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The Beatles never entirely shook off the Catholicism of their youth
The Catholic Herald UK ^ | 19 July 2010 | William Oddie

Posted on 08/06/2010 11:24:26 AM PDT by Alex Murphy

I find myself in an unusual and slightly strange situation: I am in disagreement with Cardinal George Pell. This has never happened to me before, and I’m not sure that I like it. In a sermon last week, the cardinal had a go at the Beatles, and in particular John Lennon, whom he described as “the best known of the Beatles, who once claimed they were better known than Jesus Christ”.

Well, so he did: but John Lennon wasn’t the same phenomenon at all as the Beatles. Cardinal Pell attacked in particular Imagine, in which, as the cardinal reminds us, “Lennon urged his listeners to dream of a world where there was no heaven, no hell… Lennon was working for a peace resulting from the disappearance of religion… We are gathering some of the fruits of his mistaken teaching today…” All true: but Imagine had nothing to do with the Beatles, it was a much later solo production.

Imagine is undoubtedly a hateful piece, with all that ludicrous blether about “the brotherhood of man”, which reminded me at the time of something Harold Macmillan, that great friend of Mgr Ronnie Knox, once said: “How can you have the brotherhood of man, if you don’t accept the Fatherhood of God?”

But I repeat: John Lennon wasn’t the Beatles. And as Cardinal Pell also said: “The Beatles had more than a touch of genius.” As the Osservatore Romano put it: “It’s true… swept up by their success, they lived dissolute and uninhibited lives, but, listening to their songs, all of this seems distant and meaningless. Their beautiful melodies… live on like precious jewels.”

One could go on and on, not simply about the melodies, but the words: the pathos and deep understanding of loneliness of Eleanor Rigby; the almost Chestertonian gratitude for the beauty of creation that comes over in songs like Here Comes the Sun, and:

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
John Lennon, in particular, seems to have totally shaken off the Catholicism of his childhood: but did he really? And what about the rest of them? They were brought up, don’t forget, in the Liverpool Catholicism of pre-Worlock days, when children learned all the basic Catholic prayers by heart: that tends to stick, even if at an unconscious level. And on at least one occasion, it emerges fully in what is for me the most beautiful (in both words and melody) of all their songs, Let It Be: a title and refrain which surely in context can only be a reference to the Angelus response “let it be to me according to your word”, which they must all have repeated hundreds of times. And if this song isn’t a most touching and powerful Marian hymn, I don’t know what else it could possibly be. It’s surely quite explicit:
When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom
Let it be….

And when the night is cloudy
There is still a light that shines on me
Shine on until tomorrow, let it be

I wake up to the sound of music
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be…

Listen to it again, all the way through; I cannot even read its lyrics out loud without tears. I rest my case.


TOPICS: Catholic; Religion & Culture
KEYWORDS: beatlemania; beatles; biggerthanjesus; catholicchurch; catholics; johnlennon; lennonist; thebeatler
In a sermon last week, [Cardinal George Pell] had a go at the Beatles, and in particular John Lennon, whom he described as “the best known of the Beatles, who once claimed they were better known than Jesus Christ”....

....Imagine is undoubtedly a hateful piece, with all that ludicrous blether about “the brotherhood of man”, which reminded me at the time of something Harold Macmillan, that great friend of Mgr Ronnie Knox, once said: “How can you have the brotherhood of man, if you don’t accept the Fatherhood of God?”

But I repeat: John Lennon wasn’t the Beatles. And as Cardinal Pell also said: “The Beatles had more than a touch of genius.” As the Osservatore Romano put it: “It’s true… swept up by their success, they lived dissolute and uninhibited lives, but, listening to their songs, all of this seems distant and meaningless. Their beautiful melodies… live on like precious jewels.”

this time last year
people didn't want to hear
they looked at jesus from afar
this year he's a superstar

dear john
who's more popular now?
i've been listening to paul's records
i think he really is dead

-- Larry Norman, Reader's Digest
from his 1973 MGM/Verve release
Only Visiting This Planet


1 posted on 08/06/2010 11:24:28 AM PDT by Alex Murphy
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To: Alex Murphy
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise

A rather touching turn of phrase...

2 posted on 08/06/2010 11:30:56 AM PDT by marron
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To: Alex Murphy; wagglebee
John Lennon wasn’t the Beatles

He was half of the primary writing team and an outspoken idiot.

His "bigger than Jesus" comment wasn't just "of the moment".

He continued the point.

http://beatlesnumber9.com/biggerjesus.html

"Christianity will go," he said. "It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that; I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first - rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me."
From his "apology"

John: "Well, originally I pointed out that fact in reference to England. That we meant more to kids than Jesus did, or religion at that time. I wasn't knocking it or putting it down.

