Friday, February 19, 2010

Encountering ´Ordinary Heroes´ in Our Life

My First Published Column in Catholic Online

This column that I wrote recently and submitted to Catholic Online through my friend Jennifer Hartline appeared this morning here.  I have been working on a concept of Ordinary Heroes to explain the folks that I come across in my daily life that influence my faith in Our Saviour.

It is very easy to miss the Ordinary Heroes that come across our path.  But, with patience and an open heart you can know they are there.

(Pictured: The Saints who beckon us all to holiness in the ordinary things of our daily lives and in every vocation and state in life) 'I started seeing lay heroes as I went about my daily business, and I will write about them and their stories of simple heroism.' - Michael Brandon
(Pictured: The Saints who beckon us all to holiness in the ordinary things of our daily lives and in every vocation and state in life) 'I started seeing lay heroes as I went about my daily business, and I will write about them and their stories of simple heroism.' - Michael Brandon
TUCSON, AZ. (Catholic Online) - In communicating about the Ordinary Heroes that come across our paths, I use the term "encounter", and similar words.  I use that term intentionally, and not the more familiar word "meet".  Encountering is far more complex an activity than just meeting someone; one cannot only meet an Ordinary Hero. One must encounter them to appreciate who they are. 

Our ability to encounter others is dependent on the answer to this particular question: "Do I need to be right or am I prepared to learn the truth?"  For most of my life, I was more interested in being right than in finding out the truth, not particularly because I was evil, but because I was wounded by the world we live in, and was protective of my beliefs.  My self confidence depended on me being right, since it was so low.  To risk any further damage to it was beyond my capabilities of thought.  I had built protective walls around myself that rather than providing the protection that I desired, provided barriers to the truth, to things that would have freed me from myself and my past.

But then, because of a car crash I was in over 6 years ago, I was forced into a time of introspection, and truth seeking, which has now become my goal in life.  I lost my ability to work for a living, and also to follow one of my passions, making music on piano and synthesizer.  But by the grace of God and with the assistance of people God put into my path, I developed a curiosity about things, including my attitude towards them.  When I am curious about things I come across, I am not invested in what I need them to be.  They are able to just "be". 

Consequently, I am free to encounter and accept the things and people that I meet, with a curiosity as to how I might grow personally from such an encounter.  This kind of freedom from the baggage of our own past lives, gives us the eyesight to see at least some of the Ordinary Heroes who come across our paths on a daily basis.

You rarely meet an Ordinary Hero and immediately realize their heroism.  You must accept them as they are, and probe to understand what animates them and motivates their behaviors.  As my curiosity has grown, and my protective walls have fallen, I have had the opportunity to meet the most delightful people I have ever come across.  I frankly had no idea they were even there, let alone what they were all about.

As I write this, I am reminded of a vision that I had many years ago.  From time to time, Our Precious Lord allows me to see things graphically to help me to comprehend them better.

In this particular vision, I was trapped in a one room jail cell in the middle of a field.  It had one barred window to look out of, and through it I could see the green fields in front of me, and in the background a forest; but I was in jail and could not get out.  In a moment, I saw the walls crumble down, and the roof disappear, and suddenly I could see not only the view from the window, but an even broader perspective.  In the distance, I saw My Dear Wife, and our Parish Priest.  End of story?  Not so much.  In the vision, I was paralyzed by fear.  I had always lived in the jail cell of my vision, so when the walls and roof came down, I had nowhere to hide, and I was afraid.  I just stood there trembling. 

Since that time, I have grown much in my faith, in no small measure because of the wonderful love of my favorite Ordinary Hero, My Dear Wife.  I have been greatly and exclusively loved by a member of God´s creation, and savoring and building on that love has lifted me up greatly.  Her beautiful and simple faith inspires me to be all that I can be. 

My wife has always accepted me, even though much of my behavior towards her was not really acceptable.  She prayed for me, and she could see that there was more to me than the wounded man she had married.  So often, she told me there was more out there for me; that God had much more in store for me.  I have long since accepted having a personal relationship with Jesus, but though I had accepted him in one sense, I was stubbornly holding on to my old thoughts and behaviors.  But, My Dear Wife would have none of that, and prayed for me to change my ways.  In the mean time, she continued to accept me, though she prudently put up boundaries in our relationship. 

I worked hard to be who I thought she wanted me to be.  That was of no real use, since it wasn´t me.  I then tried to do it on my own.  Finally, I was able to submit myself more deeply to doing God´s will in my life, in no small measure because of her prayer support.  I started to see myself as a unique creation of God´s and of inestimable worth, and so I needed to act
that way.

Then, along the way, I realized that this precious woman I had married was a gift of God to me, and I started to really treat her as the precious Child of God that she was.  When I started to see her for whom she was in Christ, then it helped me even more to see myself as worthy.  Then it all started to fall into place.

She had been there, being Jesus for me all along.  Now, not only was she Jesus for me, but suddenly so was everybody else.  When you see Jesus in people, no matter their circumstances, your perspectives change.  Then you see heroes, Everyday Heroes.

So, I started seeing lay heroes as I went about my daily business, and I will write about them and their stories of simple heroism.

Along the way, I have also had the distinct pleasure and honor of getting to know many priests, who I have encountered since that time.  I met priests before, but have since looked at their hearts as they have shared them with me.  I have come to have such a respect for our faithful priests, and their role as alter Christus for us.

I discovered a funny thing.  The Ordinary Heroes were there all along, ready to share of them-selves, if only I was able to listen.   I have never been hard of hearing in my life time, but I have been hard of listening.  I was always too busy planning and plotting what I was going to say in response to what was hitting my ears, to pay it the heed it so richly deserved.  So often, I missed the opportunity to be astounded, to be enriched, to be graced by the well thought out words of another who had crossed my path.

Follow along with me as I present you some of the Ordinary Heroes that I encounter.  But, more than that see them yourselves in the people that you get to know.
Michael Brandon is a Canadian Catholic, born, raised, abandoned, returned.  He is married to the earthly love of his life, and has begun writing about the even deeper Love of his life this past year. 
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JOSHUA said...


This is an excellent piece! You must be very proud to be able to share it with others via Catholic Online. It is enriching to be reminded so insightfully that our Lord Jesus speaks to us through others, among them the "ordinary heroes" of your article. The trick is in staying attuned to that fact. This piece serves to remind us all of this essential - and very beautiful - truth about following Jesus' path. Thank you.

Michael Brandon said...

Unfortunately Joshua, proud described how I felt and acted lately to some extent. If you read today's article on the blog, you will see where it got me - hot water - with my Beloved.

All is well, now, and I stand before you chastened, but enlightened.