Ben Weasel: Te Deum Laudamus for Our Persistent Church
«If the one thing God wants from us is love, the one thing he wants us to do, above all, is to persist. In the end, the only sin is giving up». A punk rock icon’s hymn
This year’s last issue of our weekly magazine Tempi is entirely given up to the annual “Te Deum”: like every year, several social and cultural personalities are asked to write their personal praises for the past 12 months. Contributors to the 2013 Tempi Te Deum special issue are, among the others, Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, Archbishop of Bologna, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, and Ben Weasel.
Benjamin Foster (aka Ben Weasel) is the leader of the historical Chicago punk rock band “Screeching Weasel”, formed in 1986. His music is considered forerunner of an entire genre, having deeply influenced bands like Blink 182 and Green Day (to which he is a close friend). He is considered an iconic figure of the punk rock worldwide not only for the music but also for his original and unconventional positions which influenced generations of rock’n’r addicted people. He recently broke away from another usual scheme by converting to Catholicism. He is married with Sara and father of three children.
The following article is the “Te Deum” he has written for Tempi.
I try to remember to thank God for every good thing in my life, and, when I’m feeling a little saintly, even the lousy stuff. But above all, I thank God for the grace of persistence in hope. If the one thing God wants from us is love, the one thing he wants us to do, above all, is to persist. In the end, the only sin is giving up.
I think of Catherine of Siena, who experienced so much pressure from her family to act like a normal girl and get married. They assumed she was like other girls and would grow out of the religiosity and piety that one imagines seemed cute and sweet at first but must’ve quickly became irritating as it interfered with her family’s plans for her life. Like Christ, she obeyed her parents, but also like Christ, she persisted with a single-minded determination that’s as rare today as it must have been then.
And I think of the Catholics who complain that the Church is behind the times, and who urge her to change. These pleas always make two assertions: first, that change (really, a willingness to bow to the cultural trends of the day) will bring new people in and bring lapsed Catholics back, and second, that failing to change will result in the death of the Church.
The first idea seems obviously wrong; I can’t think of any religious institution that’s succeeded in swelling its ranks by replacing its precepts with a lot of bells and whistles. As for the second, given that she has survived for over two thousand years in opposition to the ways of the world, it seems unlikely that refusing to ordain women as priests or marry gay couples will be the death knell of the Catholic Church.
In fact, it’s precisely because the Church persists in spite of so much opposition that we pitiful, lowly sinners can sense that what she has to offer us is real and true; that we can drop to our knees in front of the tabernacle, and, weeping tears of repentance and joy, beg for, and receive, the mercy of the Lord. The Church’s uncompromising commitment to the will of God speaks to the poor, the lonely, and the desperate more loudly and clearly than any complaining about her refusal to embrace modern cultural trends ever could. That the Church always persists in proclaiming the truth draws the seeker in. It certainly did in my case.
In some (ultimately minor) ways my life has been difficult at times – mainly in suffering from anxiety and depression – but for as long as I’ve been able to remember, as much as I might complain; as difficult as it could be to see the good in myself and others; as often as I might reject everything reasonable and sane for that which only drags me down, there was never a time when I gave up all hope. Even when things were at their worst, I always had a sense of something better ahead, a sort of ludicrous optimism urging me on and pointing me to something more important than my problems. To be given that grace is a gift of a magnitude that I can’t describe in words – especially having known so many people who have given in to despair.
So I give thanks for the gift of hope, in the knowledge that it comes to me totally undeserved, and that it infuses everything; that having a beautiful, loving wife and three wonderful children, a home to raise them in and a career to provide for them, was only ever possible because God gave me hope in times of misery and anguish. And I give thanks for Christ’s Church, the light that showed the path through the darkness, and that continues to lead all of us sinners in need of mercy who, like David, have bodies that yearn and souls that thirst for the Lord.
(Click here for the italian version)