I read an interesting article on The Washington Post web site this morning about a group of Franciscan Friars who walked 300 miles across Virginia from Roanoke to Washington, DC. Complete with the requisite photo gallery, the article is an interesting look at their journey and some of the lives they touched along the way.
I’ve heard many stories along these lines since becoming Catholic, though mostly in Catholic-oriented media and informal conversations. The men and women who choose the religious life in the Catholic Church are set apart in their vows (including the vow of celibacy) and lifestyle, but also—most obvious to a casual observer—in dress. People within and without the Church often seem to gravitate to identifiable religious leaders like Priests, Friars, Nuns, and others in their times of need.
Nobody would ever approach me on the street with their troubles, nor would they know to approach a non-Catholic Christian pastor out for a stroll with his wife and children (as he is indistinguishable in that context from me or anybody else). A Catholic Priest, on the other hand, is usually in-uniform, rarely off-duty, and equally identifiable to everybody from his own parishioners to anonymous strangers. Thus, he has nearly constant opportunity for ministry if he chooses to make himself available. Indeed, the Friars’ journey was filled with stories of hope and service.
While these positives are the center of the story, and the most important part, it’s worth mentioning that these poor Friars were also subjected to some middle fingers and yelled obscenities while on their journey. Three cheers for basic common courtesy and ‘tolerance’!