" It's them twisting it that ruins it for me"

I was just saying it as a fact and it's true more for England than here. I'm not saying that we're better or greater, or comparing us with Jesus Christ as a person or God as a thing or whatever it is.

3 posted on 08/06/2010 11:33:39 AM PDT by a fool in paradise (I wish our president loved the US military as much as he loves Paul McCartney.)
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To: Alex Murphy

4 posted on 08/06/2010 11:34:47 AM PDT by TSgt (We will always be prepared, so we may always be free. - Ronald Reagan)
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To: Alex Murphy
Lennon, Starkey and Harrison were all raised Anglican.

McCartney's mother was Catholic and his father was raised Presbyterian but had no religion.

The McCartneys were not Massgoers and McCartney's mother died when he was 14.

5 posted on 08/06/2010 11:37:28 AM PDT by wideawake
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To: Alex Murphy
Mother Mary comes to me

Paul McCartneys mother was named Mary and she died when he was young. This line is a reference to her.

6 posted on 08/06/2010 11:38:22 AM PDT by DJ MacWoW (If Bam is the answer, the question was stupid.)
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To: marron

The song “Blackbird” was about the civil rights movement of the 60’s.


7 posted on 08/06/2010 11:40:35 AM PDT by newfreep (Palin/DeMint 2012 - Bolton: Secy of State)
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To: DJ MacWoW

He was a pre-Vatican II Catholic, and this was a sort of “blended” reference.


8 posted on 08/06/2010 11:46:39 AM PDT by livius
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To: Alex Murphy

“Mother Mary” in Let it Be refers to Paul’s mother, Mary. Blackbird refers to a black girl and the civil rights struggle. That said, there is much spirituality and even Christianity in the Beatles music. I think George was raised Catholic. For my money, his “All Things Must Pass” deals with death as beautifully as you will find in a pop song.


9 posted on 08/06/2010 11:47:14 AM PDT by Lou Budvis (Refudiate 0bama '12)
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To: Alex Murphy

A. the most overrated band ever
B. McCartney was the engine of the band
C. Jesus rose from the dead. Try that one, Lennon.


10 posted on 08/06/2010 11:47:31 AM PDT by Retired Greyhound
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To: Lou Budvis

George Harrison was a Hindu (Hari Krishna) at one point.

Not sure where his beliefs were at the time of his passing.


11 posted on 08/06/2010 11:48:51 AM PDT by Retired Greyhound
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To: newfreep
The song “Blackbird” was about the civil rights movement of the 60’s.

I wonder what the ZZ Top song "Mexican Blackbird" was about? ;)

12 posted on 08/06/2010 11:51:17 AM PDT by dfwgator
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To: Alex Murphy

This is a good point. Many of the images in their songs come from their pre-Vatican II childhoods. They were older than I, so they had actually had more years of pre-Vatican II than I did. But the images were still recognizable at that time.

Because of the Incarnation, the Christian religion is a religion of images. Muslims, who hate creation and think that their god is an abstract, vengeful being who issues laws simply because he feels like it and has no predictable way of behavior, hate images. That’s one of the big differences.

That’s why it is possible to find traces of the Our Lord, the Christian God, in completely secular things.

Lamentably, this is dying out as our society and even our churces de-Christianize.


13 posted on 08/06/2010 11:51:23 AM PDT by livius
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To: Alex Murphy

I always thought the Beatles were vastly overrated.


14 posted on 08/06/2010 11:54:47 AM PDT by vladimir998 (Part of the Vast Catholic Conspiracy (hat tip to Kells))
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To: livius

That’s not what he has said in interviews. He has said that during a hard time in his life, his mother came to him in a dream telling him that it would be alright. But everyone is free to believe what they want to.


15 posted on 08/06/2010 11:55:06 AM PDT by DJ MacWoW (If Bam is the answer, the question was stupid.)
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To: Lou Budvis

I have started coming around to the thought that George was the most talented of the Beatles, but he was just more picky about what he wanted to record, whereas Lennon and McCartney would just record anything and saw what would stick.


16 posted on 08/06/2010 11:57:40 AM PDT by dfwgator
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To: DJ MacWoW

The imagery that he used would be familiar to any Catholic, and it was familiar to him. You are thinking in terms of proseletysing or preaching, where people consciously come up with words, probably because Protestantism and even post Vatican-II Catholicism are short on naturaly imagery. Look at the crummy art they both produce.

The Catholic world was drenched in imagery, and, as I said, it was a blended image. “Mother Mary” always referred not to one’s own mother, but to the Virgin.


17 posted on 08/06/2010 11:58:29 AM PDT by livius
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To: livius

As I said, McCartney stated differently, several times, but you can believe what you want.


