Good News from Korea and Some Reflections on Bums

Good News from Korea and Some Reflections on Bums March 5, 2015

A reader writes:

I just thought I’d send you a quick note.  I’m in Korea on a week long business trip, and yesterday I went to 11:00 mass at a local parish.  What a wonderful experience.  The mass was beautifully and reverently celebrated. The folks were friendly and inviting.  The parish was vigorous, full of families and children – with lots of activities and evangelization locally and abroad.  The priest, who spoke to us after mass, was very charismatic: kind and generous with his time. My colleague, who has been coming to Korea for years, remarked about how many crosses are now evident throughout the town, as churches pop up like willow shoots in the spring.  In short, it was moving to see what the Spirit has built here, and I thought you might find it interesting and heartening.

That is very heartening to hear.  Thanks for sending it along.  There are wonderful things happening in Asia and the global south.  Sherry Weddell, my go-to gal on the global Church, is a wealth of information on the good things that are happening in the Church.

He continues:

I was thinking about your admonishment of the Pewsitter for his awful take on the burial of Willy Herteleer.  One of my favorite books is Leisure, the Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper.  In it he writes of the distinction between the Common Good and Common “Utility”; namely, the distinction that notes that while useful things are good, not all good things are useful.  He notes that this distinction is always in danger of being lost in America where hard work in a culture of total work is the ideal. This ideal of total work, I think, is a Calvinist notion, not a Catholic one. Willy, through his prayers and witness was a force for good, and this was recognised by the Pope.

PS. I just started reading The Silence of St. Thomas by Pieper, and it describes the social environment that Thomas Aquinas grew up in, one in which Dominicans and Franciscans were considered a bunch of bums.  Fascinating how human nature is so constant over time.

I think you are on to something with the Calvinized flavor of Reactionary Catholicism in the US.  It is easy to forget that Jesus, once he began his ministry, lived a life that was, to the unaided eye, indistinguishable from that of Willy Herteleer or a zillion other intinerants.  He was, in fact, a homeless person who famously remarked that the Son of Man had no place to lay his head.  He was entirely dependent on whatever funds his followers scraped together (and that seems not to have been a lot given that they gleaned grain on the Sabbath for their empty bellies–earning a rebuke from the Pewsitters of their day).  He gladly accepted dinner invitations (earning him the title of glutton and drunkard–a common charge against the homeless to this day). He had a few friends in high places, such as “Jo-anna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.” (Lk 8:3). But he did not work or have a job once he left Nazareth.  This would make Jesus a “bum” in the eyes of Pewsitters and their devotees and of an awful lot of other Good Catholics who form their faith according to the worldview of Calvin and not the gospel.  The same was true, as you note, of the great mendicants Francis and Dominic.  And yes, indeed, St. Thomas running off to join the Dominicans was regarded with horror by respectable people.  As Chesterton says:

In so far as we may follow rather dim and disputed events, it would seem that the young Thomas Aquinas walked into his father’s castle one day and calmly announced that he had become one of the Begging Friars, of the new order founded by Dominic the Spaniard; much as the eldest son of the squire might go home and airily inform the family that he had married a gypsy; or the heir of a Tory Duke state that he was walking tomorrow with the Hunger Marchers organised by alleged Communists. By this, as has been noted already, we may pretty well measure the abyss between the old monasticism and the new, and the earthquake of the Dominican and Franciscan revolution. Thomas had appeared to wish to be a Monk; and the gates were silently opened to him and the long avenues of the abbey, the very carpet, so to speak, laid for him up to the throne of the mitred abbot. He said he wished to be a Friar, and his family flew at him like wild beasts; his brothers pursued him along the public roads, half-rent his friar’s frock from his back and finally locked him up in a tower like a lunatic.

