It was not all work and no play at the Second Vatican Council. While speeches, momentous, portentous, and dull were being delivered in very differently accented Latin, a few bishops kept themselves awake by composing limericks, that distinctively English literary genre. Below I have gathered as many of these as I could find in a variety of sources. They vary considerably in quality, and sometimes one needs to know the incidents that prompted them to appreciate them; but still they may be of general interest. I have added two pages on various attempts at humor during the Council. To entice you in, here is a limerick about four major figures at the Council; I’ve seen it in four or five different versions, including one in Latin.
Of Congar and Rahner and Küng
The praises are everywhere süng.
One fine domani
Will see that they’re properly hüng.
Limericks and humor
26TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – SEPTEMBER 25, 2011 – ST. JOHN’S
“Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.” I never think of this saying of Jesus in today’s Gospel without recalling a New Yorker cartoon by George Booth, the artist who has all those scraggly cats and dogs and people in his work. The cartoon showed a Protestant minister running for his life out the church door and down the sidewalk; he is being chased by an angry congregation, the men shouting and with raised fists, the women throwing their pocketbooks at him. You wonder what is going on and then you see the sign on which is written the theme of that day’s sermon. It reads: “Are we all prostitutes?” It is clear what the minister’s answer must have been. Whether the minister–or rather George Booth–knew it or not, the idea of the Church as a prostitute restored to virtue, and always in danger of relapsing, was a frequent theme in early and medieval Christian literature. (more…)
Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – September 18, 2011 – St. John’s
A few years ago, I asked my undergraduate class at Catholic University whether there were any sayings of Jesus that they didn’t like. After some hesitation–they didn’t think they were allowed to consider such a question–a few of them spoke up, and one of them mentioned the parable that we have just heard, and several other students quickly agreed. The parable is unfair, they argued. I suggested to them that their disagreeing with a parable of Jesus was a pretty good sign that it was meant for them!
Obviously, the parable is not about how to run a vineyard or conduct a business; if the landowner’s example were to be followed, how could one ever get anyone to start working early in the morning? In fact, it is the senselessness of the landowner’s action that is the point of the parable, his contradiction of normal practice. Christ is saying that what is going on in his ministry, what God is saying in his words and what God is doing in his deeds, what God’s reign is going to be like, cannot be understood, cannot be measured, cannot be limited by ordinary criteria and expectations.
The parable’s point is found in the dialogue between those who worked all day and the landowner. (more…)
Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – September 11, 2011 – St. John’s, Goshen
We all know where we were ten years ago today, ten years ago from this very moment that finds us gathered here as a Church. Many observers have noted that the commemoration of the terrorist attacks on the United States has two dimensions: as a memorial service for those who were killed, it may renew sentiments of grief and sadness, but as a remembrance of those who first responded with courage and heroism, it rekindles sentiments of gratitude and reverence. There was heroic beauty even in the horrible ugliness.
Now, as then, we Christians might more readily recognize the two-fold character of this event. (more…)
Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time – September 4, 2011 – St. John’s
Nicholas Lash, one of the finest British theologians of this generation, has located “the heart and centre of the Gospel” in the assertion that “we have been made capable of friendship.” His use of the passive voice is deliberate: the capacity for friendship Christians understand to be God’s gift, through word and grace. Friendship, of course, has to be understood in the Christian sense and as, involving first of all, the possibility of friendship with God. The ancient philosopher Aristotle said that friendship was impossible between God and human beings, because friendship is a relationship among equals, and there is no equality between God and humans. Christianity, on the other hand, asserts that God has spanned the infinite gulf between Creator and creature and has become what we are so that we may become what he is. “No longer do I call you servants,” Jesus said, “for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (Jn 15:15). (more…)