Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Remember You Are Dust

Happy Ash Wednesday, everyone! 

We went here today to drink beer. You should be jealous.
I know that's an ironic greeting, but here in our house in New Orleans, after weeks of dealing with drunken revelry, we feel like hosts whose unruly guests have finally walked home. We are enjoying the peace and quiet on the street, the public transit, the general ability to travel to places without a map - the basics.

I think this Ash Wednesday is particularly poignant because of Benedict's announcement. In case you are living underground, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI will step down by the end of February, meaning that, by this time next month, there will be a new leader for the 1 billion Catholics and their/our much beleaguered institution.This is rather unprecedented.

There are many theological and personal reflections on this topic. One, Benedict has spent the seven years of his papacy shoring up the theological bones of the Church. In a way, stepping down reminds us that Pope is an office, not a personal cult (like that of John Paul II). Perhaps that will be the theme of the conclave that meets to elect his successor.

After seven years of centralizing authority in Rome, this would be too little too late.

But I'll take it, nonetheless. We are all dust, and to dust we will return. Is this what Joseph is thinking? The Vatican, too, is dust; so is St. Peter, who was buried there twenty centuries ago, and so is John Paul II. Being dust in our universe is a great honor, no matter the gold content of your robes (or the ruby sheen on your slippers). Does Joseph remember that, too?

I hope so. In the least, his resignation signals a turn away from nostalgia and pride, towards modernization and humility. I am down with that.


  1. When I heard about his resignation speech being in latin i wondered if it was a legality, as they said, or if it was one last slap in the face to the common people (indeed most of the priests present as well). A groundswell of support to bring back the latin Mass has been rising from people who want to get back to "the good ol' days" that never existed. I think the idea is that if God is inaccessible to the masses, they will continue to require Church, priests, confession... the whole setup. You must watch Colbert Report on this subject, it was an awesome show, with an awesome guest and as a bonus he mocks Canadians. Zing!

  2. By the way, you gotta call me sometime. I just came a not practicing Catholic, to my MIL. It wasn't pretty. So much good fodder for your ongoing topic. It happened when I forwarded your blog to her! It was the post with a video of a truly inspirational TED talk by a nun I can't quite remember the name of...