instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Why the Pope always agrees with me

In his ad limina address to the bishops of Baltimore and Washington, Pope John Paul II said:
Indeed, for the renewal of the Church in holiness, it is essential that the Bishop must not only be one who contemplates; he must also be a teacher of the way of contemplation.
There's a reference in the text to Pastores Gregis 17, which concludes:
[The bishop] not only hands down what he himself has contemplated, but he opens to Christians the way of contemplation itself. The well-known motto contemplata aliis tradere thus becomes contemplationem aliis tradere.
Contemplata aliis tradere is, of course, a phrase from St. Thomas, "to give to others what is contemplated," one of the mottos of the Dominican Family.

I mention this not so much to suggest another prayer intention on behalf of our bishops as to bring up the fact that I find the Holy Father's writing style to be soporific. There's sort of a soothing rhythym to his words that lulls my mind to dullness, and it's only when a sentence is snatched up out of context that I have a decent chance of appreciating the point he is trying to make.

Consider this paragraph from his address to the bishops, as it appears on the Vatican website:
The sanctifying mission of the Bishop finds its source in the indefectible holiness of the Church. Because "Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her" (Eph 5:25-26), she has been endowed with unfailing holiness and has become herself, "in Christ and through Christ, the source and origin of all holiness" (Lumen Gentium, 47). This fundamental truth of the faith, reaffirmed in every recitation of the Creed, needs to be more clearly understood and appreciated by all the members of Christ’s Body, for it is an essential part of the Church’s self-awareness and the basis of her universal mission.
Read it through once, wait a minute, then see how much you remember.

I've never understood the Pope's policy for what gets emphasized, but between that and the in-line references to Scripture and an ecumenical council, the meandering, phrase-paused sentences, and the steady thudding of absolutes like "indefectable... unfailing... source and origin... fundamental... needs to be... essential... basis," I get the feeling every sentence is the key to the whole document, which makes my reading of it monotone, and then I find myself saying, "Yeah, uh-huh, right-o," as I read through it. When I'm finished, I have a vague sense of agreeing with the Pope, but not a clear idea of what we've agreed upon.

The good news in this, though, is that whenever I go back and reread, I always find something I overlooked before.