During a recent visit to San Antonio, I took some time (on the recommendation of my parish priest) to visit the retreat center and Lourdes shrine operated there by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. The Oblates are a heroic missionary order, with priests and brothers in every corner of the world -- especially the remote and dangerous corners. (Pope Pius XI once referred to the Oblates as "specialists in difficult missions.") Their work in Spanish-speaking countries in the nineteenth century won them the nickname "Christ's Cavalry," and a large bronze relief sculpture on the grounds of the center commemorates that particular aspect of their apostolate. It offers an image of the priesthood that is, to say the least, arresting...
...and, in these difficult times, a much-needed reminder that the vast majority of Catholic priests are still what Catholic priests have always been -- good men (often heroically good) with a deep commitment to bringing the Gospel to a suffering world. Seeing them depicted as the cavalry "riding to the rescue" adds a nice touch of romance.
By the way, the sculpture is obviously based on this photograph of a group of Oblates somewhere in south Texas in the early decades of the last century.
See -- they really were cowboys.