Friday, July 16, 2010

Wind beneath their wings...

Thoughts on praying for Christopher Hitchens and Mel Gibson and Muriel Puce.
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Fr. Groeschl has always repeated how he prays for Madonna - that's nice.  He usually includes this information within the context of speaking about praying for the conversion of sinners and one's enemies.  Since she is recognized as a fallen away Catholic at best, or a public sinner at worst, announcing publicly that one is praying for her seems reasonable.  Therefore it isn't unreasonable for Fr. Barron to reveal he's praying for a famous atheist, neither is it a bad thing that fans of Mel Gibson are praying for him in his custody battle of bad behavior with his former mistress.  After all, at Fatima and Lourdes Our Lady specifically requested that we pray for the conversion of sinners, and it is worthy of note that St. Maximilian Kolbe even added to the Miraculous Medal prayer, asking Our Lady not only to "pray for us who have recourse to thee", but "for those who do not have recourse to thee, especially the enemies of the Church and those recommended to you."  That is all good.
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Something is off  however...  Sometimes...  With some people...  Especially when they go overboard with their celebrity intentions.  When a famous person's problems or news of their demise is broadcast all over media, their situation cries out for comment I suppose - and it works out especially well for bloggers to post their unsolicited commentary.  Nothing is wrong with that, I know!  Nevertheless, it seems to me there is something a tad disingenuous about the sudden outburst of compassion and support for the bad boys...
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Joshua of Western Confucian, writing about the request for prayers for Hitchens expresses his misgivings this way:
First, it all seems very evangelical. I can almost hear "the call to mobilize prayer warriors" or some such silly phrase. Such calls to mass prayer also say more about the callers than the recipient of the prayer, as if to say, "Look at what nice people we are, even praying for someone who doesn't like us." What's more, I very much doubt the sick man in question welcomes these initiatives. Rather, they probably just make him feel all the sicker. "Pitiful, these irrational mammals!" I can almost hear him scoffing. - No Prayer Requests for Christopher Hitchens Here
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Perhaps that sounds cold, but I think I know what he means.  I do think that in the case of Hitchens it does at times come off as a way of rubbing his nose in Christianity - as well as the intention being a little forced.  Of course there is nothing wrong with praying for him, but I wonder why it has to be a big public cause?  If God brought the man to a fantastic and wonderful public conversion, would we all say it was our prayers or God's mercy that made it happen?  Would the good guys congratulate themselves somehow?  On the other hand, if Hitchens shows no sign of repentance or faith, does that mean the pray-ers lost and that Hitchens is lost too?  Do people really care, I mean deeply and profoundly care?  I know several people who hate the Catholic Church, who claim to be atheist - no one else knows them - do they get prayed for?  Atheists are bashed all the time on blogs, along with apostate Catholics - do we suggest praying for them?  Oh perhaps as a matter of course - after we trashed the hell out of them, then we add, "Of course we must pray for them".
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See, we'll bash other people to bits and pieces, just about condemning them to hell - and then when they get sick or in trouble, all the holier than thou people call out for prayer campaigns.  I get it - but do the other folks in the world who think all religious people are a bunch of hypocrites anyway, get it?  We end up looking pretty inconsistent.  Pious platitudes today, condemning the reprobates tomorrow.
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As for Mel Gibson and his personal demons and low-life behavior - ever since his film The Passion of the Christ many people seem to have canonized the poor son of a bitch.  He's just a working class guy with a fundamentalist nut job for a dad.  He's like millions of guys who screw up daily.  Say anything critical of what Gibson says or does, Catholics come out of the wood work and bend over backwards to defend the guy while trying to shame those who recognize he's just a jerk like the rest of us.  People are blinded by celebrity and try to jump on that bandwagon hoping to be somehow acknowledged in their shadow.  There is something unreal, or at least surreal about the whole thing.
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I'm not saying praying for famous people is wrong - heaven's no.  We should pray as Our Lady requested - for the conversion of sinners - and we are all sinners - remember that.  Nothing is wrong with  prayer for others - we are commanded to do so out of charity.  I just think it's odd when it goes global, because it comes off as just another spotlight on their celebrity.  I can't help but wonder if we really knew these people, if they were our hostile or disgusting next door neighbors and personally harrassed us as they do others, would we be so charitable?  Do we pray for the the obnoxious drunk on the street insulting the hell out of us because we wouldn't give him money for a bottle of booze?  Do we feel really bad for celebrities like George Michael who gets high and cruises the bushes for oral sex?
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Anyway - that's my take on the subject.

