And the sympathy remains. But now I am a Catholic priest, and I see flying in a slightly more spiritual way. I fly around the Diocese of Phoenix (in my car) fighting the things a priest fights. This, and other themes in the most recent re-hash of Superman, resonated with my life as a priest with varying levels of profundity. So I offer the following list of ways the life of a priest echoes with Superman in the film.
1. Superman has two Dads. Kevin Costner's character tells the young Superman something along the lines of "Clark, you have two Dads. I'm your Dad. But you have another Father who sent you here for a purpose." My Dad is Ronald Muir. But when I became a priest, I was sent with a mission by another father: my Bishop. Of course this is all rooted in Jesus Himself, who has an earthly father (St. Joseph), and a Heavenly Father. His mission was rooted in His being sent by God the Father.
2. Superman's mother is super important to his mission. A priest depends on the Blessed Virgin Mary to be the most important woman in his life, to comfort him, heal him, mother him. My favorite line of the movie was when Superman's enemy attacks Mrs. Kent, his mom, and Superman says, "You threaten my mother?!?" And then he goes ballistic. Loved that scene.
3. Superman visits his priest/pastor for spiritual direction to help him discern what he should do in a difficult situation. Fight or run? Go public or hide? Protect himself or protect others? His priest/pastor listens and encourages him to trust what God is doing in his life, and his mission begins. I can't tell you how huge my spiritual director's counsel has been to me, and all the times I've received encouragements to make a leap of faith through good spiritual direction. I hope Superman has that priest's cell phone on his "Favorite" list. He's gonna need it.
4. Superman is immersed in human life before and after he begins his mission. I can't tell you how often people are surprised that a priest actually does human things...like, oh, I don't know....eat, sleep, sneeze, like sports, and lift weights. And any number of normal human things. Superman gets a job (journalism) that will maintain his connection with human life, even with his extraordinary vocation. Priesthood isn't exactly a "job", but our connection with the people we serve is essential. Pope Francis said, "Priests should smell like their sheep." Notice the stained glass in the church scene in the movie? It was of Jesus the Good Shepherd, surrounded by His sheep.
5. Funny clothes. And a cape. No, I generally don't wear it. But I'm ready to...just in case.
6. From Kansas. Two of the most important priest spiritual father-figures in my life have deep roots, like Superman, in Kansas: Archbishop Charles Chaput (accepted me as a seminarian) and Bishop Thomas Olmsted (from Kansas, and was bishop of Wichita, respectively). Coincidence? I think not!
7. His childhood friends don't understand his vocation/mission.
8. He frequently "gets away" to contemplate the world from a uniquely high perspective. Completive prayer, silent retreats....standing on clouds.
9. He changes clothes a lot.