Saturday, November 5, 2011



The big news in downtown Newark this week was the presence of dozens of trailers, trucks, vehicles, actors and cameramen filming scenes from the next Batman movie, “Dark Knight Rises.” I made sure that my daily walk took me near the center of the activity, so I got to see dozens of police cars from the Gotham Police Department along with a couple of armored SWAT vehicles from Batman’s home town. Thursday and Friday were definitely Batman days around here!

Meanwhile, back at the abbey… We had already celebrated the Church’s heroes and heroines on Tuesday, All Saints’ Day. The saints are definitely not in the same class as “Superheroes,” because they are real-life, flesh and blood persons, not fictional creations. They just did little things extraordinarily well, or managed to let the Lord work though them to do some extraordinary things.


On Thursday, the film crews spent hours shooting scenes of an arch-villain’s den inside the highly disguised rotunda of Newark’s City Hall. Meanwhile, back at the abbey five blocks away up the hill, we were celebrating the feast of Saint Martin de Porres. Born in 1639 in Lima, Peru of a black-slave mother and a Spanish father, he had very little education. He was accepted as a brother in the Dominican order, and soon he quietly set to work with extraordinary energy and endless kindness to help the poor, slaves, mulattoes and other outcasts of Lima. His fellow Dominicans, including priest theologians started coming to him for his wise spiritual insights and counsel. (He was friends with another non-superhero, Saint Rose of Lima.) Even before his death he was venerated not as a superhero but as Saint Martin de Porres.


On Friday, they did take after take of dozens of Gotham cops running down into the lightrail station on Broad Street. Meanwhile, back at the abbey ten blocks away, we were celebrating the feast of Saint Charles Borromeo. His mother was a Medici. In 1559 his uncle was elected Pope Pius IV and the following year, named him his Secretary of State and created him a cardinal and administrator of the see of Milan. (It didn’t matter that he wasn’t a priest.) He was poised to be a world-class power-broker, and could easily have chosen to become a man of immense wealth and political influence. But he chose instead to dedicate himself to the reforming of the Church and especially of the clergy in those days when the Protestant Reformation was splitting Christendom. His life’s story is not that of a rich power-broker nor a superhero but of a holy man who by his determination and courage made the Church a holier and more Christ-like institution.

So, superhero week was quite a success here at Newark Abbey, as we hobnobbed with All the Saints on Tuesday, with a mulatto Peruvian on Thursday and on Friday with a might-have-been wealthy prince who passed up the opportunity in favor of serving the church.

None of these folks had jet-powered batmobiles or superhuman tricks to help them. Instead they relied on God, in whom they managed to place all their trust. Sounds risky, doesn’t it? I break into a cold sweat at the idea of putting myself totally into God's hands. Batman only has to do stuff like rappel down the side of a 50-story building in seconds or drive down a crowded street at 300 hundred miles an hour. Who’s got the easier challenge, him or me?


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