"Are we prepared to promote conditions in which the living contact with God can be reestablished? For our lives today have become godless to the point of complete vacuity. God is no longer with us in the conscious sense of the word. He is denied, ignored, excluded from every claim to have a part in our daily life." - Alfred Delp, S.J.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Blessed John Henry Newman: Officially entered into the annals of cultural myth and urban legend.
Brotherly love profaned.
As much of the world knows by now, Pope Benedict XVI beatified Cardinal Newman yesterday on his State visit to the U.K.. Though officially, liturgically and canonically enrolled amongst the blesseds and saints, Blessed Cardinal Newman has also been unofficially enrolled into the annals of cultural myth and urban legend by - popular opinion - as the first gay saint. Unless things change within the Catholic Church, that can never be an official patronal designation, much less a saintly identity, yet many gay people the world over insist it is accurate. This all because Newman had an especially close friendship with a priest named Ambrose St. John. Because they are men, the friendship is referred to as same-sex friendship. Because we live in the 21st century, anything referred to as same-sex is imbued with a far different meaning than it would have had in Victorian England, between two men, two priests.
I've received a few emails alerting me to media commentary on this unusual friendship between two celibate men. Unfortunately, as with just about every human relationship these days, people have this need to sexualize and romanticize platonic, fraternal love. (Platonic man-love according to the urban dictionary.)
That said, no matter how much "we dispute with our foes in the gateways" - the legend has taken on a life of it's own, and it will most likely perdure through subsequent generations. Just like the Pope Joan myth, the St. Sebastian was a big flamer myth, The David and Jonathan were lovers myth, the Pius XII as Hitler's pope myth, the John XXIII wept when he read the Fatima secret myth, the Paul VI wept when he realized he authorized the changes in the calendar myth, or the CCCR Synod had anything at all to do with the Catholic Church myth, and on and on. Many of these myths are now fairly well embedded in the cultural memory.
Nevertheless, the correction of errors becomes an occasion to proclaim the truth in charity. In Newman's case, the truth and beauty of authentic friendship.
Art: Mary Giberne painted Newman and Ambrose St John at the Propaganda College on 9th June1847.