Saturday, September 26, 2015

Brief reflections on Pope Francis' visit

I suppose I will have my membership card as a Catholic blogger pulled if I don't post something on Pope Francis' Apostolic Journey to these United States. It seems that his visit is going swimmingly. It looks and sounds as if he is hitting all the right notes. I won't bore you with my run-down of his public appearances and or provide editorial commentary on his various addresses, except to say that I liked his U.N. address much better than I liked his speech to Congress and that I liked what he said at St Patrick's Church in Washington, DC, right after his address to Congress and just before joining the homeless for lunch, best of all.

Like every one else in my Catholic/Christian bubble, I am engaging (reacting to?) the papal visit on Facebook and other social media quite extensively. The older I get the more I understand that the papacy in the modern Catholic Church, while indispensable (it is one of the reasons I became and remain a Catholic), has taken on an exaggerated importance.

Last night and today, courtesy of something Rod Dreher posted on his blog over at The American Conservative, a piece that asks "Is America Post-Christian?", I have been pondering the pope's visit and hoopla surrounding papal visits in general. I happen to be of the opinion that the U.S. was conceived as and remains a secular nation. So, at least from my perspective, the United States, in a very real sense, has been a post-Christian nation since its inception, albeit one that relies on a belief in the transcendental nature of human being, deliberately left undefined, which is an ambiguity Christians often to try to exploit, sometimes in the best sense of that word (i.e., exploit) and sometimes in the worst sense.

I am content that the papal visit is taking place on the East coast, far from where I live. Further and unapologetically I felt no impetus to travel there. This is no knock on those who wanted to go and so went.

Pool/Getty Image


Dreher's post directed me to two other pieces that I found most useful: Ross Douthat's "Pope Francis and the Not-Quite-Secular West" and Mollie Hemingway's more-to-the-point "The Pope Francis Effect: Enthusiasm, But To What End?" I will not endeavor to summarize either article. If you wanted to read one and not the other I recommend Hemingway's. I will say that her piece brought out my intermittent desire to be an Anglo-Catholic, one that I expressed with yesterday's traditio.

Many years ago, during a late night undergraduate "deep" conversation, a close friend and I tried to describe what the normal, everyday, facial expressions of people we knew seemed to convey. Inevitably we wound up sharing what each of us thought the default facial expression of the other expressed. My friend said mine was ambivalence. If that's true, I think it's accurate.

For me, hope is the space that exists between pessimism and optimism. This insight helps me in my ambivalence. Ambivalence, in this context, understood as "simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings (as attraction and repulsion) toward an object, person, or action."

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