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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Thatcher and JPII

Recorded history attests to a cross-continental alliance between Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II.  After all, she celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall: but to her dismay, the Euro, the Maastricht treaty (EU) and political integration followed.  Recent events with Brexit, however, may prove to be her last laugh!

Margaret Thatcher was raised in the Methodist tradition in rural England.  John O’Sullivan calls her, “the incarnation of provincial Methodist virtues—a very simple person, not riven by doubt about essentials, and decisive for that reason.” (ibid)  She was decisive about a few principles that appear in the Pope’s Centesimus Annus: subsidiarity and moral free-market capitalism.  These two Catholic social teachings unconsciously informed her worldview, although she may have called them simply “Euro-skepticism”.  As I mentioned, the EU formed soon after Thatcher’s resignation, but her legacy continues even to the present day, as seen in the British patriotism of Daniel Hannan .   

But for a British Prime Minister to align herself with the Bishop of Rome in the Cold War is truly an irony of history as well.  Certainly Elizabeth the 1st would not have made such an alliance.  Yet, Thatcher and the Pope were not necessarily aligned afterward as best indicated by the dispute over the Falklands.  The Pope openly opposed her aggression in that regard.  For this and other reasons of sheer stubbornness, she was known as the “Iron Lady Thatcher”.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The "Banker" turned Undertaker St. Callistus

Along the lines of St. Matthew and T.S. Eliot, Today’s St. Callistus the 1st was a repentant banker.  Early on in his life, he squandered the entrusted funds of widows in Rome. 

Sent to the mines to do hard labor, Callistus later encountered the mercy of Christ in his exile and was released on account of his own confession of faith.  As proof of his repentance, he took charge of a cemetery in Rome, which was posthumously named the Catacombs of St. Callistus. 

JPII says of the place:

«I am conscious of the important historical and spiritual significance of these monuments» John Paul II said in a recent address to the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology. «By visiting these monuments, one comes into contact with the evocative traces of early Christianity, and one can, so to speak, tangibly sense the faith that motivated these ancient Christian communities... How can we fail to be moved by the humble but eloquent traces of these first witnesses to the faith?». Then considering the goals of the Year 2000, the Pope concluded: «Today attention is focused on the historic event of the Great Jubilee, when the Roman catacombs will again become a favourite place of prayer and pilgrimage... Together with the great Roman basilicas, the catacombs should be a necessary destination for the Holy Year pilgrims».[1]       

From squandering money at the bank for widows to his conversion as an undertaker, St. Callistus could have been remembered merely for the events of his early life.  But he actually was elected Pope in the 3rd Century AD!  Then he was martyred in Rome, not far from where he had been a banker years before.

[1] http://www.vatican.va//jubilee_2000/magazine/documents/ju_mag_01091997_p-70_en.html#top

Monday, October 10, 2016

Santa Maria

Coming from Columbus, Ohio I have always admired Christopher Columbus.  There is a beautiful replica of his flagship, Santa Maria, in my hometown and I have boarded it many times for tours, etc.  The Knights of Columbus are named after the Explorer of course and JPII was a staunch advocate of theirs, including in his native Poland.

Rather than try to defend Columbus or the Knights, who are easily defended in the faith, I was impressed a few years ago to see Apocalypto.  This is the story of a native of the new world who was captured and nearly subjected to human sacrifice.  He then escaped, and after finding his family well, views in the distant a ship much like the Santa Maria. 

The question is, were the natives of the New World better off without the Conquistadors like Columbus?  Were they better off with human sacrifice and slavery by dominant tribes?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

T.S. Eliot, St. Matthew, and JPII

On Eliot's Friends

The Ex-patriot poet Eliot worked at Lloyd’s Bank in London from 1917-1925[1].   Upon leaving, he published his more famous Waste Land, but I have come to thoroughly enjoy his Choruses from the Rock.  Especially on this feast of St. Matthew, who was himself called from “el banco” to follow the Word Incarnate, I find Eliot’s story fascinating.   He says in the Rock:

We will build with new timbers/ Where the Word is unspoken[…]/ When the Stranger says: “what is the meaning of this city?/ Do you huddle close together because you love each other?”/ What will you answer? “We all dwell together/ To make money from each other”? or “This is a community”?/ Oh my soul, be prepared for the coming of the Stranger./  Be prepared for him who knows how to ask questions.

