This socialized reflection is dedicated to the memory of the late Frs. Jean-Yves, Matthew, and Robert, who influenced me greatly; to my mentor, Fr. Bernie, who had to leave the Church and become an Episcopalian to be married; and to an honest Englishman.
Homage and Scorn
In an Anglican cemetery lies a tombstone with an inscription profound for its simplicity:
I’d have said, “He gave us clearheaded humanitarian commitment in the moments that he had.” He did not die a hero but lived to write these words:
“They laid me down again while somebody fetched a stretcher. As soon as I knew that the bullet had gone clean through my neck I took it for granted that I was done for. I had never heard of a man or an animal getting a bullet through the middle of the neck and surviving it. The blood was dribbling out of the corner of my mouth. ‘The artery’s gone,’ I thought. I wondered how long you last when your carotid artery is cut; not many minutes, presumably. Everything was very blurry. There must have been about two minutes during which I assumed that I was killed. And that too was interesting — I mean it is interesting to know what your thoughts would be at such a time. My first thought, conventionally enough, was for my wife. My second was a violent resentment at having to leave this world which, when all is said and done, suits me so well.”
Now is my turn to make choices of whether and how to be part of the dolorous sacrifice. Now is my turn to overcome the greatest untruth, a false life, and the greatest deception, that not daily bread and moments in a world which suits us so well are the gift, but ownership. Some possessions are necessities, but hoarding is self-deception.
I go to a quiet place to try to recall things read long ago, the quietest one I know, Father Louis’s home. I sit quietly and experience peace inside and see what I can learn. Hours pass … nothing may be changing outside, yet in the silence of the Abbey night I glimpse another visitor, a priest, sitting behind me in the guest section of the narrow church, out of place, long after Compline, and in our minds–”‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’ Then he told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.’” (Luke 12:15-21, NRSVACE)–and other such long-buried thoughts have a field day.
Vigils and Lauds pass then comes raw grey daylight. In his mind, the priest wanders out to the highway where he sees Lazarus, and, willing to make himself bruised, hurting and dirty, offers to cleanse sores and buy breakfast, and Lazarus cries as he receives equality for an hour, and the priest cries too then moves on to a teenager seeking medicine he has learned to shun, so he moves on again, caritas in actione … heaping dark scorn on himself all the while.
In my mind, An Gorta Mor slithers down the highway, and I leave the Abbey running after it, pick up a stick, ready to pounce if I can ever catch up to it, and I may never get to come back and will have to pay the price of heretics, and the lumpenproletariat will join me for bedraggled meals of unblessed bread, and I will grow to resemble Lazarus myself, unhealthy but not confined, not clinging to my own security, but not really knowing what to do next …
I soon have to leave the Abbey. It is beautiful. Best place I have ever been. But along with seeds of contemplation were first planted seeds of rearrangement, and I long ago received my calling and think it means to be out there sometimes lost, caritas in actione per rationem mutationis.
Book burnings are no more. I will not have to double bag them in 8 mil, super heavy weight plastic bags and bury them–those by dead socialists, those by dead priests, and the one from my Baptist youth authorized by the dead witch-hunting torturing king that says: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2, KJV)
I still love those words translated for my edification but not in time for Agnes Sampson to pray them as she was garroted then burned at the stake for the uninsured losses of the king. Why blame misfortune on a spontaneous act of God when there is an outcast wise wife of Keith who stubbornly refuses to plead guilty?
The king handing out magic puppets,
him whom we dare scorn.
I want to give you a couple of warnings about this reflection, which relates to Pope Francis’s recent Apostolic Exhortation, EVANGELII GAUDIUM (“The Joy of the Gospel”). First, and less important, it is really long (almost 30,000 words) and detailed. You might want to read Part I., the Introduction, come back later to read Part II., the Contextual Analysis section, and then come back a third time to read Part III., the Textual Analysis section. I am not trying to generate multiple hits at this obscure website, which will be what it will be, but to avoid wearing you out in one sitting. I hope to eventually combine this post into a pamphlet I am working on regarding the subject of “social compacts,” so, if it is any consolation, one day this post will be part of something that is even more tedious. Smoke ‘em if you gaudium! Continue reading