There Is No “Catholic Awareness” Ribbon
I walked into the cafeteria at Benedictine College, as many seniors are prone to do around lunchtime, and was greeted by the smiling faces of two female classmates sitting at a table.
“Hi, Drew!” said the first, “Would you like a pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness?”
I looked up at the teeming masses within the cafeteria, noting that practically everyone was wearing said pink ribbon. I looked back to the girls and replied, “nope.” By the way their faces hardened, one might have thought that I had turned them down because I’m in favor of breast cancer.
“What?!” spurted the first, “why not?”
Little did she know that I was taking 12 hours of upper-level philosophy and, this far into the semester, everything had to have a purpose. “Because I’m already aware of it and by the looks of things,” I gestured to the ribbon-adorned, chewing crowd, “so is everybody else.”
“Drew,” the second pleaded, “it’s for breast cancer.”
“I know! But what is my wearing a pink ribbon in a room full of other pink-ribbon-wearers in Atchison, KS going to do to advance the cause against breast cancer?” I walked away from that table, confident in my position, but still feeling like the bad guy. Which is probably why I remember the exchange so well.
Eight months later, I sat in my newly purchased, pre-owned Honda Accord, driving through my new digs in Colorado, learning to look around the rosary that I had hung from my rear-view mirror. I had never owned a car and, therefore, never learned to ignore a rosary while driving since there had been no mirror on which to hang one. Of course, I always intended to pray the rosary, even draping it on the mirror with a single loop so as to allow easy access if the Holy Spirit ever prompted; however, this became an issue, as Jesus on the cross would often swing wildly from the cold gusts provided by the A/C. The multi-looping that was required to elevate Christ above the air conditioning vents, ensured that the rare occurrences of car prayer were reduced to nothing. My rosary had become something akin to a “Catholic awareness” ribbon and pretty much served one purpose: keeping me from being vulgar on the road so as not to cause scandal.
It is important to endeavor for true devotion rather than the illusion of devotion. There have been numerous instances in my life like the one above, most of them regarding prayer. A year or two out of college, I counted going to daily Mass as part of my prayer life along with regular scripture reading and a daily rosary. Sure, I missed a day here and there, but it was regular practice, right? Wrong – on a hunch, I printed a blank calendar and created a legend of different markings denoting the various devotions; I made the appropriate marks at the end of each day. What I discovered was that, though I considered myself a daily Mass and rosary pray-er and a devoted scripture nut, I rarely practiced any of them. It was only through this tough discovery that I was able to recognize the unfortunate reality of my non-prayer life; once I knew where I was spiritually, I could realistically move toward actually developing a devotion to prayer. The danger is in “special circumstances” – like needing to sleep late – that regularly interrupt the goals of daily devotion.