I just finished watching Reuter's short clip on the canonizations of John XXIII and John Paul II today. It made me feel more sad and alienated than anything else. Given my own prejudices, it seemed like an elaborate PR move on the part of the Church, rather than a holy event worthy of celebration. I was gratified to hear the Reuters narrator say, "John Paul's canonization has not been without controversy. Some say he was canonized too soon, nine years after his death, and that he didn't properly address the sex abuse scandal in the church." That is a terse understatement. Coupled with this fact, is the reality that he did all in his power to undermine the fruits of Vatican II convened by John XXIII.
Wiser heads than I have given some excellent commentary, so I won't engage in a rant at this time.
At first, when I heard the news some months ago about the dual canonizations, I was angry and upset. I considered co-joining John Paul with the beloved John XXIII an insult to the latter's holy memory and yet another offense committed against the survivors of clerical sex abuse. Today, however, watching a few clips, I just felt sad that John XXIII didn't get the honor and respect he truly deserved. But I also felt that putting the two popes together relativizes the canonization of John Paul II as well, and diminishes some of the glitter and glory that would have surrounded him had he had the whole day entirely to himself. So now I can see a glimmer of wisdom to the whole affair. I don't begrudge Pope Francis for going ahead with his canonization. Given the powerful momentum behind it, I don't see how he could have stopped it - barring a supreme act of courage. But putting the two together, while it does diminish the respect due to John XXIII, also tones down the reverential excesses that I fear would have been on display if John Paul II were the sole focus of attention. So in that way today was a grace. Still, it is a sad day for the Church, as we witness a ceremony - in my opinion - that is more smoke and mirrors than spiritual substance and that is designed to serve hidden agendas that are not at all holy.
Since John XXIII was a beacon of hope for a whole generation of Catholics inspired by the breakthroughs of Vatican II, today's ceremony was a poignant visual display of how far we have come from those heady days of the 1960's, when hope was in the air, and how very little has really changed. Behind the contradictions and the paradoxes, however, lies a subliminal message - that our hope and our trust cannot be placed in the institutional church any longer, at least in its outmoded form. It has had its day and today was a dramatic example of the dragon in its death throes. The Catholic tradition will live on, new creative forms of community will spring up, but Rome has become a sideshow for the barkers, drawing us in with false and distorting mirrors. Yet high above the clouds, the white bird soars and sings, calling calling calling. Let us heed her call and let her lead us where she may - away from all pomp and glory.
The following reflections are for myself alone - of no real interest to anyone but myself:)
On another trivial note, continuing my search for future residences, I found this charming little flat in Barcelona that is similar to so many residences I've had over the years. It's only 33 square meters, has no trappings or trimmings, it's balcony looks onto the back of another building and it's 'only' 85,000 Euros (expensive by Prague standards). But I could live here and be content. The only problem is that it's not quite big enough for my books, of which I have quite a few. But I like it. Simple and serene (well, maybe not serene. I hear Barcelona is very noisy night and day).
However, this beautiful little flat right on the beach is more appropriate for my needs and has two 'bedrooms,' one of which I'd convert into a sitting room/study. And to be able to sit on that little balcony and write would be ideal. Yes, that is the beach and the water in the distance beyond the palmtrees. A short five minute walk.
The asking price is 185,000 Euros, which is indeed expensive by Prague standards - but not by San Francisco standards, not by a long shot. An apartment like this near the beach would sell for a minimum of $350,000 in San Francisco. Ouch!
The first little apartment makes me feel more comfortable because of its simplicity. We do not live in times where extravagance can be justified any longer. But the second flat is probably much more conducive to the life of a writer, which I am pursuing. And so my search continues as I plug away on my novel here in Prague in a little studio apartment by the river with a lovely terrace facing a hill.