Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mary Mackillop, limbo, the saintly way to a powerhouse economy and a dangerous tea towel gap emerging ...

(Above: Mary Mackillop - first the coins and the stamps. Can tea towels be far behind?)

Forgive me for a moment if I brood about limbo.

Not the limbo dance your pornographic imagination immediately evoked, or even the beguiling sounds of Chubby Checker's pace setting Limbo Rock, which provided music for the limbo parties held by sweet young things in the nineteen sixties in the grip of limbomania.

Go Chubby. Oh how the sweet young things loved to see how low they could go. And could some of them go very very low.

No, it's the vexed question of limbo in the Catholic church, and where better to start than the Catholic encyclopaedia, as it considers the question of Limbus infantium:

The New Testament contains no definite statement of a positive kind regarding the lot of those who die in original sin without being burdened with grievous personal guilt. But, by insisting on the absolute necessity of being "born again of water and the Holy Ghost" (John 3:5) for entry into the kingdom of Heaven, Christ clearly enough implies that men are born into this world in a state of sin, and St. Paul's teaching to the same effect is quite explicit (Romans 5:12 sqq.). On the other hand, it is clear from Scripture and Catholic tradition that the means of regeneration provided for this life do not remain available after death, so that those dying unregenerate are eternally excluded from the supernatural happiness of the beatific vision ...

Oh dear, won't someone think of the children, dying in a state of original sin:

The question therefore arises as to what, in the absence of a clear positive revelation on the subject, we ought in conformity with Catholic principles to believe regarding the eternal lot of such persons. Now it may confidently be said that, as the result of centuries of speculation on the subject, we ought to believe that these souls enjoy and will eternally enjoy a state of perfect natural happiness; and this is what Catholics usually mean when they speak of the limbus infantium, the "children's limbo."

Well we can blame St. Augustine for setting this limbo hare loose, later boosted by Abelard, and for centuries of resulting theological speculation, which finally arrived at the notion that children at least could achieve a natural and complete happiness, and possibly even enjoy the beatific vision, but perhaps not in heaven.

Which will also be great news to all those difficult, troublesome natives and remote-living Asians, who through not having the intertubes, or Benny Hinn dropping in on a personal Lear jet, were never in a position to hear Christ's message. Not to mention Moses or all the other old testament dudes who weren't around by the time Christ arrived to deliver salvation, in which case you can go to the limbo of the patriarchs. (You can also get a tidy summary of this theological stew in the wiki Limbo).

Of course all this is the natural result of theologians trying to apply logic to religion and iron out all the inconsistencies and the muddles arising therein, but perhaps the most astute observation about Pope Benedict XVI's decision to shelve the concept of limbo, or at least try to downgrade the notion, came in this BBC piece How can limbo just be abolished?

An article in the UK's Times newspaper this week suggested that the "Pope - an acknowledged authority on all things Islamic - is only too aware that Muslims believe the souls of stillborn babies go straight to heaven".

Well as the wiki notes, the headlines back in 2007, suggesting that limbo had been abolished, when some thought it had yet to be established, were a tad premature, and the wiki suggests the International Theological Commission, in the usual way of theologians, had managed to keep their cake while eating it:

Our conclusion is that the many factors that we have considered above give serious theological and liturgical grounds for hope that unbaptized infants who die will be saved and enjoy the beatific vision. We emphasize that these are reasons for prayerful hope, rather than grounds for sure knowledge. There is much that simply has not been revealed to us. We live by faith and hope in the God of mercy and love who has been revealed to us in Christ, and the Spirit moves us to pray in constant thankfulness and joy.

What has been revealed to us is that the ordinary way of salvation is by the sacrament of baptism. None of the above considerations should be taken as qualifying the necessity of baptism or justifying delay in administering the sacrament. Rather, as we want to reaffirm in conclusion, they provide strong grounds for hope that God will save infants when we have not been able to do for them what we would have wished to do, namely, to baptize them into the faith and life of the Church.

After that bit of cake munching, there could be only one inconclusive conclusion:

Media reports that by the document "the Pope closed Limbo" are thus without foundation. In fact, the document explicitly states that "the theory of limbo, understood as a state which includes the souls of infants who die subject to original sin and without baptism, and who, therefore, neither merit the beatific vision, nor yet are subjected to any punishment, because they are not guilty of any personal sin. This theory, elaborated by theologians beginning in the Middle Ages, never entered into the dogmatic definitions of the Magisterium, even if that same Magisterium did at times mention the theory in its ordinary teaching up until the Second Vatican Council. It remains therefore a possible theological hypothesis" (second preliminary paragraph); and in paragraph 41 it repeats that the theory of Limbo "remains a possible theological opinion". The document thus allows the hypothesis of a limbo of infants to be held as one of the existing theories about the fate of children who die without being baptised, a question on which there is "no explicit answer" from Scripture or tradition. These theories are not official teaching of the Catholic Church, but are only opinions that the Church does not condemn, permitting them to be held by its members.

