Saturday, April 23, 2005

MH - See Why They Run

I would never, ever make the mistake of falling into that "I'd sell my soul to . . ." trap. Nothing's as important as your soul.

Having said that, however, I would give anything else to be able to write like Peggy Noonan. She is a marvel. Maybe it isn't the choice of words so much as it is the way her mind works, the way she develops the thoughts that string those words and paragraphs into things of sheer beauty, at the same time both poetic and clear-cut.

Case in point is her column this week in WSJ Online on Benedict's election. It starts, "There were many moving and dramatic moments in Rome two days ago, but this is the one I think I'll remember: the sight of them running."

And why were they running?
People are complicated. You can hit distracted people with all the propaganda in the world, you can give it to them every day in all your media, and sometimes they'll even tell pollsters they agree with you. But something is always going on in their chests. Some truth is known there; some yearning lives there. It's like they have a compass in their hearts and turn as they will, this way and that, it continues to point to true north.

We want a spiritual father. We want someone who stands for what is difficult and right, what is impossible but true. Being human we don't always or necessarily want to live by the truth or be governed by it. But we are grateful when someone stands for it. We want him to be standing up there on the balcony. We want to aspire to it, reach to it, point to it and know that it is there. Because we can actually tell what's true.

We can just somehow tell.

When I read this I thought instantly of a passage in Bishop Sheen's book The World's First Love. He said that we were born with the desire for divine love already within us, and that we spend the rest of our lives attempting to satisfy that love:

Every person carries within his heart a blueprint of the one he love. What seems to be "love at first sight" is actually the fulfillment of desire, the realization of a dream. Plato, sensing this, said that all knowledge is a recollectionfrom a previous existence. This is not true as he states it, but it is true if one understands it to mean that we already have an ideal in us, one that is made by our thinking, our habits, our experiences, and our desires.


Some go though life without ever meeting what they call their ideal. This could be very disappointing, if the ideal never really existed. But the aboslute ideal of every heard does exist, and it is God. All human love is an initiation into the Eternal.

This, then, is why they ran. But there are, as Peggy Noonan points out, those who want to keep the people from running. Such people "imagine themselves courageous and oppressed. What they are is agitated, aggressive, and well-connected. They want to make sure his papacy begins with a battle. They want to make sure no one gets a chance to love him. Which is too bad because even his foes admit he is thoughtful, eager for dialogue, sensitive, honest."

What to do about this?

See his enemies for what they are, and see him for what he is. Read him--he is a writer, a natural communicator of and thinker upon challenging ideas. Listen to him. Consult your internal compass as you listen, and see if it isn't pointing true north.

Look at what he said at the beginning of the papal conclave: It is our special responsibility at this time to be mature, to believe as adults believe. "Being an 'adult' means having a faith which does not follow the waves of today's fashions or the latest novelties." Being an adult is loving what is true and standing with it.

It is, as Bishop Sheen suggested, the world's first love.

Others are taking this advice to heart. Cardinal Ratzinger's books are climbing Amazon's rankings (four in the top 25 alone, at 11, 13, 19, and 21). This is a good sign. It shows that people want to know more, they want to learn about this man. Perhaps they want to see if he is as bad as some say he is. Or maybe they're encouraged by what others have told them, and they want to learn more. I think the first group will be pleasantly surprised, the second group encouraged. Both groups will want to share what they've learned. It suggests to me that people have open minds, and open minds can open hearts.

And when that heart is opened, it allows that internal compass to move, and the needle to point to true north.

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