Friday, April 24, 2009

Say it Ain't So, John

Baseball is not everybody's sport these days: the national pastime is less national than it once was. The sport's power flowed from that special glow radiating from youngsters' eyes as they saw the big stadium and the luxurious green field in an urban industrial world. For anyone who has felt baseball as the emotional personification of American culture, the words, "Say it ain't so" hit you in the gut.

This is, of course an allusion to the Black Sox scandal: the crisis of our identity a hundred years ago. The image of the little boy looking up in disbelief and hopeless hope to Shoeless Joe Jackson is more than most can bear as he calls out the legendary, "Say it ain't so."

The stories leaking out of that city by the Potomac are such as to make us cry, "Say it ain't so."

Georgetown is the oldest Catholic university in the United Sates. John Carroll, later to become the first bishop in the United States, founded the university. I cried when I read the account of how he learned the Jesuits were dissolved. This evil news caught up with him in Britain in a letter from his brother received on his way back to the U.S. from Europe.

President Obama spoke at Georgetown, Tuesday April 14th. (Read the story at Catholic News.) His handlers requested that the symbols behind him be covered. I suppose they figure they have an infinite right to control the setting. But it doesn't mean that his hosts had to comply. Over the place where the President was to speak were the initials IHS in the usual stylized manner the Jesuits use to indicate the name of Jesus. The image above gives you the idea. This picture is from the Church of the Gesu, the Jesuit church in Rome.

What is amazing and disheartening is that Georgetown complied. They covered the name of Jesus to bask in the President's reflected glory. Jesus told us not to hide our light under a basket. The Jesuits hid Him under a basket, or more precisely a piece of plywood.

The University and the President's office both claim the shrouding was the unintentional consequence of their attempt to set a proper background for the U.S. flags. Image is everything, right? I guess you can't expect a bunch of flacks to understand the symbolism of covering the name of Jesus in a Catholic university.

When President Obama spoke, he used Jesus' parable of the two men one who built his house on sand and the other who built it on rock. Some might wonder just what Georgetown's Catholicism is built on.

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