Talk about a contrast! Two events took place this past Wednesday which illustrated only too well the great dichotomy of deportment. They were the Consistory of Pope John Paul II, held Wednesday during the day and Thursday morning as well in St. Peter's Square in Rome, and the Grammy Award Ceremonies, held Wednesday night at Staples Arena in Los Angeles, California. Both were televised internationally, though only EWTN carried the first in the United States. For American viewers without a dish or a cable company that cares, they could only get the second event in their homes on CBS.
One event featured those whose office hinges on the foundation of the Church; the other - those whose office is the most profane atmosphere they can stir up in shock and sensationalism in justifying it all as acceptable "music."
Both events were a fashion show for the ages where the garb was the central focus. On one hand red was the favored color; on the other skin in all shades, barely covering critical areas by flimsy material that defied the laws of gravity in staying in place.
On one hand the music complemented the event and the ethereal sounds resonated through inspired minds and warm hearts; on the other the music was the event as an ecclectic mix blared through dulled minds and hearts barely covered, often cold and hard-hearted.
On one hand virtue was extolled; on the other vice. On one hand one man - Pope John Paul II - was the focus and he reflected the attention on others extolling the good that they do and entreating them to serve God and others; on the other hand one man - Eminem - was the focus and he did all he could to grab the limelight, extolling the bad in others and expecting the "adoring" public to serve him as a god. One incites to love, the other to hate.
On one hand a prestigious honor was bestowed that elevated a few good men above the rest with a reward that has eternal merit; on the other a prestigious honor was bestowed that elevated a few talented men and women above the rest with a temporary reward that often can greatly jeopardize their eternal future.
One was a tribute to the trials of the cross and the wisdom of age; the other was a tribute to the triviality of the latest fads and the foolishness of youth.
On one hand the crowd was quiet, reverent, humble and respectful, overflowing the area. There were no protests anywhere in sight. On the other end of the spectrum the crowd was boisterous, at times obnoxious and vain. Protests were aplenty outside the arena.
On one hand a simple gold ring was bestowed to these new Princes of the Church who have followed in the footsteps of the Apostles, while on the other, those who have followed in the footsteps of Prince hold the measure of success in gold, silver and platinum albums. One featured worthy vessels emptying themselves to allow the Holy Spirit to fill them; the other empty vessels of pride and prejudice allowing the cameras to document and perpetrate their folly.
The fact that the Grammies received much, much more attention is a barometer of our priorities today. While one grabbed all the headlines except for the latest Clinton scandal of the day, the other was reduced to a footnote, a 10-second airing, or page 9. This seems strange that The New York Times would give more ink to an event on the left coast than an event that greatly affects New York City with the elevation of the city's archbishop Cardinal Edward Egan and Fordham University's Cardinal Avery Dulles, the first American Jesuit ever to receive the red hat and the first American theologian ever. The same with The Washington Post with the elevation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the new Archbishop of the Capitol City whose influence should be felt by every Catholic politician on the hill.
Yet newsmakers felt the public needed to be fed drivel and drab and the tenacious tinsel of controversy between the industry and gay groups, women's groups such as NOW and that ilk. Just as the secular media gave credence to less than 100 demonstrators picketing the Pope's visit to Denver in 1993 while hundreds of thousands of the faithful of all ages supported and cheered him on during World Youth Days, so also they give more time to the inane than the inspirational. And we wonder why our kids, our society is so askewed?
More are preoccupied with getting a look at what the latest diva is wearing than who is swearing unyielding allegiance to the Divinity. More are saving their allowances to buy the latest Madonna release than praying to the true Madonna - the Blessed Virgin Mary to intercede for allowance of God's Mercy. More are intent on imitating the antics and bad behavior of the latest rage-rappers than imitating the saints and the values they instilled for all posterity.
And we wonder why civilization is so confused today? Those two events echo the problem so clearly. It is a matter of priorities where one envelops man's dignity, the other "dignifies" sin by pushing the envelope as far as they can and beyond. One is about lasting substance, the other about substances and abuses that have lasting effects.
What can we do about it? Many would say nothing, it's inevitable. But if we want to accept that, than we have forgotten faith, hope and charity. We have forgotten what it means to be Catholic. We can make our views clear by standing up to these opinions, by asking those who extoll the vices and excesses of selfish celebrities what redeeming value they have for society? for them in particular? Teens will give a shrug and say, "I don't care, I like the music" without realizing the subliminal effect it has on their souls. As parents and responsible Catholics we need to educate our children on the folly of following those who exemplify the path to idleness and idol worship. They are not heroes, they are not worthy of emulating. But the public often do not think for themselves, they are moved along in the herd as "sheeople" and baah at whatever directed to do with no thought to consequence. No wonder so many of the Good Shepherd's precious flock are huddled so close to the precipice of perdition. We need to be the sheepdogs of the Lord and endeavor to guide the masses away from the dangerous inclines of immorality. But there are many pitfalls placed in our path by the world, the flesh and the devil and we must be aware of that before undertaking the task of doing all in our power to bring them back into God's corral.
But the alternative is not an alternative. Through prayer and good example and counsel, one by one we need to wake each soul up to the fact that the emperor has no clothes. Once the prurient ones get over the fact that this is only imagery, they may realize that indeed their reasons and motivation are denuded and only then can God begin to redress the soul in His glowing garments of grace.
What it all comes down to is where we truly place our priorities and fidelity. Do we trust in the Church and her long-storied tradition of the Sacred Conclave, which has given us men of vision, men of God - from Saint Peter to Pope Saint Leo the Great; from Pope Saint Gregory the Great to Pope Saint Pius V; from Pope Saint Pius X to Pope John Paul the Great - or do we trust in the world which has given us men of vice - from Herod to Nero; from Attila to Napoleon; from Marx to Hitler; from Mao tse Tung to Bill Clinton? That is a question we must all ponder as we face the great crossroads of culture. Who and what are more important in the welfare of our souls and our children? Jesus or jammer? The symphony of calm or the cacaphony of calamity? Pope or pot-parties? The Catholic Church or the bitter chutney of heresy? Reverence or rage-rapper? Bishop or basher? Cardinal or careless carouser? The bottom line is: who would you like your child to most emulate and which title carries the greater glory? Eminence or Eminem!?