Tuesday, December 15, 2009

No more superstars

My adult life as a Catholic has been dominated by Catholic superstars. First, there was Mother Teresa of Calcutta, whom I met in the summer of 1982. Then there was John Paul II. No pope has ever been like him, not even Leo XIII, who certainly profoundly influenced the shape of 20th century Catholicism in a similar way that John Paul II has shaped 21st century Catholicism. But he didn't have the charisma nor the biography that John Paul II. Then, in this diocese, we had Archbishop (soon to be Cardinal, I'm sure) Dolan. He also had the charisma and the adulation of many of the laity in this diocese.

Now it seems there are no superstars dominating the headlines in local or international Catholicism. Maybe it is because I'm not watching. Benedict XVI, although certainly a wonderful pope, is too retiring and intellectual to be the kind of Catholic magnet that Mother Teresa, John Paul II, and Archbishop Dolan were.

We don't need them, of course, but it sure is inspiring to have them. There have occasionally been such superstars in the history of the Church, who shook the Church up. I'm thinking of, for instance, St. Francis of Assisi. Who else, though, was so big?

I suppose it was difficult to have the kind of influence in your own time that ecclesiastical figures can have now because of mass communication. St. Benedict was certainly influential, but not in his own time. St. Antony became influential because of the best seller by St. Athanasius. Perhaps St. Benedict became so influential because of the bestseller by Pope St. Gregory the Great.

Is there another superstar on the horizon? Any thoughts?


Anonymous said...

Maybe they won't come from clergy/religious-- for example, I'd include Dorothy Day and Flannery O'Connor in the 20th Century superstars (at least in the American Context).

And I wouldn't rule out B16-- He is like a patristic father living in the 21st Century. Long may he reign!


Robert Gotcher said...

Neither DD nor O'Connor had the mass appeal that JPII and St. Francis had. And only thick-headed people like Christopher Hitchins were not profoundly moved by Mother Teresa.