Since 1997 public television viewers everywhere have enjoyed the delights and dismays of antiques owners from cities all across the nation that have dragged old items before the camera and appraisers to see if what has been in the family for centuries or was found last week at a yard sale is treasure or trash. Personally, I always enjoy the times when an appraiser’s body language is giving away what they know the item’s worth is while they listen to “Peggy from Tulsa” drone on about how the antique came into her possession. The best of these moments however is when the high value of the antique is revealed to the unsuspecting owner and they in turn reveal that the item has been used for something utterly mundane, such as holding gun ammo for the past twenty years, and the appraiser’s countenance goes from delight to disgust just before the camera cuts away to a close up of the antique with accompanying graphic of the roadshow trunk, item value, and the “magic pot of gold” sound effect.
This brings me to one of the greatest analogies I have ever heard about a lapsed Catholic returning to their faith. A few years back I was waiting on table during our main community meal in Washington, D.C. when I overheard a guest say to the friars dining with her that she was raised Catholic but became lapsed in the faith. Now after returning it felt like she was on Antiques Roadshow, only instead of some material object, she had dragged her immortal soul out of the back of the attic and discovered (or perhaps rediscovered) that it was priceless. The joy and delight of her recent invaluable appraisal was something that had to be shared, like the parable of the woman who loses a coin and then upon finding it invites her friends and neighbors to rejoice with her (Lk 15:8-10).
Months later at one of our special events held at the priory I spotted this woman and introduced myself, breaking the ice by recalling how impressed I was by what I had overheard her say at the table that night. I mentioned that I would love to use her story and analogy down the road, and she readily gave me permission. I also went on to find out a few more details about her background and experience growing up as a typical Gen- Xer now in her early forties. The story is basically the same as millions of women from New York to San Francisco: raised nominally Catholic, practiced maybe up until college at best, got a great education, moved to a city, landed a well-paid high-performance job with flexibility and international travel mixed in — most likely with a score of hard-to-get reservations, being a bridesmaid at a few destination weddings, and the purchase of Apple products and Tori Burch shoes. A belief in God was still present, sure, but the reality of the immortality of her soul was not on her radar.
What material goods from our current age will we look back on and value like the items on Antiques Roadshow? Will it be the Kindle or DVD collection? The Ikea bookshelf or the fixtures for the sink bought at Restoration Hardware? No, very few of our goods are built to last nowadays. Even the chair made by Quakers in New England in 1783 that has survived at Grandma’s lake house is going to break one day. Our immortal soul will not. The soul animates the body, indeed, is the form of body, and because of its intimate connection with the body, even our bodies will one day be reunited with the soul and endure for all eternity.
The greatest news is that if this priceless value of one’s soul has been neglected in the attics of our life and covered over with the dust of sin, Jesus Christ can and wants to personally come and restore it, most especially in the sacrament of confession. Moreover, to keep the soul in almost brand new condition (though some debt of temporal punishment for sin might remain), He will even give us His very self in the Eucharist, offered at every sacrifice of the Mass. The sacramental life of grace and our prayers and good works add value to our soul in a way similar to how material objects gain value with time and safe keeping.
As we live in the age of the new evangelization with the task of representing the Gospel to so many again for the first time, perhaps this analogy of Antiques Roadshow might help you help someone see the priceless value of their soul in the eyes of the divine appraiser.
Image: Antiques Roadshow