The Gospel Truth

Uncertain Truths | November 5, 2014

According to a recent issue of the NY Times CLIVE JAMES is dying, but he’s pretty good-natured about it. Once a three-fisted drinker and smoker, Mr. James, 75, was found to have leukemia in 2010, with the added complications of emphysema and kidney failure. His condition is irrevocable.

James is a polymath, who found his way from a poor, sewer-free suburb of Sydney, Australia, to become a beloved writer, entertainer and figure in British life

What interested me was his relaxed and almost casual way of looking back at his life while at the same time contemplating what the future might have in store from him.

As the Times so lyrically put it, he can look back with astonishment and amusement, and look forward with a trenchant eye.

I am amazed at how much at peace and detached he is from the reality that his life is nearing its completion.

My entire life I was taught either overtly or subtly to fear my death because of the serious Judgments that followed each human being’s death.

Of course this was during the old days that the proponents of Vatican II have deliberately sought to stricken from the Church’s history.  Their laudable goal was to replace it with a kinder, gentler Church that appealed to more people and did not tax them with too many rules and strictures.

Ever since the 1960’s I have found my soul torn in two between these two sales pitches.

While the one uses Hell and Damnation to terrify and frighten us, the other uses a Big Easy way of getting saved without a great deal of effort on our part.

While the 10 Commandments reigned in one, the corporal works of mercy seem to have the big edge in the other.

The first seemed to imply that only a small percentage of God’s creation actually get into Heaven. Their Sears Catalogue of serious sins seemed to second that opinion.

When you are sixteen years old and have a body flowing with relentless hormones a pretty girl can easily morph into a vehicle headed down the road to hell and damnation

The new church has almost eliminated the word “sin” from our vocabulary.

This explains why so few people feel the need to go to Confession or what we now call reconciliation. I go twice a year just to play it safe.

While the first attitude has given us generations of stiff, sour and basically neurotic Catholics, the other has opened the gates for an exodus of faithful who seek an even  easier fulfillment in another religion.

It has also given the breakdown of marriage and the family, sexual promiscuity and a confusion of what even constitutes a marriage. That pretty girl who used to turn my head is now seen as a more aggressive object of pleasure and delight. And she knows it!

This conflict still tears at my innards sometimes. The first left me with a terrible unease that I do not miss at all while the second one gives me not much more than uncertain truths, supported by a world of doubts.

James Clive does not seem bothered by any of that. He simply says: I should have been a more honorable man, but the regrets don’t overwhelm me, he said. They’re such a good subject for writing.

My bifurcated situation is akin to the Broadway musical A Year With Frog and Toad, written by brothers Robert (music) and Willie Reale (book and lyrics), based on the Frog and Toad children’s stories written and illustrated by Arnold Lobel. The musical follows the woodland adventures of two amphibious friends, a worrywart toad and a perky frog, with their assorted colorful hopping, crawling and flying companions, over the course of a year.

At times my old faith makes me fearful like Mr. Toad and my new faith brings out more the joy and wonder of being alive. Both seem valid to me. I am fearful of letting go of the former while frustrated for not being able to fully enjoy the latter.

On a personal note my 12-year old granddaughter will play the frog in an upcoming St. Louis presentation of this musical.

To alleviate my stress I have taken it upon myself to study for the most important final exams of my life. I am not kidding when I say I still study for everything, including my thrice-annual blood test.

James did address his own eschatology saying:

An afterlife? Both Virgil and Dante set some of their greatest work in another world, he replied. But Shakespeare didn’t, and his is the attitude I prefer. There is enough of heaven in a hedgerow, and enough of hell in the perfidy of man.

I believe in Heaven and Hell but with a bit of a twist. I have written several times in this space about Heaven and my high hopes to be able to walk one of its beaches someday and embrace all the people who have meant sometime special to me in my life, including even those who may have shared nothing more than a long conversation.

My view on Hell is optimistically cautious.  An old Jesuit friend once told me–it was two weeks after his ordination in 1969 that as Catholics we had to believe in a Hell but we did not have to believe that anyone, other than Lucifer and his minions ever went there.

