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Whose life is it anyway?


Apparently, the Media Machine is all heated up over the unauthorized bio of Oprah written by Kitty Kelley. I don’t know much about Ms. Kelley, but I did watch a bit of an interview with her on the Sunday Morning show on CBS yesterday.

Ms. Kelley said she got interested in biographies when she was a school girl in a Catholic school, where the “only” biographies were the ones of Catholic saints. Then she made the comment that she thought the interest in saints’ lives has led directly to our society's current obsession with celebrity.

I don’t think so.

Was Mother Teresa plastered all over glossy magazine covers, week after week ("Learn Mother Teresa's Terrific Tips to Spiritual Happiness!")? How many people in our current society (even those who ARE Catholic) know who “The Little Flower” is? You might find someone who can identify St. Francis of Assisi as “that guy with the animals”, but would they know about his stigmata?

My husband and I joke that the Tallest Son has ADOS: Attention Deficit-Oh Shiny. Our society clearly has the same malady. We like shiny, pretty things: girls with glossy hair, manly men with toothy smiles. We want to know what toilet paper, what dental floss, what coffee these picturesque people use. We think that imitating them will allow us to have a pretty, popular, perfect life. The problem is, we don't want to DO anything to get that life; we just want to buy it.

And that's the problem. We can't buy what the saints are selling. They're selling Jesus and the Christian life, and we can't buy that: we can only do it. And doing it isn't much fun: there is a big, heavy cross to lug around, people point at you and make fun of your choices, you have to do a lot of things you don't want to do but know that you must do to be the person you are meant to be, and most of all, there is no reward for it all in this life. That comes later. Nothing shiny, pretty or popular here. Not a glossy magazine cover in sight.

Ms. Kelley has it all wrong: celebrity and saints are not the same thing. Celebrity is about the here and now, and all about the self. Sainthood flips that on it's pretty head: store your treasure in Heaven and serve God and others. It probably won't sell any new books for Ms. Kelley, but I think she should re-read those Catholic saints' bios again. It may not get her another best seller, but it might get her a life.

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Crossing Guard

I saw you
today
as you guided
your little man across that busy street.

You were wearing some
big man boots
and
watching cars and lights.

Your little man had on
black sneakers and
a Mickey Mouse hat
that bounced
as he walked.

He wasn't watching nothing but
your big man boots
and
the white stripes of the crosswalk.

Just before
he got to the sidewalk again,
his step bounced a bit
- he hopped over
a spot where the asphalt broke.

You turned to look,
holding out a hand to
your little man.
Not rushed or angry,
just making sure
he got up
on that sidewalk.

Then you walked on,
in your big man boots,
face into a cold Michigan wind,
with the little man behind,
his hat bouncing.