Well truth to tell I was inspired to indulge in this bout of theological nicety by the news that Mary Mackillop had been made a saint, after once having been excommunicated. (You can read about excommunication here). Yep, just because you've been sent to the sin bin doesn't mean, like limbo, you can't come back and score a winning goal and bask in the beatific vision of Cardinal Pell. And now tell me, how many saints do Muslims in Australia have? Hah! Talk about a knockdown argument. Impenetrability, I say.

Most pleasing is the news that Mackillop looks like being a boon to the tourism industry.

Teys Brothers $25 million expansion at its Naracoorte abattoir was another plus for the region, along with the upcoming canonisation of Mother Mary Mackillop although Mr King was still uncertain the magnitude of the tourism spin-offs.

"I think we will also continue to see an increased focus on the region for food production too because of its climatic conditions, water availability and reliability of production." (Renewable energy to drive SE growth).

An abbatoir and Mary Mackillop! Truly South Australia is blessed.

Well when next in Penola make sure you drop in on the Mary Mackillop Penola interpretive centre, just off the main street, before heading to the toffee and treats store in Penola.

And then we have to remember the immense benefits for the tourism game as Australians turn up in Rome to get their tea towels:

RACHAEL BROWN: I guess there'll be lots of tourism vendors setting up around October with badges and...
TIM FISCHER: Rome will be Rome.
RACHAEL BROWN: ...Tea towels.

Indeed, Tim, always a keen train spotter, could see a competitive edge:

''I believe that it will help to boost knowledge of her work and boost Australia's profile in this busy, competitive hub of Rome and way beyond.'' (Pope gives his blessing for Mary's sainthood).

Well the Scots are also terribly excited, with the porridge eaters seeking to gain a little reflected glory, - How humble Mary MacKillop, the daughter of Scots emigrants, became Australia's first saint is the header in The Scotsman, while Cardinal Pell was in a lather as he urged young people to attend Rome for the swearing in ceremony:

The Australian Church has already launched the organization of the pilgrimage of the faithful to attend the canonization ceremony in St. Peter's. Thousands are expected to attend. There is also a website available to all the faithful interested in the pilgrimage. (here)

Yep, and here's the official pitch on the website of the archdiocese of Sydney:

Travelling to Rome for the Canonisation

For those thinking of travelling to Rome for the canonisation, Harvest Pilgrimages has been appointed the Official Canonisation Tour Operator by the Sisters of St Joseph, the Archdiocese of Sydney and the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference responsible for managing the movement of pilgrims to Rome.

Harvest's Managing Director, Philip Ryall, is preparing for the likelihood of several thousand pilgrims who will travel to Rome for the event. ‘This will be without doubt one of the great moments in our nation's history. What a privilege to assist the faithful to be there and experience this with their own eyes', he said.

Official travel packages will combine airfares, hotels and specialist pilgrim sightseeing to the places and churches most cherished by Mary MacKillop during her visits to Rome in 1873.

Additional pilgrimage opportunities are being planned for those wanting to extend into Italy, Scotland or France before or after the Rome encounter.

As the Canonisation Travel Office, Harvest will also be responsible for the co-ordination of canonisation tickets for Australian pilgrims into a specially partitioned area in St Peter's Square.

A bountiful harvest.

I wonder if there's a chance to shout out Aussie oi oi oi in the specially partitioned area, while waving the boxing kangaroo flag. Surely otherwise it'll be very dull to sit through the other five saints getting a guernsey - for the record here they are ...

• AndrĂ© Bessette: Commonly known as 'Brother AndrĂ©', he is a highly popular figure and has been credited with thousands of miraculous healings. He died in 1937.

• Candida Maria de Jesus Cipitria y Barriola: The Spanish nun founded the Congregation of the Hijas de Jesus in 1871 in Salamanca, Spain. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1996.

• Giulia Salzano: The Italian nun, who died in 1929, founded the Congregation of the Catechetical Sisters of the Sacred Heart in 1905.

• Battista Varano: Born in 1458, she was an Italian nun and member of the Poor Claires. She was beatified by Gregory XVI in 1843.

• Stanislaw Soltys: The 15th-century Polish priest was a member of the Canons Regular of the Lateran.

What a bunch of tossers and losers and dropkicks. None of them worth a place even as full forward. Go, Mary Mackillop oi oi oi.

Well I feel inspired, because limbo isn't limbo, and excommunication isn't for life, and sainthood can only be good news for tea towel manufacturers and travel agents.

And surely it can only be good for manufacturers of knick knacks in China. Already the Mary Mackillop shop boasts a hearty range of goods:

But while you can score plenty of toile products - cushion covers, neck cushions, tableware, placemats, fold up bags, pin cushions, half aprons, soap in a bag, tissue packs, and large coat hangers - for the life of me, I couldn't see any tea towels. Come on people, fridge magnets aren't enough, already there's signs of a frightening 'tea towel gap' with Roman vendors. Next thing we know we've lost the saintly merchandising wars, and the economy goes to hell, or at least limbo, in a handbasket ...

Let's not worry about that graven images nonsense, let's do something tasteful, like this:

Remember, enough can never be enough! You show 'em Rusty:

Oh it's going to be a grand year for Mackillop memorabilia and mania, as absurd and far-fetched and meaningless as a theological debate about the niceties of limbo.

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