Panis Angelicus & our Priests

Two must-reads for you this morning: start with Max Lindenman’s intimate and fresh encounter with a bishop he was prepared to dislike, because our media-constructed bogeymen are almost as dear to us as our consciences, sometimes:

The final scene in Dumas, père’s Three Musketeers brings young D’Artagnan, the hero, face-to-face with Cardinal Richelieu, a man he judges a usurper of royal authority and (at several degrees’ remove) a murderer. Within a few short paragraphs, the cardinal’s commanding presence and generosity bring the swashbuckler literally to his knees, from which he swears lifelong fealty.

That scene is far from a perfect analog to the five-second audience I enjoyed last year with the Most Reverend Thomas J. Olmsted, Bishop of Phoenix. To state the obvious, I am not a bonny brawler to match Dumas’ Gascon squireen. Olmsted, I am confident, does not dispatch branded floozies to steal diamonds or assassinate foreign dignitaries.

But the parallels are numerous and compelling enough to stick. At the time of our meeting, for reasons we’ll consider presently, Olmsted was as infamous among contemporaries as the Red Duke had been. Our brief encounter transformed my share in that disgust into something like a qualified affection. Exactly what that says about the human heart, its fickleness, and the role the common touch plays in tweaking it to the good are questions I leave to the reader.

Then head over to Heather King’s Shirt of Flame where she writes of her encounter with a 90 year-old, cigar-smoking priest with presence. I love this part:

And then this world-famous, globe-trotting, by all accounts universally-respected priest took time out of his day to tell a weary undistinguished traveler of celebrating Mass all over the globe: in submarines, the North Pole, little out-of-the-way spots, tropical, subtropical. But he won me over completely when he reported that in some shabby outpost with about three communicants, a bystander had once had the temerity to inquire, “Who are saying the Mass for?” Father had whirled around, stared the guy down, and replied: “The whole bloody world.”

(photo source) Our priests are so beset and besieged that we forget, sometimes, what they are made of and how they fight and die for the church (that’s us), the mass and the Eucharist, the Panis Angelicus, the Bread of Angels.

I wonder if we’ll see any heroic, presence-filled priests emerge from this effort; I hope so.

Heather ended her piece with a video and I am going to swipe it because I love it, and because it is a brilliant way for us to continue our attempt in this space to “quiet down” and reclaim Lent. And because people appear to be enjoying the lack of noise, I think comments will remain closed for at least one more day.

But enjoy this – Luciano Pavoratti and Sting in a very haunting performance of Panis Angelicus, which is made all the more touching for Sting’s endearing seriousness, and for how he holds and contorts his buff body to get the notes out purely, in order to keep up with the far-from-buff Pavoratti!

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