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Posted by on Jun 13, 2018

Asking for Pardon / Getting Rid of Shame – Examen: Fourth Point

Asking for Pardon / Getting Rid of Shame – Examen: Fourth Point

According to Brené Brown

Shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behavior. Shame is, “I am bad.” Guilt is, “I did something bad.” How many of you, if you did something that was hurtful to me, would be willing to say, “I’m sorry. I made a mistake?” How many of you would be willing to say that? Guilt: I’m sorry. I made a mistake. Shame: I’m sorry. I am a mistake.

One of the key challenges in even looking at our behavior and our relationships is not guilt, but shame. Our thoughts and feelings can run off the rails and we think, “I did something bad. That means that I am bad.” Guilt becomes confused with shame. That’s why shame is such a big part of addiction, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and bullying. According to Brene Brown, shame for women is, “Do it all. Do it perfectly and never let them see you sweat.” For men, shame is, “Do not be perceived of as weak.”

Shaming is something we see often with pets. When a dog misbehaves we are tempted to say, “Bad dog!” We don’t say,” You chewed my slipper. You did something wrong, but you are a good dog.”  However, that can be very confusing and threatening for the dog. According to animal behavior specialists, it is much clearer if we say, “No chew!” when the dog is chewing a slipper. “Good dog” should be an ongoing message that is conveyed by the way we handle the dog.

Invalidating or shaming others is a fundamentally evil act, since it contravenes God’s view of us and all creation as fundamentally good. For someone to take on the view that they are bad is to identify with evil, to identify with non-being. Some people can reject the notion that they are bad but respond by defining the people who are shaming them as fundamentally bad. Through this fundamental rejection of a person, we make them something completely apart from us. They are the other. This unfortunate behavior in ourselves and other primates makes it possible for us to destroy members of our own species and even our own families. David Eagleman explains in an episode of The Brain how genocide occurs when we turn off our empathy.

Asking for God’s pardon is an acknowledgement that we have not lived up to what we actually are. Yes, we have done something wrong, and we feel bad about what we have done, but we know that we are loved and good because God sees all that he has made and says that it is good.

The important thing in this step is not to get overwhelmed. Pick one area that you would like to work on in consultation with your spiritual director and reflect on it over time – or not.

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Posted by on Sep 1, 2016

Pablo Escobar, Jr and The Parable of the Merciful Son

Pablo Escobar, Jr and The Parable of the Merciful Son

NASA South America 2007

South America – NASA Image – Public Domain

 

CNN published an unusual story of hope, forgiveness, and mercy “Escobar’s Son Lives with Two Truths”.

“I could easily have turned into Pablo 2.0, but I found out about the violence and the pain,”

What happens when you are the son of one of the world’s most notorious criminals? You say good bye to your father on the phone and get a call a few minutes later from the police from your father’s phone. What do you say when they tell you that they have just killed the man who loved you unconditionally with great tenderness?

How do you reconcile the man who is a great father with the man who set up the Medellin drug cartel in Colombia, killed hundreds including police, lawyers, and judges while smuggling 15 tons of cocaine into the United States everyday?

The usual television script would call for the son to follow in the footsteps of the father in a remake of “The Godfather”. Yet a young man decided not become Pablo Escobar 2.0 and gave up that name to become Sebastian Marroquin (say Marro-keen).

Marroquin chose a path of peace and reconciliation. In the recently released English translation of Pecados de Mi Padre (The Sins of my Father) as Pablo Escobar, My Father. Marroquin presents the loving father and the monstrous criminal. He talks about his own efforts to make amends with the children of the key Colombian leaders killed by his father. His reason, “because absolute silence kills us all.” The meetings have been very difficult for everyone involved but also healing. Some have told Marroquin that he is one of the victims himself and that no apology was needed since he hadn’t committed or ordered the murders.

This is an extraordinary account of repentance offered and mercy given. How many of us would even speak to the son of the man who murdered our father? How many of us could look past our own pain and rage to absolve the murderer’s son and bring him into the ranks of the victims? Generally, human history is replete with examples of revenge after wave of revenge lasting for generations.

