“O hand me down my walkin’ cane (ter), I’m gonna catch that midnight train. All my sins are taken away.”
The silly song goes on and on, each line sung by the soloist, repeated (except for the punch lines) by a group in a sumptuous sing-along. I used to lead my fellow-Franciscan students, returning from “manual labor” in the back of a truck, in banging out that old ballad. Its first phrase comes to mind when I look at all the stuff cluttering up this office of mine, formerly the dining room when my wife and kids lived here. Much of it is my own junk. But some of it I inherited, hand-me-downs from parents and siblings. Neither valuable nor particularly attractive, bits and pieces collected over the years and which I find it hard to discard. Some of us are worse than crows.
The Catholic Church attaches great importance to Tradition, which it puts on an equal level with Sacred Scripture as a source of Divine Revelation. If enough people believe a given doctrine for long enough, it is obviously of divine origin and therefore true. Whence the assumption that the Assumption really happened : Mary’s lift-off, body and soul, into Heaven, a hard-to-believe hand-me-down we are expected to believe because the Church solemnly defined it as an infallible dogma !
The Catholic faith was handed down for centuries in my family. (But the buck stops here …). I grew up Catholic because I had no choice. I could have been Methodist or Muslim, Jewish or Jehovah Witnesses, Agnostic or Atheist. I inherited my chromosomes and my Catholicism. Both were hand-me-downs. I’m stuck with the former. I have discarded the latter.
I keep that other stuff I inherited for nostalgic reasons. Those old photos, knick-knacks, disparate objects of debatable decorative value, remind me of where I came from and especially of the people whose memory I cherish. I don’t need or want any religious memorabilia, statues, icons, holy-water stoups, rosary beads, “holy cards”, crucifixes or my drab Franciscan habit or a gold-embroidered chasuble, to recall the piety in which I was immersed at home and in school, in friaries and in churches. Not only are they unforgettable but would be cruel reminders of my credulity during the first half of my life.
There is, however, one exception : the framed diploma, in Latin, with the attribution “cum magna laude” (“with high distinction”) from the Faculty of Theology of the Institut Catholique in Paris. I was a theologian and still am. When I quit this mortal coil and leave behind the stuff I have accumulated in my house, I wonder whether anyone will want my diploma as a hand-me-down. I could not care less whether it is kept or discarded. But I would like to think that this Blog will be a hand-me-down available to Believers on the Brink at least for some time after I compose my Last Post and decompose into compost. I can hear them singing : “O hand me down Frank’s bloody blog”.