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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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April 29th, 2011

Didn’t We Learn Anything From Diana?

 
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doubledownI 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!

royalwedding-flash5The 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.

mel_gibson_apocalypto_45I 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.

 
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The Author : Fr. Tom Gibbons
Since 2009, Tom Gibbons, CSP, has shared insights on faith, pop culture, and seminary life in the Kicking and Screaming blog here at Busted Halo. On May 19, 2012, Tom was ordained a Paulist priest at St. Paul the Apostle Church in New York City. He will begin serving St. Peter's Catholic Church in Toronto, Canada beginning in July 2012.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Cindy G; Spirit of Health

    The day of the royal wedding, I felt a sense of peace knowing that across the globe, an amazing amount of people were simultaneously involved in something POSITIVE. The blending of a royal and a commoner is like a yin yang symbol; and I pray this mix will help to bring more balance to a topsy-turvy world. The address by the Bishop of London was a true gift, he noted that ‘every wedding is royal, to become what God meant each one to be-their deepest and truest selves.’ He said they have aligned themselves in a way in which life is spiritually evolving, which will lead to a creative future for the human race.

  • Julie

    Good post.

  • Shannon

    Great posting Tom! Not surprised it is great, but surprised you found the words and the time. I was not a princess/Barbie girl, but I loved getting married. Our wonderful priest refused to marry us, a year out, unless we took marriage prep very seriously, and had weekly sessions with him (even conference calls). He said that he and his cohort thought that members of the clergy should not tsk tsk divorce, but work to prevent it. I found myself early this morning (honestly, late last night) seeing a 28-year old woman not becoming a princess, but becoming a wife, and man accepting the responsibility of marriage, friendship, and adulthood, with the support of a loving brother and dad. I didn’t wish I was in the horse drawn carriage, as other girls did, in 1981, but remembering the ride from my Church to the party, I felt blissfully happy for them, proud of my spouse and I, and grateful to the priest who reminded us that $15K for catering was not a reason to follow through with a wedding if Jesus was not with us. Seeing the Di retrospectives, and the endless “the heir and the spare” reminded me of how blessed I am to be “a commoner” whose boys have to behave (kinda) at Target, not on camera. I do, however, love a tiara.

  • Matt (another one)

    Scott Adams wrote, in one of his not-full-of-Dilbert books, that “eventually” the media, driven as they are by our obsession with celebrity, will be forced to actually kill a celebrity themselves, in order to provide themselves with a sufficiently engrossing story to cover. Diana’s death occurred while the book was going to press.

    I hope their marriage is far happier than hers was, and I certainly hope they don’t get killed by the media. But honestly, other than generally wishing them well as fellow children of God (and apparently reasonably nice people, to boot — always a plus!) I really couldn’t care less.

    Well, OK, maybe a little bit of “if we simply MUST get all this press coverage of celebrities, it’s at least nice to get it about their wedding for once, rather than their divorces”.

  • Chris Rodgers

    Perhaps we as a people do put too much on celebrities I agree with you there. A friend of mine posted on facebook “everyone is so fascinated about the royal wedding, what about the royal marriage? lets see how long that’ll last” It was pessimistic to say the least. But i need to disagree with you both. I am a man and I have to say i was deeply moved by the ceremony. These two, now successors to the British throne, represent an ideal, a longing in the hearts of all people,even if they dont know it, to be joined in the Heavenly marriage with Christ Himself. these two at least William by birth have been given representative rule over a nation, over several nations actually and the historical clout and idealized image of the noble king and queen resonates in the hearts of all people who have not given up hope on this world. I dont know if these two are truly virtuous and try to live up to this ideal BUT i do know that 2 billion people heard one of the best explanations of marriage and it happened to be the wedding of a future King and Queen. People should always put there faith in Christ but they also want a glimpse into something greater than their own lives. most people get married and they want to see that common practice elevated to something higher than what our culture has made it. Marriage is a royal thing. like the archbishop of cantebury said (paraphrase) “in a sense, every marriage is a royal one. for we are all kings and queens of creation and life centerd in Christ flows out of us.” its important to see the dignity that marriage is entitled to when its given the demonic treatment of our culture. for most Christians, its not about Cate and William (at least i hope not) but about what and who they are meant to represent. It’s about our own dignity and our own need to realize that we are all heirs to the kingdom of Heaven. and whatever the tabloids say in a few years or a few months its important to remember how we are to view not just the wedding but the promises of hope and fidelity a marriage conveys to the world.

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