Mother Teresa has her sisters keep a “triduum” every year between August 15 (the Assumption) and August 22. In 1950, when she founded the order, August 22 was the Feast of the Immaculate Heart, and now it is the memorial of the Queenship of Mary. By special permission from Rome, however, the Missionaries of Charity continue to celebrate the Immaculate Heart of Mary as a First Class Feast on August 22. Mother Teresa’s devotion to Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart permeates her order, and to this day her sisters end every prayer with “Immaculate heart of Mary, cause of our joy, pray for us.” Today we celebrate the memorial of St. John Eudes, whom, we are told in our Magnificat devotionals, was largely responsible for initiating and popularizing devotion the Immaculate Heart.
But in Costa Rica it’s a bit safer, and on my morning exercise last week I made a friend. A young man who was jogging a bit ahead of me finished his run and I joined him to rest for a bit before running back to the convent. He rightly guessed I was not from Costa Rica, and I explained that I was a priest from California giving some conferences to the nuns up the road. He was a policeman, it turned out, and knew the sisters from the street people who often asked to be dropped off at their shelter. We had a friendly chat and I turned back for the convent feeling more at home in Limon, Costa Rica.
I’ve always sensed an affinity with policemen, who seem to appreciate a priest’s role in society better than most. They appreciate us for trying to conserve the spiritual order, and we appreciate them for trying to conserve the temporal order. Both our professions are conservative by definition, and both of us suffer the hostility of those who scorn social order: anarchists, communists, socialists, relativists, and spoiled rich kids. Our wealthy elites tend to look down on simple rules, and simple priests and policemen. Today’s leading edge politics, technology, and business are built on the doctrines of unlimited personal autonomy, and naturally they see cops and priests as limiting individual free choice. A policeman told me once that the media baits the Catholic Church the way it baits police departments, always looking for some scandal to prove that priests and cops don’t follow their own rules.
Mi nombre es Eduardo, my new policeman friend said, extending a sweaty hand. Padre Jose, a sus ordines, I replied. It’s a common salutation in Latino countries, to say “at your orders,” or, as we would say, “at your service.” Both of us are in the business of conserving the natural order, which means I submit to his orders in the temporal realm, and he submits to my orders in the spiritual realm. We feel at ease with this mutual submission, because both of us know we ourselves take orders from a higher authority. Our social order depends on “the laws of nature and of Nature’s God” as our Declaration of Independence puts it. May God bless the nation’s honest police men and women, and may God bless the Church’s honest priests.