Sunday, May 27, 2018
Bishop Curry's Royal Wedding Sermon on Love, the Backlash, a Renegade Pope, Dante, and Tradition
TODAY'S NEWS IS ABOUT LOVE, THE ROYAL WEDDING AND TRADITON. And, of course, the politics of it all, because in our times, even weddings and love are about politics. THE WEDDING SERMON. We've been inundated with photos of Meghan's gown and dresses and of the canary outfit of Amal Clooney. BUT, unlike any other "celebrity" wedding I can remember, it was the sermon of The Most Reverend Michael Curry, the Presiding Bishop of the American Episcopal Chruch and the first Black person to hold the post, that has gotten the most attention. • Let's start by saying I loved the sermon, because for me, nobody does preaching like a great Black American pastor. And, Bishop Curry showed the British what that means. Inside St. Geroge's Chapel last Saturday, people squirmed, looked down, and suppressed giggles, while the Queen tried to relax by raising and rotating her shoulders -- that was also something I have never seen before. Note that the Episcopalian Church in America is the American branch of the worldwide Anglican community, and the Queen is the head of the Anglican church. And, for the record, who smiled, shook his head in agreement and enjoyed Curry's sermon -- David Beckham. That says a lot about my favorite footballer of all time. • You can read the Bishop's sermon by simply googling it, but that does not do it justice. Watch it on You Tube at < https://youtu.be/N42MQJX4KoY >. Sit back and be prepared for a lesson in communicating the Gospel. • Bishop Curry delivered a powerful message. That may be one reason why people were uneasy. He talked about love and life and brotherhood. Reading from his iPad, gesturing, smiling, rocking back and forth on his feet, Curry was in complete contrast to the solemn surrounding and occasion. As the UK Guardian said : "For 14 minutes he preached in the full-throated, uninhibited, theatrical and emotive style of the traditional African-American church. He preached of Moses and Jesus of Nazareth, the Hebrew scriptures and the 'old slaves in America’s antebellum South' who recognized in their singing of spirituals, 'even in the midst of their captivity,' that there is 'a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole.'...this was not something ever witnessed within the lofty walls of the pinnacle of the Anglican establishment at a royal wedding....Curry, himself a descendent of slaves, did not tone down his passionate message of the social and political power of love in order to align with the reserve of his pale and stately onlookers. He did not filter. He did it black, with music in his arms, and rhythm in his voice, and a looseness and openness in his face that supposed an almost familial acquaintance with his audience. In his world, words do not travel alone from the mouth, with just their letters and their grammar for company. Here the body comes too, giving life to the words, lifting them into the air to float and dance into comprehension and human feeling....It was a sermon that will go down in history as a moment when the enduring seat of colonialism was brought before the Lord, and questioned in its own house....'Love is the way,' Curry chanted, in a rolling, conversational repetition borne of the deep south. 'When love is the way, we actually treat each other, well' -- he put his hand on his hip and his elbow on the lectern -- 'like we are actually a family.' A utopia for our time indeed, delivered with a grand humility apparently wasted on some of its listeners, who were not quite expecting such blackness from a black bride." • • • THE POWER OF LOVE. That was the title of Bishop Curry's sermon. He spoke about the transformative power of love, not only for individuals and families and but for the world. Its strong theme of social justice befitted the wedding of a bride and groom who have placed service at the center of their roles in the royal family. Bishop Curry started with the Old Testament : “From the Song of Solomon in the Bible, 'set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is as strong as death, passion....Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it out.' " He went on to say that the world can be renewed only by Love : "Love is the only way. There's power in love. Don't underestimate it. Don't even over sentimentalize it. There's power, power in love. If you don't believe me, think about a time when you first fell in love. The whole world seemed to center around you and your beloved. Well, there's power, power in love, not just in its romantic forms, but any form, any shape of love. There's a certain sense in which when you are loved and you know it, when someone cares for you and you know it, when you love and you show it, it actually feels right. There's something right about it. And there's a reason for it. The reason has to do with the source. We were made by a power of love and our lives were meant and are meant to be lived in that love. That's why we are here. Ultimately the source of love is God himself. The source of all of our lives." • Curry said : "Two young people fell in love and we all showed up." The British media loved that phrase and used it over and over again. • But, the media left out the rest of Bishop Curry's thoughts as he drove home the idea of transformational love : "But it's not just for and about a young couple who we rejoice with. It's more than that. Jesus of Nazareth on one occasion was asked by a lawyer the sum of the essence of the teachings