Amoris laetitia: Stupid is as stupid is… Mother’s Day Special

It’s a pretty smart saying that stupid is as stupid does, for when stupid does smart, the stupid isn’t there, but when stupid is as stupid is, that is, when someone smart does stupid, well, that’s pretty stupid altogether. In other words, in this respectful way of looking at it all, stupidity lies not in the intellect, but in the will. It’s about acting in good faith or bad faith, choosing to be respectful of others or choosing an ideology of cynicism which smashes others down, whether self or neighbor or Jesus on the Cross. But, let’s take a couple of examples, one being (perhaps) stupid me and my (perhaps) stupid mom, and and another being (perhaps) smart Amoris laetitia.

forrest gump stupid is as stupid doesMy Mom: Stupid is as stupid does (really smart, that)

I was very often chasing about as a little kid, but one of the quiet times I had with the Lord was the day my mom brought home something special. She said she had something for me, but didn’t tell me what it was. When I wasn’t looking, she simply put a really large paper bag with a big box in it next to the bedroom of my brother and me. For some reason, perhaps from the loving but too solicitous tone of voice she used in telling me to go ahead and look in the package, I was apprehensive, which developed into a sinking feeling that all was not well. I asked permission to sit down near the top of the steps next to the bedroom door. I received an affirmative answer, but had failed in the ulterior motive of my quest to have her peek around the corner and up the stairs to give me even more reassurance. I left some space in front of me to take the package out of the bag and spread out its mysterious contents. My heart sank all the more as I took everything out of the package.

There were some very special shoes, boots really, which fit right over my ankles, and were reddish brown. I put them on. They fit perfectly, although they felt strange when walking in them. They had multi-level “saddles”, if you will, meant to realign my rather malformed heels. I remembered having been measured for them. At this stage, I didn’t even know how to tie the laces, so young was I. That knowledge would come along quickly enough. But I didn’t know quite what to do with the metal bars which went along the sides of the legs. I guess they were meant to twist my feet and legs around since one foot wanted to be perpendicular to the other.

I remember the whole scene in the orthopedic surgeon’s office quite a while before this, with him warning against the protestations of my mother that if I didn’t wear them, I would have real difficulty walking when I grew older. “He’s going to walk like a duck,” he said, imitating the waddling of a duck with some sarcasm, “you know, all pigeon toed,” he said, placing his feet wildly perpendicular one to to other. “No!” said my mom, all alarmed, but finally gave in to ordering the shoes.

just me mom brother shoes

I’m the baby of the family, here with my special boots on.

“You won’t have to wear them forever, just for a while, that’s all,” said my mom in a gentle voice from downstairs, not in view. She couldn’t bear seeing the expression on my face as I realized that I was a cripple of sorts and hadn’t even known about it. Little kids don’t notice such things. “Just leave the bars in the box. You don’t have to put those on. Just try out the shoes,” she said with gentle encouragement. And so, I was able to kick off the bars even before I put them on.

The bars stayed in the box and I never saw them again. Some forty years later, when an orthopedic surgeon was discussing with me an upcoming surgery on the more twisted leg after it had been totally shattered in an accident, I asked if he could just kind of twist it about so that it would heal a bit straighter. “No,” he said, “the muscles and tendons that you still have wouldn’t know what to do. You would be worse off. Just rejoice in the way God made you.” He was right, of course. And even keeping things the way they were, that leg would a just a few years later suffer a spiral fracture, with the muscles and tendons working way too hard to have the leg walk straight when it actually couldn’t possibly do so. If I have to walk any great distance, my limping becomes exaggerated, even for days at a time, so much so that one of the Vatican Gendarmes, in seeing me walk below the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City, imitated my limping with great lurching steps I couldn’t possibly accomplish. Always good for a laugh, these guys.

To the point: All this made me think that my mom and I did the wrong thing back in the early 1960s when I was just a tiny little kid, leaving the bars in the box as we did. She just couldn’t bring herself to let it be known that I needed a bit of extra help. She had had an extremely tough life, having some physical difficulties herself, and was scared to death by the Holocaust, and knew that I was her little Jewish boy (however baptized I was), and a bit of a cripple, and so doubly indicated for the camps, even though those death camps were closed for some eighteen years by this time and in places far, far away. Not long enough a time, of course, and never far enough away.  She did the right thing for me even when everyone else said it was the wrong thing. Thanks, mom, for loving me so much. Stupid is as stupid does, and my mom was really smart.

Amoris laetitia 351: Stupid is as stupid is

And then there’s the (perhaps) smartness of Amoris laetitia, you know, the note 351 fiasco about the universal law that any particular person might well be open to being accompanied with the help of the sacraments when their repentance lacks appropriate attrition/contrition, and any sort of purpose of amendment of life. Instead of having them carry the cross of their infirmity of weakness which we all have, drawn by the love that Jesus will give to them as He does give to us all, they are to be condemned to the camps of being treated as less than human, as less than capable of rejoicing in the love that Jesus will give to them. They are treated as those with bad faith just looking for an occasion to cynically reject any teaching that would put a cross before them, and so one better not put such a teaching before them, for it will surely be perceived as doctrine turned into stones to throw at them with bitter hatred. But, no, that is not the way it is. That is not my experience.

forrest gump leaving the past behind you

The second I tell people the truth of the matter (I’ve never known anyone not to know the truth of the matter), and tell them that I want to be the priest for them, and accompany them, but not now with the sacraments, but with great love and enthusiasm tell them that I will treat them seriously and not just pander to them, but work with them, it is then that tears of joy flow, that the conversion is made, that a decision is made to do things right, that they become excited that for the first time in their lives that a priest actually wants to help them instead of get their congratulations by letting them do whatever they please. They thank me profusely for helping them to learn about carrying their cross instead of putting them in weird prostheses of sacraments that they now would be horrified to receive, knowing that they would not be able to receive fruitfully, which they want to do, and are eager to start upon the course that will bring them to this end. The point is that I give them the gift of being enthralled with Jesus, and they want to respect Him.

It is here that note 351 would have a priest provide absolution and Communion, but, no, that is not the way, not until they are all ready to go. They know this and do not yet want the absolution or Communion. They understand: pandering is offensive to the very ones this is supposed to benefit. Once people have a sense of being treated seriously, with respect, they can never go back to seeking pandering treatment by weak priests who prostitute themselves to the congratulations that the pandering-seekers provide to them. They hate stupid is as stupid is, because that just is not smart.

And besides that, the gates of hell shall not prevail.

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Filed under Amoris laetitia, Autobiography, Confession, Father Byers Autobiography, Synod on the Family

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