Fr. Charlie McCoy, C.S.C., was ordained to the priesthood April 18, 2009, at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. While the oils were still drying on his hands, he was sent to the University of Portland to teach in the math department (as he has a PhD in math from Notre Dame) and to be a priest in residence in one of the undergraduate dorms. In this series, “It All Adds Up,” which we will post the fourth Tuesday of every month, Fr. Charlie will share the adventures of a college priest. In today’s post, Fr. Charlie shares about a 30-foot gorilla. If that does not light your curiosity to read more, I do not know what will!
Two days from now, a 30-foot gorilla will be standing on top of my house. You see, I’m the pastoral resident of Villa Maria Hall, known as “Villa” across campus, a men’s dorm at the University of Portland. And some years ago – as part of some rain forest/nature theme, I’m sure (this is Oregon, after all) – the staff decided that, since “Villa” rhymes so well with “gorilla,” we just had to have a gigantic, inflatable Villa Gorilla. And ever since then, no matter how else our hall staff decorates the residence to welcome the freshmen, the Villa Gorilla is a must. In renting this beast, we had two options: Scary Gorilla and Smiley Gorilla. And, of course, we went with Smiley Gorilla, because his main job is to help us welcome freshmen into their new home. And what says, “Welcome to college” better than a 30-ft, smiling gorilla?
No, really, I’m serious. Despite its lack of aesthetic appeal, this Smiley Gorilla might be a perfect metaphor for the beginning of college life, or any significant, new stage of our lives. A child’s first day of kindergarten, a teenager’s first date, a young man’s entrance into the seminary, a worker’s first week at a new job, a couple’s first year of marriage, a family’s move to a new town – what a mix of anxiety and excitement, of challenge and possibility! These moments intimidate us, maybe even frighten us, but they also beckon us and call forth something good from us.
In one of my favorite moments in the C.S. Lewis classic, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, when the children first find out that the hero Aslan is a lion, they naturally ask if he’s safe, only to get the blunt reply, “ ’Course he isn’t safe, but he’s good.” Time and time again in the Scriptures and in the stories of the saints, God calls people out of a position of comfortable safety into a place of unknown possibility, a place where we really encounter Him.