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Chuck's Blog

The Black Robes

Chuck Neff - Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I just finished a book called Parish Priest.  It tells the story of Fr. Michael McGivney, the priest who founded the Knights of Columbus in 1881.  The authors are Douglas Brinkley and Julie M. Fenster.  Fr. McGivney was 29-years-old, when he started this Catholic fraternal organization.  His call to the priesthood came amidst ongoing persecution against Catholics, many of whom at the time were Irish coming to the United States to escape the dire poverty of their native land.  The authors share a story about the character and substance of Catholic priests.  I liked it a lot and hope you might, too.

In the1880s, Old Wolf, a Cheyenne chief from Montana, told this story.  In the land of the Cheyennes, there is a mountain higher than all the mountains around him.  All the Cheyennes know that mountain; even our forefathers knew him.  When children, we ran around wheresoever we wanted.  We were never afraid to lose our way so long as we could see that mountain, which would show us home again.  When grown up, he followed the buffalo and the elk; we cared not where we pursued the running deer, so long as the mountain was in sight; for we knew he was ever a safe guide, and never failed in his duty.  When men, we fought the Sioux, the Crows, the white men.  We went after the enemy, though the way ran high up, and low down.  Our hearts trembled not on account of the road; for as long as we could see the mountain, we felt sure of finding our home again.  When far away, our hearts leaped for joy on seeing him, because he told us that our home came nearer.

During the winter, the snow covered all the earth with the mantle of white; we could no longer distinguish him from other mountains except by his height, which told us he was the mountain.  Sometimes dark clouds gathered above.  They hid his head from our view, and out of them flew fiery darts, boring holes in his sides.  The thunder shook him from head to foot; but the storm passed away and the mountain stood forever.

This mountain is the Black-robe.  (That is a Native American expression for a Roman Catholic priest.)  His heart is firm as a rock.  He changes not.  He speaks to us the words of truth.  We are always sure of our path, but we look to him for guidance.  He is the mountain that leads us up to God.