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April 20, 2008


Filed under: Uncategorized — baseball91 @ 7:49 PM
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What a Catholic person, an university should be was the challenge of the modern age.


In a speech given at Boston College, a former prime minister of Ireland had said that the “idea of a Catholic University would seem very strange – I would even say unacceptable – to modern Irish society.”  He acknowledged “the idea” of a Catholic University in a country like the US where Catholics are in a minority, “may make” sense. It is interesting to reflect on his words the “the idea” of a Catholic University.   Was identity only an idea?  And was it an insult to the Jesuits there at Boston College that he said “may make” sense?  He did not even acknowledge the challenge in a land without one religion as part of its identity to pass on its tradition and all of its meaning?  Was this the unrecognized burden within the European Union?  Were the Irish on the verge to be washed of their past, or at least the part that had to do with the faith? 


So why all the concern over the loss of identity?  There was many an Ivy League University that had once been identified by its theology and their identity had survived quite well.  And until the past generation, most European countries were identified by its religion.  But the European Union had changed a lot of that.  (Even though the British wanted to keep at a distance, it had nothing to do with matters of faith.)  Georgetown University had a Catholic population of less than 50%, had now a president that was not a Jesuit, and seemed proud to have grown beyond its original identity.      


Whatever the denomination, worship was used to unite a people, to energize them to work for others.  Music, worship, could change the shape of the world and my shape within it, but my interpretation depended upon whom I had come across or what that something inside was, that something which seemed to build over the years, this spirit within me.  All artists had something half-formed, needing an external phenomenon.  Mine was the written word. Other used clay.  At the vineyard, they worked at creating a new wine.  Identity was how I saw, what I liked, and what I wanted to look like… a lot like what was in the wine


Alcohol was all about changing perceptions.  In this life, humor and alcohol were all about a different perspective.  Comics made their living delivering unexpected lines.  So did wine merchants.  Have you shopped at a wine shop lately?  Most people on the weekend seemed to like the unexpected.  God seemed a like those comics delivering unexpected lines. And He delivered a lot of the unexpected.  If you were lucky, you learned to laugh.  If you drank wine to moderation, there was a lot of laughing.  Doctors were now discovering the benefits of one glass of red wine per day.  And as the commercial stated, “Oh what a feeling!”


It seemed ironic, that those who wrestled with consumption of too much wine often missed a perspective of the spiritual in their lives, a fundamental shift in perception that happens when one goes through the process to become sober.  History will address whether Georgetown University will have that problem without a Catholic identity.  It does call the question, what did an identity of an institution, of a person, lost or changed, mean to a tribe of people and their survival?  Was that what Jacob wrestled with in the night? 


To see God as the great comedian was to look what he had done with simple grapes to make a simple barrel of wine, with the help of human hands. It got me to thinking the next day.   To be Catholic was to believe God had a son who had used wine to change perceptions,  with the unexpected.  Through alcohol, through wine, perceptions were changed.    Change was everywhere. 


So why all the concern over the loss of identity?  The pope had come to a nation of religious equals, a land where we wrestled with displays of faith—in public, in a world where everyone seemed on a search for meaning.  A place where people laughed.  To be Catholic in 2008, where many were accused of being menu selectors, was to say to leaders, ‘why do you put so much on our plates?’


What would the neighborhood become without a church, without a church with a Catholic identity? To be anonymous was to lose an identity.  An institution had become just another_____, fill in the blank.  Hospital?  Restaurant.  Fast food outlet?  To be anonymous was to lose a sense of significance.  To be anonymous was to lose a sense of shame, of deprivation.  Think of drugs, porn, any sin…..including the issue of the abuse scandal. 


Was the question of identity about survival, or about the manner of being saved?  It was a weekend of Passover.  What did Passover still mean for this Jewish identity?  It was time of celebration through a meal, of a real event of history, of the real presences of God.  It was not the story of survival but the story of salvation, how a people were saved for history. 


This past week I had viewed the movie Hotel Rawanda.  It seemed little different than the turmoil witnessed with the Holocaust, a desire of people to be saved amidst the turmoil.  There was an exuberance of life in the present tense in any real  threat to survival.   Whether Jews were being saved from a plague at their doorsteps, saved from hunger with manna, there was exuberance.  The exuberance was not of the appearance of things but in the unexpected.  A lot like the things we laughed at in the unexpected.  There was also an exuberance of prayer, NOW!  There was exuberance of my significance.  NOW!


Yes, it was a weekend of Passover.  What did it mean this Jewish identity?  We are all in exodus, from our origin, trying to recapture a past that we are lucky enough to have inherited.  These stories are about you, your loved ones, your personal relationship with this God.  It had been, it was, real.  You are related to Him with your DNA, with your creation, in the stories of the origin of woman and man, and in your conflict. 


If we were made in the image of God, in this world filled with great poverty, with great problems to feed each person, was power and money only illusion of grandeur?  How did this power reflect upon the identity of the Creator?  In a world that came to grapple with loss of identity of institutions, with people, how did this reflect on this Creator?  What did an identity of an institution, of a person, lost or changed, mean to a tribe of people and their survival?  Was that what Jacob wrestled with in the night? 


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