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pastordan @pastordan
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Okay, time to thread up. Let me give you a (somewhat) more considered take on "Won't You Be My Neighbor?"
1. Everybody's right, it's a great movie, one of the few that I walked away from the theater feeling lucky to have seen.
2. I've seen/heard people say several times some variation on: "Fred Rogers was a saint!" (Looking at you, @kayaoakes)
3. Let's take that seriously. Obviously, Mr. Rogers wasn't the typical miracle-working, supernatural-stylin' Catholic saint we're familiar with. Nor was he a martyr.
4. But he was a moral exemplar, and a durned good one too. People look to saints for a number reasons, among them:
5. Saints show us that ordinary people can instruments of God. See, for example, Blessed Solanus Casey, the recently beatified doorman and soup kitchen founder of Detroit:…
6. Solanus was a working-class guy who read neither German nor Latin, and so was limited in his role as a priest. But he was wise and kind and offered good advice.
7. Same with St. John Vianney, a draft-dodger who was so unpromising the bishop decided to stick him in a country parish where he couldn't do too much harm. He got lost on his way to the village.…
8. Fred Rogers was well-educated, of course, and highly successful. But he's remembered for his simple humanity, not his worldly accomplishments, much less the miracles he performed.
9. But if saints remind us that ordinary people can be instruments of God, they also remind us that ordinary people can do extraordinary things.
10. This is why we remember the early martyrs: people like Perpetua or Aquila were ordinary people put into extraordinary circumstances, in which they lived out their faith.
11. Or again, why we remember early ascetics like Mary of Egypt or Simeon Stylities, who lived for decades on a small platform on top of a pole.

No, I am not kidding.……
12. (Mr. Rogers was a pacifist, a vegetarian, and a dedicated swimmer who put in a mile a day in the pool, by the way.)
13. You could be excused for thinking martyrs and ascetics are remembered as a way to celebrate suffering for its own sake. But the point always has been that the suffering is offered *on behalf of others,* and goes beyond what we normally would expect of someone.
14. Some saints starve themselves. Some train their bodies. Some get control of their tongues. That's Fred Rogers. Maybe he spoke an unkind word along the way, but...not very often.
15. Okay, last point. Saints show us the worth of common people, and that common people can do more than they think.

But they also tell the societies who remember them things they need to hear.
16. So: Norway needs to look a founding father? St. Olaf (even though he's a bit of a mook).

Medieval Europe needs to recover Christ's concern for the poor? St. Francis!

Also Medieval Europe needs to recover an ecstatic connection to God? Julian of Norwich, Teresa D'Avila, etc.
17. So ask yourself, what is it that we apparently need to hear from this saint, Rev. Fred McFeely Rogers of Pittsburgh, PA?
18. Why, it's nothing other than that common decency and the priority of love are still possible in this world, isn't it?
19. It's a huge credit to the movie that it faces the current anger and division of American society and does *not* suggest that Being More Like Mr. Rogers would be the easy solution.
20. But the real question is: how did he do it? What was the source of Rogers' uncommon strength and compassion?
21. What made Fred Rogers Mr. Rogers? What made Mr. Rogers a saint?
22. The movie puts forward a couple of possible answers: it's just the way he was, it was his faith.
23. But the one that sticks, I think, is the one we might be most tempted to overlook: Rogers was willing to embrace his own vulnerability.
24. He remembered how frightening childhood could be, how little control children feel. He knew and accepted his own worries, insecurities, fears, anger.
25. It's out of the fund of that weakness that his intense curiosity about and devotion to other people sprang. He knew on a very deep level that other people needed the same things he did: compassion, validation, being taken seriously.
26. Only by recognizing his own need and weakness was he able to respond to the need and weakness of others. It's not an entirely novel thought; cf. Henri Nouwen's "The Wounded Healer," published in 1972, only four years after Mr. Roger's Neighborhood first aired.
27. What makes Mr. Rogers a saint in specifically religious terms is that he was able to connect this embrace of weakness with God's work in the world.
28. Mr. Rogers knew - and lived in a way few can - that God is weak, and that God embraced God's own weakness and ours. In fact, that's what living in God is all about.
29. But the takeaway, religious or not, is this: if you don't like what's happening to our society these days - the constant dehumanization, the needless division, the hate -
30. - if you don't like what it does to you, then embrace *your* weakness. Are you afraid? Are you sad? Are you angry?

31. If you are any of those things, do you think other people feel the same way?

What's something you could do about that?
32. Mr. Rogers did something about by talking to children. You have your own gifts.

Use them. Be a saint.
33. The end. Buy me a cardigan.
P.S.: 143.
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