The apostles were no more respectable than Thomas.  It’s easy to forget that Peter, James, and John were businessmen.  More than that, Peter was married and James and John were taxpaying solid citizens set to carry on the family name of Zebedee and Sons Fishing Co.  John seems to have been something of a College Boy.  He was “known to the high priest” in Jerusalem (indicating he had a rabbinic education and likely moved in somewhat more prosperous circles before he started hanging around with what Pharisees saw as the Bum from Nazareth and getting weird and counter-cultural).  And yet, hang with him he did, along with his brother.  He left productive work and his respectable family behind and wound up following what Pewsitter and similar Calvinists would surely see as a moocher until this loser ran afoul of the law and wound up dying the most despised form of death you could possibly die in the ancient world, condemned by every respectable authority on earth in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek.

And after that, none of these guys got a clue and returned to their boats and nets.  Sure, they made an attempt briefly, after the Resurrection, but that seems to have mostly been because they couldn’t think of anything else to do.  So we find them fishing the Sea of Galilee after the Resurrection, with rather unexpected results.  But after that?  They wind up living itinerant lives, dependent upon others for their maintenance and getting the bum’s treatment while they waste time contemplating the mysteries of God and expounding them like lunatics to a world that holds them in the same regard as street corner preachers.  Indeed, Paul will gripe:

For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly clothed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world, the dregs of all things. (1 Co 4:9–13).

It’s what lazy bums always get and what a world of wage slavery says such people deserve.  Leisure is for the rich alone.  And it should be spent in the pursuit of money, power, pleasure and honor.  Bums like Jesus, the apostles, Dominic, Francis, and Willy should be buried in unmarked graves, not least because their infection could even spread to women such as Mary of Bethany, who is preposterously hailed as the hero by Luke when she sits there doing nothing at the feet of the Bum from Nazareth while her hard-working and productive sister Martha works her fingers to the bone for these sponges.  Indeed, Jesus repeatedly commends rewarding the shiftless and advocates state-sponsored oppression of respectable people like the denizens of Pewsitter:

If any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you. (Mt 5:40–42)

Roman soldiers could grab any Jew and impress them into service to carry their armor.  Jesus advocates rolling over and cooperating with these illegal aliens, as well as giving indiscriminately to the Undeserving Poor.  We know better now.  That is why we have the second amendment, to fight such tyranny.

He also advocates simply giving free meals to parasites who will simply take and give no return on the investment or ever make anything of themselves:

He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your kinsmen or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Lk 14:12–14)

And instead of fighting the Biggest of Big Government–the world-conquering Roman Empire (the originator of bread and circuses for the parasitic class while the hard-working man was neglected and exploited)–Jesus advocates passively supporting the regime by rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s (as though the government has the right to your hard-earned wages!).  Paul will adopt this mindset, urging us to pay taxes.  His reward will be execution at the hands of Nero, the very man he tells the Romans is “God’s servant for your good” (Rom 13:4).  A lesson for us all in how acquiescing to Big Government liberalism only leads to death.  Worse still, Peter, after a life of sponging off of everybody, will not advocate resistance to Nero’s bloody persecution but will instead only tell his followers to die well:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a wrongdoer, or a mischief-maker; yet if one suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but under that name let him glorify God. For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? And
“If the righteous man is scarcely saved,
where will the impious and sinner appear?”
19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will do right and entrust their souls to a faithful Creator. (1 Pe 4:12–19).

So these completely unrespectable people not only don’t have jobs and sponge off others, they also say nothing about fighting back and killing those who threaten them and their families.  And all they have to show for their efforts? The gospel of salvation and the birth of western civilization.  That’s where honoring bums gets you.

“The Catholic Church is for saints and sinners.  For respectable people, the Anglican Church will do.” – Oscar Wilde

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  • Doyle

    A great reflection. Thank you.

    Jesus and St. Thomas may have appeared to be bums, but they were actively pursuing missions. The Christian life is a call to action–to glorify, to pray, to contemplate are all active verbs.

    Doesn’t the Bible say if you don’t work, you don’t eat? No one should presume uncharitably to the homeless and have charity for the poor, but I think the parallel between Jesus and someone who chooses not to work because they are disaffected or angry at society or ill is a pretty far stretch.

    While I don’t judge anyone, I do judge that sloth is a vice.

    • capaxdei

      “Doesn’t the Bible say if you don’t work, you don’t eat?”

      Does it?

