Monday, April 1, 2013
Pope Francis --- Mr. Blue
If you haven’t recently read the book Mr. Blue, by Myles Connolly, probably nothing I write here will make any sense. I’m sorry. But it all makes sense to me, right now.
I read the book once before, and thought it notable and gave it to a friend, and then forgot it. She recently gave it back --- with God’s usual good timing. Maybe it’s the culmination of books I have recently read, of homilies and lectures and even conversations I have heard, and of my mother’s declining health, and her love. Perhaps it all adds up and makes sense, of this story about an insane man.
Mr. Blue was the first book written by a young Myles Connolly. Having read it -- again, I thought: “So young, yet so wise.” Yet although this was a noted book, nothing done in the rest of his life particularly seemed notable --- except the family he raised. He was a film writer and producer, and was once nominated for an Academy Award, but lost. He died in 1964, and one of his daughters said this:
“In today’s vernacular, my father believed very strongly that you could be a very strong Catholic without being a wimp. People used to love to gravitate to him. He was a wonderful raconteur. He loved to eat and drink and be merry. He was extremely generous with his money to people who were down and out. I could remember on Christmas Day how people would be around our Christmas dinner table. There’d be the cop on the beat because my dad would run into him, or some alcoholic. He had very strong principles for himself and for our family. He never pretended to be perfect, but he would say he’d keep trying.”
Wouldst that any of us could die leaving memories behind such as this.
Myles Connolly, himself, was a Mr. Blue.
The book, Mr. Blue, is only a short 100 pages or so. It is a quick read, but I found myself reading it slowly, in part because some of it was so beautiful it made me cry. He somehow gave you the impression that we were all crazy and he alone was sane. Blue had many what seemed like crazy ideas for helping the least of the least of men. They all seemed crazy, yet Blue always made me feel that he, whatever the difficulties, could make any of his dreams come true.
Once, standing on his rooftop home (albeit temporary, like all his “homes”) and looking up at the stars, Blue said: I think my heart would break with all this immensity if I did not know that God himself once stood beneath it, a young man, as small as I. Did it ever occur to you that it was Christ who humanized infinitude, so to speak? When God became man he made you and me and the rest of us pretty important people. He not only redeemed us, he saved us from the terrible burden of infinity.
Blue’s words made you stop and think.
Blue once inherited millions of dollars from a relative, and he had a great game of seeing how fast he could give it away. He opened bank accounts all across the city, in case he met someone he wanted to give money to, anywhere. The money didn’t last long, and he was delighted it was gone. He was delighted in all life.
His faith did not transform things; it made him see things. Blue once wrote in a letter how he and his friends lived: Others can be sober and restrained, but not one who is mad with the loveliness of life and almost blind with its beauty. So others can live with wise men and important me, while I must always presume on those who are kind enough to forgive and weak enough to understand.
And Blue often considered things of the world: The printed word has ruined the intellect. It has given fools and fiends the same power as wise men and saints. No one any longer knows how to think clearly and cogently to a finish. … Remember Christ wrote nothing except those mysterious words on the sand. One gesture of Saint Francis of Assisi is greater than a tome. … The astute man contemplates writing only when his useful days are over. You are interested and preaching and teaching. I’m not. An amiable good life does more than all the religious newspapers printed.
As I read the short story of Mr. Blue, I often stopped and pondered. His words of love were so simple, as were his actions. He just did it. There was nothing left to be said. And people gravitated to him, from the most learned to the most simple.
We worry about the world today, and we worry about the Church. Blue would have said: “Don’t worry. Just go out and love all those beautiful creations of God, all his children.”
I think that is what our Pope Francis is doing. As Blue said: One gesture of Francis is greater than a tome. Were there a Mr. Blue award (there should be one), I think Pope Francis would be nominated. He would be most fitting.
We need more such insane people.