Advent is a season made for imperfect people, all of us, in other words, trying to maintain our balance as we scramble up the final slope of the shadow seamed mountain of the year. Advent's climb leads us to a view of the far reaches of the heavenly but in a profoundly human way. We pass through its weeks as we stroll by a succession of Christmas windows, surprised by images of ourselves superimposed on the displays, behold, as the angel of Christmas might say, this is what you really look like in everyday life.
Bulletins from the Human Side
If you think it is hard to get on an airplane without being hassled and/or humiliated, try volunteering for parish work in the diocese of Venice, Florida.
After a decade of revelations about sexual and financial scandals among priests, you would think that there is nothing more to learn about these men who were once revered in the Catholic culture and respected in the culture at large.
The famous management consultant Peter Drucker once suggested that “You can go to meetings or you can work, but you can’t do both.”
Drucker is guilty of common sense -- against the use of which Vatican officials must swear an oath before taking up their duties -- and Pope Benedict XVI is out to disprove his theory by having two meetings and working magic, all at the same time.
I remember the trouble my father and I once had putting the screens up on our house. The last two, like wailing and willful children, fought us and required so much forcing that we splintered an edge off one of them. Only then did we discover that we had roughly manipulated number 10 into number 11's window and vice versa.
Perhaps the best news for American Catholics this past week is that of the publication of Fr. Andrew Greeley’s Chicago Catholics and the Struggles Within Their Church, an analysis that reaffirms the strength of the faith in the archdiocese of Chicago that Greeley has served as a priest and scholar for more than fifty years.
The book was completed by Greeley’s colleagues after he sustained serious head injuries two years ago when he was dragged along the ground after his coat got stuck in a taxi door.
Every commentator describes the rescue of the Chilean miners as a miracle, a concept that is typically used to describe, as the Oxford English Dictionary expresses it, “a marvelous event not ascribable to human power ... and therefore attributable to supernatural ... agency.”
After his 19th century visit to America, Charles Dickens expressed great sympathy for anybody who was elected president. No sooner did a man get elected, he noted ruefully, than the people not only began to criticize him but to work toward getting him out of office. Ask any president, in or out of office; they can tell you all about it. But so can Pope Benedict XVI whose resignation is demanded almost daily by one group or another because of his dealing with the clergy sex abuse crisis that has gripped the church for a decade.
Yes, in church and state
Chicago has become the media’s favorite shooting gallery.
“Chicago-style” is like buckshot for snide commentators who feel they can’t miss if they use it to blast away at anything they don’t like in current national politics. Most of these itchy fingered observers do not live in Chicago, many have never even been there, and, from studying them, they don’t seem to know much beyond what they learn from their own papers -- which, of course, they write that themselves.
The most striking part of the papal visit to Britain was not its regal splendor but its human poignancy. It was more touching than overwhelming to watch these still spry eighty-somethings, Queen Elizabeth II and Pope Benedict XVI, greet each other with the kind of affectionate wariness on display when, after extensive family discussions about if and when and who will sit where, prospective in-laws finally meet -- shielding their doubts about what will come of it with the practiced grace of good manners.