Marroquin’s main reason for promoting his book is that he feels that the coming release of season two of “Narcos” by Netflix glamorizes his father and gangsters.

“I am not worried that the image of my father is bad. What worries me is the image of him that says, ‘It’s cool to be a narco trafficker.'”

A new parable for our time?

 

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Posted by on Jun 18, 2015

Treat Them with Tenderness – Pope Francis

Treat Them with Tenderness – Pope Francis

father_piggy_backPope Francis celebrated Mass for the Third Worldwide Retreat for Priests on June 12, 2015, the Feast of the Sacred Heart. In his homily for the priests he spoke of God’s tenderness — a tenderness like that of a father or a mother teaching a child to walk. A tenderness that binds his people in freedom, attracting them “with bonds of love, with ties of love.” He explained that God then tells us and his people, “For you I am like one who lifts a child to my cheek and kisses her as I bend down to feed her. Considering this tenderness of God how would it be possible for him to abandon us to the enemy?” When we find ourselves in difficulty or insecurity, the Lord tells us, “If I do all of this for you, how can you even think that I would leave you on your own, that I would abandon you?”

Referring to the Coptic martyrs of Libya, Pope Francis noted that they died with the name of Jesus on their lips, entrusting themselves to the love of God. God promises,“How can I treat you as an enemy? My heart rises within me and arouses all my tenderness.” It is not a day of wrath that awaits you but a day of pardon for sins and the tenderness of a Father, the Holy One in our midst. This love and tenderness is the gift of the Father to all of his children, for each one of us.

A lot of the time we are afraid of the tenderness of God and we refuse to let ourselves experience it. In these moments “we are hard, severe, punishers” of our neighbors (and even of ourselves). Although he was speaking to priests, the message is something that we should all hear, as it applies to us as well. He also explained that that we should not be like the shepherd who cared for only one sheep and left the other ninety nine sheep to wander about, lost.

The Pope explained, “the heart of Christ is the tenderness of God. This is the way that pastors (and the people of God) should shepherd each other – with the tenderness of God and they should leave the whip in the sacristy (or in the cabinet) and be tender shepherds even with those who are the most troublesome.”

Finishing his homily, Pope Francis said “We do not believe in an ethereal God. We believe in a God who became flesh, who has a heart, and this heart today tells us, ‘Come to me if you are tired, worn out, and I will refresh you, but treat my little ones with tenderness, with the same tenderness with which I care for you.’ This is what the heart of Christ is telling us today and this is what I am praying for you today at this Mass and for myself.”

(Pope Francis’ homily was written for a priests’ retreat, but the ideas he expressed are important for all of us, the People of God. Accordingly, I have included mention of the rest of us in parentheses.)

 

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Posted by on Jun 18, 2015

Trátenlos con ternura – Papa Francisco

Trátenlos con ternura – Papa Francisco

dad_with_daughterPapa Francisco celebró la Misa para el Tercer Retiro Mundial de Sacerdotes el 12 de Junio de 2015, la Fiesta del Sagrado Corazón. En su homilía a los sacerdotes les habló de la ternura de Dios: una ternura como la de un padre o una madre que enseña a su criatura a caminar. Una ternura que ata en la libertad a su pueblo, atrayéndolo «con lazos de amor, con ataduras de amor». Explicó que luego Dios nos dice a nosotros y a su pueblo, «Yo era para ti como los que alzan a una criatura a las mejillas y lo besaba, y me inclinaba y le daba de comer». Pensando en esa ternura de Dios, ¿cómo podría ser que nos abandonara al enemigo? Cuando nos encontramos en momentos de dificultad o de inseguridad, el Señor nos dice: «pero si hice todo esto por vos, ¿cómo pensás que te voy a dejar solo, que te voy a abandonar?»

