Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Il gran rifuito

We had a splendid walk yesterday, on a perfect early spring day, snowdrops, pregnant sheep, clumps of daffodils growing strongly, real warmth in the sun.

A walk is described every Saturday in the Scotsman magazine. I always check. This one was published recently, and it ticked, as they say, all the boxes. A) easy to get to; B) circular – the ones that start in one place and end in another are useless; C) strenuous but not too strenuous. This one was about five miles and didn’t involve much climbing.

It was at Limekilns, just beyond Rosyth. The directions proved wonderfully easy to follow. We found all the landmarks mentioned, including the notice saying “Please do not walk on the gabions”. The last part of the route lay through the Broomhall Estate where Lord Elgin of Marbles fame used to live.

Then our niece drove me home, and I was still sitting at the kitchen table with my husband, finishing off some bacon and eggs, waiting for the water to be hot enough for my bath, when she rang up: The Pope has resigned. Dante’s phrase which I have used as a title came into my mind at once, just to boast of how cultured I am. I dare say I will find it in today’s papers when I eventually walk across the square to get them.

I looked it up, in the evening, to see why Dante had placed that Pope in hell, and I discovered that maybe he didn’t. No one is actually named. The phrase is traditionally taken to refer to  Pope Celestine V who had recently resigned, but there are difficulties with the identification. It could even refer to Pontius it’s-nothing-to-do-with-me Pilate himself.

I think it’s a big mistake, not that the Pope consulted me. It reduces the church at a stroke to the level of Standard Oil. I can see the temptation – a modest apartment flavus quam Tiberis lavit; a rota of nuns to look after one; one’s cats; one’s books; one’s piano. But Popes are meant to rise above temptation. Maybe God preferred the church to be led by weakness and suffering for a while. It has happened before. There must be structures.

The gospel at Mass only day before yesterday was the Calling of Peter. The Pope must have noticed. There is no suggestion in the text that Peter qualified his acceptance with a let-out clause, “as long as I feel up to it”. Lots of people have responsibilities in old age which they would resign from if they could and which cause increasing worry as infirmity increases.

But my view seems to be a lonely one, at least this morning. Tomorrow is Lent.

Meanwhile, all is well on the knitting front. I finished the swatch, and today will contemplate it. The ball band suggests 2.25-2.75 for the needles. I started with 2.50, found that I didn’t seem to own any 2.75’s so went on to 3’s. That was much more comfortable, including the purling. Today I’ll see what sort of gauge I got for both, and also, as a matter of interest, what size I was using for the Japanese shirt.

For actual knitting, I got on with the sock.. The foot still looks a bit large. The main thing that worries me now is the prospect of reproducing Judy’s Magic Cast-On. This first one is really rather good, after months of failure and struggle. But one sock is not much use without another.


  1. Anonymous12:43 PM

    Latin text of the papal pronouncement here: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2013/february/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20130211_declaratio_lt.html
    Somehow it seems even more waffling in the Latin.
    I'm not a Catholic, but you make a good point about how this change seems inappropriate for the office. I assume Benedict is motivated, in part, by John Paul II's later years, but surely he should have seen this coming when he accepted the calling in 2005.

  2. Anonymous12:51 PM

    One wit suggested that "Benedict was giving up being Pope for Lent". That does put chocolate in its place, eh?

  3. Anonymous2:01 PM

    And then there is this:

  4. I think it says something about the Pope recognizing one's limits. There could have been a fair amount of pressure as well for him to resign. He made quite a mess and having him futzing about in later years would have driven his handlers crazy.

    We have lambs here showing up in the Willamette Valley. I hope some show up for you soon!

  5. Anonymous4:34 PM

    What is the church's stand if the Pope became incapacitated? I'm thinking there would be an even bigger mess if a Pope developed Alzeimers but couldn't be replaced until death.

    Your walk sounds wonderful. I must get out and see if our daffodils are blooming yet.

  6. I had to look up gabion; it is a new word for me, but not a new concept. In Eastern Washington State, there is a desert/badlands where there are few trees and lot of rocks. They use gabions there as fenceposts.

    I think your response to the Pope's retirement is also your answer to the commment about centanarians grinning foolishly in the anniversary photo. There is no such thing as a foolish centenarian. The old have wonderful stories to tell which connect us to our origins. If they are incapable of telling stories, their presence connects us to the past, and ourselves to the future. My grandchildren ( and God willing great-grandchildren) will have some memory of me. I remember my grandmother (born in 1888) who remembered (I presume) her grandmother and her stories of her grandmother. Those memories/stories span a potential 10 generations pivoted on the present! Occasionally an individual life is meaningful in a larger sense, we can all recount those; it is the web of our communal lives which generates our world community and racial (ie homo sapiens) memory.

    I am glad you had a good walk. I am sure you feel renewed and rejuvenated. What a good way to start Lent.

  7. I am not Catholic and I was not particularly surprised but, had he stayed on, I imagine there would be ways of handling increasing incapacity.