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Arkansas Catholic
Little Rock, Arkansas
March 21, 1998     Arkansas Catholic
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March 21, 1998
 

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'Aliow'--God .............. "/ w /'1 |J /At has always wanted a very deep relation- of words of great wisdom and value and my own problems, my own struggles... "the Bible becomes the place where | Ck ship with each one of us. We are the insight and truth to be mastered."The Bible speaks to my soul personally. only ones preventing this..." Father Patrick Reardon, Eastern Or-It's God's message for me in the here And Msgr. Gerald Priest of Sacred thodox Bible scholar, recently gave a talk and now. Heart Church in Texarkana, Texas, told in Chicago to the Touchstone board Father Reardon's words reminded me his members that the real work of Lent members and supporters on reading the of Episcopal author John Sherrill. When is what God does in our hearts. Our task Bible. He emphasized that our personal Sherrill started reading the Bible daily, is to let God in. reading of the Bible is an extension of he got so excited about how relevant each One way we allow God to enter our the proclamation of the Bible in the day's reading became ---Scripture he lives is through reading His Word. Lent is Church. could apply to that day's circumstances a good time for additional Bible reading. "Whenever we read the Bible, it is al- in his life -- that he wrote a book about At an ecumenical conference spon- ways a Church thing because that's the it called, "My Friend, the Bible." sored by Touchstone magazine, I heard Church's book," Father Reardon said. Sherrill wrote in his book that as he Episcopal writer and editor David Mills "The Church is not the extension of our read the Bible, he learned that the Lord urge Christians to make a serious, inten- personal relationship with God; our per- wanted to be a part of his dally struggles tional commitment of time and energy sonal relationship with God is the living --- struggles with disciplining a child, to Bible reading, out of the Church's relationship with handling an addiction, resolving competi- I'he Bible is a fat book; there's lots GOd. And the reading of the Bible is one tiveness with his wife. there," Mills said. 'q'here's no shortcut of the places where that takes place." But Sherrill learned something more to mastering it except by sitting down And the Bible is also God's messageabout the Bible: "As important as these and reading it and studying it seriously." to each person individually, Fatherareas were, as revealing as they were of dialogue with Christ. He speaks to us; [ I te: speak to Him ... All of Scripture should [ ] ne be done with explicit reference to being [ in the presence of Christ. I [ of Sherrill also wrote ifi" his book God yearns for us to use Scripture te | ] a l ward the highest goal of all: the enj0 | ] ment of Himself for Himself alone. | [ lh Sherrill learned that 'q should be aleXt ] ] wl for the Person who was trying, throug | / lit the medium of human language, some" | I f0 how to convey the vastness of an unUV I I f0 terable love." ' [[h, And Father Reardon said a sense oti I c Scripture exists which opens us up to [ the throne room of GOd. "rhe Scripture ] X A. becomes the place of silent contempl ] YV tion of God's glory as it shines on the [ ,, !I ayl face of Christ. ! Fran Presley writes from Texarkana. T" P In many places, spring still sleeps un- ,ration designed to ous measures that express Christ's earthly der a blanket of snow. Snow is not al- recreate the sa- life as drawn from the Passions accord- ways white nor is it always thick, but it is cred surroundings ing to Saints Matthew and John. always cold. that Bach knew so To one of his students Bach insisted: It has its human equivalent in anything well. I'he aim and final reason of all music which traps us in silence or despair, any- Here Bach corn- should be none else but the glory of GOd thing which forces us to remain immo- posed and per- and the recreation of the mind. Where bile, fettered against our will to a per- formed many of this is not observed, there will be no mu- petual winter, the more than 200 sic." The city of Leipzig was one such place exquisite cantatas Bach and his career are an apt reminder which by fate's hand had been locked -- the creative ef- of the human dimensions of winter and into a %tinter of discontenC since the fect of his unique spring. This unsurpassed creator of tell- end of World War II. Before that Leipzig talent combined ~ O~E ~ gious music knew only limited success in had enjo) d a centuries' long summer of with a lively faith. Fr. Thomas J. his lifetime. Ten years after his death in cultural light and fresh air. It was here With avirmosityallNk:Sweeney 1750, his wife Anna was given a pauper's that Johann Sebastian Bach became the his own, he in- funeral and the printer's plates for his choirmaster and organist at Saint Tho- vented what has been described as a mu- "rhe Art of the Fugue" were sold for scrap. mas' Lutheran Church in 1723. sical algebra based on Scripture. It's hard His work was virtually ignored