At one one time in my life, probably my middle grade school years, I became enamored with knights, castles and medieval Europe. Two of my grandsons already passed through this stage . A number of years back, I uncovered a tin castle set of mine while cleaning out my mother’s house complete with horses, swords, knights and a ‘working’ cannon which sat oddly on one of the castle walls. The original box, too, now some 60 years old. Ebay?
Of course there were the tales of the Knights of the Round Table and Prince Valiant which piqued my interest. Films too. Those books and films portrayed a period of adventure and glory. A time I’d like to have returned, teleported back. The squalor and plight of the peasantry was not detailed in those books and films and neither was the arrogance and incontestable authority of the church. The church fathers knew. The peasants did not, but nonetheless believed. Because the Holy Mother Church said so.
Imagine if general knowledge had progressed at a similar pace as the religious certainty of the Middle Ages. Where would civilization be today? Would doctors still be blood-letting? Would horse-drawn carts be carrying our goods? Men like Michaelangelo, da Vinci, Newton and Luther would be unknown. Bell would merely be the sound from a steeple rather than associated with vocal communication. Ford would mean a place in the river for your cattle to cross. Gates would be where your sheep pass through the fence. Einstein would be the singular stone you pick up to throw at the witch.
I’ve read countless books on religious enlightenment in the past few years which have enlightened my view of that subject. Were I born earlier, I surely would have been burned at the stake for possessing such material. Yet even now, should our current bishop get hold of my Kindle, my excommunication document would already be in my possession. Funny stuff here in the 21st century; deadly stuff in the 13th. The literature is ‘out there’ and not at all hidden. One does not need to read or discuss it behind locked doors, shades pulled down. Yet, even among my liberal Catholic friends, there are hushed tones, incomplete sentences lest ‘they’ overhear the subject matter. Pathetic. Pitiful, actually. More than that- wanton ignorance!
What are ‘they’ afraid of? Change? Truth? Do they fear that what they believed in all of their lives is merely fable, myth and legend? They already survived Santa and are none-the-worst for that childhood ruse. Why not the Bible? The Jesus story? Or is that too much to expose? Too much to endure? Too much to give up?
Ironically, on Thursday of this week, a Medieval scene will play out- a scene unchanged from the 13th century to the 21st. A pope will be selected. Vestments from 800 years ago; rules from that time. The announcement will occur not over the Internet, TV, radio or telegraph. No, none of these were around in the 13th century. It will be announced as it always has been: by the smoke from the chimney of the incinerator.