I’m Medieval peasanting my way to Eucharistic Coherence

When I heard that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops planned to speak out on eucharistic coherence, my eyes bugged out. They were going to talk about something American Catholics cared about, that is pertinent to our life and world today, that is inherently important? Our U.S.C.C.B.? There are a handful of individual bishops I admire, but as a whole, the U.S.C.C.B. can be depended on to put out documents called things like “De dispositione sellarum navalium” (loosely: “On Rearranging Deck Chairs”). But a statement about eucharistic coherence sounded like they got hold of something real, something we could really use right now. I decided to pay attention.

But I have been busy, and every time I opened Twitter, I realized that more of the “Biden-Communion-U.S.C.C.B.-will they-won’t-they” discourse had gone on without me. There had been another podcast, another bit of analysis, another impassioned personal essay and countless other hot takes, and I wasn’t keeping up. I feel a sickening tug of guilt, like when you didn’t do the homework and you thought you could skate by, but the teacher just announced that the thing you didn’t read is definitely going to be on the test.

If this is you, I am here to tell you: This will not be on the test.

I am not saying that the issues of who can and cannot, should and should not receive the Eucharist aren’t important or relevant. They’re important because the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith, and if questions about it are not relevant to us, then what possibly could be?

And it’s relevant because so many people do take their moral cues from public figures, for better or worse. Some Catholics took their cues from Donald J. Trump, and now some are taking their cues from President Joe Biden. It’s relevant because non-Catholics are learning about what the church considers important. It’s relevant because many of us are still raw after having peeled ourselves painfully away from what has become of conservatism. Many of us care fervently about protecting the lives of the unborn but also about protecting the lives of immigrants and people of color and prisoners and gay people, and we are tired of being told we have to choose one side or the other if we want to be on the side of Christ. Many of us care about the Real Presence, and because we love the Lord, we do not want to see his precious body and blood treated like a weapon or a bribe or a talking point.

Coherence is what we need, eucharistic and otherwise. This is not a coherent age. Retweets and ratios and podcasts and hot takes, yes. Banging gongs and clashing cymbals, yes. Coherence, no.

But coherence generally comes from simplicity. And simplicity comes when you cut away everything that doesn’t absolutely need to be there, even if it is interesting or titillating or gets you lots of clicks. So simplicity is what I’m going for. It is what I call “Medieval Peasanting.” Read the rest of my latest at America Magazine

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Image: Detail of a bas-de-page showing Dunstan healing injured peasants. Image taken from f. 197 of Decretals of Gregory IX 

2020 election sign roundup and whatnot, thumbs up

In 2016, there was a guy who would park on the shoulder of the ramp to route 12 with Trump signs propped up all around his car. He would just sit there for hours, day after day, mutely promoting his guy.

The heroic part, though, was his thumb. The whole time, he had his arm stuck out the window, offering an everlasting thumbs up to everyone who passed. Thumbs up for Trump, thumbs up-thumbs up-thumbs up for Trump to all, including the commuters and the truckers and the motorcyclists and the state troopers and the crows scavenging the asphalt for squashed porcupine.

We laughed at the time at this man and his thumb. But I guess his plan worked, because now we all have squashed porcupine, I mean Trump. 

He was there again the other day! But this time around, his message is more specific:

No thumb, though. 

So I pulled up behind him to take a picture, just in case I want to remember the year 2020 for some ungodly reason; and then as we drove by him, my 13-year-old daughter rolled down her window and shrieked, “YOU’D LOOK PRETTIER IF YOU SMILED MORE!”

Then we laughed until we were dead. 

I’m warning you, this post goes downhill from here.

I’ve been so good this election, overall. Maybe not every last second, but in general, I’ve been twisting myself into pretzels trying not to think the worst of people who admire Trump, and, like Tobias Funke, with deep, deep concentration and great focus I am often able to achieve  . . . some modicum of empathy for people I disagree with about the president.

But last weekend I saw this flag on someone’s porch

and I was like, never mind. Like, even if you yourself wouldn’t fly a flag like this? You’re supporting a president who absolutely would, if Melania gave him the login for Amazon Prime. 

