Monday, February 15, 2010

Simone Weil, holding fast...

Never thought I'd hear Simone Weil (1909-1943) mentioned from the ambo, but she was featured during a pre-Lenten homily about spiritual practice of fasting. I thought this somewhat odd.

For one thing, there's dispute among scholars about whether Weil, who died at age 34, had starved herself to death because of an eating disorder or a sense of solidarity with those starving in France under German occupation. Given the current prevalence of anorexia, I feel nervous whenever fasting from food is even remotely glorified by ministers.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of Weil's.

It should come as no surprise that I highly identify with this Jewish Catholic mystic social anarchist who was as enthralled by the Bhagavad Gita as she was by writings of St. John of the Cross. The collection of her writings titled, Waiting for God, had a profound impact on me when I first read it decades ago before seeking the sacrament of baptism.

No, not the part about George Herbert's poem, "Love," which was quoted in its entirety during the homily. I zoomed in on what Weil wrote to her spiritual director, Fr. Jean-Marie Perrin, about the Roman Catholic church: "What frightens me is the Church as a social structure."

Yeah, me too.

*For a beautiful, clear and sane introduction to fasting and abstinence, see what Concord Pastor has to say.


  1. I am de-lurking to comment (by the way, I found your blog through Fran). This conflict between spiritual Catholicism and social/political Catholicism is a major preoccupation for me right now. I'm attending a Presbyterian church right now, but every so often the Church calls me back; just as quickly, it slaps me away. I love your blog.

  2. Thanks for de-lurking! I share your preoccupation and add angst to the mix because when I was growing up, Catholics were known for fiercely brave social justice advocacy -- even by those at the center of the political spectrum. And now? The Roman church seems to have become obsessively focused on one-issue at the expense of all others.

  3. Oh my, my beautiful CDP is in the house. I love that you are here CDP. (Meredith, I have actually met CDP twice, she is a treasure of a human being.)

    Now it should come as no surprise that I too am a big Weil fan. In January of 2006 I attended an event in DC called Politics and Spirituality; it was put on by Jim Wallis (no comment) and Richard Rohr and Anne Lamott was featured as a speaker.

    In any case, there was a big entrance procession (it was so very Catholic in spirit, even though it was meant to be non-denominational)with big banners of the Great Cloud of Witnesses. Weil was one and it moved me to tears to see her there.

    Obsessively focused on one issue is a form of anorexia to me, but that is just my own opinion. I do not possess the language or maybe even the intellect to get into moral theology here, but something is just not right.

    BTW, have you seen what American Papist has done or is trying to do to Bryan Cones of US Catholic?

    It is all connected.


    Prayers for our Lenten journey. Let us go into the desert my sisters and let us wander, pray and seek.Who knows what the 40 days will deliver to us.

    Love you both.

  4. Fran,
    I read Bryan Cones' stuff with shock and awe at his moxie and willingness to take on some of the more outrageous nonsense in the Catholic blogosphere. Prayers for our Lenten journey indeed but I suspect we're already in the desert!

  5. "Fierce brave social justice advocacy"...oh, how I miss it. My family attended a pretty conservative parish in the 1970s in Philadelphia, but even in that conservative parish, we were urged not to purchase Gallo wine or Table Grapes because of the appalling treatment of migrant farm workers, and we were expected to accept and embrace the Vietmamese refugee families who were housed in the Rectory and the Convent. Now, most of the Catholics of my acquaintance (with the exception of my beloved Fran!) are willing to overlook the most flagrantly unChristian beliefs of politicians as long as they stand firm on abortion. It makes me sad and angry, and right now, it also makes me a Presbyterian.

  6. As you both know, I do not define as pro-life. I find the term abhorrent at some level. When we speak of being "pro-life" what does that really mean?

    In my own long slow journey down the road on this topic, I find that the discussion that exists in the public sphere is largely ideological in a way that renders it useless for all involved.

    I wonder what Simone would say about all of this.

    And FWIW, I missed a big chunk of the post-conciliar era, not attending church from 1971 to 1990.


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