WALDO WASN'T THERE!
I tried playing "Where's Waldo?", but he wasn't there.
Perhaps, to devout Catholics, this was riveting entertainment, I don't know. Perhaps they would feel that my thoughts on the subject are irreverent, demeaning to the Pope. But I did respect this Pope and admired his sharp intellect, his kindliness, his linguistic ability, his long and courageous struggle with ill health.
But, having just survived the 24/7 coverage of the Terri Schiavo case, it was difficult to swing into another incessant review of death. I don't know why it was necessary. I think perhaps more coverage during this Pope's lifetime would have been far more helpful. Perhaps we all should have listened more closely to his messages of peace and love! He told us, while he was living, but we didn't listen! Now we throng to mourn his passing!
I have received most of my knowledge of the Vatican and Catholic history from Dan Brown, who writes perfectly crafted and wonderfully researched novels, weaving his intricate plots into bits and pieces of reality. No one could read those novels without becoming interested in the Gothic mysteries of Catholic history, the beauty of papal artistry, created by the world's most noted sculptures and artists.
However, I cannot forget another introduction to Catholic history. At one time, I visited the island of St. Lucia, located in the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean. At the time I visited, many years ago, St. Lucia was not yet a tourist mecca. There were thousands of natives on this island and just a sprinkling of whites. The natives, who obviously were spawn of the French invaders, spoke a French patois and were absolutely beautiful, tall and black, with ramrod postures and delicate features, able to carry heavy burdens on their heads.
These natives lived in little windowless huts and the wealthier ones had a goat or two in the yard. They were poor, but extremely proud. On Saturdays, a service was held for the children. Dressed in their bright, home-sewn finery, these kiddies went marching off to church.
The Catholic Church that I visited was a giant Cathedral, a looming structure adorned with all sorts of medeival decoration, with domes reaching skyward. It looked like a palace compared to the pathetic huts of those natives. I could not help wondering how much it had cost to place this expensive House of Worship amidst this poverty and want. I could not help wondering at the fervent prayers of these children, sending their pleas to this rich and lofty God, this God who was so evidently more prosperous than they would ever be.
I'm not sure I understand the concepts of any religion that gathers and keeps wealth, when the Bible so clearly quotes Jesus as instructing men to give to the poor. But then, perhaps all this has nothing to do with the wall-to-wall television coverage of a Pope's funeral. It's all pomp and procedure and prayer, while these little children in St. Lucia run barefoot on the hilly terrain of their island.
The truth is, our media feeds the beast that resides in all of us, the love of scandal, the greed, the most unattractive of our attributes. Everyone complains that "there is no good news, only bad", but the truth is, people do not want to read about good news, unless it is an article in a Sports section concerning their athlete child. It is the bad news, the scandals, the mysterious deaths, the indictments, the investigative illuminations that attracts the readers. We are enthralled by the bad luck of others. And the pomp and pageantry of a Pope's funeral takes us from our mundane lives to the intricacies of a wealthy church, much as those St. Lucian children trot off to Mass.
Certain events on television are featured over and over, until they become engrained on the mind and become a part of our culture. Howard Dean's shouting rally, Janet Jackson's breast, Terri Schiavo's helpless gaze, the second plane piling into the World Trade Center. Television is a teacher, and we must be very, very careful just what lessons are being taught.
But lately, the visions inspired by television have caused me deep thought. The Pope, robed in red, mourned by so many people. The protestors outside the hospice housing Terri Schiavo, thundering their angry message. The kidnapped hostages in Iraq, pleading for life.
It is sometimes a relief to switch onto a turkey of an old movie, watching the crowds run from an erupting volcano, a giant ape, or a monster from outer space. These problems, though seemingly insurmountable, always end happily. I'm not so sure of the problems we face in reality. I'm not so sure of the happy endings there.