Wednesday, July 06, 2005


In 1215, to celebrate the resolution of a controversy regarding Christ's real presence in the Eucharist, Pope Innocent III declared a new holiday: Corpus Christi. This article is all about what villages did in the days when the culture was Catholic and mass-entertainment wasn't around to bombard us. It's quite good, but I found the introductory paragraphs to be the best of all.
Our family has finally called it quits. We've folded our tents and abandoned the strip mall and peep show known as American television. We still have the machine in the living room, whereon we can watch Going My Way, with Bing Crosby as the "progressive" Father O'Malley, back when progressive meant that he took the street boys to the ballgame and then made a choir out of them. He could do that, because all the boys' families knew one another and knew the priests. And the Irish policeman could bring the runaway lass to the church, because he knew, though he'd not been to Mass in ten years, that a priest rather than a social worker or a jail cell or a shrug was what the young lady needed. The culture of that movie was Catholic, true enough. More remarkable than that: It was a culture. It was a way of life, cherished, inculcated in the young. People ate together, snooping neighbors patrolled the streets, and when the church needed to be rebuilt the parishioners came out to hoist the planks. Boys played stickball and dodged traffic; old ladies gave presents, even unwanted ones, to the pastor; the people sinned, but knew they were sinning; they came together to praise God, to marry, to christen children, to bury the dead, and to beg for mercy. They tilled the fields of the soul.

Shut your doors upon the tele-god, and you may find yourself accused of retreating from "the world" and of despairing that our popular culture can be redeemed. But show me where there is a popular culture to reject. Mass entertainment we do have, aplenty. Mass entertainment grinds our land flat, leaving bandstands and ball fields and public squares empty while people watch in isolation the games they do not play and listen to the music they do not sing. Mass entertainment dampens the heart; it keeps us content and offhandedly contemptuous of our forebears, for it likes to serve us new vices because they are new — or if not new, then packaged as new. It is crowd control for prisons. It is music at the mall to relieve us of our money. It does not arise from the people; it is dosed out to them. It cultivates no land, sows no seed. One cannot predict what it will be like after a single generation. It is culture's solvent.


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