November 18, 2009 // Uncategorized

Counselor, umpire, friend

The designation of Monsignor — or Chaplain to His Holiness — is a form of address conferred upon men of the clergy by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. This distinction recently was bestowed upon seven priests from the local diocese, including Rev. Michael W. Heintz, Ph.D., rector of St. Matthew Cathedral, pastor of St. Matthew Cathedral Parish, former Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger, Mishawaka Marian and South Bend Saint Joseph’s teacher, and current teacher at the University of Notre Dame.

Msgr. Mike also is a graduate of the Wendelstedt Umpire School in Florida, which may not carry the same cachet as the above-mentioned titles, but makes for an interesting dichotomy for a man of the cloth while providing a unique perspective for one who must “arbitrate” on a higher level.
But to know Msgr. Mike requires many less formal titles, ones that do not necessitate capitalization, decrees from Pope Benedict XVI or certificates from former major league baseball umpires.

You see, Msgr. Mike makes being a Catholic, well, for lack of a more accurate word, fun. Now most wouldn’t call one’s choice of faith fun per se, but if you know Msgr. Mike, you know what I mean. It seems to me as a child growing up Catholic, I tended to think of it more as a chore because of all those rules and regulations I had to abide by.

But from Msgr. Mike, you learn how to enjoy your Catholicism, to cherish your Catholicism, and to reap the benefits of being Catholic. Attending Mass celebrated by Msgr. Mike not only is enjoyable, it is something to look forward to, a highlight of the week. I seem to embrace the prayers that we say and the music that we sing more when he is the celebrant.

I recently commented to my wife how spoiled we are with Msgr. Mike’s homilies because we take it for granted that there will be a pertinent, interesting topic that is applicable to our everyday lives.

His message is a shared message. He includes himself when he talks about the daily struggles of hubris, self-centeredness and unfair judgment of others, which is what makes the message so easily accepted and absorbed. He is not speaking at us; he is speaking with us.

Msgr. Mike makes living life look so easy. Now there’s nothing easy about his life. It is filled to the brim, and as a priest, it’s safe to say people are calling on him to share their sorrows much more than their joys. He is a problem-solver, and they’re usually someone else’s problems. His own problems are put on the backburner or, more commonly, disregarded altogether. Yet he glides through life with an effortlessness that I strive to emulate, but almost always seem to fall short.

Msgr. Mike doesn’t just talk the talk; he walks the walk. He sets the example for those around him. He rolls with the punches, or rather, makes it appear as if the punches missed altogether.

It is abundantly clear that Msgr. Mike enjoys his life, enjoys being a priest. No one could fake it with that much enthusiasm. We expect him to be “on” all the time, and quite honestly, he always is.

Now I — as the Mishawaka Marian High School baseball coach — have the special privilege of having Msgr. Mike in our dugout for the majority of our games. The fact that he is a certified professional umpire and an aficionado of the rules of the game certainly comes in handy. His presence as counselor, advisor and barrier to all language unclean is a great benefit as well, although it would be less than accurate to claim that in the heat of battle, he has served as an impenetrable filter of said language, through no fault of his own.

Msgr. Mike has been known to hear the confession of a player in the outfield before a game, agitate the umpires for the sake of entertainment, and pray for the head coach when the vein on the side of his neck is protruding over a critical call that went against us.

He also has strategically placed his frame between the arbitrator and mine when the situation has dictated, and for that, I am forever grateful.

But for all the hats that Msgr. Mike wears, there is one that any of his parishioners can relate to, and that is the title of friend. He cares. He cares about your well-being, most particularly the well-being of your soul. He understands his job and he applies it like a best friend would.

I have had the incredible fortune of countless blessings in my life, and one of the truly great blessings is the friendship and counsel of Msgr. Michael W. Heintz. I feel as if God has given my family and me a very special privilege by placing Msgr. Mike in our lives.

If you know Msgr. Mike, you undoubtedly share many of the same feelings, and that truly is a blessing.

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