One of these days is the commemoration of the Martyrdom of the Knights Templar, for its many noble qualities, for the lineages we possess which legend tells us moved through their ranks, for divine hopes and of course, for human frailty and failure.
There are many heroic deeds to be celebrated, many qualities to admire when it comes to the legendary Order of warrior monks. Yet not all of their history is rosy, or kind, or worthy of emulation-and not every one of their leaders, or those who followed them were noble nor upright.
Still, it isn't the contemplation of heavenly aspirations, heroic deeds or human failings in the Order itself that I turn to with my contemplation this year, but rather, the contemplation of the fears and forces outside of it which brought them to the dungeons, torture chambers and the stakes.
In our time, much as in theirs, the idea of the 'Other' looms large on our landscape - advances in education, communication, science and so forth have not immunized us against demonization or ignorance when it comes to our fellow sentient beings.
Sadly, some of these advances have been turned to the ability to more efficiently promote ignorance. A 24 hour news cycle, new and independent media through podcasting, video streams, blogging, social media and the like have enabled ignorance to travel faster than ever with less pesky obstacles such as fact checking, empathy and skepticism to slow it down. Why examine? There's a picture with a caption from someone 'important' to show you the light.
(Yes I'm aware I this post could fall into this category right here and now save myself being important)
I wonder what the Order of the Temple would have thought of such things?
On October 13th, 1307, warrants were given to the men of Phillip IV of France and were opened simultaneously. Beginning with the words ""Dieu n'est pas content, nous avons des ennemis de la foi dans le Royaume"- ("God is not pleased. We have enemies of the faith in the kingdom).
Rapid. Deceptive. Authoritative.
The motives for which Phillip le Bel affixed his seal, and the ones which the soldiers likely assumed based on the text were probably two very different things.
Likewise with much that passes before our eyes attempting to tell us that our neighbors, our coworkers, our friends, those that share our flag and those that don't, are less than, should be feared, or treated with suspicion- it is not for our safety or our betterment but for agendas that aren't so rapidly, truthfully or plainly stated.
We fear what we do not understand, and ensuring a lack of understanding is frequently high on such agendas. Sometimes the 'others' we are encouraged to fear are people, sometimes it is a culture, sometimes it is a religion, sometimes it is science.
There are legitimate problems in the world- extremism, greed, epidemics, most of which are in the headlines today. Combating these dangers with education, compassion and understanding is a worthy cause. The world is not always a nice place, but we can make an effort to bring that around for individuals with what we have as individuals, such as we are able.
The seeming insurmountable nature of the task lessens not our obligation towards effort.
There are many things however which aren't worth our time, or are intended to direct our time, thoughts and energy to perpetuating ignorance, fear, that 'otherness' and so forth under the appearance of better motives.
The medieval Order of the Temple no less was taken down for greed and fear dressed in the clothes of apostasy and 'devil worship'.
The 24 hour news cycle, new and independent media through podcasting, video streams, blogging, social media mentioned above can afford us an opportunity, one as transformational as the printing press- to connect, be more human and learn more.
Every day we are confronted with a mass of information whose signal to noise ratio is degrading at a significant pace- and in that information we are being offered a handful of choices.
Increasingly it seems, more and more of those choices involve someone asking you to be afraid.
There are many legitimate things to be scared of in the world- let our fellow sentient beings not be among them for as long as we are able.
This Month at St. Joseph's