Fr. Robert Barron’s “Catholicism” series is great. It’s a new media series sharing the story of the faith across ten, hour-long episodes. It’s a genuinely incredible series. Fr. Barron is a sophisticated and powerful conveyer of the Christian story.
In “Amazed and Afraid: The Revelation of God Become Man,” comes the story of Francis Cardinal George’s reflection as he stood in 2005 near newly-named Pope Benedict XVI to greet the world:
Asked what he was thinking about at that moment, Cardinal George explained: “I was gazing over toward the Circus Maximus, toward the Palatine Hill where the Roman Emperors once resided and reigned and looked down upon the persecution of Christians, and I thought, ‘Where are their successors? Where is the successor of Caesar Augustus? Where is the successor of Marcus Aurelius? And finally, who cares? But if you want to see the successor of Peter, he is right next to me, smiling and waving at the crowds.'”
What did I think as I heard this recollection? J.R.R. Tolkein and his King Theoden’s battle lament:
King Theoden’s despair is ultimately turned back by Gandalf the White’s arrival at the peak of the battle. Cardinal George of course wasn’t despairing, but rather celebrating, because our own savior has come and will return. Christianity perseveres, and indeed seems strengthened by challenge.
What I love about Cardinal George’s thinking in that to be part of the faith is to be a part of an historical flow, a continuum where the dead truly live and where Christ in fact does live. And historically speaking, Marcus Aurelius and Caesar Augustus are still our peers.