Friday, 17 September 2010

Catholic kitsch & lessons in missing the point...

This Sunday we'll be stepping into the shoes of Erasmus, the Dutch Humanist, & going back to the future in seeing how the Reformation remains so important today. Erasmus was merciless in his writings about the Popes & clergy of his day - I wonder what our reforming friend from Rotterdam would make of the circus around the Papal visit this week?

In the 21st Century, Pope on a rope soaps are all very Del Boy Trotter. Today at Twickenham,'I heart Benny' T shirts,caps & Rosary Apps are all on sale to the faithful in a Catholic kitsch sale which we haven't seen the like of since Henry VIII cleared out his garage!

If Tetzel got Martin Luther's knickers in a twist for flogging indulgences, then surely our German Reformation Rebel will be spitting beer out of his nose at todays special offer - Cardinal Newman electronic candles, on sale in time to be held aloft by tens of thousands of Brits in honour of this 'almost' Saint.

Last Autumn I had the privilege of visiting Subiaco, high in the mountains above Rome. This was the home of St Benedict, one of the holiest places of pilgrimage. After viewing the cave in which Benedict lived in abject poverty, I emerged into the sunlight from this place of quiet soul reflection to be faced with a vending machine offering Snickers & Pepsi for a Euro. Adjacent to the cave shrine is a gift shop, stocking all your Saintly needs from Benedict hand towells to home incense kits!

Before we pious Protestants get too incensed ourselves, let's remember that whilst we may not carry a Cardinal Newman medallion or drink Benny Beer, we can be just as guilty of missing the point entirely in our rush for the high moral ground.

We may have chucked out the tat & stripped our churches bare of everything from the frankly ridiculous to the sublime - but aren't we in danger of sending ourselves to sleep, in quiet, plain, unadorned boredom, having lost the mix of joy & awe in our faith which connects us to God & to one another in the first place?
Maybe, maybe not.....gotta go now, I'm bidding on a Rowan Williams mouse mat on ebay!

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