Our Lady's Priests and Their Dress: Wednesday, November 23, 2016

J.M.J. With gratitude to Miss Vicky Leong of Macau

"What does the 'White Collar' inspire in you?"

by Vicky Leong

During the 60’s and the 70’s, Macau suffered from economic recession. With the absence of compulsory education and free education, high school education was not something people could take for granted. Thus, one of the dreams of parents was that their children could finish high school, got a “white collar” job and secured a comfortable life. Better still, they could stand out from the crowd and become famous. Indeed, it was popular among the Chinese community that the “white collar” implied knowledge, noble sentiments and noble characters. The simple white shirt and its collar was a dream of many parents and young people in the good old days. Today, the comfort living of the “white collar” was considered as the minimum living standard by many young people. Yet, the noble sentiments beyond the white collar were not well attended.

O Clarim has recently reprinted an article by Father Gerald E. Murray and Monsignor Charles Mangan, “23 Reasons Why a Priest Should Wear His Collar”.  As I reflected on the article, I wondered why though the priest’s “white collar” implied a higher demand on knowledge, noble sentiments and noble characters, few responded to the vocation of the priesthood in this City of the Holy Name of God.

The two “white collars”, though same in color, yet very different in their meaning, lifestyle and value. The center of the secular “white collar” is people. People focus their lives on people, follow the footsteps of people, and pledge loyalty to people. People work like workaholic and make themselves burnout for people. If they quest for better fame and wealth, wish to be outstanding and stand out from the crowd, or become leaders in the society, they may even have to sacrifice personal value and family life in order to climb up the social ladder. In contrast, the priest’s “white collar” is a reminder of a quest for a better use of their knowledge, noble sentiments and noble characters to be in service of God and become servant leaders. They focus on God, listen to God, pledge loyalty to God, and devote their lives and work to God. They live their lives in simplicity; witness publicly their special belonging to God. They live their vocation through services by touching the lives of people and making the invisible God visible. They render their services in the Church with the ultimate goal to serve God and glorify God.

Father Murray and Monsignor Mangan emphasize at the very beginning of their writing a very beautiful metaphor. The priest’s collar is a sign of priestly consecration to the Lord. The “white collar” is a wedding ring, symbolizes the priest’s union with God. Similar to a married man’s public expression of fidelity to his wife, so do the priests witness their faithfulness and fidelity through the priest’s “white collar”.  

The priest’s “white collar” does not only remind the priests of their fidelity to God, it also reminds the faithful to be respectful to the priests and their ministries, and that the priests entirely belong to God in a very special way. God is the priority and the core of the priests’ lives. Through their ministries and prayers, they serve God in good time and in bad time, in health and in sickness. The “white collar” also serves as a safeguard and protection of the priests’ mission especially when they serve in places with controversial issues. It also makes the priests’ identity available for people in need of spiritual guidance and/or for sacraments especially in crisis situations.

The priest’s “white collar” is a reminder of material poverty for religious life. The simple attire reminds the religious their consistency in lifestyles and standards of living. During the hot and humid summer, the collar and the simple attire also serves as a means of self-sacrifice, as well as sacrifice for obtaining graces for their parishioners.

Though the protagonist of the article focuses on the religious, there is so much treasure in this article we Christians can reflect on and make them part of our lives. For example, we are reminded that God is the center of our lives, and that we should live a good moral Christian life with God’s blessings. The Latin word for value is “virtus”, meaning the source of strength. It is indeed so true that a healthy and moral life is the standard of our Christian living. This moral value and standard is also our source of strength as we go against the trend in the secular world.

Living in a secular world of sensual pleasure, what does the “white collar” inspire us Christians? It reminds me of my fidelity to God. It also reminds me to be consistent in my moral standards and lifestyles as a Christian living in the secular world. As a follower of Christ, I need to be a witness of Christ’s love and live my life lovingly to touch the lives of others and kindle light in the world.

For you, what does the white collar inspire in you?

2016/9/17 下午6:50 於 "Vicky Leong"

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