I like the sound of that because it makes a certain kind of sense. Other than Mary and Jesus, the Angels are the only ones who had a perfect choice between good and evil. I do not believe human beings always fully understand the gravity of their decisions.

Oh we may feel that something may not be right about an action but under the pressure of any moment, most people can think of a plausible rationalization that would provide a reasonable doubt in God’s moral court.

And even if I am wrong, the eternal part of Hell is the game breaker. Lucifer was so proud that literature has quoted him as wont to say that he would rather reign forever in hell than serves for one day in heaven.

This tells me that he knew the score on his level. How many human beings ever get that clear a choice! Again this is one of my uncertain truths.

Purgatory makes the most sense to me. We are all imperfect beings. The Book of Genesis and any daily newspapers attest to that fact.

We must be perfect to see God and unless we have suffered the most excruciating pain imaginable that is not going to happen.

To explore what my vision of Purgatory is, I wrote Gaby’s People for the local stage…I hope… *Instead of the tradition habitat of punishment and suffering for sin, my Purgatory is more to enlighten the person of his or her weaknesses and negative behaviors that separate him from their final destination. Using a massage spa as my venue for healing, understanding and reconciliation with the absolute truth of one’s life I found it more consistent with my understanding of God as all-merciful and all-loving God.

I saw it as a place of forgiveness, self-awareness and redemption, rather than a place of pain and temporal torment.   It is probably the place most people will wind up after this life is done.

Most people I know never think of any of the above. When their time comes they seem to easily adapt an attitude like Clive James…confidant…self-satisfied and ignorant of what may follow.   I don’t know if that’s the kind of bliss I long for…but that’s just another one of my uncertain truths.

 

*Gaby’s People is under competitive consideration by a local theater group.  If anyone would like to read the play just contact me and I will send you an e-copy.

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3 Comments »

  1. Bill – Now that is a lot to contemplate. I hope you are right! Q Date: Wed, 5 Nov 2014 20:12:30 +0000 To: walshq@hotmail.com

    Comment by sailorq — November 6, 2014 @ 2:14 pm

  2. Bill,

    If any of us could make it to Heaven on our own God would not have sent His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to die on the Cross and rise from the dead for us – sinners.

    Do you remember the inscription on the HC Library from John? “That you might know the one true God and the one He sent JESUS Christ.”

    JESUS wants us to have a personal relationship with Him – salvation is that simple. We need to read His Word daily – the Bible, and follow Him.

    Comment by Jim Curran — November 11, 2014 @ 3:13 am

  3. Thanks for the comment Jim. Working on it as you say. Salvation is a daily project…best found while kneeling. BB

    Comment by Bill Borst — November 11, 2014 @ 3:55 pm


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About author

After graduating from Holy Cross, Bill Borst earned an MA in Asian History from St. John's University and a Ph.D in American History from St. Louis University. (1972) A former New Yorker, he taught for many years in the St. Louis area, while also hosting a weekly radio show on WGNU from 1984-2006. He currently is a regular substitute for conservative Phyllis Schlafly on KSIV radio. (1320) He is the author of two books on social history, "Liberalism: Fatal Consequences," and "The Scorpion and the Frog: A Natural Conspiracy." He just retired as the Features editor of the Mindszenty Foundation Monthly Report. In his 11 years from 2003-2013 he wrote nearly 130 essays on Catholic culture and world affairs. Many in St. Louis also know him as the "Baseball Professor," because of a course that he offered at Maryville College from 1973-74. It was arguably the first fully-accredited baseball history course in the Midwest.The author of several short books on the old St. Louis Browns, he started the St. Louis Browns Historical Society in 1984. In 2009 his first two plays were produced on the local stage. "The Last Memory of an Ol' Brownie Fan," ran six performances at the Sound Stage in Crestwood and "A Perfect Choice" ran for two performances at the Rigali Center Theater in Shrewsberry. His third play, "A Moment of Grace," ran six performances at DeSmet High School in January of 2011with First Run Theater in January of 2011. He is currently working on a 4th play, "A Family Way," which is a comedy about a happy dysfunctional family. He can reached at bbprof@sbcglobal.net

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