Father Dwight Longenecker is a convert from Anglicanism who is a priest in the Charleston, S.C diocese. He writes a blog (among other things) called “Standing On My Head”, or something like that. I’m not clear on details, and haven’t the ability to do, what are they called?, hyperlinks. (Help, anyone?)
Anyway, I stumbled on this little quote from a book he’ s reading just a few minutes ago. It’s from a biography of Padre Pio by a fellow named Ruffin. Read the quote and, after that, read what Father Longenecker’s one sentence follow-up is. (His blog post is a bit longer, but the one sentence suffices.)
“Padre Pio was almost an exact contemporary of Rudolf Bultmann the German Lutheran theologian who, out of a regard for the difficulty modern men and women have in accommodating the traditional teachings of Christianity to their twentieth century perceptions, devised a theology that ‘demytholigized’ the gospels, stripping away such uncomfortable baggage as miracle and other accoutrements of a ‘first century worldview’ in order to get at what he believed to be the essential kernel of truth underlying all the ‘mythological’ paraphernalia…how different was Padre Pio in style and results! Without publishing a book or delivering a single university lecture, he convinced thousands, even in the age of ‘historical criticism’ of the Bible and the ‘Death of God ‘theologians, that miracles are not mythology but reality. Through his life and ministry thousands came to accept the Bible and all the historical doctrines of Christianity.”
To which Father Longenecker adds: ” It might be added that Bultmann succeeded in doing just the opposite.”
Now, I think I heard of Bultmann while I was taking Theology courses at Manhattan College back in the early ’60’s. Along with a couple of other guys he may have been described as being a “star” in the field. He certainly has the name for it. But, I cannot remember ever having turned a page of anything he wrote.
And St. Pio was for the most part silent…except in the Confessional. His advice to one priest has had an effect on my own life that’s brought about some fundamental changes in the way I see myself, and everything else. I only wish that it had happened forty years ago. Alas.
Now, I have some things running around in my head, questions and wonderings. I wonder how many of Bultmann’s works have been read by fellows and girls like the current Father President of Notre Dame University. I question whether the Reverend President ever thinks about such things as were the daily life of St. Pio.
These are the things that give me a little smile every once in a while.
Fr. Longenecker also mentions that he’s reading another book called “My Visit to Hell” by Paul Thigpen. In the book Thigpen describes a circle of hell where all of the modern theologians are found. It’s a seminary, and they are forced for eternity to eat their books, burning books. In particular, Thigpen describes a demon forcing a burning book down Bultmann’s throat while screamning “de-mythologize that…”
Thoughts of Lazarus and the Rich Man updated to Pio and Bultmann crossed my mind. Then I thought of all the others who might be looking up to catch the humble priest’s eye in heaven; dozens in the last century alone.
I cannot remember if Dante had a place for College Presidents, and I do not know if Thigpen has put them anywhere. Wherever it is, though, it will probably be a very crowded room. Perhaps they wil be forced to listen to Commencement Addresses for eternity.
Thinking about this also makes me smile.