Writing is not a difficult thing except at times when you don’t have much to say. I have not been writing as a regular event for the past 6-8 months. It bothers me when I can’t write. I like to write. I like to think and then find ways to put it on paper, but if anything this period has been more of a Thumperism. It is rooted deeply in the Disney-formed childhood ethic when Thumper says to Bambi, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.”
I must admit that at times I have found the words to say things that aren’t nice. In fact, now that I think about it, I have often found ways of saying things that aren’t what in the South is considered ‘nice’. But that is a different topic.
We have had the election of a new pope. Normally I don’t think much about popes. And mostly since the 1960’s I haven’t had much nice to say about them. And yet, and yet I can’t quite just pass over the papacy because it doesn’t pertain to me. Just yesterday, the Spanish-speaking gardener who does my yard asked my opinion of the new pope. We have a new Archbishop of Canterbury too. Nobody seems to care about him. I know less of him than I do of Francis I. But what can they do about the state of the Church in my neighborhood? Nada! And as they said in River City, “They just don’t know the territory.”
The nature of the Church is local ultimately. As much as various governments have used and abused the faith of apostolic succession is still very near to us. Church is about gathering in the name of Christ to spread the word of how to live like Christ. We are to live locally. We are to worship locally. We are be Christ-like locally so that others can know the love of God.
When I write like this I really sound a bit like a Baptist or a Congregationalist. But I am not. I am still catholic with a small c. I do understand the universality of faith deeply. I remember standing in the crypt of the shrine at Santiago de Compostella, Spain and being overwhelmed, not with the Baroque Cathedral or all the pomp and circumstance, but by the wear on the steps of that shrine that had bourn the weight of millions of pilgrims over the centuries. Those dished-out marble steps told me that I belonged to something so much greater than my feeble faith could conjure.
The faith isn’t about popes or archbishops. The faith is about that mysterious connection that we have with the universe and beyond. Faith is about that incredible relationship that leads us to travel to places to know their connections with that Single, Whole, Utter Oneness of God. To watch the election of the pope is a touch with that unity. To watch the installation of the Archbishop of Canterbury is a touch with that unity. But at the same time, it doesn’t make me any more confident that the universal Church can ferret out what to do in my little corner of it. It just means that there are others out there trying to do the same thing I am trying to do. It is welcome company for a difficult job.
The scandals will continue. The mismanagement at the top will most likely continue. Like the milk of my youth, the fat and richness always floats to the top. I am quite content to try to make the little homogenized 1% where I live the best it is in my power to be. The Church will continue. Those who tread upon the new steps of Compostella and I will continue to try to proclaim a simple rabbi who knew the Holy One of Israel.