A Wee Bit Of Potpourri

Tomorrow is the feast of the Visitation. At right you see Jacopo da Pontormo's interpretation, in which I love Elizabeth's face. The feast apparently was created by St. Bonaventure --another thing for which to thank the Franciscans. Click here and scroll down for a side-by-side comparison of OT description of the ark of the covenant and Luke's description of the Visitation. The feast coincides with the close of the Marian month of May, and Zadok describes the Papal liturgy that will take place. I had the opportunity to attend once --he's right, it's lovely.


Here's the text of Pentecost's Regina Coeli message. This morning's audience saw a return to the series the Pope is doing on the Fathers. This time: Tertullian, with his strengths and his weaknesses. I'm anxious to see the complete text based on two evocative lines:

“Being with the Church and acceptance of its weaknesses” requires “humility” and “simplicity”, because “only God is truly holy, we are in need of His forgiveness.”

“This great personality – commented the Pope – this figure so rigid in his convictions, who demanded Christians face persecution heroically, spurs me to thought. In the end it becomes clear that he lacked simplicity, the humility to become one with the Church, accepting its weaknesses.”
This caught my eye because of something John Allen wrote about the little dust-up over colonialism while the Pope was in Brazil.
Over the years, Benedict has gotten himself into trouble in just this fashion. He'll make statements like, "Christianity is incompatible with violence," or "the church is incapable of sin," which set teeth grinding for anyone who knows even a smattering of history. What Benedict has in mind are Christianity and the church as Platonic forms -- he's well aware that individual Christians, and the concrete institutional church, have sometimes failed to live up to those great ideals. This helps explain, I think, why initiates and outsiders often have such diametrically opposing reactions to Benedict's statements.
Allen's an honest reporter, so I accept his characterization of why missionaries to the "indigenous peoples" responded as they did. It seems to me, however, that charity is required not only of the speaker but also of the listener if understanding is to be achieved. It's not incumbent upon the Pope --or anyone-- to chase every possible misunderstanding down the rabbit hole in infinite digressions so as to be able, finally, to come to the point. The audience has the obligation to strive to understand what is said as the speaker understands it. Here's a silly case in point, which I stumbled across this morning while searching for an illustration. In an entry for a travel log, the pilgrim writes of his trip to the Church of the Visitation in Ein Karem. There's a catalog of images of the Church purporting to show how empty it is of Jesus. The picture at left is captioned "No Jesus Here" and his diary says:
I have seen two churches today in Ein Kerem that both contain giant and beautiful altars, which do not contain images or reference to Christ (beyond crosses). Where then is our faith if Christ is not at the forefront? Who are we worshipping?
Look carefully. Catholics see the tabernacle, where we believe Christ in the Eucharist remains "with us until the end of the world," smack dab in the center. Everything else is decoration honoring and pointing to the Lord, especially Mary's gaze. Plus, there's a crucifix. I'm not saying there's any reason a non-Catholic should know that necessarily, only that neither do I think the Church had an obligation to put a sign up explaining itself to non-Catholic visitors who might misunderstand. If you wish to understand, you seek to. Getting back to the Allen piece, I can understand why pagans would misunderstand the Pope, just as this fellow is clueless about the tabernacle; but that professedly Christian theologians would miss the point suggests an uncharitable cast of mind on their part. "Dialogue" --Reason-- requires charity.

  • Brazil: report on the 1st draft from the CELAM conference.
  • India: 4000 Christian demonstrators arrested.
  • Iraq: Baghdad Muslims coming to the aid of Christians.
  • Rome: 38 Opus Dei ordinations.
  • Lourdes: blogging a pilgrimage.

And finally: for all your Jesuit joke needs. Also here. I like "Oh, my goodness."