Those whom heaven helps we call the sons of heaven. They do not learn this by learning. They do not work it by working. They do not reason it by using reason. To let understanding stop at what cannot be understood is a high attainment. Those who cannot do it will be destroyed on the lathe of heaven. -Chuang Tse: XXIII
Ursula K. Le Guin
St. Pope John XXIII called for the Second Vatican Council because he understood, as no Holy Father had in a long time, religion spoke to and found its language and symbols - its entire sense of the sacramental nature of existence - in the imagination that reveals not just the penalties of living, but the wonder and awe of our existence.
The whole world feels that it knows Francis, not so much because he follows Francis of Assisi but because he is always himself. We have seen him pay his own hotel bill and heard that Francis called Buenos Aires for a pair of ordinary black shoes, like John XXIII, who preferred stout peasant shoes to the traditional papal footwear.
I was only beginning to enter into the infinite subtlety of Gregorian chant. It was - and remains - the only public prayer I have ever been able to engage in without feeling like a phony and a jackass. But then, one day in 1965 or so, it was simply abolished. With a stroke of his pen, Pope John XXIII - who had such good ideas about other things - declared that liturgy would henceforth be in the vernacular language of the people. That was, effectively, the end of Latin chant. Then all those monks and nuns who had devoted hours and hours a day began to sicken and fall into depressions, but nobody noticed for a long time. Maybe, as I can well believe, the music toned up their systems in some mysterious way. Or perhaps chant really was a language that God understood. Faced with numerous liturgical scholas shrieking away in the new vernacular hymns, Divinity may have covered its ears and withdrawn, leaving the monks to pine. We parish musicians, illiterate in anything written after the 13th century, stumbled around trying to score liturgies for guitar and bongo drums, trying to make sense of texts like "Eat his body! Drink his blood!" It wasn't because the music got so bad that I quit going to Mass, but it certainly was the beginning of my doubts about papal infallibility.
Mary Rose O'Reilley