God views beyond YouTube

By: Tom Dermody

There are moments of grace, and then there are ungraceful moments. We all experience both. One of the latter for me happened while walking into a packed theater moments before a play was to begin. Failing to notice an electrical cord stretched across the aisle, I tripped and fell face first to the floor. Worse yet, a certain unprintable word escaped my mouth somewhere on the way down.

Anyone who knows me can attest I don’t use foul language. I just don’t. But out it came. And then, as I got to my feet, I noticed that sitting on the aisle right where I’d fallen were the parents of my niece’s husband. Behind them were some of my daughter’s high school friends. They certainly saw. Had they heard?

Red-faced, I found my seat and slumped into it.

Had my grand entrance been captured via camera phone, it might have enjoyed a nice run on “America’s Funniest Videos” or the current online craze, YouTube. And people who didn’t know me would judge me as a cussing klutz.

They’d only be half right.

I share that story because last week a Catholic priest from Chicago became the latest YouTube celebrity. However, Father Michael Pfleger’s ungraceful moment, described on page 3 and shown repeatedly online and on news and late-night programs, wasn’t an accidental slip. He mocked Sen. Hillary Clinton from the pulpit of that city’s Trinity United Church of Christ, made famous by the racially divisive rants of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

I’m not writing to defend Father Pfleger, who is no stranger to controversy. It was a poor choice of words and style in a very public venue. He has apologized, and Cardinal Francis George has asked Father Pfleger to temporarily step down from his parish duties.

But I do agree with Father Pfleger’s message last Sunday at St. Sabina’s Parish in Chicago. Titled “Beyond YouTube,” it warned against judging him or anyone else via a 90-second video clip. The snippet, said Father Pfleger, “in no way defines the sermon or the message that was preached and in no way defined the person or the pastor that I am.” For the record, Father Pfleger has accomplished some amazing things at St. Sabina, including establishing social service agencies and leading anti-drug efforts.

Our Catholic faith is always calling us deeper. To a deeper love and understanding of God. To a deeper love and service of our neighbor. Our culture, meanwhile, seems to thrive on the surfaces of beauty, celebrity, fame, and of the moment. The YouTube celebrity parade is just the latest reflection of that.

Thankfully for all of us, God watches the whole movie of our lives. And better yet, his grace and mercy are always ready to edit out even our most ungraceful moments. — Thomas J. Dermody, editor-in-chief

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