Liturgy from the couch

Bill Moyers' Journal this week featured an interview with Thomas Cahill. It was absolutely marvelous. They discussed his latest project, a book about capital punishment, as well as covering some of his prior books and other insights into history. At one point, Moyers asked him, What is the evil that you see in the world? After all of your time spent studying and researching history - what is our problem?

Cahill responded, Cruelty to one another.

He talked about it in regard to the nation state, but also spoke about it as it plays out in religion. And it may be most dastardly there. The ways in which we (and I say "we" because I have done this and will do this) extend cruelty to others because of differences in thought and belief and practice. Cahill said the crusading spirit is alive and well.

Moyers asked, What can we do? How can change come about?

Cahill answered, It comes about in the individual. It begins when I change.


Cahill finished up the interview by recalling a story. He was speaking at a large gatheirng and a man stood up and asked, "Do you believe, like St. Paul, that we come to Christ by faith alone." Cahill responded, "I believe, like St. Paul, that we come by faith, hope and love. And that the greatest of these is love."

The man stormed out, evidently not hearing the answer he wanted or needed. Or at least not hearing it articulated in the way he was accustomed to.


I'm sitting here typing at the feet of my youngest daughter. She woke up sick this a.m. and my girlfriend has responsibilities at church, so the caretaker role fell to me. I've no problem with that. This five year old kindergartener, still so fresh from God, is growing up in this world where we are cruel to one another. She has already experienced this. Harsh words from me (this dad she says she loves so much) and words or actions from friends that have "hurt her feelings." She rebounds each time but I'm always aware of how, for the moment at least, she reels from such cruelty. It totally disorients her; it's like for a time, she doesn't know where she is or what to do.


For the first time we saw he wanted one leg. It was gone from the knee joint down. He was hopping sideways to reach for his stick in the corner when he lost his balance. He would have fallen in a heap if Brendan hadn't leapt forward and caught him.
"I'm as crippled as the dark world," Gildas said.
"If it comes to that, which one of us isn't, my dear?" Brendan said.
Gildas with but one leg. Brendan sure he'd misspent his whole life entirely. Me that had left my wife to follow him and buried our only boy. The truth of what Brendan said stopped all our mouths. We was cripples all of us. For a moment or two there was no sound but the bees.
"To lend each other a hand when we're falling," Brendan said. "Perhaps that's the only work that matters in the end."
-Frederick Buechner, Brendan


I believe, like St. Brendan, that it's hard to lend a hand when we're always storming out of a room.

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