Monday, October 3, 2005

The One-Dimensional Man

By Mitchell

One of the blessings - or curses, depending on how you look at it - of living in Minneapolis is reading Sid Hartman in the sports section of the Star Tribune. Hartman, who's been in the business for over 50 years, is one of the last of the old-time sportswriters, the kind who still cleans up athletes' quotes so they make sense in the paper. For Sid, there's sports, and that's it. He's probably the biggest cheerleader we have for the three-stadium concept - building new stadiums for the Twins, the Gophers, and the Vikings. Those who agree with him become "close personal friends," while he sarcastically refers to anyone who disagrees with him as a "genius." Funding for culture, the arts, education - forget it. Evidence that new stadiums really don't improve the business climate of a city - nonsense. Only one thing matters, and that's sports. He's always been fond of saying that without sports, Minneapolis would be a cold Omaha. Of course, Omaha can't be such a bad place to live - after all, they don't have Sid Hartman.

For Hartman, life without sports can't exist. He must live in as close to a vacuum as possible, while still getting enough oxygen to breathe. And I suppose this is the kind of thing that the Second Vatican Council was trying to address, the idea that the religious life can't exist in a vacuum.

I'm no great fan of Vatican II, but put in this context parts of it begin to make sense to me. As we've been discussing at length the last couple of weeks, you can't compartmentalize your faith into one area of your life - it must be present and active in all areas. And in trying to engage with the world, Vatican II also had this as their goal - to prevent religion from becoming a one-dimensional aspect of one's life.

Now, this isn't intended to be a technical or scholarly discussion of Vatican II. I'm not going to start quoting from the documents the Council produced, or to talk about the vast commentaries that have been written on the subject. No, this is merely an observation at human level. And from that viewpoint, what the Council was trying to say was that religion should be an active component of your life, that your faith should inform your worldly actions.

The problem is that the faithful, misled and deceived by many commentators and never really taught the true message of the Council, never understood what this truly meant. In practical terms, we wound up with religious leaving their vocations, churches desecrated, the Mass turned into an abomination, tradition abandoned, devotions ridiculed, and - as a result - faith becoming even more segregated than it was before.

Vatican II wanted to prevent us from becoming religious Sid Hartmans. It wanted us to go boldly into the world with the idea of converting it. Instead, in far too many cases, the world converted us. It would be as if Sid, rather than finding the beneficial ways in which sports could compliment our lives, decided to give up sports altogether and become a patron of the opera.

That wouldn't be a good thing. Faith is part of a well-balanced, multi-dimensional life. But, you might say, what of the religious that take vows, that live in monasteries and convents? They aren't part of the world. Ah, but in fact they are. They live in anything but a vacuum. Their life of interactive prayer goes out in all directions, seeking to transform the world in which we live. Just as Mother Angelica's TV transmissions circle the globe, so do the prayers that come from more conventional orders. And their power to impact the world is potent.

Whatever else Vatican II stood for, it envisioned a world in which believers were active participants, engaging the culture with the wisdom and knowledge of Christ's teachings, seeking to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. Had it been produced in a time of less cultural upheaval, perhaps the results would have been different. Had it been implemented by a man like John Paul II, who understood the aims of the Council and, more importantly, had the skill and the desire to explain it to the faithful, maybe the past would have evolved in another way. As it is we're barely scratching the surface of what it actually taught, and dealing with the legacy of the "false spirit of Vatican II," a legacy of destruction, disorder, and disillusionment.

Of course, we're also dealing with the consequences of a faithful that, in many cases, hadn't been adequately taught about their faith. How else could one accept the speed with which the false teachings of the Council took hold? For every courageous Catholic who fought back, for every parish like St. Agnes that took the time to present Vatican II as it really was, there were Catholics who left the Church, priests and nuns who deserted their vocations, theologans who defied the teachings of the Pope, and faithful who didn't really know what their Church stood for. Perhaps we've turned the corner - perhaps through the leadership of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, men who were actually at the Council and know what it really taught, we'll finally come to a true implementation and appreciation of the Church that John XXIII envisioned. Truly, God only knows.

Sid Hartman is a great believer and passionate advocate of sports. Whatever you think of the man personally, you can't deny the hard work and effort he's put into his job, his vocation. And if we believed in the power of our faith as passionately as he did in sports, who knows what the world would be like. But at the end of the day you wonder what else there is for him. You wonder if his life can really be that one-dimensional. And then you take a look at your own life, and you wonder if you might be that one-dimensional as well. Do we simply fit our faith into the cracks and corners of our everday lives? Do we push it off to one side until we've taken care of other things - sports, politics, recreation, business, finance? Do we see the interaction of the many components of modern life, or do we think they mix about as well as oil and water? Is our faith something to be brought out of the closet on Sunday morning and then returned at the end of Mass, hanging there like a new suit until the next time it's to be worn?

The message is that you can't be one-dimensional. You have to take your faith and do something with it. You have to live as you believe, for with Christ you have the power to transform the world. Don't let the world and its earthly pleasures seduce you - but running away and hiding, or denying there's anything out there, is not the answer. Live your faith, use it in every part of your life - don't hide it, don't be ashamed or embarrassed by it. Chesterton called Jesus "The Everlasting Man," and we must remember that the One-Dimensional Man is no match for Him.

The alternative is a lot hotter than a cold Omaha.

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