It used to be that if you asked a question about the Catholic church, you got very straightforward answers. No, we did not eat meat on Friday. Yes, we had to go to church every Sunday.
From Where I Stand
It’s happening everywhere, I know. But I learned last week not to take it for granted. In fact, it may well be our major problem and it is hiding in plain sight.
With a measure of curiosity short of nostalgia but greater than personal interest, I found myself watching a series of local high school graduations on the public service channel last week. Why I paused -- and stayed -- on that particular channel, I’ll never know. But I’m glad it happened.
It was, in fact, a veritable “taste of America” moment that I haven’t seen too often since I left the scholastic world years ago. The graduates were combed, washed, heeled and proper. No goon show kids here. They wore their mortarboards flat and undecorated. Their gowns were pressed and glowing. Their smiles were broad, proud, satisfied.
Frankly, I thought the questions not only completely missed the mark, they trivialized the very subject they purported to talk about.
All right, now we've seen it with our own eyes. So now what?
The picture of a small girl, naked and screaming, running down a dirt road in Vietnam covered with U.S. napalm all over her tiny body galvanized this country against the Vietnam War. For the first time, we could see exactly what was happening there, exactly to what lows the God of War had taken us.
"A real Christian prays," Karl Barth wrote, "with the Bible in one hand and the daily newspaper in the other." I have never been able to forget that image. There is something about the insight that rings true. After all, if what we learn about the mind of God, the heart of Jesus, in Scripture has nothing to do with the way we live, then the spiritual life is at best an exercise designed to make God a private devotion.
After the violent rampage at Virginia Tech in April, after the dead had been counted and the wounded tended to in hospitals, and after the parents of the young students who matriculated at that campus had finally been assured that it was safe to send their children back to school, the conversation about gun control in our country emerged again. And, as we can see, the idea of gun control is being vigorously rejected.
Some things are not over when they're over. It's important not to forget that.
Everything that can be written about the behavior and fate of Don Imus has already been said. As host of a radio-television talk show, he reduced the Rutger's women's basketball finalists to "nappy-headed ho's." It never even crossed his mind, apparently, that there might be something wrong with that. There's nothing to be gained by piling on -- and I don't intend to. In fact, strange as it may seem, I almost feel sorry for the man because there is a great deal more to be concerned about in terms of the Imus issue than Imus alone.
There's an old monastic quatrain that fascinates me. It reads:
I and Pangur Ban my cat,
T'is a like task we are at.
Hunting mice is his delight.
Hunting words I sit all night.
Editor's Note: A few days after this column was posted, Trocaire and the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland worked out a compromise. The broadcasting commission agreed that if Trocaire removed the words "Lenten Campaign" from the advertisements, they could run on commercial television.
Here's a tip: If you want to know before your friends do what may well be one of the major questions of the 21st century, keep your eye on two new documents. The first is the Berlin Declaration to be released by E.U. President Angela Merkel within the month. The second is the Brussels Declaration, a statement by prominent European academicians, community leaders, and national and European politicians, which disagrees with the tenets included in the Berlin Declaration and which has already been released in response to it.