of Moses and he went back and reached back into the Hebrew scriptures and Jesus said, ‘you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself.' And then in Matthews' version, he added, he said on these two, love of God and love of neighbor, hang all the law, all the prophets.' " • Curry told his congregation : "Everything that Moses wrote, everything in the holy prophets, everything in the scriptures, everything that God has been trying to tell the world -- love God. Love your neighbors. And while you're at it, love yourself. Someone once said that Jesus began most revolutionary movement in all of human history, a movement grounded in the unconditional love of God for the world. And a movement mandating people to live that love. And in so doing, to change not only their lives but the very life of the world itself. I'm talking about some power, real power, power to change the world. If you don't believe me, well, there were some old slaves in America's antebellum south who explained the dynamic power of love and why it has the power, they explained it this way, they sang a spiritual, even in the midst of their captivity, something that can make things right, to make the wounded whole. 'There is a balm in Gilead to heal the soul. They said if you cannot preach like Peter and you cannot pray like Paul, you just tell the love of Jesus, how he died to save us all. Oh, that's the balm in Gilead.' He didn't die for anything he could get out of it. Jesus did not get an honorary doctorate for dying. He didn't -- he wasn't getting anything out of it. He gave up his life. He sacrificed his life for the good of others, for the good of the other, for the well-being of the world, for us. That's what love is. Love is not selfish and self-centered. Love can be sacrificial, and in so doing, becomes redemptive. And that way of unselfish sacrificial redemptive love, changes lives and it can change this world. If you don't believe me, just stop and think and imagine, think and imagine, well, think and imagine a world where love is the way. Imagine our homes and families when love is the way. Imagine neighborhoods and communities where love is the way. Imagine governments and nations where love is the way. Imagine business and commerce when love is the way. Imagine this tired old world when love is the way. When love is the way, unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive, when love is the way, then no child will go to bed hungry in this world ever again. When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook. When love is the way, poverty will become history. When love is the way, the Earth will be a sanctuary. When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields, down by the riverside, to study war no more. When love is the way, there's plenty good room, plenty good room, for all of God's children because when love is the way, we actually treat each other well, like we are actually family. When love is the way, we know that God is the source of us all and we are brothers and sisters, children of God. My brothers and sisters, that's a new heaven, a new Earth, a new world, a new human family." • • • WAS BISHOP CURRY JUST "EMOTING"?? Bishop Curry is no backwoods colonial, as British people might think. He graduated with high honors from Hobart College in Geneva, New York, in 1975; earned a Master of Divinity degree in 1978, from Yale Divinity School, in association with Berkeley Divinity School; studied at The College of Preachers, Princeton Theological Seminary, Wake Forest University, the Ecumenical Institute at St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore, and the Institute of Christian Jewish Studies; and was appointed a serving brother of the Order of St John by Queen Elizabeth on July 25, 2015. • That Bishop Curry chose to use in his wedding sermon the ideas of the great 20th century French Jesuit scientist and theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin tells us a lot about his faith. Curry said : "The French Jesuit was one of the great minds and spirits of the 20th century, a Roman Catholic priest, scientist, a scholar, a mystic, in some of his writings he said from his scientific background as well as his theological one, some of his writings, he said, as others have, that the discovery or invention or harnessing of fire was one of the great, one of the great scientific and technological discoveries in all of human history. Fire, to a great extent, made human civilization possible. Fire, made it possible to cook food and to provide sanitary ways of eating, which reduced the spread of disease in its time. Fire made it possible to heat warm environments and thereby made human migration around the world a possibility, even into colder climates....there was no Bronze Age without fire. No Iron Age without fire. No Industrial Revolution without fire. The advances of science and technology are greatly dependent on the human ability and capacity to take fire and use it for human good....Now that the Bible says and I believe that Jesus walked on the water, but I have to tell you, I didn't walk across the Atlantic Ocean to get here. Controlled fire in that plane got me here. Fire makes it possible for us to text and tweet and e-mail and Instagram and Facebook and socially be dysfunctional with each other....And he [de Chardin] said, fire was one of the greatest discoveries in all of human history. He then went on to say, if humanity ever harnesses the energy of fire again, if humanity ever captures the energy of love, it will be the second time in history that we have discovered fire." • Now that you know that I love Black preachers and David Beckham, let me tell you that I was steeped in de Chardin as a teenager -- his writings made me realize that Christianity is not just "emoting" but much more -- it is harnessing the human mind and spirit for good. