From Scotland to Sicily: A PROTESTANT APPRECIATION OF CATHOLICITY

By Storrar, William | Commonweal, October 20, 2017 | Go to article overview

From Scotland to Sicily: A PROTESTANT APPRECIATION OF CATHOLICITY


Storrar, William, Commonweal


The Reformation runs through me like a river, five hundred years after its Wittenberg spring. I am a Protestant. Yet Luther's floodplain has left me with what may surprise you, the sediment of a catholic sensibility. What do I mean? Do you know the scene in the movie Good Night and Good Luck when legendary reporter Edward R. Murrow's colleague in the television newsroom is making elaborate plans for Christmas? But Jews don't celebrate Christmas, someone objects. Don't tell him that, comes the rejoinder. He loves Christmas! I would ask the same ecumenical restraint of you, dear Commonweal readers. Don't tell me Protestants are not Catholics. I know, but I love your catholicity. How so?

My wife and I celebrated our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary in Sicily. On this island marked by many Mediterranean civilizations, I was particularly struck by the Norman ruins; not by their antiquity so much as by their familiarity. You see, I grew up in a Scottish village clustered around a parish church with a twelfth-century Norman tower. Sicily and Scotland were the farthest bounds of Norman influence in Christendom. Nothing had changed in the Christendom of my childhood. This Norman tower was the original fixture of my faith, not Luther's Wittenberg door. Our parish church may have been Protestant for four hundred years but that was news to me. The name on the church noticeboard may have been Presbyterian but the stones were catholic. They stretched back in time even further than the church tower to the ancient Celtic cross still standing on the edge of the village. These stones nurtured my natal assumption of one faith, one Lord, one baptism. They stood in unbroken continuity with the first Christian missionaries from Iona. Such thoughts may have been presumptuous in Rome, but they were plausible in the Scottish village of Markinch.

It was this physical sense of one community of faith across centuries, continents, and churches that shaped my earliest experiences of being a Christian. That this was so was entirely contingent on my place of origin. It blessed my life with moments that a sectarian upbringing would have denied me. Everyone knows where they were the day John F. Kennedy was shot. But where were you the day that Gordon Gray, the first Scot since the Reformation, was made a cardinal? I was sitting around a grainy black-and-white television screen with my family, weeping with pride as a fellow Scot was honored by the pope, supported by kilted, bagpipe-playing pilgrims in St. Peter's Square. Yet my sense of catholicity ran deeper than these televised moments of patriotism. It was rooted in the spiritual riches I discovered in our village public library, John XXIII's Journal of a Soul. Its photograph of this beaming peasant pope visiting prisoners in jail became my icon of the Gospel.

Of course, such ecumenical innocence could not survive life beyond my village. Taking part in a high-school debating final in Glasgow as a seventeen-year-old shocked me into the realization that there was another Scotland, where the rhetoric of rival schools echoed the binary mentality of divided Christian communities. We were either Catholics or Protestants, still fighting the Battle of the Boyne, not fellow Christians with a shared history stretching back fourteen hundred years, the timeline for my village church's anniversary celebrations. Happily, my primal sense of catholicity survived this rude awakening to the social reality of sectarianism. Just as well, for my years as a parish minister were spent in the West of Scotland. There the older ideology of anti-Catholicism that forged the British state and the more recent immigration of rival traditions from Ireland left a legacy of mutual distrust in local communities. It was therefore a political as well as a religious act to work with my closest colleague, the local parish priest, to counter such prejudice together in ecumenical services of worship, common Bible studies, and community projects for social justice. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

From Scotland to Sicily: A PROTESTANT APPRECIATION OF CATHOLICITY
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.