13 comments:

  1. Spot on, Terry.
    Spot on.

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  2. +JMJ+

    I didn't comment on Joshua's blog, and now I'm glad of that because you said it better than I ever could, Terry. There's something of both the "bad winner" and the "poor loser" in publicly calling for prayer for an opponent who is at a low point.

    But I can see why the bigger Catholic blogs do this. It's part of their "reporting" function--just as responding to our opponents' arguments is part of their "apologetics" function. And if they didn't add a prayer request at the end, it would seem as if they were gloating. =S

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  3. I think it is commendable to pray for sinners of all varieties (of course that includes ourselves) but like you I don't see the need to make a big public deal about it. Didn't Jesus say something about praying in private, and not showing off about it?

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  4. Ooops! I originally posted my comments on the wrong post:0)

    Analogous to the points you bring up here, are those funeral masses celebrated by the Church hierarchy for some powerful or affluent personality. When John F. Kennedy, Jr. was killed in a plane accident (11 years ago to this VERY day, as a matter of fact), a grief stricken Ted Kennedy was consoled by Cardinal Law not long after receiving the bad news. The cardinal (I remember the film footage precisely) had his arm wrapped around Ted Kennedy's shoulder, trying to bear this extreme moment of grief with him. Why does a cardinal make himself so readily available for someone like Ted Kennedy? (I can answer that and so can you) Why not ask for a line-level diocesan priest? Is Ted Kennedy the only one who required consolation that day for having lost a loved-one? When Ted Kennedy passed away, it was Cardinal Sean O'Malley who delivered the prayers of final commendation.

    Do you think you or I will have a cardinal celebrating our funeral mass?

    And what makes the conduct of these cardinals even more unbelievable is the fact that individuals like Ted Kennedy were unrepentantly rebellious against Church teachings, especially on abortion, and made some less than complementary comments about the Catholic Church.

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  5. +JMJ+

    Tom's comment only goes to show that the squeaky sinner gets the grease! Now let me think of one of my own sins I'd like to publicise, that the blogosphere may bend over backwards praying for me.

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  6. "I can't help but wonder if we really knew these people, if they were our hostile or disgusting next door neighbors and personally harrassed us as they do others, would we be so charitable? Do we pray for the the obnoxious drunk on the street insulting the hell out of us because we wouldn't give him money for a bottle of booze? Do we feel really bad for celebrities like George Michael who gets high and cruises the bushes for oral sex?"

    Probably not.
    Great post, Terry!
    Self-righteous indignation and "false compassion" can be rather potent "drugs" for those who do not indulge in alcohol or other substances!:<)!

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  7. Whenever I read about the big public scandals I try to keep in the front of my mind: "there, but for the grace of God, go I". That's why I pray for them.

    I don't defend poor Mel Gibson in his current state of mortal sin; God help him. But I do believe that at one time he really *was* sincerely striving for holiness, at least when he produced _Passion_. And it seems to me that as soon as plans for that production were made, it was like drawing the spiritual battle lines. Satan sure saw it that way. I think Mel was aware of it for the duration of the movie, but afterwards, he somehow lost sight of that fact. Maybe he didn't realize that the battle would go on until he died. Or maybe he was just too unprepared for teh war that was raging against him. But satan was patiently waiting for the chink, the little crack to get his slimy claws in...because he knew to win, would be to discredit that movie (and, indirectly Christianity--or at least Mel's portrayal of it). The same is happening to priests....at ordination, the battle line is drawn. And to another degree, the same can be said about Christian marriages.

    It is for that whole *thing* I am praying.

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  8. Something to think about--the prayers may not necessarily be for the folks we pray for but to help us grow in holiness...

    A few years ago I was having a terrible time with a coworker--he had threatened me in the workplaceand was an extreme male chaovanistic pig (oink oink). I spoke to a priest concerning the situation as I couldn't even stand to be in the same room with him. The priest said (you guessed it) "Pray for him, with genuine sincerity. I would have much rather crawled on my belly through hot coals.. I toldn Father I couldn't even stand to think of this individual much less pray for him...and still he encouraged me. "pray with your mind, the heart will soon follow." Yeah--it was tough tough tough, but I really tried praying without mumblingor grumbling...over the course of time the hatred in me for this individual was soon replaced by pity, and my prayers became much more genuine. Has this person changed?? Of course not--he's still an ass-hole, HR thinks he's the golden child and won't do anything, but I am safe. I know my angels are looking out for me. And I am a much better person--personally and spiritually--by this prayer exercise...

    Sara

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  9. isn't it *muriel* puce?

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  10. J - yep - I got her mixed up with Mildred Pierce or something. Thanks!

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  11. Thanks for the link and saying things much better than I ever could.

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  12. Totally agree with this post.

    And comments.

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