Thursday, March 14, 2013

We see things not as they are...

...but as we are.

Poor George Weigel. A wry smile crept across my face as I read his piece in the National Review (page three for the juicy bits) where he muses:
I suspect there were not all that many champagne corks flying last night in those Jesuit residences throughout the world where the Catholic Revolution That Never Was is still regarded as the ecclesiastical holy grail. For the shrewder of the new pope’s Jesuit brothers know full well that that dream was just dealt another severe blow. And they perhaps fear that this pope, knowing the Society of Jesus and its contemporary confusions and corruptions as he does, just might take in hand the reform of the Jesuits that was one of the signal failures of the pontificate of John Paul II.
I smile because Mr. Weigel succeeds in being simultaneously totally correct and totally wrong. That is, there were no champagne corks flying in our community last night - we can't afford champagne, but a lot of guys did toast our Jesuit brother, Pope Francis, with raised bottles of beer. I can't say that I partook in the festivities for too long, although I did have a glass of wine. I went, instead, to a 9:00 pm celebration of the Eucharist where we prayed for the Holy Father.

What's sort of sad about Weigel is that he is a mirror image of what he despises in the Church. He perceives a liberal feint to the left, so he moves right. Some read the election of Pope Benedict XVI and the election of Pope Francis as an act of the Holy Spirit, Weigel takes it as an issue of political intrigue. This coming from the guy who stridently defended the Legion of Christ, once claiming to have been "deeply impressed by the work of Legionaries of Christ in the United States" and praised its disgraced founder, ex-Father Maciel, and his charism whose "fruits are most impressive indeed."

Orchard owners and farmers: be warned! If this is Mr. Weigel demonstrating his knowledge of fruits, better not rely on his forecast your next harvest.

Nor should the Church.

What Weigel fails to grasp is that men entering religious life today aren't fighting yesterday's battles. We are men and women who feel called to live their discipleship as servants of the Church which, itself, serves Jesus' mission to spread the Gospel. We serve the mission God gave to the Church to proclaim the Kingdom of God. Nevertheless, we know the Church is not perfect...but neither are we. Still, we choose to serve joyfully because we are excited about the future the Lord is inviting us into.

His myopia aside, it must be admitted, it must be said that for all his blustering,  Mr. Weigel desperately needs those for whom "the Catholic Revolution that Never Was" because, without them, what is he? Just another voice, another pundit, offering his two-cents as he works as a Fellow of Washington's Ethics and Public Policy Center. I say "work" loosely, because I'm not quite certain what a "Fellow" does all day long. Think thoughts? Have leisure time to cultivate grudges and snark?

Weigel's a pitiable sort, really, with not much knowledge of how the Society of Jesus works and seemingly out of touch with the state of contemporary religious life. Let's look at another gem. Of Cardinal Bergoglio's relationship to the Jesuits, he writes that he
...embodied “dynamic orthodoxy,” just like John Paul II and Joseph Ratzinger; who had been persecuted by his more theologically and politically left-leaning Jesuit brethren after his term as Jesuit provincial in Argentina (they exiled him to northern Argentina, where he taught high-school chemistry until rescued by John Paul II and eventually made archbishop of Buenos Aires); and who was doubtless appalled by the whole exercise on his putative behalf.
I mean, I reckon it's hard to imagine from the heights of being a "Fellow," but teaching high school students is probably a more effective form of evangelization than any series of luncheons or "think tank" sessions one can attend in a lifetime. If you can make something interesting and accessible to a high school student, Lord knows, you can surely bring it to any corner of the world. Having taught high school, in my estimation, may be the best credential the Holy Father brings to this new job.

In the current Holy Father's election, a long untapped resource of those who have been, and are being taught, by Jesuits is now accessed in a potentially exciting ways. It's my suspicion that many - certainly not all - alums of Jesuit institutions felt a sense of pride in knowing that they have, however loosely, a connection to the Holy Father by virtue of a brotherhood that encompasses the globe. Struck by his simplicity of style and how he has eschewed much pageantry, how cannot I not hear an echo of our deceased brother Cardinal Martini's words, "...our culture has become old, our churches and our religious houses are big and empty, the bureaucratic apparatus of the church grows, our rites and our dress are pompous."

A day into his pontificate, I have hope. I had hope the day before his pontificate began, too. Why? Because my hope is in God, revealed in Jesus Christ whose Spirit gathers us together and leads us on our earthly pilgrimage toward the Kingdom of God. Our Holy Father will now take his turn shepherding the flock. He will make strides and, undoubtedly, stumble along the way. Yet, rather that trying to parse his allegiance to the Jesuits and speculate about how he's going to "reform the Jesuits," I shall look to the Pope with brotherly affection and a spirit of availability to go where the Vicar of Christ might send me.

I don't speak alone, of this I have no doubt. But don't tell Mr. Weigel...he continues to need shadows to box, if only to prompt him to write books, make television appearances, and do whatever it is a Fellow does. 
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