St. Matthew rose and followed “the Stranger/ the Word”.  Eliot did the same, though in sickness, heartache and feeble attempts at marriage and family life.  He may have known well the words of Jesus: “Those who are well need not the Physician, but the sick do” as his health deteriorated after the death of his father:

Yet the years of Eliot's literary maturation were accompanied by increasing family worries. Eliot's father died in January 1919, producing a paroxysm of guilt in the son who had hoped he would have time to heal the bad feelings caused by his marriage and emigration. At the same time Vivien's emotional and physical health deteriorated, and the financial and emotional strain of her condition took its toll. After an extended visit in the summer of 1921 from his mother and sister Marion, Eliot suffered a nervous collapse and, on his physician's advice, took a three month's rest cure, first on the coast at Margate and then at a sanitarium Russell's friend Lady Ottoline Morell recommended at Lausanne, Switzerland[…] Whether because of the breakdown or the long needed rest it imposed, Eliot broke through a severe writer's block and completed a long poem he had been working on since 1919. Assembled out of dramatic vignettes based on Eliot's London life, The Waste Land's extraordinary intensity stems from a sudden fusing of diverse materials into a rhythmic whole of great skill and daring.[2]

Only after he passed through the Waste Land (1922) did he stumble upon the Rock (1934).  His wife loved his tenure at Lloyd’s, as it was conducive to family life and stability.  He himself spoke highly of it at times, despite pressure from his communist peers to abandon it (esp. Ezra Pound) [2b].  Unlike other radical poets of those days, Eliot had the combination of business and art at his disposal.  However, the time came in what appeared to be a prolonged conversion for Eliot (not to communism!), immediately following his sickness:

A lucky chance allowed him to escape from the demands of his job at the bank. Geoffrey Faber, of the new publishing firm of Faber and Gwyer (later Faber and Faber), saw the advantages of Eliot's dual expertise in business and letters and recruited him as literary editor. At about the same time, Eliot reached out for religious support. Having long found his family's Unitarianism unsatisfying, he turned to the Anglican church. The seeds of his future faith can be found in The Hollow Men, though the poem was read as a sequel to The Waste Land's philosophical despair when it appeared in Poems 1909-1925 (1925). In June 1927 few followers were prepared for Eliot's baptism into the Church of England. And so, within five years of his avant-garde success, Eliot provoked a second storm. The furor grew in November 1927 when Eliot took British citizenship, and again in 1928 when he collected a group of politically conservative essays under the title of For Lancelot Andrewes, prefacing them with a declaration that he considered himself a "classicist in literature, royalist in politics, and anglo-catholic in religion."[3]

He followed the Word from despair to hope.

Not long after the Rock, Eliot also published a Catholic play based on the life of St. Thomas Becket.  Murder in the Cathedral marked the proof of a profound change of his worldview.  It’s no wonder that these later works of his are not recognized in the secular canon.  But in the life of the Church, they are small memorable and instrumental steps in re-uniting the Anglican to the Catholic Church.  St. John Paul II said of St Thomas Becket:

In making my pilgrimage to the shrine of the martyr, Saint Thomas Becket, I sought to play a part in healing the terrible wounds inflicted on the Body of Christ in the sixteenth century. We prayed together there, Your Grace and I, for that wholeness, that fullness of life in Christ which is God’s gift of unity[…] My pilgrimage to Canterbury was motivated by obedience to the will of Christ our Lord who, on the night before he died prayed “that they all may be one”. Today the divisions among Christians require that the primacy of the Bishop of Rome should also be a primacy in action and initiative in favour of that unity for which Christ so earnestly prayed. I see our celebration of Evening Prayer together as a further moment in that ecumenical pilgrimage that Catholics and Anglicans, together with other Christians, are called to make. Our goal is to discover once more that common inheritance of faith which was shared before the tragic sequence of events which divided Christian Europe four centuries ago.[4]

