The Wages of Greed and Hubris by Barbara Ardinger

Barbara ArdingerHistorical note: I took the name Formosus (r. 891-896) from one of the popes of the Dark Ages. After his death, his body was exhumed, dressed in papal vestments, and put on trial for political crimes. The corpse was found guilty, and the vestments were torn off it. Then it was thrown into the Tiber. A monk pulled it out, and it is said that the corpse was then burned.

Of course, if the fisherman in this story resembles anyone in modern politics….

Near the bend of the great blue river where it empties into dark sea, there once lived a fisherman and his wife. Although they were so poor they lived in a rickety hovel on the bluff above of the river, the fisherman’s wife was smart and thrifty and the fisherman himself was unusually devout. He always managed to save a brass coin to drop into the basket at the church of the new religion in the town. Of course, the fisherman also found time to pay frequent visits to the public house in the town, where he had many friends with whom he often sang long into the night. He had also gained a bosom companion at the new church. This was a dwarf named Formosus, who held an ambiguous ecclesiastical office. The fisherman visited Formosus whenever he had a new thought, and the pair often retired to the public house to continue thinking together.

Every morning the fisherman climbed down the path to the riverbank to catch fish for his wife to sell. One morning, when he cast his line into the sparkling blue water, he felt something heavy on the hook. He pulled and pulled, and eventually a great, shiny dolphin rose out of the water. Now everyone knows that dolphins almost never leave the dark sea or swim in inland rivers.dolphin

“This is a great miracle!” said the fisherman. “I’ll have to tell my friend Formosus about this and get his interpretation of this miracle.” He took great care to pull the hook out of the dolphin’s lip without tearing it. After apologizing to the fish for hooking it, he released it back into the river. During that afternoon, he caught only a few small fish. “Oh, well, At least we can eat them for supper.”

When he stopped at the church to see Formosus on his way home, the dwarf was not there. The fisherman soon found his friend at the public house. When he told him about the dolphin, the first words the dwarf said were, “Fool! It must have been a magical fish. When you released it, why didn’t you ask it for a favor?” Continue reading “The Wages of Greed and Hubris by Barbara Ardinger”

Pope Francis: A Fisherman for Our Times? by Dawn Morais Webster

Dawn Morais Webster, the Pope off to his summer palace, Castel Gandolfo. He tells the world he will now become just a “humble pilgrim.”

 A thoughtful non-Catholic friend, Mei Li, in largely Muslim Malaysia, wondered aloud in a Facebook chat after the election of Pope Francis: “How many people get to start anew like this?   A new name, a new life, a new kingdom here on earth. He could be what keeps thousands, maybe millions of people from getting AIDS. Even if my vote does not count, so to speak, I have to care what he teaches.”

Yes, believers or not, we all have to care.  The skeptics were right.  Picking a Pope from the ranks of the nuns was expecting the current crop of cardinals to cast their net further than they could. But Pope Francis may yet prove to be a fisherman who casts a different kind of net.

Countries of the South, where Catholics still fill the churches, rejoice at the selection of a Pope with whom they might claim a closer kinship. It is unclear whether he can ensure the success of a soccer team, or even whether his election proves that God is an Argentine.  But the fact that even the weary are tuning in is a good sign. Continue reading “Pope Francis: A Fisherman for Our Times? by Dawn Morais Webster”

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