It was an act of incredible self-restraint to NOT begin my reflection for the feast of Saint Blaise—the patron saint of throat illnesses—with this opening line: “Today’s homily is brought to you by Vicks!”
I know, “bad seminarian.” How dare I even think of money when reflecting on one of the holy ones of the church, a martyr no less! Maybe after preaching five Masses this past weekend that involved a cash appeal, I guess my head has found itself in a fundraising place. As I’m beginning to see, it’s all part of the territory of becoming a priest. When I told my sister that I was going to be doing the appeal for the Paulists this past weekend, she said, “Ahh, you’re a priest already!”
But while we’re on the topic, it’s not as if Catholic saints don’t have a lot of untapped potential in the sponsorship department. I mean, college bowls have corporate tie-ins that are only tangentially are tied to the game. “Tune in for the Outback Bowl!!! Being played in… someplace other than Australia.” The All-State Sugar Bowl… seriously? What does car insurance have to do with sugar? The Captain Crunch Sugar Bowl seems infinitely more appropriate… and yet it seems to be working for the people in whom we are in good hands.
When this idea was brought up around the office, imaginations ran wild. We suspected that the people at Pepto-Bismol would have more than a passing interest in sponsoring the feast for Bonaventure, patron saint of bowel disorders.,, and no, I am not making that one up. Chick-Fill-A seems a natural tie-in for St. Sebastian… patron saint of cattle diseases. Goya Kidney Beans were suggested for Benedict of Nursia, patron saint for those with kidney disease… we rejected that one pretty quickly. I will spare you the ideas presented for Peregine Laziosi, patron saint of open sores.
But a common complaint of modern society is that EVERYTHING seems to be sponsored nowadays… and as someone who used to live in Baltimore for a period of time, I can testify to one of the distinct drawbacks to such an approach.
Before I continue, let me just state for the record that I have never been nor shall I ever be a fan of the Baltimore Ravens Football Club. However it was hard to miss the excitement when the franchise won its first Super Bowl in 2001. During that season, the stadium in which they played was called “PSINet Stadium.” A year later, the company went under during the dot-com bust and the stadium was renamed… and then it was renamed again a few years later. And through every name change, I thought of how my father never had to “do the math” in remembering that the Brooklyn Dodgers played in Ebbets Field when he grew up; I wondered how fathers in Baltimore would talk about the stadium of the Ravens when talking to their sons. I suppose Philadelphia basketball fans are faced with the same dilemma.
While it’s not necessarily the commercialism itself I am bemoaning here (I will leave that to others), it’s pervasiveness has been leading to a lack of consistency, a lack of groundedness to the everyday environments of our lives. And I keep that in mind when things don’t move as fast in the Church as I might like them to on some issues… that my usual comfort with constant change is not always necessarily a good thing. Even if a well-timed campaign by Bauch and Lomb in conjunction with St. Peregrine (patron saint of skin diseases) might go a long way towards providing for our St. Vincent DePaul outreach.