Sunday, February 15, 2009

Goodbye to Peter and Paul

The German film Goodbye to Lenin, a sensitive and humorous look at an end of an era, recently summoned to mind not the end of Communism, but the end of Christianity as I once knew it.

In the film, a committed East German Communist woman goes into a coma just as the Berlin Wall is falling in 1989. She wakes up during German reunification. Her doctor tells advises that she should be kept calm. The hitch: she thinks her beloved Honecker regime is still in power.

In my life, there was once a boy who once experienced ecstasy upon having the eucharist placed on his tongue, a young man who -- absent celibacy -- might have become a priest, an adult catechist who told quibbling pre-teens they would be excused from the Sunday Mass obligation if they found themselves literally in the bind of the guy on the classroom crucifix.

But, yes, that boy sinned, that young man doubted and that adult ultimately gave up a lifetime of pretending to be committed to what he wasn't. Committed Christians, like committed Communists, were always rare, indeed probably nonexistent.

At this thought I stumble upon the always aged Br. O'Connor, whom we boys called "the mummy" in the Irish Christian Brothers school I attended. He was unchanged in the 1990s, last I saw him.

If he lived through the recent years of shame and a Nazi pope, what did he think, after all those years of loyal service to his order, going from Ireland to Argentina to teach rich ranchers' sons? How did that life end up squaring with the man from Galilee? Was it a failure to watch a world turn its back on everything to which his life was devoted?

Fare well, Simon Peter and Paul of Tarsus! It was all for naught.
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