A love-poem frorii a Catholic F.B.I.
BY FR. BERNARD BASSET, Si.
CONTRASTS abound in the weird but wonderful city of Washington. No wise man walks in daylight through certain of its sections, yet F.B.I. personnel arc busy with hundreds of schoolchildren on a detailed tour of the bureau itself.
One such group, near to me, paused to watch bloodstained sheets being prepared for expert inspection; next they moved to an animated chart of crime in the United States. A bright light flashed each time a major crime—murder, robbery, rapt, hi-jacking was reported.
Four flashes a minute seemed to he the average. An official informed me with
modest pride that a car is stolen every 32 seconds with the figures for rape not so very far behind.
Who could resist being impressed with the F.B.I. after giving a three-day retreat to 55 of their people, quiet family men of deep devotion and piety? After the retreat, T had a courteous letter of thanks from the Director himself and. from one of the retreatants a wooden plaque with a love poem inscribed. After a lifetime in London, I have yet to receive a poem from Scotland Yard.
EACH time that I fly to the States, I fill up the boredom of transit with specula tions as to the nature of the latest trend, Each year there is a different trend which will cover an area of 3,000 miles and 200 million people in little more than one week-end.
Will our entry into the Common Market, with its belittling of frontiers, gradually make Europe sensible to trends? In the States 1 have faced the Twiggy trend, the Johnny Carson trend. the Hippy trend, the Demo trend, etc. etc. At the moment it is pleasing to report the beginnings of a David Frost trend.
Catholic America is also the victim of trends. We had the Cursillo trend, the ex-priest trend, the Pentecostal trend, the Underground trend, the bash-the-bishops trend, but these are all over; Love itself is to-day's trend. In the convent dining-room where T eat, a highly-coloured poster exhorts me: "Be a little more careful of Love than of everything."
Even the tough old Redemptorists have fallen for Love as one sees in the titles of forthcoming lectures—"Love is Loneliness," "Love on the Mountain," Love hand-inhand," etc, A large heart surrounds the notice on the Bulletin boards.
In a Chicago Christmas sale of home-made plaques I spotted the slogan "God Loves Ya!", beautifully engraved.
Small wonder that the F.B.I. friend sent me his verses: .4 hell lc not a hell until you ring it A song is not a song unless you sing it.
Love wasn't put in the heart to stay, For Love isn't Love until you give it away.
WHETHER the cause he Love itself or President Nixon, it is pleasing to report on an America far less hysterical, far more peaceful and determined than it seemed last year. Student unrest is, for the moment, over and the current explanation runs that the hulk of students now grasp that they had been led up the garden path by militants.
Demonstrations are few, though outside the White House I saw a splendid man, smothered with posters, advocating "Husbands' Lib."
The much heralded Berrigan trial is now in session with barely a ripple of anger or concern. Even the Presidential Elections have yet to leave the ground. At the moment, the President appears to be the front runner until the Democrats have picked one of their many candidates.
An attorney who took part in the Nuremhurg trials gave as his opinion that Senator Kennedy will not run himself for fear of failure but will give his support for Hubert Humphrey, who will be the official candidate. Nixon will defeat Humphrey, finish his second term and make way for Kennedy in 1976. Were Senator Muskie to get the nomination and defeat Nixon, Senator Kennedy might have a long time to wait.
When Jack Kennedy campaigned for the Presidency, his Catholicism was often and savagely raised against him; friends have pointed out that
Muskie is a Catholic, but the old fanaticism has faded away.
40VE or the President has sA brought peace to America; may we say that Love or the Hierarchy has restored the balance in the Church? Their Excellencies would not assert such a claim.
One striking feature in the American Church to-day is the marked change in the style of the National Catholic Reporter, a powerful journal, once near hysterical, now critical, thoughtful and informative. I find another clue in the title of a book by a professor of St. I.ouis University: The Decline and Fall of Radical Catholicism. Many more posters about I.ove will be needed to heal the wounds of previous years.
Inside the Church contrasts are extraordinary. though anger is now mute. The two Washington parishes in which preached were gloriously triumphalist, with rich red carpets, a monsignor in full canonicals and the Lourdes hymn.
Yet in a newspaper photograph I saw four Jesuit Provincials concelebrating Mass without vestments. seated at a table which might have come from the cafeteria. Still more startling it is, at a convent breakfast to catch sight of the superior with her hair in curling pins.
At one very go-go institution we said our grace before meals in the new liturgical idiom: "Good Food; Good Meat; Good God; Let's Eat." Would that Chesterton, Waugh, Knox, Gilbert and Sullivan had been spared to comment on a crazy age!