      • Heather

        Yeah, one of those passages where the actual wording makes a big difference. If it was actually as worded above, then we should just toss our babies, sick, and elderly out to starve, because they’re not getting any work done! It’s not if you don’t work you don’t eat, it’s if you are perfectly able to contribute in some way and just can’t be bothered then the Church has no obligation to just let you hang around mooching and distracting those who are actually doing something productive.

        • capaxdei

          I have to go with Fr. Lemieux’s, “Paul is not laying down some kind of general universal law, but offering a practical solution to that situation.” If the “you” in “if you are perfectly able to contribute in some way and just can’t be bothered” aren’t mid-First Century Thessalonians, then the applicability of this passage is necessarily indirect at best.

          • Donna

            ” Take a mere beggar-woman, lazy, ragged, and filthy, and not over-scrupulous of truth—(I do not say she had arrived at perfection)—but if she is chaste, and sober, and cheerful, and goes to her religious duties (and I am supposing not at all an impossible case), she will, in the eyes of the Church, have a prospect of heaven, which is quite closed and refused to the State’s pattern-man, the just, the upright, the generous, the honourable, the conscientious, if he be all this, not from a supernatural power—(I do not determine whether this is likely to be the fact, but I am contrasting views and principles)—not from a supernatural power, but from mere natural virtue.”

            – Blessed John Henry Newman, C.O

          • AugustineThomas

            The prohibition of sloth, including laziness, is most certainly a universal law.

            • capaxdei

              Perhaps, though I think you’re better saying “sloth and laziness,” since including laziness in sloth confuses the two. In any case, the applicability of 2 Thes 3 to a prohibition of either is indirect at best.

      • Fr. Denis Lemieux

        It says those who ‘refuse to work’ should not be given food to eat. Paul is responding to a specific pastoral problem in which some of the new Christians, believing Jesus’ return to be imminent, were sitting around doing nothing, waiting for it. Paul is not laying down some kind of general universal law, but offering a practical solution to that situation. As anyone reading the letter (2 Thess 3:10) can easily understand.

        • Andy

          Thank you for re-explaining this Father – I have had the same argument with close friends about the meaning of this passage and they refuse to recognize it deals with folks hang around for the return of Jesus and doing nothing.

        • Hans-Georg Lundahl

          “It says those who ‘refuse to work’ should not be given food to eat”

          It says those who refuse to work should not eat.

          Not specifying whether this refers to others refusing them food or themselves taking up a fast.

      • Doyle

        Something similar. At the risk of being called out on prooftexting-

        1 Timothy 5:8 If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

        15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

        There’s lots of room to argue about what work is, though. I cannot imagine more fruitful work than praying for the souls in Purgatory, which externally is not apparent. Me spending 20 hours on World of Warcraft not so much!

        There’s a big mystery here too. Work was our calling BEFORE the fall. Being “Dilbert”, I seriously have a very difficult time grokking this and I pray the ST. Joseph prayer for daily labor trying to prepare for my workday and put work in the right context.

        • Hans-Georg Lundahl

          “1 Timothy 5:8”

          Well, as far as I can see, Willy had been a widower and father of grown children and hence the verse is not applicable to him.

          “[Genesis 2]:15”

          In my drbo says nothing about “work” per se:

          And the Lord God took man, and put him into the paradise of pleasure, to dress it, and to keep it.

          Actions which before the fall, when all animals were obedient, may have included no effort, at least.

    • HornOrSilk

      Sloth must be understood as a spiritual vice, as in, being lazy in our pursuit of virtue and our rejection of other vices. In other words, when you read the classical texts, sloth is seen in relation to: not saying prayers, not fulfilling obligation, not giving alms, and the like.

    • Heather

      Are you assuming that the spiritual works of mercy don’t count as work? Mr Herteleer, from what I have read of him, seemed to have spent his time not as a lazy vagrant disaffected from society, but as a pilgrim who made it his life’s mission to pray and encourage others in their faith. Mark isn’t talking about Church members who are “living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work” as the admonition that those unwilling to work should not eat is actually directed to. (2 Thessalonians 3 for the full context.) Nor about a random mentally ill person on the streets because his untreated illness leaves him unequipped to live in society. The point is that those who are doing the work of the Lord are often seen as foolish or lazy in the eyes of the world. (And of Pewsitter, apparently.)

