Who should I look up to?

“Whereas your part is to go out to the battle of your City, where maybe death awaits you. This you know in your heart.”

This summer I have taken to reading the magnificent works by J.R.R. Tolkien starting with The Hobbit and now just finishing with The Return of the King, last book of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The above quote is taken from a conversation between one of the counsels of Mithrandir or, as some may know him, Gandalf, and Lord Denethor Steward of Gondor. Those who have read the story may recognise this as the part where Denethor is bereft of all hope and madness drives him to the burning of his still living but wounded son, Faramir. Being a wise wizard, Mithrandir intervenes to set things right.

The point that struck me in this episode is the lack of good example and leadership provided by Denethor at that hour of great peril where the hosts of Mordor where attacking Minas Tirith. The Lord of the City proved to be a coward and despair simply took away all wisdom from him. If it wasn’t for other leaders who cared for the people and had even a “fool’s hope” as is said in the book, in victory, then probably the fate of Middle-Earth would have been much different.

Bad example; Isn’t it common nowadays? It often involves people who have a certain position or a vocation behaving in a way which is not expected of them. It’s true that lay people have expectations and they may not always be right but I am confident that every person knows in his heart what his actions should be. I am not solely referring to politicians or judges. Quite a growing number of people, especially youths, are losing faith in politics when seeing so much corruption, nepotism and false promises. But what about parents? What about people in certain positions in the Church?

Certain observations can be done by any person regarding the improper behaviour of a priest or a seminarian. Where is the formation these vocations require? I don’t want to sound like a close-minded person since those who really know me can testify to the contrary but even a non-Christian would deem certain flirtations with women by a seminarian as inappropriate. Having a priest in a parish whose work does not extend beyond saying Holy Mass once or twice daily does not really prove to be a good example for the faithful. It’s in fact good for seminarians and priests to meet different people during their life and not just interact with other clergy. It’s good for them to mix and make friends but does certain behaviour really help? Are certain words, actions and desires fit for a seminarian or priest?

In the light of my observations, lay people cannot blame their mistakes on the example set by those in high authority. Although Lord Denethor despaired, the people of Minas Tirith still fought bravely and finally the battle turned to their favour. Yet the example set by those in higher positions does play a role.

My intention is not to sling mud at the Church and our clergy. The example of parents is equally important since the family is the domestic Church. If a mother dresses up indecently, how can her daughter grow up to be different? I used to be amazed when some of my friends used to tell me that they return home at 4 o’clock in the morning and when I look at the way they dress, I start to question their parents’ opinion. Do they agree with these actions? Have they lost their sense of discipline? Seminarians receive formation so one can point out the weaknesses of it? But where are we going to sta

rt when it comes to parents? Are they really prepared to raise children?
The sure answer for all these instances is solid formation. What type of formation are seminarians given, and how? How are we preparing parents for raising children? I disagree strongly with Tolkien in his works where he implies that wisdom or evil are somehow inherited from one’s kin. Wisdom comes from good training in proper values and the ability to act in accordance to such values.

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