Back in the early ‘60’s in a time before the Internet, when life seemed simpler and you actually had to use books to do research, we Passionist high school seminarians gathered in the auditorium/gym to sing-a-long with the Kingston Trio, or at least, our version of them with the likes of one of my classmates, Terry Double and two other seminarians whose faces I can see, but whose names completely escape me. Along with many other folk songs we’d sing the Merry Minuet written by Sheldon Harnick:
They’re rioting in Africa, they’re starving in Spain.
There’s hurricanes in Florida, and Texas needs rain.
The whole world is festering with unhappy souls.
The French hate the Germans, the Germans hate the Poles.
Italians hate Yugoslavs, South Africans hate the Dutch.
And I don’t like anybody very much!
You might think that reading from today’s scripture selection where Isaiah tells us of all the great things we have to look forward to would be more appropriate for seminarians;
The desert and the parched land will exult;
the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
They will bloom with abundant flowers,
and rejoice with joyful song. (IS 35:1-2)
At least, Isaiah sounds more hopeful than Harnick’s lyrics above.
I guess it wasn’t much different for St. Ambrose whose feast we celebrate today. Ambrose found himself in a world wrangling with issues of Faith and dogma. The story goes in Wikipedia that St. Ambrose was good at bringing people together, building bridges as Jesus did for the paralytic in today’s gospel selection:
But that you may know
that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–
he said to the one who was paralyzed,
“I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”
He stood up immediately before them,
picked up what he had been lying on,
and went home, glorifying God. (LK 5:24-25)
I do find hope when I come together with others whether face to face or online that we will seek to find and share what we have in common rather than where we disagree. Hopefully we will follow in the footsteps of Jesus and St. Ambrose, building the world of Isaiah and not that of “The Merry Minuet”.
Dan O’Donnell is a Passionist Partner and a longtime friend of the Passionists. He lives in Chicago.