Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The bishop didn't care about how statues were used in the church. The bishop cared about the bishop climbing the ladder. At that particular moment in the Catholic Church in England in the 1960's, climbing the ladder of power meant being for modernization and against old-fashionedness. So the bishop wanted the big statues of saints in the priest's church taken down. The bishop saw that the priest was old-fashioned in a number of ways, so he told him he was going to send him a curate to shape him up. The priest hadn't had a curate; it was just him and the housekeeper. A curate is a kind of assistant priest, and normally the priest would be the curate's boss, but that clearly wasn't what the bishop had in mind. The new guy arrived on a dark and stormy evening. The housekeeper was shocked when she entered the fron room where the new guy, Fludd, and the priest were talking . She was shocked because the room was warm, quite warm. The room was heated by a fireplace. The priest routinely kept a fire in the fireplace that looked like it was about to go out, and the room stayed cold. But with Fludd around, things were different. The priest and Fludd hadn't been talking long when the priest said what he hadn't said to anyone before--taht he had lost his faith years ago. Fludd said, "And then you started to enforce all the rules fiercely, didn't you?" It was true. The priest didn't believe in old-fashionedness anymore than the bishop believed in modernity. Traditionalism was just what he knew how to do in the absence of the unpredictable heart moves of a believed-in God. The village the priest and Fludd were in was a Catholic village. The village as a geographic unit had both Catholics and Protestants, but the Catholics were all about each other. And they were stuck. The priest was going through the motions. The nun who headed the school was good at being as unpleasant as possible on all occasions. The school head complained about how ignorant the people were, and Fludd said, "And whose fault is that?" Fludd heated things up. He got the molecules of the town moving differently and moving more. If you've ever been in a fairly small group of people that was stuck, especially a group stuck while mouthing ideas, the book, "Fludd" by Hillary Mantel, implies and shows that change is possible. Fludd didn't bring a brass band or a big announcement, but things warmed up and became more human and more divine. You couldn't do it like Fludd did it, but maybe you could be the occasion of different and transformed and the kids having a chance to be something else because everything isn't frozen, but is awash in possibilities.