Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

World's Top Catholics Caught Displaying Christian Panache

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

World's Top Catholics Caught Displaying Christian Panache

Article excerpt

Someone should look into it -- the two top Catholics are showing surprising Christian panache. Like, radical.

One can't, of course, be sure what is authentic Christian panache. No one knows how Jesus Christ, had he waited to be incarnated in our time, would comport himself, but we all have ideas about it. He would never appear in the pinstriped, gold-plated elegance of, say, Wall Street, we think -- unless, that is, we ourselves are Wall Street types. Ultimately, we all envision Jesus looking and acting just like us. What else would a sensible savior do?

The challenge is greater if you're a leader of Jesus' own church. You don't want the memory of a too radical Jesus getting you into trouble or maybe making you look silly in today's buttoned-down world.

Yet here are his two top representatives acting, to say the least, interesting. Being, by recent standards, unpredictable.

First, there is Pope John Paul hanging out at a big rock concert in Bologna where legendary iconoclast Bob Dylan was the main attraction. True, this was in connection with a eucharistic congress, but when did the Vatican last risk sharing charisma with such a crowd-pleasing superstar?

Dylan sang his famous "Blowin' in the Wind" and the pope did the exegesis: The answer that's blowing is the message of Jesus. John Paul went on to say that Christianity was basically anticonformist, inspiring people to reach for something better than the easy life, which can be spiritually suffocating -- a beguiling brand of Christianity, not prohibitive and dour but graceful and welcoming.

Dylan also sang "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," and later "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall," a ballad warning against injustice in the world. Then the singer removed his cowboy hat and walked to the front row for a hearty old handshake with the pope. The crowd, not surprisingly, roared. …

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