Decline & fall of a sermon-time doze

I was neither flummoxed nor gobsmacked when the preacher tossed off a reference to “Captain Grimes in Decline and Fall” this morning.  I was, however, wakened from that pious semi-slumber that too often attends sermonizing.

Of the Roman empire? I wondered, distracted from my fascination with the family of mother, father, and seven kids aged an estimated six months to 10 years old in the pew in front of me.

No, I quickly decided.  Decline and Fall as by Evelyn Waugh.  Said and done.  Without explaining, as in saying, “I was reading a novel the other day called Decline and Fall, by the English Catholic writer Evelyn Waugh, and in it he said . . .”   Blah, blah, and blah.  What you hear in your average parish.

So it goes.  Point he was making would not have been lost, however, on the listeners who got not the reference: Captain Grimes enuntiated the wild “liberal” claim that freedom (and contentment) lay in doing whatever one wants to do, wherever, at any time.  Didn’t work that way for him in the novel, my priest said, going on to point out what should be obvious but isn’t: things don’t work that way.

So.  I was out of my reverie and on my way to a contented half hour or so of doing what I wanted to do, where and when I wanted to do it: hear the rest of mass and let the mystery of it wash over me, not to mention an edifying drama in which two young parents worshiped on Sunday in the company of their seven perfect youngsters.

Not bad, and I had only to walk a half mile to find it.

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