In reading the coverage of Francis Cardinal George’s surgery, I came across a quote that made me stop and think. The quote from the Chicago Tribune said,

“Before that surgery, the cardinal and other priests recited their daily prayers. Wearing a hospital gown instead of a collar, he carried no medals or rosaries into the operating room.”

“‘This is a man who is being treated for cancer, and from the outside observer he would look like any other patient,’ said Colleen Dolan, communications director for the archdiocese, who joined the priests in George’s hospital room for the morning ritual. ‘The trappings were gone, and there was just a person with great faith.'”

It made me think about a topic I have addressed on this blog before… Success.

What exactly do people expect from the cardinal. Is there anyone who really expected Cardinal George to enter surgery wearing his simar, zuchetto, and covered in rosaries and medals?

In the end, no matter one’s social status or position in life, the day will come when all the trappings will be gone. When that day comes, what will be left? St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians that only faith, hope and love remain.

Micah 6:8 tells us that the Lord requires us “Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Wow, nothing there about amassing a fortune or getting your face on the front page of People. There isn’t even anything there about being the best in your chosen career.

Why not? Because that isn’t what life is all about.

What is success? In our modern culture, the culture of death, success is being rich or famous and to be both is even more desirable. We even have people who are famous for being rich. Is that really success?

It doesn’t matter if we are cardinals, doctors, sanitation workers, teacher, bus drivers, or burger flippers. We are called to do our jobs to the best of our abilities because that is our service to humanity, but more importantly we are to do them as we are to do everything…with great love.

The cardinal doesn’t have a edge on sanctity over the burger flipper. Even ecclesiastical positions and honors do not necessarily equate success. I know many holy bishops and none of them will tell you they have the Christian life “sewn up”. In the end, they are men who said yes to the call of God. They answered the call not only to the priesthood, but also the the episcopate and they continue to respond to that call each day. Through the Sacrament of Holy Orders they are given the gifts and graces they need to do the impossible. Those gifts do not make their ministry easy, they make it possible. What the bishop does with those gifts is up to him.

So what is real success?

It is more important to be successful for eternity than to be successful on earth. Remember, we are one earth for a short time, we are in heaven or hell forever.

In the end what matters is that when all the trappings are gone, there remains a person with great faith in God, who loves God and neighbor and hopes in God. When one possesses faith, hope and charity, he will desire to model himself after Christ and therefore will do what it right, love goodness and walk humbly with God.

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