And again, Eliot and JPII intersect in the person of Emmanuel Mounier whom Eliot featured in his 1937 edition of his periodical The Criterion.  Eliot's French Catholic friend, Montgomery Belgion, introduced Eliot to Mounier:

By the January 1937 number of The Criterion (XVI, 63), a very incisive analysis of the fast-shrinking economic middle way is given once again by Montgomery Belgion in the “French Chronicle.” After observing that “To-day the French Right is as revolutionary as the Left,” Belgion points to a corrective third path, to be found in the work of Emmanuel Mounier. [2c]

And the footnote given for the above quote goes on to say:

In “The Need for Economic Personalism” can be found the major influence that Mounier’s work had on Karol Wojtyla’s development of the tenets that would become personalism: ‘Wojtyla and his Polish colleagues read Mounier with intense interest. In Mounier, they found the first philosophical account of the human intellect and intersubjectivity’ [2d]

I also recommend Wyoming Catholic College’s study of Eliot’s life in the light of Christian hope:

In my own life, I remember being at the bank in Westerville, OH when once a week I began to go to Mass at Mt. Carmel-St. Anne's Hospital.  There, I heard the call of the Divine Physician to fatherhood, and within the next nine months my first son was born at that same Hospital.  I was so familiar with the place, that the doctors thought I was on staff there! 

[1] http://www.lloydsbankinggroup.com/Our-Group/our-heritage/2015-our-milestone-year/250-years-of-lloyds-bank/did-you-know/
[3] http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/a_f/eliot/life.htm
[4] http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/homilies/1989/documents/hf_jp-ii_hom_19890930_xxvi-domenica-per-annum.html

Friday, September 2, 2016

Friendship, Chaput and JPII

Update 9/5/16:
A few great points by Chaput, differentiating between loyalty and fidelity,

"The root of loyalty is the French word loi (law).  The root of fidelity is the Latin word fides (trust).  Loyalty is ordered to duty and fidelity is ordered to love.  And real love, as every mature adult knows, is both beautiful and demanding." (213).

I find this striking insofar as cuts to the quick of much of Jesus' own critique of his contemporaries.  It also speaks of St. Faustina's image: Jezu ufam tobie.  Loyalty can be done for all the wrong reasons, as in adhering to the illogical conclusions of Roe v. Wade in America.  Fidelity, on the other hand, clings to the trustworthiness of a Person, the Son of God.

This makes all the difference in the world for Wojtyla's approach as well; since without trust, there is no sympathy down the road, and vice versa:
Sympathy→ Conformity of Wills (Trust & Sympathy) → Virtue of Hope (Trust & Sympathy)

A few lessons I've learned from the Capuchin Archbishop Chaput after reading his Render Unto Caesar:

Evangelization should accompany friendship
  • If it does not then the friendship is not genuine (190)
    • The reason being that Christ himself is the 1st love and Cause of friendship
  • An aspect of missionary activity should also be involved (193)
His main premise is that "the Gospel spreads by personal contact and friendship" (190).  It is hard to argue against this, seeing as how many saints were close friends: Ignatius and Xavier, Francis and Claire, to name a few.

But what exactly mission would have to do with a potentially insular relationship like friendship would be a harder sell.  For this reason, immediately following his statement on friendship, Chaput references JPII's Centesimus Annus:

We need to root the social dimension of our Catholic faith, and everything else we do, in God's love, which is the fuel for our mission of evangelization.  Pope John Paul II reminded us that Catholic social doctrine, at its root, is missionary.  It is 'an instrument of evangelization'. (193)

When I speak of friendship on this level of evangelization I am often met with a major misunderstanding and offense.  "You mean friends aren't those I choose to 'just get along' with?" and, "there needs to be some kind of agenda when it comes to spending time with my friends?"

My answer, for theirs and for one's own sake, is "that's correct, friendship is for evangelization and mission too".