Symbols are important. Signs have deep meaning.
What we say, how we act, even the cloths we wear reveals something of our identity to others.
This past week as I was walking towards the Church to offer the Holy Mass. in the background a ways back I couldn’t help but listen to the conversation of two teenage skateboarders who were so caught up in there own world that they likely couldn’t even tell they were speaking so loudly. After a few moments and quite a bit of profanity all of a sudden I could hear the birds chirping, there was silence. Dumbstruck, one of the boys said with amazement, “Whoa, is that a Jedi,” to which his friend responded, “I think it is!” Then after they gazed at this strange figure in the distance cloaked in a black cassock one of the young men figured out their dilemma, “No, I think it’s a priest!”
For those who care to know, this is exactly why I choose to wear the cassock often. It is a sign that speaks something profound, something that slacks and shirt or even a clerical suit could never quite convey:
i. The priest is someone not of this world. The cassock is an entirely unique, religious garb and nowhere else do you see anything quite like it. As a result, it says that this man is not the same as the rest, even that he does not fit here. Indeed, the priest is not the same and he should not be too comfortable in this world as he is to be a sign (dare I say even a visible sign) that there is another world that exists. The cassock, even more than a familiar business suit fashioned into clerics, points to the supernatural character of the Priest.
ii. The priest does good and fights evil. Like the superhero’s of old who also wear strange costumes (batman, superman, spiderman) the priest is here to do battle with the forces of evil. Today especially, as comic books and superhero movies are making a comeback, the cassock is a sign that is easy for many to relate to. Batman was a good man who took it upon himself to expose injustice, fight crime and protect Gotham. So the Priest is a good man, a man of God in fact, who is here to bring about justice for all, to fight against temptation and sin which always seeks to enslave us, and to protect man and woman from Satan who is, “…prowling about the world, seeking the ruin of souls.”
iii. It just looks so cool, it’s got the “Whoa” factor as demonstrated by the teenage skateboarders who may not even be Catholic.
Signs matter. The cassock is a clear sign that reveals the true identity of the priest. If I could meet those two boys again, I would answer there question, “No, I am not a Jedi, but that doesn’t matter because you already know who I am and what I’m about. I am a Catholic Priest!”