18 posted on 08/06/2010 12:01:38 PM PDT by DJ MacWoW (If Bam is the answer, the question was stupid.)
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To: Retired Greyhound

“A. the most overrated band ever”

...this article is reminding me that I’m about to spend a week with my doofus, Beatles praising brother in law at a family reunion. He wears Beatles t-shirts every day. Plays Beatles songs every night during dinner and on top of all of this, he’s a lib from Maine! Sickening! I avoid him at all costs by keeping a “Nat Sherman” cigar lit most of the time. He hates cigar smell.


19 posted on 08/06/2010 12:02:10 PM PDT by albie
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To: Alex Murphy

Ummm...I’m as Catholic as they come, and I do not see “Let it Be” as any sort of Marian hymn. It’s not. Paul McCartney’s mother, who died when he was very young, was named Mary. He named one of his daughter’s Mary.

I wouldn’t want to claim the Beatles as any sort of Catholic/Christian group. They did WAY more harm than good. And we as a society are still paying the price.


20 posted on 08/06/2010 12:16:04 PM PDT by mockingbyrd (Remember in November.)
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To: albie

I do like the Beatles. Think they did a lot of brilliant stuff.

But at the same time, they are overrated.


21 posted on 08/06/2010 12:20:10 PM PDT by Retired Greyhound
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To: Retired Greyhound
A. the most overrated band ever

Let me engineer a thread hijack here and submit a song writer for consideration. (According to 99.9% of FReepers - he can't sing a lick.)

In the time of my confession, in the hour of my deepest need
When the pool of tears beneath my feet flood every newborn seed
There's a dyin' voice within me reaching out somewhere,
Toiling in the danger and in the morals of despair.

Don't have the inclination to look back on any mistake,
Like Cain, I now behold this chain of events that I must break.
In the fury of the moment
I can see the Master's hand
In every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand.

Oh, the flowers of indulgence and the weeds of yesteryear,
Like criminals, they have choked the breath of conscience and good cheer.
The sun beat down upon the steps of time to light the way
To ease the pain of idleness and the memory of decay.

I gaze into the doorway of temptation's angry flame
And every time I pass that way I always hear my name.
Then onward in my journey I come to understand
That every hair is numbered like every grain of sand.

I have gone from rags to riches in the sorrow of the night
In the violence of a summer's dream, in the chill of a wintry light,
In the bitter dance of loneliness fading into space,
In the broken mirror of innocence on each forgotten face.

I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there's someone there, other times it's only me.
I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand.

Oh, the flowers of indulgence and the weeds of yesteryear,
Like criminals, they have choked the breath of conscience and good cheer.
The sun beat down upon the steps of time to light the way
To ease the pain of idleness and the memory of decay.

I gaze into the doorway of temptation's angry flame
And every time I pass that way I always hear my name.
Then onward in my journey I come to understand
That every hair is numbered like every grain of sand.

I have gone from rags to riches in the sorrow of the night
In the violence of a summer's dream, in the chill of a wintry light,
In the bitter dance of loneliness fading into space,
In the broken mirror of innocence on each forgotten face.

I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there's someone there, other times it's only me.
I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand.

22 posted on 08/06/2010 12:20:42 PM PDT by don-o (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.)
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To: don-o

Well if you’re going to post it at least tell us who you’re talking about...


23 posted on 08/06/2010 12:23:47 PM PDT by sargon (I don't like the sound of these "boncentration bamps")
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To: don-o

Good call. I am a huge Dylan fan. He is truly brilliant.

He doesn’t have a “good” singing voice, but he made it work anyway. It’s an iconic sound.


24 posted on 08/06/2010 12:26:23 PM PDT by Retired Greyhound
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To: sargon
Oh, Dylan! That's who I would have guessed. Great writer, and I like his performances as well. I'm familiar with a lot of his stuff, but not this particular title.

The essence of a true artist can easily transcend obvious technical performance deficits. I've got a Dylan bootleg (probably released by now) from around 1963 which is one of my all-time treasured recordings: Rocks and Gravel, Gates of Eden, a lot of interesting tracks on it...

25 posted on 08/06/2010 12:40:28 PM PDT by sargon (I don't like the sound of these "boncentration bamps")
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To: Alex Murphy

McCartney, in an interview on National Palestine Radio (NPR) said that the Blackbird song was about a black woman who he felt was somewhat oppressed-And that he wanted her to “spread her wings and learn to fly”. Also, Lennon was making the observation that most people would have rather gone to a Beatles concert than to church.


26 posted on 08/06/2010 12:44:32 PM PDT by Amberdawn
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To: wideawake
Lennon, Starkey and Harrison were all raised Anglican.

