A blessed feast of the Dedication of the Cathedral of Saint John Lateran to all our readers! The highest-ranking church in all Christendom, the principal church of the Pope, it is the mother of all other churches. As the re-posted article by Terry McDermott points out, the church was first dedicated in 324 by Pope Sylvester a decade or so after the Edict of Milan (313) which, under Constantine, legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire. There is no ‘Saint John Lateran’, but rather, the land was donated by the gens Laterani; the cathedral is in fact dedicated to the two most famous Saints John, the Baptist and the Evangelist, as its full title declares. So pray for the Holy Father, for all Christians, for ourselves, that the Church may become, each day, more and more what she is meant to be.
As a significant aside, this cathedral, whose vast open interior space has to be experienced to be appreciated, is where Pius XII hid out many Jews from the Nazis, with the Vatican being autonomous territory that Nazis and their Fascist collaborators could not enter. How quickly history is forgotten, or changed, or modified, as Rolf Hochhuth’s 1963 slimy, detractory play The Deputy did for Pius, portraying him –need it be point out, falsely? – as himself a Nazi sympathizer, when in fact the ascetical Pontiff’s courage and steadfastness were recognized by all, and he likely died a saint. The Chief Rabbi of Rome at the time (this was 1944), Israel Zolli, inspired by the Holy Father’s example, converted to Catholicism and took the name Eugenius in his honour, going on to live a full, holy life, predicting, apparently, the precise day and hour of his death. As the Rabbi put it when asked why he had given up Judaism for Catholicsm:
But I have not given it up. Christianity is the completion or crown of the Synagogue. For, the Synagogue was a promise, and Christianity is the fulfillment of that promise. The Synagogue pointed to Christianity: Christianity presupposes the Synagogue. So you see, one cannot exist without the other. What I converted to was the living Christianity
All I can say is that we need more men like Pius and Israel/Eugenio, and, if they are now in heaven, may they both, and all God’s saints, intercede so that many, many more may come to see the Church as the pillar and bulwark of the truth, the fulfilment of what the Old Testament, the ‘synagogue’, promised.
And while we’re on truth, and men we need fewer of – as well as the files of what is still left to fall in what used to be our civilization – a Dutch man has now petitioned to have his age officially ‘changed’ from his true 69 years to ’45 or so’, so that he has better job and, ahem, dating prospects. He claims to have the fitness of a man 20 (or 25?) years younger than he, and, after all, if a man can become a woman, and vice versa, why cannot an older person become young again? Gone are the wistful reminiscences of a octogenarian George Burns lamenting in 1979, I Wish I Was Eighteen Again – which, by the bye, I would not wish on anyone. Now you really, really can, just by, apparently, filling out an official form.
And all I will say for now concerning the dis-graced politico Tony Clement, allegedly caught scouring the profiles of younger women, and sending nude photographs over social media to unknown sources -not that it would have been better had they been known – and I mean not to throw stones, for there but for the grace of God go all of us – is that it does seem to signify what sort of men – and I use that term advisedly – we have even in the highest of political offices, and how much their personal weaknesses and vices affect their political decisions and policies. Have we forgotten how to be ‘men’ in our society? How to live out and install virtue in ourselves and others? How to grow older, with courage and grace, exercising the virtues, manner and mien proper to our state and status in life?
The thing is, reality, yes, even the reality of death, eventually catches up with us. Most, it seems, have to go through a lot of mayhem and insanity to get to where they should – and often could – have been in the first place. Best if you just accept the world as it is, and ourselves as we are – that is, as the good God created it and us – and start our work of sanctification of the world, and ourselves, from there.
As the headmaster of Eton once replied to a mother who asked what her boy would learn there: Well, Madam, how to die well! Is that not in the end what life is all about?
And a final note of good news, from Nebraska, where the bishop, James Conley, led a Eucharistic procession around the State’s capitol. Often, what appears insignificant in the eyes of men, is what is most significant in the eyes of God, and, like Pius XII, we will only know the full effect of our good works, especially the most hidden ones, at the end of time, when all will be made clear.