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said many things -- sometimes getting into trouble with the Vatican -- but he was a profound influence on Christianity in the scientific age. Here are several of de Chardin's thoughts : "You are not a human being in search of a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being immersed in a human experience....We are one, after all, you and I. Together we suffer, together exist, and forever will recreate each other....It is our duty as men and women to proceed as though the limits of our abilities do not exist." • • • THE NEGATIVE BACKLASH ON CURRY'S SERMON. In a spirit of "Those who can, do, those who can't, teach," Bishop Curry has been the subject of criticism. These attacks remind me of a passage written for American Thinker : "Whatever the reality, the left constantly needs to keep blacks agitated about something. It could be slavery, which was abolished six generations back. Or it could be police brutality directed exclusively against 'minorities,' regardless of the fact that quite a significant percentage of police officers come from minorities themselves. Or about not enough blacks at the top management tier of major S&P 500 corporations. That's how the left tries to keep up their electorate. And that's how they work up lucrative benefits for themselves -- by making money in liberal media and in numerous 'human rights' organizations. The left need some groups to stay 'underprivileged' so the liberal 'talking heads' and quasi-scientific 'diversity experts' could justify their own existence....Taking his turn, Al Sharpton has stated that because of this wedding 'white parents are losing control over own their children,' and that Meghan Markle 'will give young girls a role model to look up to' the same as Michelle Obama." • That seems so stereotyped that I hesitate to give it space -- but let me say that every person black or white, or of other color or ethnicity, earns respect and a following because of what they do and say for good. At least, that is how it should be. I leave Michelle Obama to the embrace of history. But, Meghan Markle has a life ahead of her, and an almost unique opportunity to do good with that life. Let's wait awhile before we either beatify or condemn her. • And, just as Meghan was both glorified and excoriated for marrying Prince Harry, Bishop Curry was berated for giving a sermon at their wedding that was appealing but lacking in substance -- as if Curry should have given a heavily philosophical lecture for divinity students at a wedding. I suppose not surprisingly, many of these rather snobbish comments came from leftist and Catholic sources. • • • THE CATHOLIC CHURCH'S PROBLEM WITH ITS RENEGADE POPE. The National Catholic Register published a piece by Father Raymond de Souza, editor-in-chief of Convivium Magazine, titled " 'Gay Doesn’t Matter' Remark Continues ‘Shadow Magisterium.’ " The thrust of the article is to suggest that if the media just refused to publish the comments Pope Francis makes in private to individuals, "it would be better." • Father de Souza writes that Pope Francis : "has pioneered a new form of papal teaching, massively influential but officially nonexistent. It is something of a shadow magisterium, but on occasion it shines a brighter light than the official magisterium. The latest example regards the nature of homosexuality. Juan Carlos Cruz, one of the Chilean sexual-abuse victims who spent several days with Pope Francis in April, related the following from his conversations with the Holy Father about being gay. 'Juan Carlos, that you are gay doesn’t matter,' he said Francis told him. 'God made you like this and loves you like this, and it doesn’t matter to me. The Pope loves you like this; you have to be happy with who you are.' We do not know, of course, what Pope Francis actually said, much less what he meant by it. The Holy See Press Office, as it customarily does when private conversations with Pope Francis are reported by his interlocutors, neither confirms nor denies what was said and reiterates that private conversations have no magisterial standing." • Father de Souza says that while the pope's private remarks have no standing, "such statements fly around the world instantly....The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes three points about homosexuality: i) homosexual persons are created and loved by God and should be fully respected in their human dignity, ii) a same-sex orientation or attraction is 'disordered' and therefore cannot be a positive good desired by God, and iii) homosexual acts, like all sexual acts outside of marriage, are sinful." • De Souza asks : "Does Pope Francis disagree with that? That’s unlikely, as he has repeatedly said in regard to homosexuality that he follows the Catechism. But it is a possibility, at least until it is demonstrated that Juan Cruz is mistaken in his recollection, or that the Holy Father himself clarifies his meaning. But clarifications are not offered in such situations. Meanwhile, officially nonexistent teaching becomes legitimate news, as it seems that the Supreme Pontiff is changing Catholic doctrine." • Juan Cruz and the matter of homosexuality will