Macbeth in Canada

Stratford Shakespeare bust
with a bust of the Bard

Few things satisfy a person like Macbeth, performed without gimmicks, without extensive script-cuts.  Without nonsense.  Just the subtle workings of ambition, of manipulation, and of craven hopelessness.  Then the revenge of honesty and the restoration of order.  With good witch scenes in the middle.

Tomorrow, we get to see As You Like It.

Thank you, dear people of St. Joseph’s in Martinsville, who gave us this trip!

Can’t come to Canada without reading Francis Parkman.  In Montcalm and Wolfe, Parkman formulates a fascinating thesis:  What we call the French and Indian War–the part of the European Seven Years War fought in the American colonies–marks the decisive turning point in modern history.  The hegemony of medieval authoritarianism–incarnated in the French colonial system–got crushed, unleashing the forces of the English Enlightenment, which proceeded to rule the world.

Parkman wrote before our 20th-century sensibilities about the native tribes in America.  He knew how much closer the French got to the Indians than the English ever did.  Frenchmen married Indian women.  And of course the French hoped to share their religion with the Indians.  But Parkman did not regard the French interaction with the Indians as inherently virtuous, as we sons and daughters of latter times might regard it.  (The North-American Jesuit martyrs are among my most-beloved heroes, so I certainly regard the French interaction with the natives as amazingly virtuous!)

Anyway, Parkman’s thesis begs the question:  Where does the war between the Roman Church and the Enlightenment stand now?  In the 1880’s, Parkman saw a decisive victory achieved in 1763.  But aren’t we “Romish zealots” still standing and fighting?  We Romish zealots may yet decide the course of the 21st century.

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World Mission Sunday

So much to reflect on this Sunday, it’s almost too much. Bear with me here.

St. Isaac Jogues with missing fingers
St. Isaac Jogues with missing fingers

1. Sunday we mark 368 years since the martyrdom of St. Isaac Jogues, who died in upstate New York.

And he was by no means the only Jesuit who died for the faith on this continent. In 1571, eight Jesuits died as martyrs here in what is now Virginia.

We salute these greatest of American heroes. Before George Washington’s great-great-grandparents were conceived in their mothers’ wombs, the missionary martyrs of America gave their lives so that the people of this land could know the Good News.

2. In Rome on Sunday, our Holy Father will declare Pope Paul VI to be among the blessed in heaven.

Some of us, maybe, remember when Pope Paul governed the Church, which was from 1963 to 1978. The Beatification of Pope Paul concludes the Roman Synod that has studied marriage and family life these past two weeks, and which some of us may have heard something about in the newspaper or on tv. We had better discuss the Synod. But I think the Synod we had better discuss is actually the Synod on Evangelization, which took place in 1974. Let’s come back to that in a minute.

3. In the middle of all this, we hear our Lord say to us with His quiet wisdom: “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

Maybe you remember us talking about this gospel passage three years ago. We considered the challenge of actually trying to give God His due. We start at the altar: praising Him; offering the perfect sacrifice given to us by His Son; offering ourselves, along with Christ, to the Father. It all starts with Mass, and our whole lives are directed to the glory we come into contact with in the Holy Mass.

PopePaulVI
Blessed Pope Paul VI
But we have to give God His due outside church, too. And we give Him His due by following His solemn command that we love our neighbor. We truly love our neighbor by thinking of him or her in the exact same way that Christ thought of us, when he spread out His arms on the cross for us.

Which brings us to “repay to Caesar what is Caesar’s.” Our love for our fellowman means paying careful attention to our duties as citizens. Because we love God, we also seek, even in this fallen world, the great political goal known as “the common good.” And in a couple weeks, we who are of voting age have to figure out a way to cast a pro-life, pro-immigrant vote.

…But let’s go back to the memorable Synod of Bishops, which took place in Rome—in 1974, when Blessed Paul VI was pope. One topic on the table then was this:

Since we Catholics firmly believe that God is all-merciful and all-loving; since Jesus Christ, crucified for our salvation, has revealed the truth about God like nothing else ever could, we of course believe that God has a plan for absolutely everyone to be saved. This includes people who have never heard of Jesus or received the sacraments.

We ourselves know only one way to heaven—Holy Baptism, along with the other sacraments of the Church. But God knows more than we do, so we never despair about anyone’s salvation. The second Vatican Council re-echoed these truths, which can be found in the New Testament. God can find a way for anyone to get to heaven. How then do we understand our mission to evangelize?

