I’m not a Catholic, but…
I’m not a Catholic, or even a Christian for that matter, but this painting of Jean Francois Millet’s always stops me whenever I am looking through my collection of images. It’s the humility, I think. Humility is so absent in today’s world that it is a bit disconcerting to see, even on an image. Is that not a sad and scary statement of our modern culture?
I think it’s especially fitting that Millet’s painting depicts peasants, out in a field, close to the earth, with the church tower in the distance. One can almost hear the church bells calling people to stop what they are doing to say their evening prayer. The setting here emphasizes the sense of humbleness and humility in a way that would not work in any other setting, so it was apparently Millet’s intention to connect these humble earthy qualities with the Church.
I’m not a big fan of Catholicism, but I do think it has by and large served humanity in some good ways. I use the past tense because the Church seems to be becoming more and more a thing of the past. And perhaps that’s not such a good thing, certainly not without something to replace it. It reminds me of one of my favorite segments from the T. S. Eliot poem, The Rock.
But it seems that something has happened that
has never happened before, though we know not
just when, or why, or how, or where.
Men have left G O D
not for other gods, they say,
but for no god; and this has never happened before
that men both deny gods and worship gods,
professing first Reason,
and then Money, and Power, and what they call
Life, or Race, or Dialectic.
The Church disowned, the tower overthrown, the bells upturned,
and what have we to do but stand
with empty hands and palms turned upwards
in an age which advances progressively backwards?
T. S. Eliot, choruses from “The Rock”