Holy person, holy place

Joseph F. Breighner

March 24, 1993|By Joseph F. Breighner

HOLY places and holy people serve similar purposes.

We designate certain places as holy: churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, cathedrals. We do it to discover the holiness of all places. We "limit" God's presence to special places in order to worship God in all places -- the God whom the whole universe in all its fullness could not limit.

And we designate certain people as holy. I don't mean that the life of Sister MaryAnn Glinka was more valuable than the lives of all the others who are dying in Baltimore at a rate of more than one a day. In God's eyes, all life is equally precious. But Sister MaryAnn was one of those whom we designate as holy, and it is tragic when one of those designees is murdered.

By her religious vows, Sister MaryAnn had dedicated herself to living to the extent of the Christian ideal. Her triple vows of poverty, chastity and obedience stand in direct challenge to society's values of money, sex and freedom.

In a world in which everything from sports to space exploration is controlled by money, she chose to live in physical poverty.

In a society fairly obsessed with sex, she chose to refrain from sexual expression "for the sake of the kingdom of God."

In a world in which doing one's own thing is paramount, in which personal choice is worshiped, Sister MaryAnn's vow of obedience marked her as one intent on doing God's thing.

No, she was not holier than any other victim of violent crime. We can only say that she had consecrated her life in pursuit of holiness. And I believe she died holy in an unholy moment. In the face of her attacker, I believe she put up little resistance. While she was being brutalized, I believe she prayed for her killer. In dying, I believe, she forgave her murderer.

Sister MaryAnn -- and Jesus -- remind us that faith does not protect us from the tragedies of life, but faith does transform those tragedies. They remind us that good things do not always happen to good people -- but that good ultimately conquers evil. They remind us that death is not the end but only the beginning of something so good that "eye has not seen and ear has not heard."

They remind us that religion is not about pie in the sky but about hope in the midst of darkness.

Joseph F. Breighner is a priest in the Baltimore Archdiocese.

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