fool (n.)

Rick Yoder has written another fine and thoughtful piece on his blog, The Amish Catholic:

Allow me to indulge in a bit of crude cultural observation. It occurs to me that the national church of the English would inevitably partake of that quintessential English quality – eccentricity. Americans don’t produce real eccentrics. We breed individualists and, less commonly, outright weirdos. But the great British loon is mostly unknown to us. Eccentricity requires a certain localism, even an urban one, that has been mostly lost in the sprawling homelands of the American empire. Suburbs don’t produce eccentrics.

The piece, which begins with a number of short examination of strange English clergymen, moves us to a sharp observation about the actual needs of the Church:

And more to the point, why should strangeness be so unwelcome in the Church? Why should the Church be bland and conformist and comfortable? Why must we labor on through the nauseatingly boring bureaucratic lingo and platitudinous sound-bites that so often seem to make up the bulk of our ecclesiastical discourse? Where is the sizzling fire cast to earth? Where is the light and heat of the Holy Ghost? In reviewing the proceedings of the recent Youth Synod, I was dismayed to find so little that genuinely spoke of the sacred. It so often seems that our Bishops are more interested in crafting a Church of the self-righteous liberal bourgeoisie than they are in the Church that Jesus left to His Apostles.

Eccentricity may not be a strategy, but it’s at least has the potential to become a reminder that the supernatural reality is completely other. As that Doctor of the Church, David Lynch, once said, “I look at the world and I see absurdity all around me. People do strange things constantly, to the point that, for the most part, we manage not to see it.” Well, God does far stranger things far more often than we do. Eccentrics – especially the Fools for Christ – can speak to that.

Read on and be edified.

My headmaster and I have discussed the need for the Holy Fool to penetrate the mundanity of our students’ quotidian Christian experience, which seems to be less about experiencing a life worth living but a safe space filled with Roman Catholic trivia but little understanding about the terrible speed of the Savior’s mercy.

fool, the noun, a silly person or a simpleton, traces its roots to Latin’s follis, the smith’s bellows, the beggar’s money purse, that is an empty sack. Would that we were empty, poor, and mendicant in order that the Lord might fill us with good things and show others our strangest recourse to Providence.




The best thing about graduate school was having time to read books in large libraries and spend long periods of time in quiet solitude thinking with a view towards writing these thoughts down, talking to peers, revising, and then having something I was more or less proud to have written. Graduate school was a wild luxury- one few are able to come by.

The best thing about family life is not having the time to read and write. In truth I am finding out that there are better things to do than read and write the way I used to. Don’t get me wrong- I still read but not as before, and I still sit down to write but I don’t seem to have that voice at the moment.

Much of this has to do with discipline and habits. I can be very undisciplined person. As a young man, I got by on my parents’ brains and my own cleverness. This coupled with the right professors in college was enough for a 3.3 GPA and a nice recommendation to teach. After seven years, I found the right woman to help take me back to school- a second bite of the cherry. Sometimes I pushed myself but often I surrounded myself with the right people and the best people to make up the difference. Early on and again in the end, I realized that I was not clever anymore or that I was surrounded by clever but also harder workers with greater, more focused ambitions that I had.

And this is fine. I would like to write more, I’m just not sure what needs to be said by me. Lots of others are doing a good job writing about the current state of affairs, be it the Church, our nation’s politics, food and craft, leisure and sports, and everything in between. I’m pretty content with reading The New York Times or First Things columnists, listening to podcasts about theology, philosophy, history, art, and football, but mainly spending time with my wife, my daughters, my friends, and my colleagues, while trying to be a serious and faithful Catholic layman who hears Mass regularly, prays and fasts, and then tries to model to my family and students the good bits I have learned in my years of education and suffering.

I know there is virtue in hard work, whether it’s farm work, woodworking, house work, &c., &c., as well as writing. I just think writing right now is a distant fifth or sixth from what I am able to do with my time and what I have to offer.

That said, I am well aware of the master’s admonition to the “wicked and slothful servant” (KJV/DRA) in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), and the “exterior darkness” do frighten me.

Rembradt, Parable of the Talents

Rembrandt van Rijn, “The Parable of the Talents” (1652)