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.
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