have to get in line. Pope Francis has in earlier "private" comments scrambled several basic Cathoilc teachings : (1) In April 2014, a woman in Argentina claimed that Pope Francis telephoned her and told her that, despite being in an invalid marriage, she should disregard the instructions of her pastor and receive Holy Communion in another parish. (2) In January 2015, Pope Francis telephoned a transgender man and reportedly told him something similar to what Cruz reported; that “God loves all his children, however they are; you are a son of God, who accepts you exactly as you are. Of course you are a son of the Church!” Pope Francis invited the man and his fiancé to visit him in Rome. (3) Pope Francis has given several interviews to journalist Eugenio Scalfari, which are neither recorded nor transcribed. The Holy See Press Office insists that Scalfari’s subsequent reporting cannot reliably be taken as the Holy Father’s words. But, earlier this year, headlines around the world trumpeted the latest from the Pope -- that hell no longer exists. (4) In November 2015, addressing the Lutheran community in Rome, Pope Francis was asked by a Protestant woman if she could receive Holy Communion together with her Catholic husband, which absent extraordinary circumstances, is not permitted. Pope Francis replied in a partly affirmative and partly negative way, advising the woman to “ask the Lord” and then proceed. It was widely reported that Pope Francis had given approval to intercommunion, which he had not. (5) Earlier this year, Pope Francis was asked by a tearful boy whether his late father was in heaven, despite being an atheist. Pope Francis did not answer a clear yes or no, but left the grieving boy with the impression that his father had been saved without faith. That, too, was widely reported. • Reading comments from Catholic lay-people and even priests and bishops, we easily see that Pope Francis is disturbing many Catholics by his "shadow magisterium." It would be rather easy for the Pope to solve the problem by ceasing to talk off-the-cuff about fundamental Church doctrine that he casually alters by his words. But, Father de Souza says : "Any good pastor has offered comforting words of an ambiguous nature to a suffering individual....The pastor is, in the moment, choosing to emphasize part of the truth of the situation, rather than the whole. That is why pastors are careful that such words are not proposed as formal teaching. It can be difficult enough in a parish, where the pastor is asked whether what he reportedly is to have said to so-and-so has changed the Church’s teaching or practice. That moment allows for a clarification. In the case of the Holy Father, there are no such moments; the whole world hears at the same time." De Souza blames the Vatican advance teams and the media for Pope Francis's non-doctrinal statements : "Indeed, those preparing the Holy Father’s visits should not have allowed the grieving child to ask the Pope about whether atheists are in heaven. It would have been awkward and out of place to examine what exactly is required for salvation. No one would find it easy to answer when the crying boy needed comforting, which the Holy Father immediately offered. He was not intending in such a moment to exercise his magisterium at all, shadow or otherwise. It is commendable that the Holy Father has private conversations in which he offers pastoral care to those he meets. It would be better if those receiving such care would also respect the private nature of those conversations, not putting the Holy Father -- and all who listen to him -- in a difficult position." • • • WHAT DOES THE POPE'S RENEGADE BEHAVIOR HAVE TO DO WITH THE ROYAL WEDDING SERMON? Consider this -- the same National Catholic Register that tried to cover for the Pope by blaming his advance teams and the media for reporting what he actually said, published another article on the same day -- May 21 -- titled "Bishop Barron and the Sermon at the Royal Wedding," written by Noelle Mering, a blogger at the NCRegister who has a lot of photos on Instagram. • I read the article, wondering how Noelle Mering decided to compare Bishop Curry's royal wedding sermon to a Google sermon given by Robert Barron, the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Barron served as associate pastor at St. Paul of the Cross parish in Park Ridge, Illinois, from 1986 to 1989. He's a prominent theologian, who was Professor of Systematic Theology at University of St. Mary of the Lake. In 2002 he was a visiting professor at the University of Notre Dame and at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in 2007. He was also twice scholar in residence at the Pontifical North American College at the Vatican, in 2007 and 2010. He was Rector of the Mundelein Seminary from July 2012 to July 2015, when it was announced by the Holy See that Pope Francis had appointed Barron an auxiliary bishop in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles and Titular Bishop of Macriana in Mauritania. Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles noted that Barron's media talent and rapport with young people, as well as his outreach to other faiths and to the world of culture (including with non-believers and non-practicing or fallen away Catholics) and education, would be good for the archdiocese. Bishop Barron is one of the most-followed Catholics in the world on social media. His work has garnered 1.5 million Facebook fans, 140,000 YouTube subscribers, and 100,000 Twitter followers. • That is impressive -- and it clearly impresses Noelle Mering. Her blog about the Curry sermon begins with this : "Not being much of a royal watcher, I’d observed bits of news about the wedding only peripherally. Pictures of the beautiful couple, looking chic and happy appeared on my various news and social feeds. Having heard rave reviews of Episcopal Bishop Curry’s sermon, I tuned in eagerly to hear what he had to say. While his passion and style were attractive, and the ardency with which he delivered his message inspiring, I came away thinking that his message about love sounded much like what we hear all the time from the culture at large : love feels right, it feels good, it’s from God (or a higher power), it’s not selfish, it’s powerful and can change the world. Besides the passion, what persuasive value it did have was in potentially helping remove certain road blocks to Christianity in the minds of some. He wasn’t the white evangelical man that many people have come to prejudicially dismiss and disdain. Nor was his message harsh, off-putting or challenging. It was appealingly given, by an appealing messenger, and his words were true. • Then, Noelle cuts to the chase : "Also showing up in my newsfeed last week was the video of Bishop Barron giving a talk at Google. In listening to him I was struck by certain similarities of circumstance. Both men were speaking to the people present physically, as well as to a larger audience virtually. Both men are Christian shepherds and were expected to speak in their capacity as such. There were differences in duration and kind. A wedding sermon is not a Google talk by any means, but both men surely formulated their words keenly aware that this would be an opportunity to reach a captive audience made up of many non-Christians. Bishop Barron had a time advantage, but anyone familiar with his videos knows he’s able to pack a lot into a much shorter period of time as well. Each man communicated the Christian message in a way that was palatable to modern ears. But if you study their words, only one had any meat that might stick with a listener a month or a year or a decade from now." • There it is -- Noelle says : "Bishop Curry mentioned redemption and sacrifice, but without expounding on those concepts, they seemed like just the sort of words Christians say. As a Christian, l was able to fill in the blanks and nod along enthusiastically -- yes love feels right, yes it’s from God, yes it’s powerful and can change the world! But he left it vague enough that every listener likely filled in the blanks with whatever lifetime of presuppositions about love that he or she already had." • Whereas, Noelle sees Bishop Barron as more universal : "[Barron] begins with the universal longing for beatitude : happiness without condition or terminus. He then goes through what might be possible candidates to satisfy that longing -- wealth, honor, power, pleasure -- and engages the audience with a philosophical, Thomistic exercise to show why these four categories cannot possibly be our final end. Ultimately, our beatitude must be found in God who is love, and because of the nature of love, our happiness is in giving and communicating that love. Bishop Barron appeals to universal desire and universal experience. It’s both entirely accessible and profoundly challenging. Rather than pandering to modern man, he elevates us by addressing who we are : beings with both intellect and will, who need to hear not only what’s appealing, but also what will push us to search further and think more deeply." • • • DEAR READERS, if Bishop Curry was "pandering to modern man" in his royal wedding sermon, as Noelle suggests, the people sitting in front of him just didn't get it. They were perplexed, amused, smug, and, above all, uncomfortable that a Black American -- even the Presiding Bishop and Primate of the American Episcopal Church -- would dare to ruffle their staid aristocratic feathers. I suspect those feathers were already pretty badly ruffled by the mere existence of Meghan Markle, but that is another matter altogether. • And, I also suspect that Bishop Barron would be the first to disagree with Noelle Mering's utterly misplaced distinction between his long Google instructional video and the 14-minute explanation of love that soared above the moment to pull millions into its orbit. One British journalist said he is an atheist but Bishop Curry's sermon made him want to go to church. • It seems that no matter where it is said or how it is presented, direct talk meant to bring God and His love into the hearts of human beings is a thankless task -- Noelle Mering missed the messge completely. People just do not want to be told that they ought to love everyone because God told, and tells, them that it is their role as His children. We may understand God's message of Love in the person of Jesus, but it's a lot easier to "love" by mailing in donations than by reaching a hand out to actually touch a fellow human being who desperately needs a brotherly touch -- the handicapped, homeless, poor, drug addicts, criminals. Pope John Paul did it so well -- not by "shadow magisterium" that altered Chruch doctrine, but by touching those in need, forgiving his assailants, and telling the world's young people not to be afraid, but to follow him. • There is another Catholic website called The Catholic Thing. On the same day -- May 21 -- that Noelle Mering was finding fault with Bishop Curry's sermon and Father de Souza was apologizing for the renegade Pope Francis whose comments rattle