Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Good Mask – Bad Mask

The desire to reveal my identity was strong. The reasons behind remaining anonymous were better. In the long run, I made the right choice.

Writing my experience has been therapy beyond measure. Comments have put me in contact with a reality I didn’t know existed: others like me who have gone through the same ordeal. The connect is healing and encouraging. The positive results are an emotional high.

I hide behind a new mask. It lets me express who I am more freely. Taking it off, I would be afraid to say what I really want to. For me, for now, it’s a good mask. It helps me be who I am.

This theme of “Masks ” has been a recurring thought ever since I learned of Fr Maciel’s daughter. Hiding behind a mask you can be someone you’re not, or be who you really are. There are good masks and bad masks.

No need to illustrate bad masks. We have all seen, no, we have experienced what that means. When bad masks fall they shatter hard. They shatter us. Bad masks are good masks hiding bad things. Bad masks mean scandal.

All masks hide something.

Shortly after sending my open letter, I talked with the coworker in our community. He went home the other day. He had a very good year, because he is a very good person. We spoke about masks, and he said, “Is there anyone who doesn’t wear a mask? I mean, we are all sinners, but we just can’t blurt out our sins to everyone. What I mean is, if anyone really knew what we were on the inside, they would see how we are all hypocrites.”

There is a divide between who we are and what we show. It’s a mask, but it’s needed. It’s called prudence or self-restraint. If one acts on the impulse of fallen human nature (that thing we hide behind the mask) the consequence is devastating. That’s called sin. But we need to take off the mask and reveal the thing. There’s a time and a place for that: conscience exam and confession.

I was doing spiritual exercises in Cheshire one year. During that week a seminarian who had been a novice with me came to visit with a friend. His friend said to me afterwards, “I was watching you during exercises. Man, you are so holy!” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Holiness is a journey, a spiritual battle, a becoming on the inside what we portray on the outside, striving to no longer wear a mask. We will all get there when our clock stops ticking. Some reach it sooner. We call them saints.

What is a good mask? A mask you hide behind while you work to take it off.

What is a bad mask? A mask you work on to hide who you really are.


  1. Great post. One thing is for sure - you cannot enter heaven with a mask on. Better to do some of the work here before we meet our Lord face to face. Plus letting the mask down is so very freeing and really allows for true, authentic relationships and love.

    Thanks for sharing Fr. Jack!

  2. I've always thought that my spouse doesn't wear a mask and he ain't no saint. In fact, he asks me often, "Why do my friends keep disappearing off the face of the planet?" Unfortunately, his lask of discretion gets him into trouble and on the other hand, he won't stop saying it like he sees it. He is a very moral and decent man and only recently found his way to God. So, I don't think everyone wears a mask. Discretion is not the use of a mask - it's just discretion. Masks are generally worn when we don't like who we are and so we hide behind a different persona - a mask if you will.

  3. Father, your post caused me to think of this writing.

    "I Remove My Masks Today: I remove my masks today and I reveal my genuine self. I have appeared safely incognito before others--in many safe disguises. And I now see the danger in this, the risk that I will become disguised to myself, that I will camouflage myself with thin, pleasant smiles and superficial chatter. In doing this, I counterfeit my life, disguised both to others and to myself. I remove my masks today, for the masquerade saps me, consumes my energy, keeps me tense, guarded and apprehensive. I take a deep breath and take the plunge. I can be me, the real me, spontaneous without disguise, intimate without masks. I accept who I am: not a fixed, rigid, cardboard entity, but a person of many moods and emotions, a person of will and talent and energy, a person of integrity and flexibility. I can be myself today, freely, authentically and without pretense."

    I'm sorry i do not know the author's name but that isn't important to the purpose and point. I am concerned that fear works so prominently in you, something many LC/RC struggle with. In th SpEx, Ignatius instructs that in a person living a life as a companion of the Lord, fear and confusion are most usually the tools of the bad spirit. I encourage you to talk with the Lord about that. Many prayers for your journey toward greater freedom--you are on the right course.

  4. Fr. Jack -- you said "Comments have put me in contact with a reality I didn’t know existed: others like me who have gone through the same ordeal. "

    Trust me. I talk to enough Legionaries to know many are going through what you are going through. It's too bad you aren't able to talk to each other about it.

  5. Dear anonymous,
    We do talk. I don't hide what I'm going through from the fathers here. They just aren't taking the same road as I am. Each one deals with it in his own way.
    Fr Jack.


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