Thursday, May 20, 2010

Another Way to Overcome the 'Ego'

The history of the saints tells us that many have acted strangely, not only to our modern sensibilities but to the customs of their time. One such saint was St. Philip Neri. He gave bizarre penances and performed crazy antics to humble his own pride.

He would meet people with his clothes turned inside out, danced through the streets with his beard half shaved, carried a bunch of brooms which he sniffed like a bunch of flowers, appeared in public with a cushion on his head, seen in church with his biretta cocked on one side. He was pleased to draw ridicule for his antics. He acted as the clown for very unclownlish reasons.

We also have this kind of priest in Korea. We will wait until he dies to make a judgement about his sanctity. He writes about his experiences in parish work in the Catholic Peace Weekly. At a seminar for diocesan priests, they commented on his hair style. "Father, you're really chic, please no more of these antics." His hair was long and slightly in a permanent.

In keeping with his unpredictability, each spring, he shaves his head; he can feel the wind on his head and have a light heart.

His eccentricities have led to difficulties in parish work. "Mom, a Buddhist monk has come to the church." This was the reaction to the pastor after arriving at the parish. A girl who had returned home from studies overseas said to her mother that she was hoping to see a classy priest. However, with his head looking like a Buddhist monk and his fluent sermon delivered like a Protestant minister, she didn't know what to think.

The priest mentioned that one day a group of nuns came to see him. He showed them around the area and left while they prepared lunch at the beach. He was dealing with an annoying problem in the parish and was looking for another way of seeing the issue. He went to a nearby beauty shop, had his hair shaved off and soon returned to the sisters.
When they saw him, they thought he was a monk down from his temple in the mountains, but it didn't take long before they realized that this was their host. It was difficult to eat lunch in the usual manner, and they remained bewildered.

In Korea in recent years many have their heads shaved in protest to what they see in society. This is a common sign of protest both in the East and in the West: the skinned-head look without the ideology. It is a sign that they are willing to look strange, to look different, giving up something many think important--our physical appearance--to make a point. Our priest if it is a protest it is against himself, perhaps very much in line with the motives of St. Philip Neri.

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