Immersed in Christ: Tuesday after Pentecost: May 25, 2021
Prestige, Power, and Pride
Let’s face it: I would like to be a guru. That means to be recognized as a guru. I want the image. Why? Because the image gives prestige, and prestige gives power.
Power to do good, of course. Of course. I want to be a best-selling author: not for money; for something worse than that. If I were a recognized guru, my name (my prestige) would sell my books. That would give me power. Power for good, of course.
I am convinced my books have great power to do good for the Church and for the world. If I could only acquire the image of a modern-day guru, I would have the prestige that would sell them, and I would have power to do great good.
One accepts “absolute” power when one uses it autonomously, without consultation, correction or modification from others. To do this makes power identical with pride, which is properly defined, not as thinking one is better than one is (that is just vanity), but as seeing oneself as the criterion. It is pride when you believe that whatever you think must be true, and whatever you will or command must be good. The power you get from prestige based on the image you project (true or false) sets you up for pride.
Saint Ignatius teaches that the strategy of the devil is to tempt people to riches, because wealth brings prestige and prestige leads to pride.
Spiritual gifts are authentic riches. But to display them in a way that creates an “image” of holiness (even if it is real) is to fall into the first trap of seeking riches for the sake of prestige.
Spiritual prestige gives power in the Church. If one’s image also happens to conform to the current policies of the Vatican, “politically correct” spiritual prestige gives political power in the Church. We saw this in Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She was an obvious saint. But she would have had no influence in Rome, and the Pope would not have set aside the rules to get her canonized in record time if she had not been in a habit. Or if she had challenged Church policies in any way.
Mother Teresa was a saint. Intentionally or not, she did project the image. And it gave her exceptional prestige that gave her exceptional power in Rome, which she made use of. She also lived in the “dark night of the soul,” which may have been what saved her from pride.
I am not Mother Teresa. I am not a saint. And I would not welcome the “dark night of the soul.” Maybe I don’t want to be a guru after all.
I can hear you saying, “Not to worry, David. You’re not even in the ball park!”