Such was one of the pastoral problems posed by the Synod of Bishops which took place in the 1974. A good question. Allow me to quote what Blessed Pope Paul VI wrote:

It would be useful if every Christian were to pray about the following
thought: men can gain salvation also in other ways, by God’s mercy, even though we do not preach the Gospel to them. But as for us, can we gain salvation if—through negligence, or fear, or shame –if we ‘blush for the Gospel’–or as a result of false ideas, we fail to preach it?

For that would be to betray the call of God, who wishes the seed to bear fruit through the voice of the ministers of the Gospel; and it will depend on us whether this seed grows. [emphasis added]

Parkman Oregon Trail…Anyone ever heard of Francis Parkman, the writer? He wrote the definitive history books about the two centuries when Europeans and native tribes both lived in what is now the United States, with each living according to their own long-standing traditional way of life. That is, the 1600’s and 1700’s.

Parkman was an amazingly smart historian and gifted writer. That said, in his books, Parkman has a clear bias against some of the Indian tribes. One group, though, he held in even greater contempt. The Jesuits. Parkman’s phrase for the Jesuits in North America during colonial times is: “Romish zealots.”

Seems to me that this lays a challenge on us. When biased historians look back on the 21st century, will they find a record of what we have done, and conclude: What a bunch of Romish zealots!

May God give us the grace to water this land with our blood, sweat, and tears, because we Romish zealots won’t be satisfied until everyone has a chance to share in the grace that we have received in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

Redskins Redskins Redskins Redskins Redskins Redskins Redskins

Final Jeopardy

Jeopardy! Battle of the Decades involves the most-successful Jeopardy! contestants ever. The most bone-crushingly excellent trivia masters living in our humble nation.

So: Final Jeopardy! Category: Supreme Court Decisions. Clue: “On Dec. 20, 1956 the Court’s ruling on Browder v. Gayle went into effect, bringing an end to this 381-day event.”

Now, you and I immediately think: Okay, Browder v. Gayle doesn’t mean much to me… But: 381-day event concluding in December, 1956? Easy. What is the Montgomery Bus Boycott?

Admittedly, the clue could have read, ‘The event that made Rosa Parks famous.’ Then all three of the blistering geniuses probably would have written the correct response. But, as it was, none of them got it! Three of the most mind-like-a-steel-trap people in America, and none of them wrote down the correct response!

Parkman Oregon TrailI was beside myself. We Americans may be smart and use our iPhones dextrously. But we do not know any real history. We do not know the details that make it interesting.

For over a year, they walked, carpooled, hitched to work. Through all weathers. For over a year, Dr. King hung tight, insisting with an iron will that his people continue to find a way other than the bus–through a year’s worth of dark, doubtful nights, with the burden of all their hardships laying upon him.

How can the smartest people in our country not know these crucial details? The Montgomery Bus Boycott easily could have been broken–it appeared to be broken multiple times–and then where would be be? What would have become of ‘the Movement?’ How can we not know the crucial details of our proudest, most genuinely interesting moments?

…In honor of the beginning of the Redskins season, I read Francis Parkman’s book about his time with the Ogillallah Sioux. (Click HERE to read Herman Melville’s review of the book.)

Parkman wanted to grow up to write the history of the American colonists’ interactions with the natives. So, at 23, he took it upon himself to live in a wandering Dahcotah village for the summer of 1846. (Using Parkman’s spellings for the Indian words here.)

The book bears the confusing title The Oregon Trail–which it is not about. But Parkman can write like nobody’s business. He offers an intimate portrayal of his companions. Not exactly sympathetic. But evocative, realistic, and utterly gripping.

redskins-logoThese particular prairie Redskins adorned themselves with the body parts of their slain enemies. To attain manhood meant taking someone’s scalp. The warriors treated their multiple squaws like domestic slaves, prone to divorce them on any pretext whatever. In other words, they were tough as hell. And had a worldview somewhat like ISIS.

God forbid that I would ever cheer for a team called the “Washington N***ers.” But the idea that ‘Redskins’ carries similar connotations–that idea cannot withstand any scrutiny of the actual facts of history. The history of the word ‘Redskin’ is completely different. And, these days, the term has no common usage whatsoever.

Except to refer to the most lovable sports franchise in the history of the world!