Two different experiences with the same underlying lesson came to my mind as I walked along the Tiber this morning. The first was a letter from a dear friend whom I have seen grow from a boy into a man who was warned by his Superior not to associate with "Vatican officials" who crave for "high posts"! The second was a request from a colleague at work who out of deference to my seniority suggested that I take the chair at the head of the table at tea break.
The cancer of careerism is indeed real and can eat into and destroy the ministry of any cleric. Not for me those "high posts" because I suffer from vertigo! And is there such a thing as a high or a low post after all? Is the brick at the foundation of a cathedral "lower" than the coping stone that crowns the cupola? I have always regarded myself from the very first day that I assumed work here, as being a little "nut" in this gigantic and rather intricate machinery of the Universal Church that is known as the Curia of the Vatican. To my mind there are no "high" or "low" posts. Attempts at self-aggrandizement never go far. Like the episode of the Tower of Babel they are bound to end in chaos and confusion! It is for the Lord to lift us up. And when he does lift us, all glory and honour must be given to Him and not to us. Is not this what the Blessed Virgin Mary did as she magnified the Lord Who had looked on His servant in her nothingness?
And declining the respectful request of the colleague who asked me to take the seat at the head of the table, I replied: "It is the person who makes the chair; and not the chair, the person." Who is more important? Peter or Peter's chair? And what's in a chair after all? I have known persons who have collapsed psychologically the moment they were relieved of an office. The spectre of retirement haunts them. I know of a veteran and committed teacher who just dreaded the day when he would be superannuated. Soon after retirement, he literally went into hiding locking himself for days behind closed doors in his apartment, unable to accept and adjust to the stark reality that he had retired. Our real worth is in ourselves and not in what we do, much less in the offices or jobs that we hold. It is only "small" creatures that crave to rise "higher". People who are tall do not need high-heeled shoes! And a diamond continues to remain a diamond whether studded on to a crown or thrown into a dustbin!