Monday, April 21, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI

A few years ago, when Pope John Paul II died, I had hoped for a vibrant new leader for the Catholic Church, especially with the priest pedophilia scandal that was damaging the American Church. Instead, in walked Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI in 1995. Needless to say, I was not immediately impressed. Here was an old-school Cardinal that was more traditional than his successor, who had held the hard line that some people say is the reason for the decline in the numbers entering Catholic priesthood.

Fast forward to this weekend, which was marred by a battle with the flu while trying to manage crazy toddlers. Trying to find things to watch, I inevitably wandered over to Fox News and began watching pope coverage. I'll leave it to other blogs to comment on all the political ramifications of his visit. I'm just going to share some personal thoughts.

First, there was the White House ceremony, which I only caught secondhand. The best parts of that you can hear below. By Saturday afternoon, I was quite drained and found myself flipping over to see what was happening. And I remembered.

Having spent many of my formative years in Catholic School (another subject I don't really want to get into here) and thus around the Church, I had always been taken emotionally in by the whole ceremony of the Church. As I wrote in fictional form in a story that I may get around to publishing sometime this millennium:
To me, there is no more beautiful church than an old Catholic church, with the colorful carved altar loaded with a dozen statues of saints, gold inlaid bible scenes, and polished wood everywhere. Then as you look up there is a cavernous cathedral ceiling with a massive mural. The grandeur of the whole scene is altogether fitting for a place where God is present.
So by Sunday, I had begun feeling there was something special going on. So I flipped over to the Mass in Yankee Stadium. Two things struck me here. First, the beauty of the Mass, which I have virtually memorized from many a week paying attention to the minutia of making things work (I was an alar boy too), was still there, and I began feeling a yearning to go back despite my excessively lapsed Catholic status. Second, the love people expressed toward Benedict reminded me of why I still have faith.

That's pretty much it. I know he'll be leaving America soon, and he will be welcomed back one day with open arms. It tells me we still have a chance.

So I will leave you with this clip I found over at Mike's America:


Toad734 said...

I think it would be a huge leap to associate truth with this Pope. He is the one who, before he was pope, told everyone to keep the pedophilia cases under wraps until the statute of limitations expired.

This may be one of the reasons you aren't so excited about this ex Hitler Youth.

Patrick M said...

Toad: Do you read or just slam people who are breathing?

I can't defend the Church and its extremely stupid decisions to play "Shuffle the Priests" with the child rapists, and then not level similar punishments on the bishops. If I have not yet put it anywhere in this blog, here it is:

Any priest, bishop or Cardinal who laid a hand on a child should be doing ministry. In prison. If they can't be charged and convicted, then at least they should give their lives to serve those populations. And the Church itself needs to get its head out of its ass on these things or it will be destroyed from within.

But you wholly missed my response to Pope Benedict's visit to America. Maybe it's that you have never felt the deeper stirrings of faith before, or perhaps you have denied them so long you no longer feel them.

I felt something akin to grace and akin to home on Sunday as I watched the latter portions of the Yankee Stadium Mass. Maybe it's something I can't clearly put into words and has no basis in logic, but it was the first time I truly felt something more while watching the Pope.

It's not political and it's not rational. And that's what makes it special. And if Benedict truly embraces Truth, he can heal the Church. I am willing to give him that chance.

Mike's America said...

I almost feel sorry for Toadbat. In his progressive world of socialist secularism he fails to grasp the truth and the comfort of the faith that the Pope inspires in billions around the world.

I am not a Catholic, but very much respect what Pope Benedict said and did on his visit here. There are so many great audio clips of his remarks I wish I could play them all for people. Especially people like Toadbat who clearly has no foundation in life.

P.S. As an altar boy, you might have found the candlelighting ceremony at Ground Zero on Sunday morning amusing. The wind was too strong for the thingee the Pope was using to light the candle so one of the priests had to get out a lighter.

P.P.S. Hope you are feeling better now. Green Tea with Echinacea and fresh lemon does the trick for me.

Toad734 said...

You guys are missing the point. It's like he's trying to now pay for something after he's been busted for stealiing it. Sure, all those people should be in prison but he is the one that tried to keep the whole thing under wraps and instructed the Bishops under him to do so. He should have never became Pope.

I don't need a guy in a funny hat to give me foundation in life. I don't need "faith" in an invisible man to give me hope, I don't need anything I don't already have, I don't live my life based on dogmatic traditions and I don't need that to feel like I belong to something and I especially don't need an organization telling me I need to give them money in order to save my soul because my soul was saved when I discovered there was no such thing as a physical soul.

I do realize that some people need that in their life and think this guy can give it to them. If you feel better after praying or going to church or listening to the Emperor, I mean Pope, speaking then fine, good for you. But to say I don't need that doesn't make me less of a person, it makes me more of a person.

And Mike, yes I am progressive and I am secular, would you favor exchanging that for a backwards theocracy? I mean, it's worked so well for the other countries on the planet who have tried it. And just because I don't love bombing Arabs and I think rich people should pay taxes doesn't mean I am a Socialist. It would be like me calling you a Nazi. If you want me to call you a Nazi, I can start doing that. I mean, I know you are racist but we all know that you aren't actually a Nazi just as you know I am not a socialist.

Patrick M said...

Mike: I was laughing hard about the candle thing. I could tell they were going to have problems. They should have just had one of those extended stick lighters instead of trying the traditional taper.

Also, I think I just needed light food and air, as I'm feeling almost energetic.

