30 May 2007

Cinematic wisdom

“It’s very rude to stare!” said the Doorknocker with the ring in his ears in the movie Labyrinth to Sarah as she sought a way to find her baby brother, Toby, who was taken by the Goblin King. This is advice each of us should heed.

Being out of DrPepper, I went shopping this morning for the world’s first soft drink. While at the store I decided to pick up a few other items (we were also out of olive oil, which negated the plans I had yesterday for lunch).

While moving through the store choosing the least populated aisles I could not help but be aware of the many stares I received as I pushed my cart through the store; I was wearing my Roman collar (with the vest and cufflinks, to boot).

When I would move in the direction of a person staring at me, I would look them in the eye and say, “Good morning,” to which only a couple responded with a smile. Nobody returned the greeting – at least that I heard – and most simply kept staring at me as though I either had no emotions or thoughts of my own or were some sort of alien creature.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been stared at by lots of people while you are busy doing something else. If you haven’t, it’s a most uncomfortable feeling, sort of like being locked inside a glass room while everybody else watches you go about your daily work. You know, that feeling you have when you suddenly become aware that someone is reading over your shoulder or watching you draw a picture.

The trouble with staring at people is that the very act itself denies the dignity they have as people made in the image and likeness of God; it denies them the basic respect they deserve, simply because they are alive.

Now I know that it isn’t every day that you see a priest shopping for DrPepper in his clerics; it’s probably more likely to see a priest shopping without his clerics (which I generally do to avoid the stares, but I had a meeting this morning and only a few minutes).

For many, a priest is not seen very often at all. Nevertheless, this is no excuse to simply stare at him as though he were a figment of your imagination. A simple look in his direction and a kind, “Hello,” will do nicely. Who knows, he might even respond and a conversation might follow. That wouldn’t be so bad, would it?

Always remember the exhortation of the doorknocker: “It’s very rude to stare.” Thank you, and have a nice day.


  1. It's sad that people are so afraid that you will try to "save" them just because you are priest or any member of the clergy or religious whose clothes give away their profession (or calling). I can't imagine being stared at for my religion and it must be many times worse for those who are stared at for a physical impairment.

    Of course, if you only got another head your collar wouldn't be so obvious!!!!

  2. Wise words, excepting one portion: Mountain Dew is the world's finest soft drink ;-)

  3. Shouldn't have said that, Thom. It won't go over well. I prefer ginger ale, myself.

  4. Oh come now, Jeffrey. Dr. Pepper and Mountain Dew can't both be the elixir of life. Surely the vicar knows that.

    Prepares for battle...

  5. Neither can. The elixer of life is single malt scotch. ( Said as I dive for cover )

  6. Thom, I must say two things:

    1. You are quite mistaken. DrPepper has more caffeine than Mt. Dew, which makes it:

    2. The Elixir of Life.

    I almost referred to the good beverage as the Elixir of Life is my original post because it's how I usually do refer to it. Next time I won't hold back!

  7. Wow, I am glad that my favorite drink is water.

  8. Yes, I guess sometimes I'm just a boring old mom. But in my defense, I grew up in a house where we drank bottled water before it was considered "in" and since I always had really good spring water, I never had a problem drinking it. Plus, my husband is prone to kidney stones and must drink lots of water, so we buy it in 5 1/2 gallon bottles and have dispenser.

    I do prefer diet coke to diet pepsi (I am a pre-diabetic so the days of regular soda are gone for me) and my new favorite non water drink is citrus flavored Lipton diet green tea.

    I was saddened to read that you are getting unwanted comments on your blog. I hope it stops since I love reading your blog and throwing in my "two cents" worth.

  9. Anonymous11:06 AM

    Back to your original post, Father Zehnle, I would like to encourage you to wear your clerics when out in public doing your mundane everyday tasks. It is a great witness to non-Catholics, of course, about the priesthood and that it is "incarnated" right there in Effingham, Illinois. But it is also a great witness to Catholics - that we should not be ashamed to let our faith, our Catholicism, show in public. I'm sure that it can be uncomfortable, and I sympathize with you, Father - it's not easy being conspicuous in public - but it can be a great inspiriation for the flock to see their shepherd making such a simple public witness. Please consider this upside when deciding what to wear. :-)

  10. Ellen, even I do have to do something with the comments you'll still be able, and welcome, to post comments.

    Thank you for your thoughts, Drake. You're right, of course, in what you say. The temptation for priests is to go "incognito" so as to be able to go quickly in and quickly out without too much trouble. I was once followed around a store for fifteen minutes by someone trying to determine if I was who I looked like I was. I'll try to be more purposeful in the future.