We all know the traditional Christian story of Peter leaving Rome to avoid being tortured and crucified. He meets Christ outside of Rome and puts the question to Him; (Where are you going?), to which Christ replied: “Romam eo iterum crucifigi” (“I am going to Rome to be crucified again”).

Now with Jess’s withdrawal from her blog, I see both her and many others of us who might see ourselves depicted in this tradition as well. For it was Peter’s Church, a leader of that nascent Church who was looked to by that small band of Christians for their inspiration.

Those of us here, likewise, have looked to Jessica as one who has fashioned a new apostolate that took discussion, dialogue, argumentation and even a resurgence of the ancient art of dialectic in a direction that was set apart from most of the drivel that is encountered on the internet in our day. We were given encouragement to engage with one another though we were from divergent backgrounds, countries and cultures. We were given the leeway to explore in depths by the above methods faith, belief, truths, politics, societal issues and how they effected us in our own lives and how we differed in how our beliefs drove us to live our lives in a world that is dividing into smaller and smaller sub-groups or mini-cultures that seem to be ever dividing us. It provided no answers for us really but it did provide us with an opportunity to see how we too have been split apart and compartmentalized. It was a great vision for us to learn of each other and to, even if for a moment, see that our human spirit and desire for a greater good drives us though by different avenues and sometimes reaching opposite conclusions. It allowed us to regain a new-found respect for people who are quite different in many things except that we were people of good will and motivated by the sum of our backgrounds, our lives and educations. Nobody was looked down upon because we did not have academic credentials, and yet many here did. We all felt we had found a family of great diversity who were co-equals regardless of our deficiencies.

Jessica’s post, Vale, seems to bring to mind the ‘vale of tears’ that are sung in the Catholic Hymn. Salve Regina or perhaps other references:

“Beyond this vale of tears there is a life above.” – James Montgomery, British Hymn writer and Poet

“Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart, and all is darkened in the vale of tears.” – Katharina A. von Schlegel, German Hymn writer

“To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears.” – Catholic Hymn Salve Regina, c. 1080

As such, it leaves me saddened that one who has done so much to provide a place of worth, a place that struggles in this vale of tears, has walked away and finds it difficult to participate in what is bearing fruit for many of us.

So do we sit in Rome and await her return or do we scatter to the four winds? Will she never return or will time, which heals all wounds, bring her both refreshment and a new zeal to carry through with what she has started . . . as St. Peter did before her.

And for the rest of us: Quo vadis? Do we keep the fires burning here? Do we keep growing in our love and respect for one another by continuing our quest for truths, understanding of each other and our realization that something must be done to stop this rapid division of people into even smaller subcultural cliques than we have now.

For sadly, this departure could be the poisoning of the well that has been dug by all our hands in this vast internet desert. So if we continue this experiment, we must not lose its spirit of argumentation and disagreement when we have them. If we become guarded and simply smile at whatever one another writes and agrees with everything under the sun we will not be the same place and in fact we will simply be wasting our intellectual pursuits for truth and understanding.

My vote is to continue on, though, as often is the case, people go away to heal from hurts, language, a particular adversary etc. but they also have come back after strength returns and re-engage in meaningful ways. But if we allow this to be a wet blanket on vigorous debate we won’t last a month. The key is to respect our adversary and I hope that we all learn to do this better in time. We need do better by leaving the ad hominems at home and deal with the issues under debate.

What say you?