Potpourri Of Popery, Lourdes Sesquicentennial Edition

Image shamelessly pinched from OC

The Pope's in France this weekend for the Lourdes sesquicentennial. Sarko, taking a page from Bush's playbook, met the Pope at the airport, even though in France that isn't done (the reception was private). Later there was an official reception at the Elysee, and, as happened at the White House, if you were blindfolded, you almost wouldn't know who made which comments. Sarkozy, for example, had this to say about secularite (Blogger makes accents more trouble than they're worth, so just imagine them) :
It would be crazy to deprive ourselves of religion; [it would be] a failing against culture and against thought. For this reason, I am calling for a positive secularity," he said. "A positive secularity offers our consciences the possibility to interchange -- above and beyond our beliefs and rites -- the sense we want to give to our lives.
Whereas the Pope said this.
At this moment in history when cultures continue to cross paths more frequently, I am firmly convinced that a new reflection on the true meaning and importance of "laïcité" is now necessary. In fact, it is fundamental, on the one hand, to insist on the distinction between the political realm and that of religion in order to preserve both the religious freedom of citizens and the responsibility of the State towards them; and, on the other hand, to become more aware of the irreplaceable role of religion for the formation of consciences and the contribution which it can bring to -- among other things -- the creation of a basic ethical consensus within society.
I realize they are fundamentally in agreement, but did you ever imagine a day in which you'd hear a President of France call for greater religious influence while a Pope insists on a separation of Church & state?

The Pope also visited the Bernardine College, where he addressed the Minister of Culture and other representatives of "the world of culture." On The Roots of European Culture. I always love the way he sets his lessons up. Reflecting on how the monks saved and shaped Europe, he says
First and foremost, it must be frankly admitted straight away that it was not their intention to create a culture nor even to preserve a culture from the past. Their motivation was much more basic. Their goal was: quaerere Deum. Amid the confusion of the times, in which nothing seemed permanent, they wanted to do the essential - to make an effort to find what was perennially valid and lasting, life itself.

They were searching for God. They wanted to go from the inessential to the essential, to the only truly important and reliable thing there is. It is sometimes said that they were "eschatologically" oriented. But this is not to be understood in a temporal sense, as if they were looking ahead to the end of the world or to their own death, but in an existential sense: they were seeking the definitive behind the provisional.

From there, the text is a meditation on the word --on the necessary connection between the search for God and grammar as he puts it. A few quips won't do it justice, but it's marvelous. And I love this: For Benedict, the words of the Psalm: coram angelis psallam Tibi, Domine - in the presence of t
he angels, I will sing your praise (cf. 138:1) - are the decisive rule governing the prayer and chant of the monks. What this expresses is the awareness that in communal prayer one is singing in the presence of the entire heavenly court, and is thereby measured according to the very highest standards: that one is praying and singing in such a way as to harmonize with the music of the noble spirits who were considered the originators of the harmony of the cosmos, the music of the spheres. The monks have to pray and sing in a manner commensurate with the grandeur of the word handed down to them, with its claim on true beauty. This intrinsic requirement of speaking with God and singing of him with words he himself has given, is what gave rise to the great tradition of Western music. It was not a form of private "creativity", in which the individual leaves a memorial to himself and makes self-representation his essential criterion. Rather it is about vigilantly recognizing with the "ears of the heart" the inner laws of the music of creation, the archetypes of music that the Creator built into his world and into men, and thus discovering music that is worthy of God, and at the same time truly worthy of man, music whose worthiness resounds in purity.
Skipping around in the text, I think this is the best explanation of the way the Church reads the Bible I've ever seen:
Scripture requires exegesis, and it requires the context of the community in which it came to birth and in which it is lived. This is where its unity is to be found, and here too its unifying meaning is opened up. To put it yet another way: there are dimensions of meaning in the word and in words which only come to light within the living community of this history-generating word. Through the growing realization of the different layers of meaning, the word is not devalued, but in fact appears in its full grandeur and dignity. Therefore the Catechism of the Catholic Church can rightly say that Christianity does not simply represent a religion of the book in the classical sense (cf. par. 108). It perceives in the words the word, the Logos itself, which spreads its mystery through this multiplicity. This particular structure of the Bible issues a constantly new challenge to every generation. It excludes by its nature everything that today is known as fundamentalism. In effect, the word of God can never simply be equated with the letter of the text. To attain to it involves a transcending and a process of understanding, led by the inner movement of the whole and hence it also has to become a process of living.
In other words, much in the Bible cannot be understood unless you are trying to live as a disciple within the Church. And don't we all at one time or another experience that? Passing through a particular stage in the spiritual life when you suddenly "get" what some puzzling passage means?

