The Salt In The Salad And The Good Slap. Or: Reflections On The Catholic Mind
There is a very beautiful blog post of New Catholic at Rorate, followed by a no less beautiful excerpt of a book written by Robert Benson; a man horribly slandered nowadays from the gay lobby, and therefore the more worthy of support from our side (no, I will not have any part in the slander, so avoid wasting your time).
I suggest that my readers take the time to read both. As for yours truly, I will only allow myself to add a couple of additional considerations, concerning the deficiencies of the “sensus catholicus” in largely Protestant (or atheist) Countries, compared to the traditional understanding of life at large in traditionally Catholic ones.
There are things in English Catholics that strike me as very Protestant, even Puritan. The obsession with the Second Commandment is the one that annoys me most, or at least is fastest in grating me. Having grown up in a Country where expressions like “Gesu’!”, “Gesummaria!”, “Madunina!” “Ossignur!”, “Diobono!” “Diobonino!”, “Grazie a Dio!”, “Iradiddio”, and countless others were of common use and meant in a perfectly good way, I never cease to be amazed at seeing people – actually, Catholics – taking offence at expressions like “Jesus!”, or “Oh My God”!”, and possibly even “Good Lord!” and “Sweet Jesus!”, even when obviously said by believers, and meant as they are. “Good Lord!” seems to be accepted. “Sweet Jesus!” isn’t. “God forbid!” is fine. “Oh my God!” isn’t. “Godforsaken” goes, “Goddamn” doesn’t. “Damned” is a no-no, “Reprobate” (which is the same thing, given time) isn’t.
The thing is this: we, the Catholics from traditionally Catholic Countries, always had this habit of putting the sacred in our lives as you put salt in your salad. It informed our way of living and praying, but also our way of being happy, angry, surprised, scandalised, and so on. It went, as they say, under the skin, because the Church doesn’t want you for 45 minutes on a Sunday only. Sinner as you are, she wants to shape your mind at all times.
The way this thinking made inroads in the common way of speaking – and living – were countless, and it is a great sadness to me to see that, as I get old, my Country does not resound anymore with the Italian equivalent of “Jesus!” “Jesus and Mary!” “Oh Lord!” “Good God!” “Dear good God!” & Co.
These expressions are dying (like countless others: “a Christ” for a big man; “poor Christ” as you would say “poor man” or “poor devil”, and the like) because the faith of the Country is dying. They are not used anymore, because they were used, more or less entirely appropriately, as an open statement of faith. Perhaps an emotional one, but never an impious or anti-Catholic one. Perhaps in a distracted way, yes; but in the distracted way of the one for whom such things are simply understood, and part of the air he breathes.
You say “good Lord!” in England today, people could seriously ask you which Lord you are specifically referring to, or what are you meaning by it.
The same goes for the negative expressions, with “maledetto” (“Damn” or “Goddamn”) once a very common epithet fit even for children in, say, a Western movie shown at the parish cinema, but often causing in this blog the ire of the natives whenever I use it (I might write “darn”; there is no Italian for “darn”; which tells us something…).
Granted, the expression is now actually not used much; because hey, who believes in damnation anymore… and it does not even matter that the word was used in an extreme variety of situations, perhaps not all entirely fitting (the cat, or the obstinate bolt/nut which cannot get turned loose, cannot really be “damned” in the proper way). What matters is that the poor chap fighting with the cat, or with the nut which did not want to yield, had always more or less in mind the four last things, or at least was influenced by them at a very deep level. So much so, that they coloured his view of the bolt, the cat, everything…
Were these people, then, better in their behaviour than the rigidly correct Christians of Protestant Europe? You got to be joking! There is no Puritanism in Catholic cultures! None whatsoever! If there is, then that culture isn’t Catholic!
How can I explain to my North European readers what “prendersi un passaggio” means? (No, it’s not a lift with the car; it’s, actually, “inappropriate touching”; but already the way it is said gives to it a connotation Anglos generally do not really “get”, even when they think they do). I do not need to explain that this could cost a slap in the face. What I need to explain, is that in a Catholic country these things happen with a different spirit. The girl would not be really angry – or not angry for long – at the boy for it; not at all; there was no bitching about boys being boys; and the boy would be, on second thought, rather pleased with the slap, and look at the girl in a different way, and “cash in” his slap graciously; because thank God, good girls will be good girls.
