Catholic Curiosities
Published on: October 23, 2013
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  • wigwag

    “The Camino is still the most important Catholic pilgrimage within Europe…However, what is interesting is that in recent years it has become popular among non-Catholics, especially (hardly surprising) among young people. There have been some studies of this phenomenon. The motives seem to be diverse—a general desire to have a “spiritual experience”… a plain exercise of athletic prowess, and also tourism with an exotic flavor.” (Peter Berger)

    The phenomenon of nonreligious people going on pilgrimages to satisfy vaguely spiritual urges seems to be increasing. A case in point is the number of Westerners making the pilgrimage to Mount Kailas, a sacred, snow-capped mountain of the Himalayas in a remote area of western Tibet.

    For those unfamiliar with it, Mount Kailas is sacred to about 20 percent of the people on the planet; the Mountain and the incredibly arduous trip to it is especially meaningful to Buddhists, Hindus and and Jains. While few non-Muslim young people would consider joining the Haj, large numbers of secular young people just can’t seem to resist the pilgrimage to Kailas.

    One person who made that pilgrimage was the extraordinary British travel writer Colin Thurbron (Thubron is not young; he was born in 1939). He was brought up in the Anglican Church but I have no idea how devout Thubron continues to be. Nevertheless, in the aftermath of his mother’s death, Thubron felt drawn to make this pilgrimage.

    His reminiscences of his pilgrimage to Mount Kailas are beautifully recounted in Thubron’s 2012 book, “To a Mountain in Tibet.” I highly recommend it to Professor Berger and his readers.

    More information can be found here,

    As for Professor Berger’s comments about clerical garb, it seems to me that abandoning traditional vestments is likely to sound the death knell for denominations lax about enforcing the dress code. What makes a team, after all? It seems to be that there are two ingredients; a common purpose and a uniform.
    Eliminate the uniform and you can’t tell the good guys from the bad guys. For religion, that aint good news.

  • Wayne Lusvardi

    And then there is Marianne Williamson, a self-styled spiritualist who is running for the U.S. House of Representatives as an independent against Democrat Henry Waxman in the 33rd Congressional District serving Beverly Hills. Williamson runs the nonprofit Project Angel Food that delivers meals to those with HIV/AIDS (presumably from a government grant). Williamson is running on a “spiritualist” political platform. She is author of a purported best selling book “A Return to Love” and offers a “Course in Miracles.” Her platform calls for women’s empowerment, peace, nuclear disarmament, and environmentalism.

    One can only guess that she also believes in the separation of church and state. Because she belongs to no church but of her own devising one can surmise there is no church to separate from government. Next thing she might be offering a pilgrimage of some sort through the Hollywood Hills or maybe the Hollywood Wax(man) Museum. If I were Pope Francis I would consider her a candidate for conversion but only after she made the Camino pilgrimage. Williamson does not need to wear a religious frock in her brand of New Age religion. Instead she just has to have movie star looks and live in West Hollywood. After all it is the tone of love, peace and forgiveness that makes such people. The soberness, discipline, and asceticism of the Puritans who were the forerunners of Max Weber’s “Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” has been replaced with the “New Age Welfare Ethic and the Spiritual Tone of Post Modernism.”

    If there is a religious continuum with love at one end and standards at the other, Williamson is at the far end of the love pole. Like Pope Francis it is easier to set a tone of love than a cacophony of standards. I agree with Prof. Berger that Pope Francis’ social reference group of fellow cardinals indicates he is unlikely to embrace aggiornamento any time soon. But also for other other reasons exemplified by Williamson, Pope Francis is not anytime soon likely to embrace Liberation Theology and its revolutionary means.

    Asceticism has been embraced by such diverse leaders as Lenin, Ho Chi Minh, Ghandi, and Caesar Chavez. At least Pope Francis has suspended the German Bishop of Bling for his ostentatiousness. Those who live in their socially constructed religious worlds such as Williamson don’t have to worry about having a standard of poverty enforced upon them. Catholic Bishops do.

  • Anthony

    “One should not expect the Francis pontificate to make the sort of radical change that progressives hope for and conservatives fear.” Which brings to mind “tone” and its efficacy. When a person becomes the head of an extensive organization (Pope Francis/Catholic Church) he can no longer be self-limiting in choice of means or ends. That is, the organization/institution requires a certain mode of behavior which may preclude radical adjustment beyond “tone”. “c’est le ton qui fait la musique” may apply to musical lyrics but to Vatican…. Power begins with a specification of purpose and resources to be used interlace means and ends: structural changes going forward???

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