The lecture is surprising because it seems to be religious, but then we get to the core of the teaching and see where he has been leading us and why he brought up contemporary "creativity" versus monastic obedience:
The whole drama of this topic is illuminated in the writings of Saint Paul. What is meant by the transcending of the letter and understanding it solely from the perspective of the whole, he forcefully expressed as follows: "The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life" (2 Cor 3:6). And he continues: "Where the Spirit is there is freedom (cf. 2 Cor 3:17). But one can only understand the greatness and breadth of this vision of the biblical word if one listens closely to Paul and then discovers that this liberating Spirit has a name, and hence that freedom has an inner criterion: "The Lord is the Spirit. Where the Spirit is there is freedom" (2 Cor 3:17). The liberating Spirit is not simply the exegete's own idea, the exegete's own vision. The Spirit is Christ, and Christ is the Lord who shows us the way. With the word of Spirit and of freedom, a further horizon opens up, but at the same time a clear limit is placed upon arbitrariness and subjectivity, which unequivocally binds both the individual and the community and brings about a new, higher obligation than that of the letter: namely, the obligation of insight and love. This tension between obligation and freedom, which extends far beyond the literary problem of scriptural exegesis, has also determined the thinking and acting of monasticism and has deeply marked Western culture. It presents itself anew as a task for our generation too, vis-á-vis the poles of subjective arbitrariness and fundamentalist fanaticism. It would be a disaster if today's European culture could only conceive freedom as absence of obligation, which would inevitably play into the hands of fanaticism and arbitrariness. Absence of obligation and arbitrariness do not signify freedom, but its destruction.

The man has gone to Paris to reclaim the Arts for Reason & Western Civilization and as a bulwark against Islam! Swoon! Do read it all, it's a masterpiece and I've jumped all around.

All that and I haven't even gotten to the Pope's trip to Sardinia last weekend.
  • Homily at Our Lady of Bonaria on the birth of Mary.
    This is the line gaining attention: a prayer for serious Christians to enter politics. May she render you capable of evangelizing the world of work, the economy and politics which need a new generation of committed lay Christians who can seek competently and with moral rigour sustainable solutions of development.

  • Sunday's Angelus
  • Meeting with priests, seminarians and theology faculty.
    Do not be frightened, do not be discouraged by difficulties: the grain and the weeds, as we know, will grow together until the end of the world (cf. Mt 13: 30). It is important to be seeds of good grain which, fallen to earth, bear fruit.
  • Meeting with young people. His addresses to young people keep getting tougher in a certain way. Not harsher, but more serious.
    Possession of material goods and applause of the masses have replaced the work on oneself that serves to temper the spirit and form an authentic personality. One risks being superficial, taking dangerous short-cuts in the search for success, thus consigning life to experiences that give immediate satisfaction, but are in themselves precarious and misleading. The tendency toward individualism is growing, and when one is concentrated only on oneself, one inevitably becomes fragile; the capacity to listen is weakened, which is an indispensable stage in understanding others and working together.
    You are truly free - in other words, impassioned for the truth. The Lord Jesus said: "the truth will set you free" (Jn 8: 32). Modern nihilism instead preaches the opposite, that it is instead freedom which will make you true.
    each one of you, every creature, hears the symbolic call from above; every beautiful creature is attracted back to the beauty of the Creator

Here's the program for the weekend in France. I think we'll leave the Potpourri for next week when I haven't run on so long. Except I have to link this funny article on the Pope meeting about 30 of the "super-old" of Sardinia (centenarians or older).

Antonia Girau, who is two months shy of her 106th birthday, waited patiently to give some advice to the pontiff inside Cagliari's Basilica at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Bonaria.

"He'll have to yell right in my ear since I'm hard of hearing," Girau said, pointing to her left ear as she sat in a pew near the center aisle.

"I'll tell him 'May you live to my age,'" Girau said. "Even though I don't hear well, I'm completely lucid," she said, tapping her head.