Stolen wisdom

Two quotable conversations I overheard recently as an interlocutor practicing his professional eavesdropping skills — both are distillations of my vivid memories:

1. From a conversation between a pro abortion rights Catholic and a pro pre-born rights Catholic (who also is a philosopher), here’s a juicy slice: “So do you or do you not believe that human life, or, as I prefer to call it, right-bearing personhood, begins at conception?” “Yes, I do believe that; but I don’t believe I can impose that belief on others. Why do you believe you can?” “Because, unlike you, I believe my belief is true; and if it’s true, it’s not an imposition, since truth frees us to live reality as it is. The civil rights movement was founded on much the same message — equal racial dignity is not a mere belief, or an imposition of raw will, but a revelation of the way things really are.  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights likewise grounded its universal rights claims on the givenness of their truth. As my great aunt used to say, ‘That’s just the way it is.’ If that’s not the case, that there are no universally binding truths, then everything is in the final analysis an imposition by the powerful and no one is truly free when they are forced to submit to someone else’s un-truthful will; such people are free only by the permission of the more powerful one. But if by belief you mean ‘unverified and unverifiable opinion,’ then you actually do not think that your belief is really true, but only a mere opinion that makes no necessary claims. So my question to you is, how much of your Catholic faith to you consider to be such mere belief?”

“It depends.”

The rest was a squabble over what “depends” meant.

2. An elderly bishop celebrated Mass at our local parish in Metairie, and after Mass we stood in line to receive his blessing. In front of us was a woman sharing raw anxiety and grief over her ailing husband’s rapidly failing health. The bishop said to her in a most gentle voice, “You know, we are only here in this world for a brief moment before eternity; how wonderful God is to give us every moment we have here, where we can love; we can love; you can love your husband still; how wonderful; but remember your husband ultimately belongs to God, and when God calls him home your love has to lift him back home, to God, not hold him here.”

Then he blessed her, promised his prayers and she tearfully thanked him.

I thought, that’s the real YOLO — you only live once, so love as much as you can and lift the ones you love to God. Everything else is a waste.

A la tarde de la vida te examinarán en el amor, ‘At the end of your life, you will be judged on love.’ –St. John of the Cross
I am daily more convinced that evangelization means holding up the example of the right people at the right time: look at him, listen to her. I am blessed to have known, and know, many such ‘pointables.’

4 comments on “Stolen wisdom

  1. Br Patrick says:

    Love the wisdom- something I love to “steal” all the time as much as the Lord allows!

  2. After many years of experiencing total bewilderment at the absurdity of the “I’m personally opposed, but…” argument to justify pro-abortion voting, as so shamelessly used by Biden in the padt VP debate, I’ve come to recognize how intellectually bankrupt and dishonest our society has become. If I claim to be personally opposed to slavery, but don’t think I can impose this belief on others (“I can’t tell others what to do with their bodies, i.e the bodies of their slaves”), then not only would I be a complete hipocrite, I would be thoroughly dishonest–a cowardly liar. Perhaps the more charitable view would interpret such senseless speech as the innocent dilusions of an insane person or a senile old man; what then, would this interpretation say about the millions who choose to give such admittedly mentally ill men the positions of highest authority in our land?

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