      • Doyle

        “Are you assuming that the spiritual works of mercy don’t count as work? ”

        No, not what I intended at all. It’s hard to express clearly in a combox. Quite the opposite: “The Christian life is a call to action … to contemplate are all active verbs.”

        I struggle with sloth myself, so I wanted to point out that sometimes the appearance does reflect the reality. I wanted to point out that spiritual people are heroic in their spiritual work, not to be compared with following your bliss self indulgently. Sometimes a bum is in fact a bum, the polar opposite of the spiritual person who to the world may also appear inactive.

      • AugustineThomas

        I would be surprised if you’re getting the full story and not the narrative that certain members of the hierarchy and their supporters want you to hear. If he truly lived as a saint, then it was justified. Otherwise he should have been buried in a normal cemetery like the rest of us lay sinners.

        • Artevelde

          What makes you think the Campo Santo dei Teutonici e dei Fiamminghi is a cemetary reserved for saints?

          • Hans-Georg Lundahl

            I have heard the version that it was a cemetary reserved for bishops. Saint or not, Willy was a layman.

            This version may be wrong, he may have been buried in a cemetary where lots of bishops are in fact buried, but which unlike a certain part of the crypt in St Peter’s (a part reserved for defunct popes) is not a monument to mortal remains of ex-pastors of the flock of Christ.

            • Artevelde

              Teutonic and Flemish pilgrims. That is, those from the Holy Roman Empire. In modern terms that basically comes down to Germans, Austrians, Dutch and Belgians. It is a quiet place, and showing your identity card and/or addressing the Swiss Guards at the entrance in German is very much part of a Roman tradition of national churches. The decision to bury Willy here, in a place where indeed also Bishops and Princes lie, was not meant to cause any turmoil or to make a specific point about poverty. If any meaning should be attached to it beyond the duty to bury the dead, it is simply this: Willy has come home.

          • AugustineThomas

            As far as I know it’s reserved for bishops.

            Anyway, the main problem here, I think, is that people keep trying to pretend Christ-like poverty is the same as slothful homeless people spending all of their time getting drunk and committing crimes.
            Unless he was actually serving the poor, it doesn’t change anything that he told people to go to Confession. We imitate Christ by serving the poor, not simply by telling people to participate in the sacraments.

            Anyway, God rest his soul! May the angels welcome him into paradise!

            • Artevelde

              I answered Mr. Lundahl below. I hope that post can be useful to you as well.

    • Sloth is indeed a vice, but laziness is only one possibly symptom of sloth. Sloth is a sadness at the good things of creation and of God. That is, sloth is the attitude that says, “It’s not worth it, it’s not good enough, nothing means anything.” It can appear as depression (rejecting one’s own goodness, or rejecting hope of heaven), or nihilistic hedonism (rejecting the goodness of heaven or of God’s vocation), or compulsive workaholism (refusing to trust in God’s good will and providence), or indeed as laziness (refusal to pursue the goods that God sets before us). The common thread is a lack of trust in and desire for what God gives us as good.

      You are correct that we are all called to live our vocations fully and consciously and actively, but that “activity” does not look the same for all. Some are called to live lives of receiving God’s grace, or of suffering for the sake of the kingdom. They may look awfully passive to our eyes; but insofar as they offer their lives to God to do with as He pleases, they are as active as a human person can be.

      • Doyle

        Thank you for sharing your response. You taught me something more about sloth (and how it has such varied attack vectors) Thanks again

  • Fr. Denis Lemieux

    This kerfuffle also shows to me the loss of the category of ‘holy fool’, which is well known in Eastern Christianity but is not foreign to Roman Catholicism at all – think Benedict Joseph Labre. And what an impoverishment of our spirituality it is to lose that particular angle on the faith. Anyhow, well said, Mark.

    • HornOrSilk

      St Francis of Assisi is often seen as a possible holy fool as well.

