Americans, at the ballot box and in our choices of most-admired people, are drawn to those who appear to stand for something, but in a genial, hopeful way. On the whole, despite occasional dalliances with the likes of Donald Trump or Ross Perot, we are suspicious of harsh rhetoric or stern manner. Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama, Billy Graham, Martin Luther King Jr. — people who capture the American imagination tend to be realists who confront big, tough problems but do so with a smile, with an abiding optimism, with a message of inclusiveness.
The pope seems to instinctively feel the frustration and disaffection that has led millions of American Catholics to leave their church, the same sense of lost opportunities and diminished futures that has left the U.S. political firmament grasping for something at once angry, authentic and aspirational in the likes of Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and Ben Carson.*
Mass yesterday remembered the brilliant St. Jerome. Fine tribute by the homilist. He gave the Church the definitive Scriptures for a millennium and a half. Before he came on the seen every Tom, Dick and Harry who professed to know a little Greek tossed off his own translation for the local church, sowing a lot of confusion and errors. To this day I enjoy the fruit of Jerome's labor since his is what the Knox translation was based.
So wow, the Pope met with Kim Davis, the heroic figure in Kentucky who refused to sign fake marriage certificates. I'm surprised, in part because of the highly charged political nature of the issue and partly because she's not Catholic. A meeting is worth a thousand words.
The other surprising thing to me was her reaction being one of relief and vindication when he told her to keep up the fight. I think it speaks to the human need to have a vicar of Christ. We long for reassurance, and a Holy Father, no matter how much we may protest, and many non-Catholics feel it too. A lot of respect still, which is kind of surprising given the church scandals and unpopular moral positions (like against birth control). There was a surety that Kim Davis felt as a result of the experience despite the fact that the Holy Father's words were non-binding on her as a Protestant. You can take the soul out of the Catholic Church but you can't take the Catholic Church out of the soul.
This morning's commute to work was accompanied by cranking up some purchased Oktoberfest music. It does a body's ears good. Then listened to a bit of Bill O'Reilly arguing on C-Span (!) of all places concerning his latest on Reagan. Officer O'Reilly loves a fight. He maintains that Reagan was very much affected by the assassination attempt to the consternation of “ideologue” (Bill's tag for her) Bay Buchanan (an "ideologue" being anyone who disagrees with O'Reilly).
Also read some of the memoir of a British leftist concerning his idyllic days in Oxford (Magdalen College). That ol' magic pull of the famous English university exerts its pressure, because normally I wouldn't be caught dead reading the memoir of an unknown leftist/atheist.
The author, an R.W.Johnson, writes of the fatalistic British dons of the post-WW II era (understandably fatalistic given the recent history of two world wars and the Great Depression):
“…if that meant that British national decline would continue , well so be it. At least one could preserve civilized values as one went down. There was a Private Eye cartoon of the era which pictured a Colonel Blimp sinking slowly beneath the waves, muttering 'Tide of history, old man, tide of history'.”Where Britain rhymes with us today. Tides of history indeed.
Speaking of inexorable tides, I have a feeling the acquisition of dog numero two is imminent. My wife's hands-off approach looks remarkably like a hands-on approach: she sends me pictures of dogs with the pleading caption, “Will you adopt me?”
Most of these rescue places have a lot of homely, rough, looking dogs. Road hard and put up wet, they look like prison inmates.
Good thoughts from around the 4th century:
In ancient times as well as our own, people brought forward supposedly scientific arguments against the resurrection. St. Gregory of Nyssa answers them: don’t judge God’s capabilities by your own. - Mike Aquilina's intro to St. Gregory's thoughts.
"Because human reason is so weak, there are some who—judging divine power by the limits of our own—insist that what is beyond our capacity is impossible even for God. They point to the fact that the dead of past ages have disappeared, and to the ashes of those who have been cremated. They bring up the idea of carnivorous animals, and the fish that consumes the body of the shipwrecked sailor—the fish then becoming food for people, and passing by digestion into the mass of the one who eats it. They bring up many similarly trivial things to overthrow the doctrine of the resurrection—as though God could not restore man the way he made him in the first place.
But we make quick work of their convoluted logical foolishness by acknowledging that the body does indeed dissolve into the parts it was made of. Not only does earth return to earth, as God’s word says, but air and water also revert to the like element. Each of our parts returns to the elements it was made from.
But although the human body may be scattered among vultures, or the most savage beasts, by becoming their food; and although it may pass through the teeth of fish; and although it may be changed by fire into smoke and dust—wherever you may suppose, for the sake of argument, the man has been removed, he certainly remains in the world. And the world, as the voice of inspiration tells us, is held by the hand of God.
If you, then, know what is in your hand, do you suppose that God’s knowledge is weaker than your own power? Do you suppose that it would fail to discover the smallest things that are in the palm of God’s hand?" -St. Gregory of Nyssa*
Fit Pinch of Salt. --Ephrem the Syrian:
Glory be to God on high,
Who mixed his salt in our minds,
His leaven in our souls.
His body became bread,
To quicken our deadness.
--Hymns on the Nativity
Shocked to see Boehner self-oust himself. A lightning rod for second-guessers and wannabes. Glad he got to see the Pope on the way out
Seventy-two percent didn't approve of his performance but hard to say how seriously to take public opinion given most people don't follow it that closely or, alternatively, naively think losing won't happen if you get the right leaders. It's like firing a coach when you're only allowed to play 10 men on football field: Truth is there are simply more people who want free stuff from the guvmint than people who want to be self-reliant. It's basic math. I'm not exactly sure how that's Boehner's fault, but I'm glad he's gone so Republicans can find a new scapegoat.
Bottom line is it's all demographics. Ronald Reagan would get killed today if he got same percent of black and latino vote he got in his 1984 landslide since there are so many more blacks and hispanics now. Ten men on the field you aint gonna win many football games. And media gives Dems a 12th man.
“The strongest natures, when they are influenced, submit the most unreservedly.” - Virginia Woolf on Thoreau's relationship to Emerson.
Another Woolf quote that could apply to the saints:
"The most remarkable men tend to discard luxury because they find it hampers the play of what is much more important to them."
I'm always taken aback by resonating petition in the Morning Prayer hymn: to “check our pride of sense.” It's an interesting turn of phrase to me, and pretty accurately described given that sense can have a sort of willful pride to it. I did a search on the Internet and as far as I can see “pride of sense” in the sense mentioned is only found in the context of that Catholic/Anglican hymn. I'd hoped that there was some further explication on it even though I suppose it's self-explanatory.