for half a The body of this master of music lies to imagine anyone who has experienced century. That's cold, that's winter! under the floor near the sanctuary of this Bach's music who has not heard the Word But under the blanket of snow, spring church. The building had been neglected of God afresh or felt a dormant prayer sleeps. for d ades. But now St. Thomas is un- awaken. I do not believe any listener Today Bach is revered as perhaps the dergoing a complete architectural reno- could help being moved by the harmoni- greatest composer who ever lived. Johann life.I Z Sebastian Bach's music is continuar'! frost of indifference and obscurity. This is the month of the Vernal Eqt~| [x~ nox -- the seasonal reminder that th~'| ~': darkness of a long night must inevi~]~ give way to the light of day. In the nor~t ill i~ where I have lived most of mv life, cro"] cuses stubbornly push up a ainst the haril i! --0 ]' crusts of me. They move upward toWartl:,] the light, they open like cups to ca I the sunshine and signal that the time li ;, t come to wake up, to come alive. TI 'i I I the season of gentle unfoldings, of be",[ ing the song of the robin, of reveling Lq'[ those triumphant chords that trumpet the '! Resurrection of Christ as well as our ovat, I After winter',s frozen stillness, we I preciate spring s wake-up call. | / A curious history of labor in America contrary to Catholic teaching, paul Johnson, a distinguished British Catholic journalist and popular his- torian,just published a mammoth 1,088- page "History of the American People" (Harper Collins). It is easy, almost too easy, to read, but let the reader be on guard, q do not seek, as some historians do, to conceal my opinions," Johnson says. There is something rather engaging about that kind of up-front honesty, but Johnson might have added that his oF/in- ions, for the most part, are at the spectrum's extreme, ultraconservative end. The America he loves is a place where, especially in the 19th century, "the spirit of laissez-faire libertarianism ... pervaded every aspect of life." Johnson, to his credit, urges readers to comment on opinions of his which they find qnsupportable." I can think of at least a dozen such opinions, but I will limit my comments here to Johnson's superfidal treatment of the U.S. labor problem in the 19th century. As one reviewer pointed out, there are no robber barons in Johnson's book and no real victims, since "the facts" demon- strate "a pan- orama of general progress in which all classes shared." To be sure, some shared more than others -- notably Andrew Carnegie, in his day the nation's wealthiest man. Johnson finds Carnegie, in tfis own way, the YM STlCK most effective eco- Msgr. George G. nomic and politi- Higgins ca/philosopher of the age. Johnson notes the Homestead strike at Carnegie's main steelworks in western Pennsylvania, but artfully explains it away. In this respect he is completely outside the mainstream of American historiog- raphy. Almost without exception, Ameri- can labor historians agree that the bru- tal breaking of that strike by Pennsylva- nia militiamen in callous collusion with Carnegie's company was one Of U.S. la- bor history's most disgraceful events. The strike was a catastrophe for Ameri- can labor. As Johnson notes, Carnegie's biographer wrote 40 years later: "Not a single union man has since entered the Carnegie works." That doesn't seem to bother Johnson. He makes clear that he really does not believe in unions in his eccentric defense of the infamous Pinkerton detective agency which, in the 19th century, spe- cialized in breaking strikes by fair means or foul. "Pinkerton, it should be noted," he writes, 'Mas not anti-working class .... But he hated bullying of the weak from whatever quarter, he upheld the rule of law against all comers and he believed passionately in the right of the working man to sell his labor in the open market as he pleased. I'rade unionism as practiced in 19th- century America went against all these convictions as Pinkerton willingly used his organization to beat undemocratic strikes." There you have Johnson's view of unions in a nutshell. Like Pinkerton, he believes passionately in the right of the working man to sell his labor in the open market as he pleases, if johnS0t was ever told at the prestigious Catholic prep school he once attended, he has completely forgotten that this is totally incompatible with Catholic social teach" ing, starting with Pope Leo XIII's 1891 encyclical "Rerum Novarum." On wage justice, Pope Leo famot wrote as follows: 'q. t workers and ployer ... make any bargain they like, #d in particular agree freely about wag neverless there underlies a requiremeflL of natural justice higher and older th# any bargain voluntarily struck: The wage ought not to be in any way insuflicie ! for the bodily needs of a temperate #cl well-behaved worker." Johnson, throughout his boOg, stresses the central, fundamental inflw ence of Christian belief in America history. Not so fast. I don't know about Christianity i.fl general, but surely laissez-faire libertarr anism, so dear to Johnson's heart, carl" not be blamed on Roman Catholic chriS", tianity. Quite the rContra .