Multiple sources indicate that Harrison was a baptized and raised Catholic.
27 posted on 08/06/2010 12:53:54 PM PDT by irishjuggler
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To: sargon
Well if you’re going to post it at least tell us who you’re talking about...

I thought the 99.9% was a dead giveaway - Bob Dylan is the man.

"He's the property of Jesus
Resent him to the bone
You got something better
You got a heart of stone.

Not directed at you, sargon - just another Dylan song that popped into my head

"He will not share His glory
And He will not be mocked!

28 posted on 08/06/2010 12:53:56 PM PDT by don-o (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.)
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To: Mrs. Don-o

ping to 22

Who is another poet that American culture has produced in the past fifty years? There may well be some. I dunno.


29 posted on 08/06/2010 12:56:14 PM PDT by don-o (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.)
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To: Retired Greyhound

Just noticed my paste has some duplicate stanzas GRRRR!

Sorry


30 posted on 08/06/2010 12:58:12 PM PDT by don-o (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.)
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To: DJ MacWoW
Paul McCartneys mother was named Mary and she died when he was young. This line is a reference to her.

Don't confuse them with facts

31 posted on 08/06/2010 1:52:40 PM PDT by RnMomof7
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To: RnMomof7
Don't confuse them with facts

Too late! ;-)

32 posted on 08/06/2010 1:57:08 PM PDT by DJ MacWoW (If Bam is the answer, the question was stupid.)
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To: don-o
Somebody said you can evaluate a culture by its poets and philosophers. Living? American? Poets? Philosophers?

I do like Wendell Berry and Bob Dylan. But i would love to hear of any other nominees.

Anyone? Anyone?

Slim pickins, as it were. (If it weren't for bacteria, we'd have no culture at all...)

33 posted on 08/06/2010 2:08:40 PM PDT by Mrs. Don-o (Mammalia Primatia Hominidae Homo sapiens. Still working on the "sapiens" part.)
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To: Alex Murphy

Well, “Why Don’t We Do It In the Road” didn’t strike me as a particularly Christian song.


34 posted on 08/06/2010 8:35:04 PM PDT by theanonymouslurker
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To: Alex Murphy
Its about a MARY JANE which is POT!

MARY JANE= MARJUANA

YOU NEVER KNEW!

When I find myself in times of trouble= When I am down.

Mother Mary comes to me=someone gets me weed(MARY JANE)

Speaking words of wisdom, let it be And in my hour of darkness=He is toking the MARY JANE for song ideas(Wisdom) at night.

She is standing right in front of me( his looking at the MARY JANE vertical in his hand after a toke of it) Speaking words of wisdom, let it be= the high for being buzzed with weird thinking for songs(CREATIVITY)

Let it be, let it be Let it be, let it be= Not a Holy Amen but let it stay lite to smoke and inhale as he looks at it.

Whisper words of wisdom( now that I am high giving me song Ideas) Let it be…. Stay lite... smoke

And when the night is cloudy= He is so high not able to be lucid!

There is still a light that shines on me=the light of the Mary JANE as he puffs to what?

Shine on until tomorrow, let it be= keep smoking and watching the shine of light from the MARY JANE because its a buzz for ideas

I wake up to the sound of music=More creative ideas come with music in my mind or while other music is playing also

Mother Mary comes to me=He lites up another MARY JANE

Speaking words of wisdom, let it be…=Bringing more song ideas to him so good let it be... and so on...

He is a stoned song writer.

This is the period of their heavy drug use. Remember Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds= LSD trip!

Also the Satanist Alester Crowley's picture is next to Mae West and Marilyn Monroe on the Album "Sergent Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band"

What does that tell you?

35 posted on 08/06/2010 8:43:47 PM PDT by johngrace (God so loved the world so he gave his only son! Praise Jesus and Hail Mary!)
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To: johngrace
I just read comments from The original article. Here's a person who got it right.

"Gee: I hate to throw cold water on this party, but I lived thru the late 60's and early 70's in both the States and in Europe. Ask any old hippie what the "Cloudy" lyrics of this song mean, nine out of ten will probably tell you that "Mother Mary," absolutely does NOT refer to the Virgin Mary! "Mother Mary" refers to an herbal remedy for depression, blues, arthritis, a hang-over, cancer, chemo-therapy and anything else that may bother you: It refers to Marijuana! If you don't believe me, ask any old hippies in Amsterdam, and 99.9% who are not still totally stoned, with affirm that "Mother Mary" is a universal euphemism for Marijuana!"

36 posted on 08/07/2010 6:19:02 AM PDT by johngrace (God so loved the world so he gave his only son! Praise Jesus and Hail Mary!)
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