Sunday, September 27, 2015

The 48-Hour Rule: Pope Francis, John Boehner and Beauty

I don't follow politics all that closely. I wish I did. I should. Some of the people I love and care about most in my life do. My brother, who lives in Capitol Hill is a political journalist. A close friend and former co-worker was an elected city official and another is a state assemblyman. I can see with my own eyes how one of my closest friends is rejuvenated after her weekly update from "Meet the Press." I may have met her inside the Beltway, but we became friends apart from political interests. And so it should go without saying, I wasn't overly familiar with the soon-to-be-former Speaker of the House, John Boehner. But his life and legacy—the very little I know about it—have reminded me of a strange but real truism: the 48-hour rule.
I don't know if he invented it or stole it from a sociologist, psychologist, physicist or what, but a friend from college swore by "the 48-hour rule." Cort believed that any given topic is likely to resurface or reappear within a 48 hour time period. One can't force the issue, but if we pay attention—closely—that subject will renter our conversation, reading materials, news cycle or more. And this past weekend proved no exception. Case in point: John Boehner.

I recently purchased "Fit for Heaven." The author, Trent Beattie sought to know if it "possible to integrate faith with football, beliefs with baseball, and spirituality with soccer?" To answer his question, "he talked with dozens of the world’s best Catholic athletes—from All-Pro quarterback Philip Rivers to Olympic gold medalist Curt Tomasevicz—about integrating their sporting lives with their deeply-held religious beliefs." "Fit for Heaven" is a compilation of their words of wisdom.

I decided I would read the profiles of interest to me. Naturally, I was drawn to anything and everything Notre Dame; interviews with former Coaches Lou Holtz and Gerry Faust. In addition to Faust's love and devotion to Mary, I learned that he coached U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner in the late 1960s at Moeller High School in Cincinnati, OH.  Beattie asked: What do you remember about him?

Gerry responded:

John came from an outstanding family with 11 brothers and sisters. It was one of those large Catholic families that you don’t see as often today. It was a great family, and they had an influence on John, because he was an excellent person and football player. He was an unselfish player as a linebacker and long-snapper. He was into the good of the team, which isn’t surprising when you have a large "team" at home. 
I enjoyed coaching John in the late ’60s and remember him well. We’ve kept in touch over the years, as I’ve done with many of my players. I’m very pleased to say I know John, not because he’s speaker of the House, but because he’s a good Catholic man. He still has the team-centered mentality in which ego is sacrificed for the good of others. He’s a family man, someone dedicated to the dignity of human life in all its stages, and someone who wants to see our country do better
Faust's description of the Republican Congressman made me appreciate him a little more. I know that every elected official has their own story, but Boehner's spoke to what I know and admire.

Later that day, I walked into the classroom that I share with another teacher a few minutes before his class came to a close. The teacher—my colleague—asked the students to name the Speaker of the House. This question was somewhat unsuspecting considering that we both teach Theology. I wanted to not only answer the question, but share what I learned.
And within those mystical, magical 48 hours, his name resurfaced. I suppose it should. When you are Speaker of the House you regularly meet the press. But, as someone who is nominally in and out of the political news cycle, I found all of this quite interesting and intriguing. Why? on Thursday, September 24, a friend quipped (via Facebook):
Can someone get psychological help for Speaker Boehner? He is such an embarrassment. He was crying and crying behind Pope Francis today. Really- get a grip.
Today, all of America now understands why the Speaker was so emotional at the joint session of Congress. Indeed, it was a remarkable day. It was the first time the Holy Father spoke to this audience. But as we learned the next day, he will resign his position in October. Boehner has served as Speaker since 2011. 

And yet, the 48-hour rule isn't why I wanted to write this blog.

I wanted to write about John Boehner because I would like to think I wouldn't react all that differently if I had heard Pope Francis speak in a place that I have worked for over 20 years. I hope anyone who has been raised Catholic with a faith nurtured by family, Catholic education and a career that has been in service to others, would shed tears—a lot of them too.
This image says it all
Furthermore, I wanted to write this blog because I also want to point out a belief I hold about beauty, truth and extraordinary people.

A student asked me that day if I thought the Pope's address to Congress would really make a difference. I looked at him, grateful for the question, and I said with total conviction, "Yes. Pope Francis is not an ordinary person; he is an extraordinary person. When you hear someone like that speak, you can't help but be different. Will they vote differently? Not overnight, no. But when you hear and meet someone extraordinary, their words stay with you."

And then I heard the Pontiff's speech. Many of our students did too. Not only is the messanger extraordinary but so too was his message. And to me, they revealed two great qualities that lead us to God: truth and beauty. When I see beauty, I can't help but cry. It's why I lose it when some golfers win championships. It's why certain music elicits water works. Beauty has a way of doing just that. Truth and beauty. I have a feeling John Boehner would agree.

Thank you Holy Father for gracing this country with your energy, enthusiasm, charisma, joy and true and deep love to the Lord. You are the best witness to truth, beauty and love I know. BTW: I'm crying as I write that...

Photo Credits
Papa Francesco

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