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Issue Date:  January 28, 2005

From the Editor's Desk

A robust and generous God

Ice storms are weird occurrences. Out here it actually rains ice, things get coated, the world turns slippery. I think it’s not supposed to rain ice. But it does, and when you’re holed up trying to avoid a broken noggin, you can have strange thoughts.

In the gloom of a recent Kansas City ice storm, it was difficult to get beyond the fact that 2005 got underway bearing unusual burdens: the aftermath of one of the worst natural disasters in modern history; the increasingly bloody and chaotic war in Iraq; starving, war and AIDS in Africa; mudslides in California; a weak dollar; sports-records-by-steroids; and the unremitting campaign against carbohydrates.

The world felt heavy, encrusted in layer after layer of transparent gloom. One instinct is to turn to religion at such times. This close to the past election, however, religion still held the stale odor of political nastiness, so I proceeded slowly.

Then it occurred to me that there was no need to confine religion to the crimped notions imposed on it by political realities; that the boxed up descriptions of what we were being told it means to be a believer out and about in the world did not come from any theology I had learned in my Catholic sojourn. It had little to do with the rich and complex texture of our scriptures, or with the full-bodied embrace of our sacramental understanding; it didn’t even come from our catechism.

What the year needs, in fact, is a rejection of such notions, I thought. It needs to approach something more dangerous in the world’s eyes -- a robust redemption and resurrection, a belief so convinced of the place of beauty in the Christian enterprise that it becomes foolish in its expectations, dizzy in its understanding of the goodness in the human community.

So where is it? Where does it cross your life? I asked myself. Where is it in the work you do? I believe hope is not expressed in happy endings, nor is beauty unambiguous. I began to see both, realizing that they came most times in tiny icy drops, not all at once, as I read page proofs for this issue. And there was the intrigue of Heloise and Abelard, (see story), the story that has been mined endlessly for its meaning, from sexual wounds to vaulted, stubborn love. This time, the subject of a review, beautifully treated by Sr. Antonia Ryan.

Patrick Giles’ description of Lorraine Hunt Lieberson’s performance of Handel’s oratorio “Theodora” lifted me well past freezing temperatures of the moment and inspired me to place buying some CDs on the to do list. And I realized how little, in the rush of news and the day to day, I indulge those pursuits that can change the lens through which one sees the world.

Ice storms out here are invariably followed by a dazzling day of sunlight and it is impossible -- even if the power is off and the water lines are frozen and it’s hell skidding to work and watching out for one’s limbs while trying to scuff across the parking lot -- it is impossible not to look up. It is just as impossible not to be in awe of such a robust and generous God.

~ ~ ~

The Republican festivities and the inauguration of George W. Bush as president for a second term were just getting underway as we went to press. Washington correspondent Joe Feuerherd, who this issue follows the growing debate in the Democratic Party over its future, will closely examine the Republican hopes and agenda in the weeks ahead.

-- Tom Roberts

National Catholic Reporter, January 28, 2005

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