and sow dissension instead of bringing people together, Robert Royal wrote an article titled "From the Dark Wood to the Beatific Vision." Robert Royal is another well-educated Catholic author -- BA and MA from Brown University; PhD from The Catholic University of America; taught at Brown University, Rhode Island College, and The Catholic University of America; former editor-in-chief of Prospect magazine in Princeton, New Jersey; former vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center from 1989 to 1996; and now editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, an online publication he launched with Michael Novak. He also now serves as the Graduate Dean of Catholic Distance University and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. • In his article, Robert Royal wrote : "Several people have asked me lately how to read Dante. I’ve written a book about that, one that takes Dante for what he is and doesn’t try to make him into a modern therapeutic guru....There’s nothing in all of world literature like The Divine Comedy....For anyone who senses the urgency of recovering Christian culture -- not just theology, philosophy, and ethics (important as they are), but ways of thinking and feeling that breathe living fire into Christian logic -- familiarity with a poem like the Comedy must be high on the list, for both sheer poetic power and unequalled scope. Dante’s work doesn’t neglect formal logic and theological categories; he studied with one of Thomas Aquinas’ earliest students, Remigio dei Girolami, O.P. [a Dominican] at Santa Maria Novella in Florence. And his mastery of several disciplines shows in the science, history, political theory, aesthetics, philosophy, and theology of his poem....Guido da Montefeltro, the original for later mafia Guidos, is in Hell (Canto XXVII) among the 'false counselors.' He spent most of his life as a kind of Machiavelli before Machiavelli, conquering towns by treachery. Late in life, he got religion and entered a monastery to do penance....But when Guido dies, St. Francis of Assisi comes for him, but a devil spells out the truth, one still worth remembering today : 'Later, when I was dead, St. Francis came to claim my soul, but one of the Black Angels said: 'Leave him. Do not wrong me. This one’s name went into my book the moment he resolved to give false counsel. Since then he has been mine, for who does not repent cannot be absolved; nor can we admit the possibility of repenting a thing at the same time it is willed, for the two acts are contradictory.' Miserable me! with what contrition I shuddered when he lifted me, saying: 'Perhaps you hadn’t heard that I was a logician.' " • Just as a side note -- the two best translators of Dante's Divine Comedy are both Americans, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow of Hiawatha fame, whose translation is magnificent, and John Ciardi, whose translation uses more modern English phrasing. • To get back to Bishop Curry and close this long and meandering loop -- isn't that exactly Curry's point? He was telling those in his congregation and the world watching that we have to act. We cannot be pious, churchgoing Christians alone. We have to feel the Love. That may offend Noelle Mering and others because it smacks of good ole American rock-n-roll. But, there it is. The Comedy begins with these words : "Midway upon the journey of our life I found myself within a forest dark, For the straightforward pathway had been lost. Ah me! how hard a thing it is to say, What was this forest savage, rough, and stern, Which in the very thought renews the fear. So bitter is it, death is little more; But of the good to treat, which there I found, Speak will I of the other things I saw there." That is Longfellow at his best and Dante at the beginning of his voyage through the trials, fears and lovefests that is life, and of the God and his "angel Beatrice" who help Dante through his voyage by reaching out and holding his hand when he stumbles. • Robert Royal gives us a grand piece of advice : "It’s also crucial to know what tradition is. The great modern Christian poet T.S. Eliot noted : 'if the only form of tradition, of handing down, consisted in following the ways of the immediate generation before us in a blind or timid adherence to its successes, ‘tradition’ should positively be discouraged. We have seen many such simple currents soon lost in the sand....Tradition is a matter of much wider significance. It cannot be inherited, and if you want it you must obtain it by great labor.'....That stern Vermonter Calvin Coolidge even did a translation of the Comedy for his new bride as a wedding present. No serious person would expect that today. We suffer from the opposite extreme : we hardly know a past -- any past -- existed anymore. But there is one, and it offers endless, inexhaustible richness, not just about the past but for the future as well. Dante covers a large swath of the Biblical, classical, and medieval worlds....Read him, and you’ll be well on your way to understanding many of the most important parts of Western Civilization and the Church." • We come to the final, and key, point -- Western Civilization and the Church, that is, Christianity. Those are the creeds of conservatives. Robert Royal is conservative and a critic of secularism. His online site offers a world of tradition, history and faith -- fundamentals all of us need, even when we don't know we need them. Robert Royal understands that. So does Bishop Curry. Feel the Love -- and know where it comes from.