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Life in a Carmelite Marriage

alec vanderboom

For many years, I've been trying to write out my conversion story. Lately, my husband's started telling me "you don't need to write about how we became a Catholics. You need to write about our current life as Catholics, because its CRAZY!"

So I'm starting a new little series called "Life in a Carmelite Marriage."

Today, I'm writing about our Carmelite take on Thomas Jefferson.

Mr. TJ is pretty big around my town. There's a grand monument to him in Washington D.C. and his ideals get thrown around frequently in Congress and the McLaughlin Group and the University of Virginia Debate Halls.

In our American History-centric house, we recently praised Mr. TJ as the mastermind behind the Lewis and Clark Expedition. (Jon and I saw a fantastic National Geographic Documentary on this on Instant Downloads from Netflix!)

We talked about this documentary for days, and then I causally mentioned that as a kid, I kept my Dad's copy of Thomas Jefferson's rewritten New Testament on my bedside table and read it during one dull Sunday. I mentioned this in causal conversation to say a) it's weird that we had this book available in our house and b) can you believe the junk I read on the Sabbath before becoming Catholic.

My husband was horrified.

"Thomas Jefferson rewrote the New Testament?"

"Yeah, he just consolidated all the Gospels into one narrative and he left out all of the miracles," I answered.

"He left out the miracles!!!!" Jon turned a different shade of white. "Who could do such a thing? How could he get it published?"

"Well, honey. Many of the founding fathers were Deists. It was sort of a popular thing back then. . ."

"But the Hubris!" Jon continued in total shock. "I mean, you could write the worse drivel about the Devil being great, but to rewrite the GOSPELS, without the MIRACLES?? We have GOT to pray for this man. How long is that going to get him in purgatory?" Jon finished.

Then there was a dreadful intake of breath. ". . .if he makes it that far!"

Days later, as we are on the City Bus driving to Sunday Mass Jon looks at me over darling Tessy's head and says "Please don't forget to pray for Thomas Jefferson's soul to get out of purgatory!"

And so folks, another odd twist in a Carmelite family. Some school children will identify Thomas Jefferson as the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence and founded the University of Virginia. Other college students will snicker at the mention of Sally Hemings. But my kids will say "Thomas Jefferson, that's the Dead guy who my Dad is furiously lighting candles for at every Mass."

(My kids will probably volunteer this in the middle of a home-school review which is why they'll get an "unsatisfactory rating" in History, but at least their Carmelite Daddy will be proud.)

Jon wants me to tell you that Mr. Jefferson referred to his revision of the New Testament. as "diamonds from a dung-hill". I'll post the description of Mr. TJ's intentions here. My spouse is in shock! "It's unbelievable. The hero of our country!" I need to go help offer up some more prayers now.

From Wikipedia "Jefferson accomplished a more limited goal in 1804 with “The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth,” the predecessor to Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.[4] He described it in a letter to John Adams dated 13 October 1813:
“ In extracting the pure principles which he taught, we should have to strip off the artificial vestments in which they have been muffled by priests, who have travestied them into various forms, as instruments of riches and power to themselves. We must dismiss the Platonists and Plotinists, the Stagyrites and Gamalielites, the Eclectics, the Gnostics and Scholastics, their essences and emanations, their logos and demiurges, aeons and daemons, male and female, with a long train of … or, shall I say at once, of nonsense. We must reduce our volume to the simple evangelists, select, even from them, the very words only of Jesus, paring off the amphibologisms into which they have been led, by forgetting often, or not understanding, what had fallen from him, by giving their own misconceptions as his dicta, and expressing unintelligibly for others what they had not understood themselves. There will be found remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man. I have performed this operation for my own use, by cutting verse by verse out of the printed book, and arranging the matter which is evidently his, and which is as easily distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill. The result is an octavo of forty-six pages, of pure and unsophisticated doctrines. [3]