Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Holy Orders and Hopalong Cassidy

Holy Orders and Hopalong Cassidy
Fr. Dale Matson 05-04-10
When I was young, Hopalong Cassidy was my favorite cowboy hero. He didn’t smoke, drink or provoke fights but woe to the man who picked a fight with him. I’m fairly sure he never lost a fight or his hat in a fight. So, you ask, “What does William Lawrence Boyd have to do with holy orders”? William Boyd was an actor that decided to create a heroic figure different than the randy version in pulp fiction and then became that person in real life. He was changed by the role he played and the role was who he became. His public persona was a perfect reflection of the character and he never did anything that would bring shame on the character. He owned that character psychologically and financially. He had a deep manly voice with a hearty laugh but a gentle disposition. He dressed in black, carried two six guns and rode a white horse named “Topper”. I didn’t have a horse but I had one of his outfits and his two six guns when I was a kid. After nighttime prayers there was the additional security of the guns hanging on my bedpost. I even brushed my teeth with Hopalong Cassidy Tooth Paste. There was no role confusion and no doubt that he was a trustworthy man who could always be depended upon to do the right thing. He always treated women with respect and would tip his hat whenever he passed them on the street. To me it is like the ordination process. When we are called and pursue holy orders, we too are changed. With monastic’s, who take a vow of chastity, poverty and obedience, it is called conversion of manners. I would call it a transformation of the personality. Doing what you are called to do, no matter what that may be, brings forth what St. Paul would call the fruits of the Spirit. Like “Hoppy” I dress in black but Unlike Hoppy I do not have a script and am not playing a role even though I continually reflect on what I say to measure it against the instruction from my heart. We both came to California from the Midwest and each of us found it to be fertile ground. Boys were fortunate in my youth to also have people like Roy Rodgers, Gene Autry and Hoot Gibson who merged a public persona with a film character. It is really a matter of being consistent on the outside with who God is causing you to become on the inside. Amen


Bill Fisher said...

I too grew up with heros like Hoppy, Roy, Gene, et al. There is a song with the lines: "I grew up a dreaming of being a cowboy, and loving the cowboy ways." While I grew up to be a lawyer, I still "pursue the dreams of my high flying heroes." My brother-in-law is a real-life cowboy today on his ranch in Oklahoma. There is a phrase in use in some quarters even today that says we should "cowboy up," meaning that we should do the right thing because it is the right thing to do. Davy Crockett is quoted as having a motto: "Figure out what is right and do it." Or something to that effect. It would be wonderful if those who, like you, are ordained to holy orders would take that seriously and live it out. But is is equally important that all of us live congruent lives on the outside that reflect the Glory of God within us. Unfortunately, I'm afraid, too many of us are living lives that do truly reflect what is within us, and that is scary and sad. It is encouraging to know that there are others out there who, like me, grew up a dreaming of being a cowboy.

Dale Matson said...

"Unfortunately, I'm afraid, too many of us are living lives that do truly reflect what is within us, and that is scary and sad." Thanks for the thoughtful post. Did you really mean to say here that we are not living lives congruent with Christ in us?