Boys are boys; girls are girls; they both have their sins; the Church accompanies both to the confessional, and hopefully to heaven; but She knows that boys are boys and girls, girls. No trace of Puritanism there. If you are scandalised, you need to work at your
Compare this with the feminist society, who wants to make girls of boys, and boys of girls; and wakes up one day full of fags and dykes, and declares this to be good. No manly men, and no feminine women anymore. Politically correct, sissified proto-fags trembling as they ask a girl if they can kiss her (when sober; see below) and aggressive, entitled proto-dykes crying “male oppression!” at every turn instead. What a waste of lives, and what a desert for souls.
I doubt that this will persuade some of my readers. In order to get it, you must live it. A Catholic culture can’t be explained with a blog; rather, it is in the entire way in which the slap is given, and received. The girl is not angry at the boy afterwards, and might well pray for him to the Blessed Virgin because hey, he is a good boy; the boy (make no mistake: it could be a churchgoing boy; easily) smiles at the girl who gives him a slap for his liberty; and might well pray for her to the Blessed Virgin, because now he knows that she is a good girl, and he would like to spend some more time with her.
Did you get the dynamics here? Good for you! Did you not? Alas, I am not the one to explain it further.
I pity the boys of today. I particularly pity the boys of this country. A country in which a lot of people get drunk and have sex (tragically: get drunk in order to have sex), rather than stay sober, and get an honest slap from an honest girl; and in which an awful lot of people will, therefore, marry a slut who has already seen a dozen you-know-what; but the man will still say to his wife-to-be how lucky he is to be number thirteen; or eighteen; or, if more advanced in age, perhaps twenty-seven (which, by the by, he may or may not know); thinking, in his cock-driven stupidity, that it’s most certainly going to stop at that. Most certainly. She is a good girl. Isn’t she now? and who is he to judge, anyway? She just had to try an entire football team of “Mr Wrongs” before finding “Mr Right”.
Poor deluded, cock-driven Mr Right. Listen to an oldish man. How wrong you are.
You fools. This is where your heathen society has led you. This is the world your liberal masters have prepared for you. The Church was “oppressive”, wasn’t she? Well, then: content yourself with being number thirteen, or knowing that thirteen men were inside of you (or, who knows, was it twenty-eight?), and don’t complain when he/she divorces you to go away with the next in the list, in the pursue of an heaven on earth they will never find, and thinking that sexual excitement, or a momentary infatuation, will give them the perfect happiness they are looking for, forever.
They will never cover a street with elaborate flower designs for the Infiorata, on the day of the Corpus Domini. They are, more likely, going to ask that the very same Corpus Domini be given to them, for the asking, and in order for them not to be offended. Like children threatening to go away with a ball they do not even own.
Do not complain, then, alleged Mr Right (“Mr Thirteen” to you and me), if a messy divorce is your lot. You have said it yourself: who are you to judge?
Catholics are, in fact, in the honest-to-God middle; that is, exactly where God has placed them. No Puritans, but no drunken cretins. No saints – most of them – but no sluts and slut-marrying cretins – most of them -. The Church admonishes them and scolds them; she calls them to holiness, and is never tired of encouraging them to do better; and at times, like the girl, She slaps them in the face when they need to. But Catholics know, like the boy, that the slap is deserved, and make their best to behave better in future; because they now know what goes and what not and, sinful as they are, they are sinners with good intentions, and devoted to Mary. They will also know that lines are drawn, that cannot be crossed; lest the scolding become, one day, burning. In the Country that is the very epitome of “inappropriate touching”, I grew up with not even one couple of concubines in my entire street. In the average English street of today, exactly the contrary is the case.
The Italian street was a well-ordered micro society. Full of sinners, of course! But when you get the difference with the English street, you start to understand Catholicism.
I doubt I have explained this to the Northern Europeans. I doubt it because, without the real life to accompany the words, there is no adequate frame of reference. But I have done my best.
John Henry Newman visited Italy as a young Protestant theologian with an excellent future in front of him, and he was scandalised at the licentiousness and the immorality he saw. He took it, like so many Protestant before him, as a proof of the failure – and consequent un-holiness – of the Church. But he was a very smart guy and, in time, he learned to know better.
I suggest that we try to learn from the boy, and the girl; with their slaps and confessions; with their sinfulness and their prayers; with their language born of their thinking. Always knowing, as they always did, that there is a huge difference between being aware of one’s own sinfulness and declaring ourselves good, and God at fault for scolding us. These are things both the above mentioned boy and girl, with all their shortcomings, would have never even dared to dream of. Sinner as they were – both in their own peculiar way – they knew their place in the order of Creation. Weak as they were, they were at least conscious of their own weakness, and somewhat elastic in their perception of the weakness of others. Which is why, with very high probability, many more of their generations went to heaven in the end, than this will be the case among a generation of arrogant, godless cretins who think they know better than God, even when they deign to admit His existence.