Tuesday, November 5, 2013

On Guy Fawkes Day and being a revolutionary

Today is Guy Fawkes Day. What historical event is commemorated on Guy Fawkes day?

Guy Fawkes, one of the Gunpowder plotters, was arrested around midnight on 4-5 November 1605 while guarding explosives outside the House of Lords in London. The Gunpowder Plot was an extensive plot aimed at overthrowing King James I and re-establishing Catholic rule in Great Britain. The plot was slated to begin by blowing up the House of Lords during the State Opening of England's Parliament, which was scheduled for 5 November. This, according to the plan of the plotters, would lead to a revolt in the Midlands and result in the King James' 9 year-old daughter, Princess Elizabeth, being placed on the throne as Catholic Head-of-State.

The plot was given away to authorities by Baron William Parker, who sent an anonymous letter in late October. During a search of the House of Lords around midnight on 4 November 1605, Guy Fawkes was arrested for guarding thirty-six barrels of gunpowder—enough to completely level the House of Lords. Hence, the plot failed.

It seems, given the increasing peril of religious liberty in this country, that this commemoration certainly retains some relevance. The celebration of Guy Fawkes Day was imported from Great Britain to the Britain's American colonies and was, at least for a time, known in this country as "Pope Day."

Increasingly, just living my Catholic faith seems to be a revolutionary act, especially being the father of six children. I take both comfort and strength from the fact that it is the witness of the saints that shows us how to participate in the only true revolution in human history: the one started by Jesus Christ and continued in history by His Church. When referring to "the Church," I do not reduce that to the hierarchical Church. After all, it is the saints who are the true revolutionaries and who, ultimately will comprise the Church! I like very much like the title of selections from the sermons and writings of Archbishop Oscar Romero in English, The Violence of Love.

During his Apostolic Visit to Lebanon in September 2012, speaking to the Christian young people of that troubled country and region, Pope Benedict XVI told them,
Bring the love of Christ to everyone! How? By turning unreservedly to God the Father, who is the measure of everything that is right, true and good. Meditate on God’s word! Discover how relevant and real the Gospel can be. Pray! Prayer and the sacraments are the sure and effective means to be a Christian and to live “rooted and built up in Christ, and established in the faith” (Col 2:7). The Year of Faith, which is about to begin, will be a time to rediscover the treasure of the faith which you received at Baptism. You can grow in knowledge and understanding of this treasure by studying the Catechism, so that your faith can be both living and lived. You will then become witnesses to others of the love of Christ. In him, all men and women are our brothers and sisters. The universal brotherhood which he inaugurated on the cross lights up in a resplendent and challenging way the revolution of love. “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 13:35). This is the legacy of Jesus and the sign of the Christian. This is the true revolution of love!
As The Beatles sang, "So you say want a revolution? Well, you know, we all want to the change the world." But how? As in all things, Jesus shows us the way, which is not the easy way.

I am reminded of a dialogue from the original Muppet Movie between Fozzie Bear and Gonzo:

Fozzie: Hey, why don't you join us?
Gonzo: Where are you going?
Fozzie: We're following our dream!
Gonzo: Really? I have a dream, too!
Fozzie: Oh?
Gonzo: But you'll think it's stupid.
Fozzie: No we won't, tell us, tell us!
Gonzo: Well, I want to go to Bombay, India and become a movie star.
Fozzie: You don't go to Bombay to become a movie star! You go where we're going: Hollywood.
Gonzo: Sure, if you want to do it the easy way.
Fozzie: [to Kermit] We've picked up a weirdo...
Weirdos or revolutionaries? Being Catholic, I have to reject the false dichotomy and go with both. As Flannery O'Connor observed, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd." Oddness is a small price to pay for being joyful.

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