Bethlehem Catholic High School
I was wondering about the difference between a virtuous person, on the one hand, and a saint on the other. What makes the difference? I was mulling over this question, and I found the answer—in, of all places, the dentist’s chair.
It’s September 5th, not quite two months ago. I’m in the dentist’s chair. Dr. Barry Glassman has just finished replacing a worn filling. He turns off the overhead light. His assistant removes the bib from around my neck. I swing my legs over the side of the chair, and Dr. Barry says: “You’re my last patient for the day. Do you have time for a quick story?” “Sure,” I say.
Dr. Barry leans forward in his chair, and there’s an earnest expression on his face. “Years ago when I used to coach basketball,” he says, “our team never had anyone to record the stats during the games. We always had someone on hand to videotape the games, and then afterward we coaches would sit down, watch the video, and record the stats ourselves. On one occasion, our regular videographer couldn’t make it, and so a friend of mine volunteered to take his place. The clock started ticking, and my friend started taping. During the second quarter, the ref made a call that I thought was totally off the wall. Of course, I was in his face immediately, screaming, gesturing, and telling him he was crazy. But what could I do? He was the ref. I wasn’t. The game continued. Finally, when it was all over, we coaches sat down and watched the video. We got to the point in the second quarter where the ref made the controversial call, and I discovered, to my horror, that he had been right all along! I was the one who was wrong. There I saw myself, screaming like an idiot, jumping up and down like a mad man, acting like a maniac. And do you know what? During the rest of the second quarter and the entire third quarter, my ‘friend’ with the video camera didn’t bother filming the game. No, he kept the camera on me! How were we going to record the stats? I was furious with my friend. All I could see was myself on camera, acting like a crazed animal. My tirade lasted for a quarter and a half. I was acting like a spoiled brat. And then it hit me! My friend was doing me a favor. He was allowing me to see myself the way others did. I was mortified. The whole incident changed my life completely. I took a good hard look at myself in the mirror and started asking myself searching questions. If I love my players (and I say I do), if I love my patients (and I say I do), do I show that in the way I behave? Am I concerned about how my actions impact the lives of those around me? How would the people who love me most describe me? If only more of us could see ourselves as others do!”
I’ve been pondering my dentist’s story these past two months. Dr. Barry is right. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, just once in our lives, we could truly see ourselves as others do? I bet we’d all make some significant changes. We’d realize how our behavior and actions affect the lives of many people. That’s what makes a person truly virtuous: the ability to see oneself as others do. The truly virtuous person is able to stand outside his own life, so to speak, and view his actions through the lens of a kind of mental video camera. The truly virtuous person sees himself as others do.
Today, however, the Church celebrates the saints, a group of people who are one cut above mere human virtue. True holiness is virtue with an upgrade. What do I mean by that? The virtuous person is someone who can see himself as others do. That’s wisdom. The saint, however, is someone who sees himself as God does. That, mes amis, is grace! Let’s strive to be virtuous, by all means; but let’s pray to be saints. Remember, God’s video camera never stops recording.
God bless you.