Monday, December 1, 2014

Minerva and Mashed Potatoes

Chalk it up to the combination of Thanksgiving and concurrently planning an Italy trip, but I have been somewhat atypically pondering matters of Faith.  The image above is one of the many, many churches of Rome.  Like a lot of modern cities, and probably to a greater extent than most, Rome has considerable excess capacity for worshipers.

So why were the Roman churches - presumably - once full and are now more along the lines of tranquil art museums? What do people believe and why?

We raised our kids the traditional way.  Our family went to church most Sundays.  With variable levels of dedication the kids went to Sunday school.  Some attended for longer than others.  And they seem to have all turned out about the same.  Which is of course, just fine, even if they do not to my knowledge attend services with any regularity.

It was no so very different when my generation was their age.  Tedious Sunday school and confirmation, off to college where sleeping in was an entirely plausible Sunday morning activity. But then marriage and kids.  Church attendance returned.  You do so want them to turn out right, and whether they believe the specific tenets and doctrines of any particular denomination the basic grounding in morality is universal.  You could do far worse in life than living by the Ten Commandments, even if a few provisions about coveting Thy Neighbor's live stock and so forth seem a bit dated.

Probably when the churches were full there were many who attended to the basic message while not caring much about fine details.  Catholics, at least here in the US, listen to the doctrine and use birth control anyway.  Most of us raised in the Protestant tradition could wander into a Methodist, Lutheran or Presbyterian church and not notice much difference.

The church shown above is Santa Maria Sopra Minerva.  It was built right on top of an ancient temple devoted to a pagan deity.  Sort of the early church's way of showing its power over a dusty, false, mildly demonic hussy.  (They got the Minerva part wrong, another story, another day).

It would not surprise me if in the early days some of the congregation were of the Old Faith but simply shrugged, kept attending, and over a few generations just adapted.  And I think that many of this age's infrequent or non attending people are in their own way Observant, and as likely to be in the Good Graces as are the superficially pious.  At the end of days it will certainly not be my Judgement to make.

Our Thanksgiving table has added a few places in recent years, with room for more.  One day young families will make their own decisions on matters of Faith.

So for the day I proposed not an Official Prayer, because I think the best ones are those you compose on your own, in your own fashion and in your own traditions.  Catholic, Lutheran...might draw the line at Minerva worship but I guess you could do worse.  And of course for all of us gathered an admonition to remember how good, how excellent really, we have things.  We should be thinking for a moment of those with less fortune.  And perhaps as the holiday season unfolds, doing a little more than just thinking on the matter.

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