“Here Comes Everybody”
This phrase, which is now being used quite widely in a range of contexts, is best known for its use by James Joyce in his extraordinary novel, finnegans wake. Read literally, it has obvious relevance for a progressive catholic blog such as this one, which sees inclusion at the heart of the Gospels, and interprets “catholic” as meaning universal. But in the context of the novel, and as an expression by James Joyce, who lived most of his life in exile, there are many layers of additional significance.
Joyce was an Irishman, educated like so many others by the Christian Brothers, and then by the Jesuits. Formidably intelligent and bookish, he soaked up Catholic and especially Jesuit thinking – and then rejected it. at a ridiculously young age, he left Ireland and its priest-ridden society, to live in exile in Europe. (His only play is called “Exiles“). Yet all his writing exudes both Ireland and Catholic theology. The early novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, is essentially an autobiographical novel based on Joyce’s early life and education, ends with him taking leave of Ireland. “I go“, he says “to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.” And, to a remarkable degree, he did just that.
Ulysses, written decades after his departure, tells the story of Leopold Bloom , wandering through the streets of Dublin over a single day. I have read that the detail of that day, as described by Joyce, meticulously and accurately recreates the physical details, and the exact locations, of the shops and other buildings that Bloom visits. The book is equally steeped in Catholicism, even opening with the words first words of the Latin Mass, “Introibo ad altare Dei“- but used here in parody.
Exile has been a key theme for several of our team, writing in our home blogs. For a gay Catholic (or other Christian), many writers have recommended leaving the church in a state of exile, before possibly returning later, more confident in a more mature faith. However, it is by no means only LGBT Catholics who can benefit from a period of exile, literal or metaphorical, from the institutional church. In a time when so much of church practice and teaching appears far removed from the Gospel message, and the powerful figures in the Vatican appear intent on undoing the work of the Second Vatican Council, all of us can benefit from taking a step back, establishing some distance from the institutional power structures, and reflecting independently on the real and enduring truths in Scripture and in Catholic teaching. So, to a greater or lesser degree, those of us who are nominally Catholic stand in some form of exile from the established church – possibly by attending Mass infrequently, if at all; possibly by attending Mass and participating fully in a local parish, but withholding full loyalty from Rome. Still, like Joyce and the Irish, we remain clearly catholic even so: in the words of the former priest Tom McMahon, writing on the psychology of the priest for Catholica, “catholic, but not Roman”.
The specific phrase “Here Comes Everybody” is used in the densely written, almost incomprehensible novel finnegans wake, which like a mirror image of Ulysses, tells again the story of an ordinary Dubliner – during the course of a single night. It is a dream novel, and like all dreams, characters, settings and stories are constantly shifting and merging. We never get a clear fix on exactly what the main characters are called, but we know their initials, which are constant. The head of the household has several names, all with the initials HCE – and so we have “Here Comes Everybody“, which could also serve as an alternative title for the novel, as through its pages drift an astonishing array of characters from all phases of history. This is fitting, as two of these historical figures are the medieval philosophers Vico, who held that history moves in cycles, and Giordano Bruno, who was burned by the Inquisition as a heretic.
Both Vico and Bruno are relevant here. By observing that the current orthodox teaching has moved far from its origins, we (or at least, I personally) would like to see greater scrutiny of how this has happened, and a return to some of the ideas and practices of the past that we have lost: ideas of simplicity and democracy in church governance, of a more open and democratic clerical estate, and more emphasis on the “Good News” in Scripture than on canon law and religious rules. The figure of Bruno, like those of Joan of Arc, Jan Huss and many others, reminds us of the horrors that the historical church has perpetrated in trying to enforce its version of “truth”- which has not infrequently subsequently been shown to be deeply flawed. We fear for the current efforts of the power cabal to stamp out dissenting views, of theologians and of religious women, and believe it is important to speak up for the value of open, critical speech.
For me, the point of this site is to draw together all those who feel marginalized by the church, or who have developed a feeling of distance from the institutional church, but still feel a strong “catholic” identity. It is my hope that by encouraging frank and open discussion of sensitive themes, we can reclaim our church from those who misappropriated it as an elite club for the religious in-crowd, and instead assert it as a home for those welcomed by the Lord Jesus Christ – the marginalized, the outsiders, the dispossessed. Helping and drawing comfort from each other, we will then develop the confidence to return from our place of exile on the margins, coming back in and proclaiming in prophetic witness as we do so, “Here Comes Everybody“.