Tomorrow some of us will keep the Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II on the road. We will pass through a Holy Door in Charleston, WVa., and then hightail it through Kentucky, headed for Thomas Merton’s Gethsemani Abbey.
The good Lord gave me two fathers to grow up under, Kirk White and Pope John Paul. At my dad’s funeral, we read the same reading we read at Holy Mass yesterday, which includes:
I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and earth is named.
I semi-resent this translation.
The word ‘family’ renders the Greek word πατριὰ, patria. You don’t have to qualify as a scholar to see that patria has something to do with pater, father.
“Family” is a beautiful word, to be sure. But I think we have had more than enough gender neutrality. I myself kneel before the Father, from whom every fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named. (And Eddie Vedder singing “Man of the Hour” runs through my head.)
I’m having a hard time keeping up with all the e-mails and phone calls from my people, asking me to tell them which of the two distinguished presidential candidates they’re supposed to vote for.
When I witnessed the following on Wednesday evening, I had some thoughts…
1. How did we wind up here, we the proud Pro-Life Movement? With a pro-life candidate who can barely manage to articulate the pro-life message? And who has practically no credibility as a champion of our movement?
2. As a body politic, poised for yet another post-Roe v. Wade presidential election, how can we not see the full significance of killing so many of our of innocent and defenseless unborn children? Isn’t it the decisive political issue of our age? Hasn’t widespread abortion had a profound economic impact? A crushing psychological impact? Hasn’t it distorted healthcare and the medical profession? Hasn’t killing so many of our children cost us dearly in family and community life? And doesn’t the fact that we never talk about any of these things show how much of a devastating impact abortion has had on the truthfulness of our public discourse?
Never in a million years could I counsel anyone to vote for either of these two candidates. Except under one set of circumstances: when these are the only two real candidates on the ballot. Then we face the duty of choosing one. Say your prayers and do your best.
As you may know, Thomas Merton loved Boris Pasternak’s novel about the Russian civil war, Dr. Zhivago. In one chapter during the final third of the book, the Red army tries to recruit Siberian townsmen who are sitting and eating leftover paskha for a late-winter lunch.
Again, no one need qualify as a scholar to recognize the word origin.
Easter will come. Even with Bolsheviks on the march, Easter came in Siberia a century ago. Easter comes. France has had five republics. Easter has come every year. In 1860, the election of Abraham Lincoln led to the secession of the southern states. Easter came.
I don’t think either candidate mentioned God even once during any of the three debates. True enough, neither of them aspire to a religious office; our US presidency has to do with temporal matters. But we do need to pray. With confidence in the love and wisdom of the triune God.
…Just in case you’re interested, for our spiritual reading while on the bus during our little pilgrimage, we will listen together to the following:
1. The homily of Pope John Paul II’s Inaugural Pontifical Mass, October 22, 1978
2. Thomas Merton’s No Man is an Island, chapters 2, 5, and 8.
3. Merton’s novice conferences on “the Spiritual Journey,” and “Prayer and Meditation.”