Finding our faces

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Monica Dickson, Staff Writer

 

In his article, entitled “La Dulce Vita,” contributing writer Killian Beeler writes that the greatest lesson he learned while studying abroad in Rome was “to let things go and let things be.”

Embracing this new lesson, Mr. Beeler suggests that he no longer feels “a need to individuate [himself] by the great thinkers [he’s] read or by [his] political views,” as voicing such opinions contributes nothing to either his own salvation or to that of the world. According to Mr. Beeler, we need to talk less, act more, and “let it be.”

Upon reading Mr. Beeler’s article, I found myself in a serious quandary. He encouraged readers to follow the example of “Mother Mary” who wrote no major intellectual creed, but merely said to God, “let it be.” But is that really what Mary said in reply to the divine call to become the mother of God?

I assume that the reference to ‘Mother Mary’ is an allusion to the infamous lyrics of the Beatles’ “Let It Be,” in which Mother Mary speaks her words of wisdom in the face of an hour of darkness. The song suggests that we should not allow ourselves to be caught up in worrying about the trials of life, that it is our own inability to control our passionate opinions that leads mankind into war after war after war. If only we could “let it be,” the song suggests that there is a chance that “brokenhearted people in the world [will] agree.” In other words, if we let go of our problems, they will work themselves out.

It’s a luxurious sentiment, especially in light of the ongoing debates on gay marriage, “Obamacare”, immigration, education finance cuts and a looming war with Syria.

The question of whether Paul McCartney was writing about his own mother or about the Mother of the Christian faith has been a topic of great debate. If the song does intend to quote the Mother of God, it is important to note that it misquotes her. Mary did not say “let it be.” On the Contrary, she said, “Behold the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done unto me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). This response carries an entirely different sentiment from the Beatle’s lyric. Mary is not responding to a late bus, accepting that she has no control over whether or not she gets to a museum on time, while lighting herself a consolatory cigarette (a Lucky Strike, no less). Instead, she is accepting a singularly difficult life in which she will be bound to accompany her own Son to the Cross.

The example that both Mary and Christ set is not that we should simply let go and let things be. Accepting the Christian call involves both the acceptance of our own cross and the commitment to evangelize: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). This is not a call to silence. It is an imperative command to vocalize our beliefs, to stand firm for them, and to teach others how to live in accordance with virtue.

In a lecture this past Friday, Dr. Wegemer explained that Cicero’s definition of the magnanimous man was similarly based upon a call to accountability. The individual philosophic call is not merely that one know what is true in private, but that that truth might be shared with others. No individual is complete in himself. We depend upon each other to know how to live lives of virtue. Our opinions, especially if they are true, should be shared openly with both the greatest sincerity and the greatest urgency.

I do not mean to discredit the University of Dallas Rome experience and the various lessons students learn while abroad. The journey to Rome is meant to be a return to the heart of ourselves and of our culture; a journey home so that we can go out into the world, reinvigorated with the truth of who we are. The great poet, Rilke, writes of his own Rome experience: “There is much beauty here because there is much beauty everywhere.” We can encounter great beauty anywhere if we are open to observation and meditation. Certainly there is more to Rome than beautiful structures and learning how to wait for buses.

Mr. Beeler ended his article with a quote from C.S. Lewis’ “Till We Have Faces.” I offer a different interpretation. One day, you will be called upon – in Lewis’ words – to “utter the speech which has lain at the center of your soul for years.” We babble now, but it is because we are still searching for this inner word, written upon our souls. Yet our babbling is the method by which the word written upon our souls is “dug out of us.” Let the Rome experience dig those words out of you; let it be the experience not by which you learn to let go, but from which you “find your face” and can therefore stand comfortably before the gods and before the world.

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