Paulist seminarian Tom Gibbons reflects on his formation experience and his life as a seminarian right now. Along the way, some questions will be will be answered, and a lot more will come up.
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Didn’t We Learn Anything From Diana?
I love The Onion. I do. If there is one media source that I can go to at any given time and KNOW that I’m going to have at least one good laugh, it’s the Onion. I’ve been reading it for almost fifteen years, and I’m still amazed at how funny and biting it can be. You may agree with me on this, but the more I read the Onion and the more I watch the news, the more the “real” news headlines begin to remind me of The Onion’s fake headlines. I mean, do you remember the “Double Down” sandwich offered by KFC last year that did away with the bread and offered two fried chicken breasts instead with bacon and cheese in the middle? I swear it was not until I actually drove by a KFC a few days later that I was convinced that it wasn’t a gag headline along the lines of “New Taco Bell Menu Item Ready For Testing On Humans.”
I share this because between the various Facebook postings and news alerts I receive during my sporadic opportunities to watch TV these days, I’ve already heard way too much about the royal wedding happening today. As soon as I saw the headline, “Princess Diana and Kate Middleton: A tale of two princesses,” I was immediately reminder of the Onion’s “Nation Demands Fresh Celebrity Meat!”
The Onion article hilariously (and breathlessly) details the press’s unquenchable hunger for celebrities to devour, famously commenting that “we can no longer subsist vicariously on the travails and public deteriorations of Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears. These fetid idols are mere shreds of their former selves, and we, the American entertainment consumers, grow ever hungrier for a new crop of stars on which to feast.” On the other hand, the real news article about Diana and Kate breathlessly (and hilariously) details the press’s unquenchable hunger for celebrities to devour, famously commenting that “many wonder if [Kate's] relationship with the press will be any better than Diana’s.”
Well… considering that Diana was killed while trying to escape a ravished press looking for EVEN MORE photos of the most photographed woman in the world… I guess the only response to the question is… at the very least we hope the relationship is a little bit better?
Seriously, I don’t get it, why are we so obsessed with princesses and royalty, anyway? When Diana and Charles were first married, I can see that we were still living in a time where celebrities were not the fast food they are today. It felt like we could afford to have the fantasy, but after Diana? Fergie? I mean, didn’t anyone ever watch The Tudors for crying out loud? All I know is that if I have anything to say about it, my niece will be kept as far away from the “Disney Princess” collection as possible.
Of course, it’s easy for me as a man to critique the princess culture… and I do believe that I am being partially hypocritical for doing so. Most men I know have dreamed of, at least at some point in their lives, becoming rock stars … despite the cautionary tales that are the lives of Elvis Presley, Kurt Cobain, Michael Jackson, and Dewey Cox. And I have to confess that the high school dream of jamming on a guitar in front of tens-of-thousands of people at Giants stadium is not one that has completely left the inner recesses of my consciousness. The desire to be special and to be worshiped; it’s all part of the human condition.
Which is not to say that Kate and William are not in love and do not deserve a happy life in marriage. It’s more about the amount of energy that the rest of us are putting into them and our motivations for doing so. Perhaps it’s only because I’ve recently finished a paper on Biblical sacrifice that this is on my mind, but what I learned is that when Christians use the terms sacrifice within the context of the Mass, we really mean the offering of ourselves. Not that we be chopped up on a stone pyramid a la Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto, but so that our lives can be put towards God’s use. Under the old system, someone was offered up to accept the punishment for the failings of others. Under the Christian system, we all offer ourselves up to bring about the healing of our own failures as well as the damaged caused by others.
I think this is an important thing to keep in mind, not just during today’s media storm over the wedding, but in a few months or year when we’re standing in the checkout line reading tabloids headlines beginning to feature topics of “struggles within the royal marriage.” Not because there are actually any but because, like the sacrifices of old, they make the rest of us feel a little better. Fresh meat.