2011: I decided that this was the year to bake and ice a Yule Log. I had watched my mother, the cake artist, do it many times but had never tried making one myself. For starters, I wasn’t sure that I could roll the thin layer of cake delicately enough so it would not crack as it transformed into a log. Plus, we were missing the robin redbreast that my mother always placed on the log.
So, while my daughter and I tackled the challenge of baking and icing the log, complete with holly and berries and little vines, my husband went on a mission to search and locate a robin. Not too big, not too small, we said. Having enlisted the help of a sympathetic sales clerk, he returned just as we had finished icing the cake to a hero’s welcome. The rather over-fed robin he had “caught” found its place right away on what was now a bûche de noel.
The transformation of a ritual steeped in tradition to something that is simply just sweet and edible is probably as eloquent a statement as any on our contemporary taste for sugar-coating over substance.
Take our political discourse: why bother with the facts if fudging and fiction can satisfy?
Why not burn through a rival candidate’s reputation by taking the carefully preserved scrap from the log of the previous year’s fire to light a new one? Never mind if it does not burst into flames on the first try. A few incendiary comments generally tend to do the job of starting and feeding wanton fires.
Take the life of the Church: why address such burning issues as Church leaders’ obsessive preoccupation with managing women’s wombs, the treatment of women as if they are less worthy than men of holy orders, the marginalizing of LGBT Catholics as if they were less than Catholic because of their sexuality, and the continued protection of those who covered up, and thereby contributed to the sexual abuse of innocent children for years? Women in religious life are specimens for close scrutiny by the Vatican. Women theologians who offer dissenting views are pilloried. Cardinals who assist in cover-ups are promoted. Priests who support the ordination of women as a matter of conscience face threats of excommunication. Yes, much better to ignore these fires and distract everyone with ridiculous changes to the Missal that do absolutely nothing to enhance our sense of the Divine. Consubstantial? Really?
Take the headlines that ask: “Could Newt Gingrich win the “Catholic vote?” The welcome the Newt has been accorded by the US Bishops and their lack of public reproach for his less than Catholic utterances do not go unnoticed by lay Catholics. Especially since the good bishops do not hesitate to take President Obama to task publicly.
The people in the pews, those who remain grounded in their faith despite the scandals that have scarred the institution, will not fall for the faux Catholicism of convenience that Newt represents. No sugar-coating, no pretty icing can make a delectable bûche de noel out of an old log whose many seasons are marked by rings of self-love, bile and a determination to unmake the policies of President Obama. This President is more driven by the Catholic concept of the “preferential option for the poor” than Newt Gingrich could ever be. Or would ever want to be.
All Catholic voters have to do is ask themselves: what would Jesus say to the idea of Newt? I think He would pass on this bûche.
Happy New Year!