Discover The Secret World Of Christians Who Go Undercover

St.Oliver Plunkett

When St.Oliver Plunkett landed in 17th century Ireland from Rome the Catholic faith was banned. The celebration of Mass was outlawed and the hunt for Bishops and clergy on the rise. Much like the USSR an Irish version of the KGB known as “priest hunters” were paid handsomely for turning a priest in. A better price for a Bishop especially the new primate of all Ireland was in place making Oliver the biggest prize of all.

Nobody knew what Oliver looked like. Oliver had to assume a disguise and so he came up with the title of “Captain Brown” complete with a wig (the dress code of a gentleman for the time period) and military uniform donned with pistols. He would pretend to drink and go to all the parties. Noticing the ruse was about to be discovered, Oliver would kiss the women in an attempt to cast all doubt out of the minds of his suspicious adversaries concerning his true identity.

He would spin around on the horse, fire his pistols into the air, pick up a mans female servant and gallop into the woods as a form of masculine bravado and humor. The Franciscans hated him as did many other lay people who would later use this behaviour to prevent him from being a Saint. They insinuated Oliver broke his vows of celibacy and was a drunken lustful man none of which were true. He was so disliked that following his beheading and martyrdom both Catholics and protestants alike lit bonfires to celebrate his death.

The point of the this blog post is really to demonstrate how sometimes as Christians, it is necessary we go undercover. Oliver certainly wasn’t the first as St.Paul himself did the same. There are times when we are evangelizing we must become a Jew to a Jew in order to save one. Paul would mingle with them pretending to go through the motions of the ritual all the while gaining their trust in the Gospel he preached. St.Paul himself said he became everything to everyone in order to save them. Like St.Oliver Plunkett St.Paul with the appearance he was compromising his faith yet not doing so would use a cover in order to achieve the preaching of the Gospel.

Of course the cases are not the same, but they do bear a lot of similarities like the one of King David who feigned retardation/madness in front King in order not to be killed. The morality surround this is a big discussion I’m not willing to venture into here as it would turn the blog post into a long and drawn out essay. Suffice it to say though, that Christians shouldn’t feel bad about mirroring other people in order to save them. God knew what is in St.Oliver Plunketts heart and he knows what is in mine and yours.

In my own life, in order to survive I must mirror the body language, bad verbal language and narcissistic personality of the man I find myself with and do so without compromise of the faith. It depends upon the situation. The world is very much structured like a prison. There are times when I may have to behave posh, dress posh because not doing so will be neither an advantage to me or the person I’m engaged with. Then there are moments when I have to mess up the hair and put a bit of dirt on the face to look poor to the working class man who may view the nice posh boy as weak and to be ruled over.

The devil is clever and he uses the ignorance of others to do as much damage as he can. If I were to openly be Christian in front of everyone, some use it to their advantage. For example, whenever I take a sales man into my home, I sit him in the room with no icons or religious material. The reason for this is because if he sees the religious icons he will deduce from this that we are stupid because that’s how the culture perceives religious people. The sales man will then be more inclined to view me as incompetent and thus sell me the highest price and prey upon religion.

Another example would be where being openly Christian in just about everything will damage the individual I’m trying to convert. It will be too much too soon for him and by taking off the disguise I scare him away and the devil has succeeded yet again because of my ignorance and his. Remember what the Gospel says that a blind man leading a blind man will fall into the pit.

When I related all this to a Holy hermit living a secluded life, he was horrified and strongly disagreed. But, it’s understandable for him because he lives a life of spiritual perfection, a vocation very different from the evangelist who must mingle with the world on a daily basis. The Gospel tells us that the children of the world are more astute than the children of light. The reason for this is because the child of light does not hide himself and so he doesn’t fare as good as those in the world.

Regardless of what our vocation is we must all strive to separate ourselves from the world. No matter how many of us become “Captain Brown”, like St.Oliver, we must be willing to die for the faith in the end when the ruse is discovered and we’ve been ousted. Evangelism in hiding is dirty work. It was dirty work for Oliver a man of the cloth having to kiss women and pretend to be this party animal, and it is dirty work for me and you living in a world in debt to sin of which I’m the greatest sinner.

I can therefore understand why some may have thought Olivers work undercover to be sinful and unbecoming of a Bishop. It’s especially condemnation to be expected from monks who are supposed to lead a life of spiritual perfection and proclaim and act Christian in every circumstance. But there are instances when someone is not called to do this. It’s not easy for me. Sometimes I come home from work and I bring those bad speech habits with me. I find Olivers undercover operations in which he did not lustfully indulge in his baser instincts towards women under such tempting circumstances to be a result of Grace.

In my own situation I have to come home and wash the sin of the world off my soul once a week at confession. It’s not pretty for most of us, but one day we will be able to take off the disguise and relax. We will roam free in Gods Kingdom God willing that be the case. In the end, the Christian who leads the life of open spiritual perfection and those who disguise themselves for purposes of evangelization both have their calling in the world. Which one are you?

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