Adoro Te Devote tagged me with a living hero meme preference given to Firefighters, Police Officers, Paramedics, EMT’s, Dispatchers. I don’t know anybody personally in these two categories, but two come to mind.
The first is Lieutenant John William Finn (born July 23, 1909 in Los Angeles, California, USA) a retired officer of the United States Navy who was awarded the Medal of Honor in recognition of heroism and distinguished service during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. I met him years ago when I was working with Navy missile programs and we were having a conference at the Weapons Station at Indian Head, Md. He had been invited to come speak since he had been an AO (Aviation Ordinanceman) at the time of his award. I was an AT (Aviation Technician) and worked with programs mainly related to AOs. I spoke to him throughout the day and when we had lunch and he was really a quite interesting person. Like most that I have met who have performed acts of heroism they never told there stories as if it was all about them. You get the idea that they are slightly embarrassed that others see what they did as something anybody else would not have done in their situation. As far as I could tell he is also still living.
For extraordinary heroism distinguished service, and devotion above and beyond the call of duty. During the first attack by Japanese airplanes on the Naval Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, on December 7, 1941, Lt. Finn promptly secured and manned a .50-caliber machinegun mounted on an instruction stand in a completely exposed section of the parking ramp, which was under heavy enemy machine gun strafing fire. Although painfully wounded many times, he continued to man this gun and to return the enemy’s fire vigorously and with telling effect throughout the enemy strafing and bombing attacks and with complete disregard for his own personal safety. It was only by specific orders that he was persuaded to leave his post to seek medical attention. Following first aid treatment, although obviously suffering much pain and moving with great difficulty, he returned to the squadron area and actively supervised the rearming of returning planes. His extraordinary heroism and conduct in this action were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
John Finn received the first Medal of Honor awarded for WWII. He also holds the Purple Heart, Navy Unit Commendation, Good Conduct with 2 bars, Yangtze Service Medal, American Defense, American Campaign, Pacific Campaign, and the World War II Victory Medal.
There are pictures of him here.
The second person who I consider a hero is my pastor Fr. Leon. He is not a first responder, he is a grace responder. He is definitely and old-school priest who recognized his vocation quite young and when to pre-seminary and was trained by the Jesuits. He is originally from Spain and had studied theology at Catholic University of Madrid and later petitioned the Bishop of St. Augustine to come to Florida, which he did in 1959. He was originally assigned to the teaching staff of a Catholic High Schools where he later became the principle. He served in several parishes until he became the pastor of Immaculate Conception in 1974 where he has served for the last 32 years.
He is also quite a character. Normally quite soft-spoken and because of his accent you have to strain a bit to hear his homilies, which it well worth its effort. Though when he gets rolling sometime he will slam his fist against the lectern and raise his voice several levels especially if somebody is doing something like reading during his homilies. Foremost he is a man of deep prayer. After Communion there is no set time of silence. At these times he is obviously deep in prayer as he contemplates the Mass. The Mass is never hurried and he has a good voice when he chants parts of the Mass.
In my experience with him in confession, spiritual direction, and his talks at the Carmelite group; I am always impressed by the depth of his spirituality and the wisdom born of it. His talks on Saints Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross as he led us through their works showed a deep understanding of Carmelite spirituality, which he has always been attracted to. Other seminaries would tease him saying that Saint Térèse of Lisieux was his girlfriend since he talked about her so much. Though he is also deeply Franciscan and also leads the parish’s Franciscan group.
He is a priest that truly see’s himself as the Donkey that carried Christ. That bringing Christ to others was his primary focus. Though he achieves this first and foremost by being a man of prayer and striving for holiness. I remember talking to him once after he was in a big car accident that involved several young people. He came away from the accident without any serious injuries. Though he told me that he offers any pains he has to those young people and that he normally takes on part of the penances for confessions he had heard. Like John Finn who I had mentioned there is no trace of personal pride in this. Only a matter-of-fact statement.
Our parish is a downtown church and it could easily have gone the way of many downtown parishes without someone like Fr. Leon at the helm. Changing demographics should have condemned this parish to a shrinking base. Instead there are two daily masses and on Sundays we have the Indult Mass, two regular Masses and a Spanish Mass. There is also confession before every mass. While Fr. Leon has been there he started both a soup kitchen and a bookstore that uses all profits for the poor. The soup kitchen is maintained separately from the parishes collections. One of the reasons I don’t get all that excited about having the Tridentine Mass indult more widely, is that I already live in a liturgical oasis where liturgical abuses are only theoretical.
His heroism is truly living the faith when others might consider him to be an anachronism. I heard another priest in a homily once talk of Fr. Leon and his views despairingly. This would not surprise him, though it make no difference to him. When I think of the term Alter Christus, I immediately think of the example of Fr. Leon.
Now don’t get me talking about Pope Benedict XVI or I will go on and on, though Geralds comments on him today are a good start.