“In the opening line of James Joyce’s  Ulysses , stately, plump Buck Mulligan bears ‘a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed,’” says Melinda Selmys in today’s column , ”Holding the bowl aloft he declares, ’ Introibo ad altare Dei.’  Mulligan, in this symbolic action, expresses Joyce’s critique of Christianity: a combination of sadism, the razor, and narcissism, the mirror.”

Although his criticism is not true of authentic Catholicism, there must have been something in what Joyce saw of the Church that led him to conclude that communicants at the High Altar were spiritually on par with Homer’s lotus-eaters . . .

I suspect that this is why Francis has chosen to scandalize those who serve these idols with his actions: not wearing the correct liturgical garments, washing the feet of women on Holy Thursday, etc. He brings into focus the feeling of pride one takes in knowing what kind of vest the pope is supposed to wear, in being able to quote the rubric which states that the feet of “ viri selecti ” be washed—and in knowing that the Latin phrase excludes women. In doing such things the pope has chosen to scandalize the faithful in order to inspire the world.

Read the full column here .

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