But truly, no one I can see is covering themselves with glory lately, and so elsewhere in town, we have the perennial “I’ll show you! I’ll mess up your sign!” wars, ably represented by both sides. Notice that someone appears to have taken a bite out of this Trump sign

whereas the response to this Biden sign is a kind of inarticulate yowl in black spray paint.

There are also Trump signs altered to read both “RACIST” and “RAPIST” at various intersections, which definitely helps people to think clearly about the issues.

But of course there are other elections going on besides the presidential one. Surely if we focus on more local issues, we’ll feel more grounded and more secure that the fires of democracy are still being well tended.

In our area, for instance, many new signs have recently sprung up, some that say “Aria DiMezzo for Sheriff” and some that say “Aria DiMezzo for Sheriff * Defund the Police” and some that read “Aria DiMezzo for Sheriff F*** the Police.” One of these appeared at the entrance to the county jail and nobody has disturbed it yet. 

If you look closely, you will see that DiMezzo’s logo is an anarchist star superimposed over a sheriff’s badge. This is because (?) Aria DiMezzo is a republican transexual anarchist satanist who is running for sheriff of Cheshire County, NH. I often see Aria hanging out in a spangled mini skirt at the parking lot where the pho truck and bitcoin embassy used to be. Now you know as much as I do. 

The “Write in Earl Nelson” campaign was launched a few weeks after DiMezzo showed up, apparently on the theory that [waves hands] SOMEBODY DO SOMETHING, but honestly everyone is going to vote for Eli Rivera like they always do anyway.  I don’t find myself thinking, “Dammit, why isn’t the sheriff doing his job?” very often, so I guess it’s fine.

Now if you would follow me into an entirely different aesthetic space, I present the Amanda Elizabeth campaign, which has a small number of carefully dispersed signs promoting their gal for state rep.

Amanda Elizabeth, who does have a last name but is keeping it a secret for some reason, is a progressive Kripalu and Jivamukti yoga instructor who wants to fight fiercely for you, and/or to be elected treasurer of the junior class, where she promised to get ALL the best Chumbawamba songs featured at prom, not just “Tubthumping.”

These are all the standard two party candidates, normal, boring, yawn. But we do have a libertarian running for public office, and he has got a message for you:

Because my life is ruined anyway, I went to his website to find out what the hell “an appeal to heaven” is supposed to mean, and it didn’t say. But I tracked down a Facebook comment where he clarified:

“the Appeal to Heaven on the early Pin Tree Riot flag which referred to armed rebellion as an appeal to a higher power when appeals to the government or courts yielded no easy to grievances. Today, this appeal to heaven is voting third party instead of armed rebellion.”  

Someone on my diocesan Facebook page stated today that it’s a mortal sin to vote for anyone other than a third party candidate, so you can see we’re all fine here, now, thank you. How are you?  [shoots computer]

Possibly in a similar vein, here’s an evergreen:

This is where the new Bitcoin embassy is going in.

There’s also this little passion project, which isn’t political, but I think someone noticed everyone was putting up signs and didn’t want to feel left out. The signs say “RALPH SMART ON YOUTUBE” and they have a nice stencil of a heart and a green sneezing dog.

I did look Ralph up and even watched five minutes of one of his self-help videos, which was mostly slow pans of Amazonian waterfalls, CGI of a car cruising down a city street at sunset, and Mr. Smart himself repeatedly saying “one love to all deep divers!” while grinning at his computer monitor just off screen. If you click on the “about” section of his site, it leads you to “upcoming events” which leads you to “buy clothing.” Now you know as much as I do.

For a palate cleanser, here’s something we saw last weekend in some dude’s driveway:

Well, thanks! I must drive away speedily now, but again, thanks.

But we’ve strayed from politics. What a shame.  Here’s someone downtown who’s been paying attention:

And why not? Wu Tang is for the children.

Then we have folks who have transcended voting for mere candidates and want to register their entire worldview with the universe, possibly while they rest up from a sprain incurred while patting themselves on their own backs. These two signs are on the same street, right across from each other, having a quiet little staring contest all day. 

On the left side of the street:

and on the right:

 

Amen I say to you, they already have their reward. 

My kids have declared that, if we ever get a self-righteous yard sign designed to impress strangers, it has to be this one:

And finally, someone went and had a number of these printed up:

To our credit, no one has defaced these particular signs yet. Thumbs up for that.