Toad: Your point is irrelevant. It's not about the past right now. Benedict will have to answer for any mistakes he made in the past. But what he brings NOW, to Catholics and to all others, is what matters.

Also, I think you have the wrong impression about my faith. I think you're confusing me with the conservative Christians, to whom faith is a central aspect of their life. That's not me.

While it is possible to function and be moral without an underpinning of faith, I don't honestly see any greater benefits other than making you feel good for a few fleeting minutes. My faith gives me a general sense of direction for my life, as well as the occasional nudge. Trust me, it's a little freaky when God talks to you after a few years of silence. But it happens. And watching the Papal Mass simply awoke something. It's not just the Pope, but it's something in the whole experience.

Here's something to try. And I'd suggest not commenting until you have a chance to do it. Consider this a challenge to your perceptions:

Find a Catholic priest and talk to him about faith in general. Tell him why you're there, then just let him explain how he got there. And don't try to throw things at him. Just listen with an open mind. And you don't have to change your personal beliefs, just don't try to impose them on what you're hearing. When you're done, shoot me an email on your experience and we'll talk about it.

I think it would make for an interesting post.

Toad734 said...

I don't think I could have a rational conversation about faith with someone because faith isn't rational. My ex was/is Catholic and grew up in the church, schools etc. She beleived in Evolution, Science, was liberal, knew the Bible was just a book, not the actual word of God but she still had faith that there was a God and bigger meaning behind it. Sure, priests are educated in religion and theology so I am sure they could put it more eloquently but they aren't going to be able to explain something so irrational to a rational person. She could never explain why she believed or what made her believe other than that's what she grew up with. That isn't all that impressive. In other words if she would have grown up in Tibet she wouldn't have faith in God and the Trinity or what ever it is. Im not saying everyone who believes in God is an idiot or anything I am just saying the only thing you have in your corner to "prove" that is your faith. Faith is the catch all cop out to anyone who doesn't believe.

Sure, I have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow but that is based on emperical evidence and experience. As much as you would like to think so, God doesn't talk to you. To think that one being, who according to the bible didn't even realize the earth revolved around the sun, who was both a racist and sexist, has the time to have discussions with you, a guy who rarely goes to church, who is divorced, out one of 6 billion people on the planet?That is giving yourself a lot of credit and stretching to places I can only imagine.

Why would God talk to you about your job or about waterboarding or whatever when my cousin, who actually used to be a preacher and is a very active member in the Church of Christ, had a 6 year old daughter who died of heart failure? He, his wife, his daughter, also a good church going girl, as is most of my moms side of the family, are all church going christians who prayed every day for, not even a miracle, just that shit goes her way for once in her life as she had always had health problems yet God never talked to them. Never answered their prayers. If thats what a life time dedication to Church, God and Religion gets you, no thanks, you can have it. And to say he was "testing their faith" is yet again using the faith cop out. Why test their faith, it needs no testing. He has their faith. I am the one who needs my faith tested because I would fail that test miserably. If hes trying to bust someone or punish someone why not me or my criminal brother? Its just not rational to think God answers your prayers. For every basketball player who prays that the ball goes through the basket there are the same amount who prays it doesn't. How and why would he pick sides. Most of the shit that happens to people is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things so why would he care if you were able to get a promotion or if your kid got accepted to some school or even if your 90 year old aunt died today as opposed to 2 months from now?

Patrick M said...

Where did I say it would be a rational conversation?

I've never said faith is rational or easily explained. But to simply listen and try to understand is key, even if you personally think it's a load of popeshit. Faith by its nature is unprovable to anyone who doesn't believe. Same thing with God.

But here's where things get tricky, so allow me to clarify my comments about God speaking to me in a way you might understand.

In the grand scheme of things, I don't mean shit. But part of my faith is a belief that all people possess some value, especially those that give a damn one way or another. Therefore, they matter to God.

As for my conversation, do I believe that some racist, sexist, bearded bastard jumped in my car and started sharing divine advice in coherent sentences? No. The God portraits that people put stock in are about as realistic as aliens only abducting hillbillies so they can give them anal probes. My conversations was more of a feeling, and a sense of something that can't be rationally explained. Think of it as a combination of empathy, telepathy, and precognition all in one. That's as close to rational definition as I'm going to get.

How or why God speaks to anyone is a matter of faith, though, and I really can't explain it, although I've got a few metaphysical theories I might post one of these days.

So I'll try to put some ideas I had on this subject today while I was mowing into a post or two in the next week.

Toad734 said...

Ive listened and tried to understand all my life. Thats why I don't understand. I have probably read more of the Bible than most Christians. Although my dad is an Atheist my mom is "born again", but not in a real crazy way. I used to go to church and even at times to a Christian school. Thats how I know its bullshit or popeshit; I have studies it, I have read about it, I have heard all the arguments for and against and have come to my own logical conclusion.

The biggest question for me is why? Why would God bother. IF he knows everything, he already knows who is going to do what and who will be faitful and end up back in heaven. Just skip the middle man. It doesn't make sense. Why did he need to send his "son" down to die for our sins, why couldn't he just be a nice guy and forgive us? Why sit around for billions of years doing nothing before you decided to make the earth? And why make life so shitty for the majority of the planet? Send us here to suffer? What kind of bullshit is that?

Its not a matter of me just hearing it straight.

Patrick M said...

Tell you what. I'll answer this in my Friday post. I've got my new Microsoft Natural Keyboard, and I need to break it in.