E tu, Brute?

06-25-2017Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

“There’s a new world comin’, and it’s just around the bend.
There’s a new world comin’, this one’s comin’ to an end.”
New World Coming sung by Mama Cass

“E tu Brute?” The immortal words uttered by Julius Caesar, in Shakespeare’s play of the same name, as Julius Caesar realized he was being assassinated by not only his political rivals but by a man whom he thought was his friend. That play is now being performed during New York City’s “Shakespeare in the Park Series” but with a twist. The character of Julius Caesar has been replaced with a President Trump look-a-like and according to script, is unceremoniously murdered by his political foes. I would call that at the least, poor taste and at the worst, scurrilous. But what is really shameful and disturbing are the crowds coming to see it and cheer it on. Something has definitely changed in America. When did it become acceptable to stage the assassination of a sitting President or hold his severed head up in mockery? While I had not even the slightest liking for the policies of President Obama or his maudlin moralizing, I would never have wished him harm and would condemn anyone who did. Maybe I’m old fashioned but somethings are beyond the pale.

Still, I wonder if the producers of the current version of the play Julius Caesar really understand what they are wishing for? The assassination of Julius Caesar marked the end of the Roman Republic. No longer would the leadership of the Roman Republic be elected for a fixed term by the people and advised by the Senate of Rome. Instead, an Emperor would rule and the once glorious Republic became the Roman Empire. Julius Caesar would be replaced by Augustus Caesar, who would seize and consolidate power and declare himself Emperor. He is familiar to us, mentioned in the Gospel of Luke as he ruled at the time of Christ’s birth. The producers of Shakespeare in the Park version of Julius Caesar just might get what they want. But they will not like what they get.

So if you want to go full-blown Roman Empire, then a better comparison for President Trump might be the Emperor Claudius (41-54 AD). Claudius came to power at the age of 50, which in those days was considered old. He followed the maniacal, narcissistic, all time crazy man, Caligula. Claudius had no political experience, was considered an outsider and was brought to power mostly by the Roman military that was fed up with the status quo. Many considered him a simpleton who should not be taken seriously. He was a terrible public speaker. Still he was skillful, shrewd, and often acted hastily which led people to question his mental state.

Claudius reigned for 13 years during which time he kept the Empire at peace and instituted major financial reforms, and many important building projects, including fixing Roman infrastructure, buildings, roads, bridges, the water supply, and ports. But most notably he surrounded himself with one of the most gifted and talented staff and advisors ever assembled. The empire grew and flourished.

Claudius was eventually killed by his rivals, who thought a young, good looking, intellectual leader would be an improvement over the old man with his blunt talk and strange looks. The new Emperor was youthful, handsome, eloquent, polished, musical and maniacal. And so the artists, the intellectuals, the aristocrats, and the elite all got what they wanted. But in the end, with the reign of terror that Nero ushered in, they probably didn't like what they actually got.

Things are changing in America. We are at a turning point. And if Caligula, Nero, Diocletian, are your cup of tea, then go see the new version of the play, Julius Caesar. But if Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln are more to your liking then please pray for our President, his family and our land. Pray that the new world that’s coming is coming in peace, coming in joy, coming in love.

Love,

Fr. John B.

PS Once again the US Bishops are sponsoring the “Fortnight for Freedom” to highlight the importance of defending religious freedom. The Fortnight for Freedom is from June 21 - the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More - to July 4, Independence Day. Visit www.usccb.org for details and prayers.

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