As a high school Passionist seminarian, I had great hopes of saving the world. I wanted to be like David so beautifully described in our first reading for today.
"He made sport of lions as though they were kids,
and of bears, like lambs of the flock.
As a youth he slew the giant
and wiped out the people’s disgrace…" Sirach 47: 3-4
I got my first hint that that dream might be a bit challenging when I got a response back from a letter I had sent to my older sister Marianne who had just gotten married. She wrote back that she could handle her own marriage, thank you, and that I’d best concentrate on being the best seminarian I could be and not intrude in others’ lives, especially lives of people that I had no inkling of what they were about. I didn’t keep that letter, but I remember the advice to this day.
I did keep a letter she wrote four years later. I was in the Novitiate then and thinking about leaving. In that letter she told me: "Furthermore if you might decide actually you are selfish and the priesthood is no place for you–forget about the married state too."
It’s hard for this old man, and I imagine even harder for the young man in the novitiate to hear today’s first reading and not want to conquer the world, to save it and be a hero like David. My sister’s letter taught me that it’s me I have to conquer. I am the enemy.
Today, I try to do this by giving thanks as David did further in the reading, accepting the life, gifts and the faults I’ve been given and making the most of them. Maybe, but probably not, many years after my demise, someone will say like they said of David: "Remember that Dan, he conquered the enemy, he slew Goliath; he showed the way. What a great guy!"
Dan O’Donnell is a Passionist Partner and a longtime friend of the Passionists. He lives in Chicago.