Father Joseph V. Corpora, CSC | September 9, 2017
As the years go by I become more and more fond of saying, “The older I get the better I look in gray.” The phrase is not original. I first heard it from the late Trappist Abbot Bernard Johnson many years ago. One of my very best friends had left the priesthood. He was a great priest, a really popular and effective one. After 19 years of priesthood, celibacy became more and more difficult for him. So, after much prayer and discernment, he left the priesthood and was laicized.
I was about 50 years old at the time and I remember telling Abbot Bernard about the situation. “So, Bernard,” I said, “was it a mistake? Was it wrong for him to have become a priest in the first place?” And he said, “Joseph, Joseph, it’s not that clear-cut. In fact, the older I get the better I look in gray.”
I have never forgotten the abbot’s words. Everything that seemed so black or white, good or bad, right or wrong, until I was 50 seems so much grayer now. Of course, some will say I’m wishy-washy, and maybe that’s true. But I don’t think so. As you get older you begin to see that things are so much more both/and than either/or.
Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, says the most important theological word in the Catholic vocabulary may be “and.” When the Church talks in “either/or” language we get schisms. The early Church had schisms over the question of whether Christ was human or divine. Those who were able to believe that Jesus is both God and man remained in the Church. Those who believed he was either one or the other left the Church to begin their own. The Church thrives when it talks the language of “both/and”: Jesus is true God and true man. Mary is Virgin and Mother. The Kingdom of God is here and yet to come. We are sinners and saints. God speaks to us through Scripture and tradition. We believe in faith and reason.
I used to see so many absolutes in life. Now I think the only absolute I have is the mercy of God. The Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy taught us that it is the mercy of God more than anything that will save us all.