      • antigon

        And that aged sponge Anna in Luke who spent all her time in the Temple praying, dieting, adoring God & noticing Who He was when yet a Babe.
        Well. We can at least be thankful she wasn’t buried with any bishops.

        • HornOrSilk

          I don’t think she would be seen as a fool, just a bum. A difference, for the fool is seen as worse than a mere bum.

          • antigon

            Nonsense! Fools are bad, but bums are much worse!

      • AugustineThomas

        You guys are completely confused. The idea of a holy fool means following God’s will and being thought crazy by the world for it.
        It is undeniable that there are many homeless people who don’t live holy lives.
        You seem to have confused the Church for Leftism or Communism. It is not true that the wealthy are all evil and poor people are all good.

  • kenofken

    If Jesus came around today, I don’t think he’d get as storied a persecution and death as before. He’d simply be shot for being homeless in public. The police report would say “he was reaching for a gun” even though he was unclothed and taking a bath out of a gallon jug of water and there were no metallic objects of any kind within 100 yards of the scene….

  • chezami

    Curious. Patheos seems to be automatically adding a link to Oscar Wilde’s name. The code is not in the text I wrote. It just appears here on the screen. I can’t say I appreciate that.

    • Heather

      I don’t see any link. It may be that something in the ad code created some kind of “context based ad.”

  • antigon

    Dear Mr. Shea:
    Surely you’re being too hard on Pewsitters, who at least love the stunningly unifying figure Netanyahu.
    Unifying because both those like Pewsitters who pretend to love Israel champion him, as do those who openly despise that country; the latter because Ben’s quite fanatically pro-abortion policies (funded by Stormfront – & your – tax dollars) have seen more Jewish heads lopped in consequence than Isis can likely even hope to hang on its belt.
    Two million Ebreolettes offed so far I believe is the figure, albeit only lots of those under the yahoo, not all. Grateful that his work continues, the abortionist Mengele also tips his hat, I’m told, from where he eternally resides in that fundamental unity of the angel these men serve.

  • Artevelde

    A nice video by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of korea, for those interested. I found it uplifting myself.

  • Mal

    I do not believe, as some do here, that Jesus was ever poor or homeless, or that he lazed around some park or street corner. Jesus would have picked up his father’s trade and so worked till the age of thirty. His family might have had a decent home and enough money to see them through.
    When our Lord began set about fulfilling his heavenly Father’s plan he travelled far and wide, prayed regularly (privately and also in the temple), healed the sick and spread the message of salvation. He asked them to obey the Commandments, those uncomfortable rules. He covered all those rules in his commandment to love as he did. This does not make him a bum or poor.
    Jesus did not try to change the political or economic system (which was not a socialist one). He asked bosses and employees (free and bonded) to love and respect each other. Jesus loved the rich, the middleclass and the poor – everyone. He wanted to reach out to the lost souls, whatever their status. He does not want people to be better off, as such, but to be reconciled to him in and through the Church he established for us.

    • AugustineThomas

      That’s the difference that these slanderers refuse to acknowledge. Jesus wasn’t hanging around in a park getting drunk. He was performing the most important function possible and same goes for the apostles and saints.

  • Michael Dowd

    The best websites are Pewsetter News and Drudge. They have everything anyone needs to know. But perhaps a few may disagree.

  • Tish Morgna

    It doesn’t matter where that man was buried. On the last day, he will be called forth from it like everyone else. I don’t understand what the fuss is all about.
    As for “Pharisees” and the like, there is so much hypocrisy in the world today that it is a veritable ocean that we are drowning in. It is wrong to state that those who work hard for a living are doomed to hellfire if they desire to keep their families from poverty with their hard-earned money instead of handing it over to the poor. God has decreed that we are to care for our families FIRST. Too many today ignore the fact that our governments are reducing our ability to stay out of poverty by confiscating more of our incomes for these “poor”.
    Pitting the “poor” against the “rich” is a famous tactic of the devil and should be avoided.

  • Hans-Georg Lundahl

    You seek a guilt in the collectivity of Pewsitter which was probably just there in one news clipper in an unsupervised moment.

    But what you positively say is correct.