even strangers, and so I look forward to those opportunities where I might be of some usefulness, even just as a sounding board, for a stranger in need.
As a priest, I’m going to Rwanda to help train chaplains. As a priest, I’ll be taking 36 hours to get there. I might as well make good use of my time.
I can always rent the Amazing Spider-Man when I get back to the States.