In But Not Part Of
I was playing football with the aspirants this afternoon when some approached to play with us. Two of the aspirants called me to the side to warn me that these people play rough. Their concerns were not without basis as many indeed would play rough in order to win. They told me however that it would be my call and they would just be obedient (as they always are to me).
I thought it over and decided that the aspirants play with them. I thought to let the ball roll.
I was quite amused at how many of our aspirants tried their best to defend in their positions. At the end of the game one of them admitted he didn’t really want to play since those who invited themselves to the game usually wouldn’t pass the ball and that they were too hot-headed to keep a friendly game. True enough, during the game some of the aspirants didn’t push enough to make a decent goal.
I pointed out to them two things: one, that the world is never fair; and two, they must deal with it.
It is true that the world is never fair. No, not to anyone. No, never. To complain that opponents are too rough is not some reason to stop playing. It is a challenge to keep fighting on despite the un-fairness, keeping yourself fair to others. It brings to mind Jesus’ challenge: you are in the world but not of the world. When these formands would become professed Salesians one day, they would realize that not even those you expect to be fair would be honest at all. How many times have our priests been duped by the very persons they trusted?
The danger of staying in a regulated environment is to begin to think that the world works the way it does inside the seminary walls. Outside the comfort of our boundaries, the world is vicious, competitive, and difficult. Our formands must wake up to the fact that that is the nature of the world, and that is the object of our mission – to purify the world that the Kingdom of God may reign.
Keeping calm in spite of the roughness of opponents is a tough thing to do. Yet it is the very witnessing that St Paul challenges us to: conquer evil with good. So I told my too-idealistic charge that it is the very challenge of playing as an aspirant before other people: to be tough in the game but kind and sportsmanly.
We cannot expect the world to work the way we want it to but we will always have the power to change it by our faithful witness.