Saturday, January 21, 2006
To the left is my father, a captain in the Army Air Force, during World War II. Dad was about 23 years old when this photo was taken. Sixty years have come and gone; Dad is now 86 (this past week was his birthday). He forgets things you told him 10 minutes ago, but he can wax on for up to an hour on flight school, supervising training at Chanute Field in Illinois, and air sea rescue missions in the South Pacific.
Peggy Noonan, in her most recent book, John Paul the Great, has a very helpful insight on what Tom Brokaw has called The Greatest Generation, and, if we are paying attention, to ourselves and others. In lots of ways, this generation was not so different from mine, and in some ways similar in the way they viewed things of faith. We are connected together with our parents more than we think. From Peggy Noonan:
"My mother, too, associated Catholicism with unhappy things, though she was not clear as to why. They married in 1947, my father just home from the war, and one belief they seemed to hold in common was that organized religion was for the old-fashioned, for hypocrites and creeps who would hit you on the head for wearing the wrong shoes.
They wanted to be modern, They wanted to leave their not-adequately lit apartments behind and enter the American sunlight. And while the church held little for them, other areas of life, which might even be called competing areas, seem more alluring. My parents were born at roughly the same time as the American movie industry, in the mid-1920s, and during their most impressionable years, in the late thirties and forties, when the world was most vividly imprinting itself on their young brains, the images the absorbed were not those of statues or religious art but celluloid images, cinematic pictures. And they developed, I think, an imaginative reverence for the images they saw. Their icons were not the Blessed Virgin or the Infant of Padua but Joan Blondel, and Bogie and Gable and Cagney and Bette Davis. We did not as a family go to church, but we never missed the Academy Awards."
And so, is there anything new under the sun? I am not so different. I want to be modern. I want to be in the sunlight of hipness, looking right, being accepted by others. For those of my generation and younger, we want to fit in, to be liked, to be popular, to be able to have things, to love, and be loved. This is a universal human thing.
Peggy Noonan goes on in the chapter entitled "Closer" to describe the process by which she returned to her Catholic faith, and her understanding of the Lordship of Jesus. What made the difference for her? Not religious ceremony, or art, or rules (although there is merit in these things). Relationships - these are what made the tipping point of faith difference for her.
And here we continue to stand, as the church, shoulder to shoulder over the generations, trying to find our way since Christ walked among us. And what do we have to offer of lasting significance? Again, relationships - with the Savior, and as evidence of his continuing presence here - with each other. Listening, caring, encouraging, building others up, laughing with them in the joys of life, and crying when the rain and disappointments come. This is what we have to offer, we are representatives of Christ; building relationships that are real, and make a difference for The Kingdom's sake.
Posted by Steve at 4:42 PM