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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

God at Bruno's

Some weeks back--prior to his surgery--the Cardinal-Archbishop of Chicago appeared on EWTN Live with Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J. He made an interesting comment that I have been mulling over for the last several weeks which I consider appropriate for a FUMARE post. (Unfortunately, intervening events have occupied my attention.) Anyway, the discussion centered around evangelization. How do we evangelize? Where do we go? What is the manner in which it is accomplished? The good Cardinal had a splendid idea--an apostolate of theologically astute bartenders and taxi drivers! What better place to talk about the highest things than in a place where one can enjoy a barrel of barley brew! Some of the best conversations can be held in a bar. Likewise, it is not uncommon to find some tortured soul pouring out his heart to the man behind the bar. I recall a particular time where the truth of this hit me--long before the Cardinal's EWTN appearence.

As regular readers of my posts know, I recall with gratitude and affection the old Jesuits who taught me at my undergraduate school. One of those saintly old men taught philosophy and I was privileged to take a directed reading with him during the summer of '97. What was unique about this seminar was that the readings were in the original Latin. The topic was "Aquinas on the Infinity of God" or some such thing. It was challenging, wonderful and frustrating for a young skull full of mush as mine was. There were three of us in the class--I being the lone undergrad, one graduate student and one fellow, Bob, who had studied philsophy under the great Thomist Fr. Joseph Owens at the Pontifical Medieval Institute at the University of Toronto years before. Needless to say, the intellectual horsepower in that class was overpowering and I was just eager to get the scraps that fell off the table of my Jesuit mentor.

On one occasion, after class, Bob invited me to grab a drink at the bar across the street from the campus--Bruno's. It was a hot July day, probably about 2pm, and I thought a nice cold one was absolutely in order. Bruno's is the proverbial neighborhood "old man bar." It didn't attract the hip college crowd, but every now and again a guy would bring his stunningly beautiful girlfriend there for a drink, much to the delight of the regulars and the bartenders. Anyway, Bruno was the local guy who had run the bar since the 1950's. He was a member of St. Ignatius Church, the local parish, and his customers ranged from the local transients to neighbors who had been coming for years--white collar and blue collar--to many in the university community. But I digress.

Father had just assigned us a reading and Bob and I went to Bruno's to discuss it over a cold one (or ten). It is a reading that I am still trying to make heads or tails of: Fr. Maurice de la Taille, S.J.'s The Hypostatic Union and Created Actuation by Uncreated Act. Just saying it is a challenge. In any event, as the sweat poured down our MGD's, we began to discuss that greatest of mysteries--the hypostatic union. The more we drank the more we got into it. Philosophical and theological inquiry seems to be enhanced by the imbibing of strong beverages (not that MGD is very strong).

It occurred to me then that the key insight of the hypostatic union--which is none other than trying to understand the mystery of the Incarnation--is the fact that God became man, so that man could become like God. The Second Person of the Trinity didn't have to redeem man in this way, but He did. The only reason that the Angelic Doctor could could give for such an act is actually quite simple: God wanted to show His love for us. God became a man like Bruno, Bob and me. He became a man like the transient who walked in--smelling of unmentionable things. Not only did He become man like us, He became man for us. He saw each of His creatures as valuable and lovable. He wanted to let His creatures know that He understood their problems, knew their needs, and loved them in a way that no one else would ever love them. He condescended to become like us, so that we would ascend and become like Him--the way we were created to be. Looking around the bar, I saw "imagines Dei"--fallible, weak, broken, but lovable and worth dying for.

Let's start that apostolate now.