Dando el ejemplo de los mártires coptos de Libia, Papa Francisco notó que se murieron con el nombre de Jesús en los labios, confiándose en el amor de Dios. «¿Cómo te voy a tratar como un enemigo? Mi corazón se subleva dentro de mí y se enciende toda mi ternura». No es un día de ira que les espera sino un día de perdón de pecados y de la ternura de un Padre, el Santo en medio de nosotros. Ese amor y ternura son el don del Padre para todos sus hijos, para cada uno de nosotros.

Muchas veces le tenemos miedo a la ternura de Dios y no nos dejamos experimentarla. En tales momentos «somos duros, severos, castigadores» con nuestros prójimos (y hasta con nosotros mismos). Hablando a los sacerdotes, pero con palabras que los demás debemos escuchar también, explicó que no debemos ser como un pastor que cuidaba a solamente una oveja y dejaba andar perdidos a las noventa y nueve otras ovejas. Dice, «El corazón de Cristo es la ternura de Dios». Así que los pastores (y el pueblo de Dios) han de ser pastores (y pueblo) «con ternura de Dios, que dejen el látigo colgado en la sacristía (o el gabinete) y sean pastores (y pueblo) con ternura, incluso con los que le traen más problemas.»

Concluyendo su homilía, Papa Francisco dice, «Nosotros no creemos en un Dios etéreo, creemos en un Dios que se hizo carne, que tiene un corazón, y ese corazón hoy nos habla así: “vengan a mí si están cansados, agobiados, y los voy a aliviar, pero a los míos, a mis pequeños trátenlos con ternura, con la misma ternura con que los trato yo”. Eso nos dice el corazón de Cristo hoy y es lo que en esta misa pido para ustedes y también para mí».

(La  homilía del Papa Francisco fue escrita para una misa celebrada con un grupo de sacerdotes, pero las ideas son importantes para todos nosotros, el pueblo de Dios. Así que he incluido mención de los demás de nosotros entre paréntesis.)

 

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Posted by on Jun 17, 2015

The Sacred Heart Devotion – Love Conquers All

The Sacred Heart Devotion – Love Conquers All

SacredHeart Fanelli 1994

In Catholic culture, devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus has become so widespread that the image has become an icon of Catholicism. Sometimes, the various forms of the image can strike us as a little bizarre, with Jesus pointing to a physical heart on His chest. Others which are more contemporary move us with the more abstract heart on fire with love. Why is this image so central to the modern or post 1500s Catholic imagination? We don’t really find it in ancient icons.

 

Understandings of The Fall

In the 1500s and 1600s, Calvin and other protestant reformers focused on the fall of humanity from grace or the breakup of people from their loving relationship with God when Adam and Eve sinned. The only way that this divorce could be fixed was by God reaching out in love according to St Augustine (in the 300s) because humanity was too broken and too easily fell into sin. This sinful impulse is called concupiscence. The brokenness of humanity is called depravity which comes from the Latin word for crooked. The Catholic Church has always taught that the passion, death and resurrection of Christ has restored humanity and that we are not basically at our core wicked, corrupt, or crooked. Calvin and others taught that human nature is basically corrupt and is covered over by God’s love. Only a few will be saved and God has made up His mind ahead of time who they will be. Those few are predestined by God since there is really nothing anyone can do to enter into this loving relationship with God.

These ideas found their way into a Catholic movement led by Bishop Cornelius Jansen (1585 – 1635) of Ypres in the Belgian Province of West Flanders. In part, this was a reaction to the pre-reformation Catholic notion that you could win your way back into God’s favor by doing good works. Some people had the mistaken idea that God could be “bought.” This was a distortion of the fact that we are supposed to live our faith and show our reunion with God by doing good things for other people. Basically, love is more than words. Love is shown in how we live.

The Jansenist Change of Tone and Attitude

The Jansenist movement took St. Augustine’s view of a fallen human nature and moved toward Calvin’s position that we are so fundamentally damaged and crooked that there is nothing we can do. According to Calvin, we are incapable of reaching out to God’s love but God’s love or grace is so powerful that it can sweep us up and we have no choice in the matter. That’s the only way that we can be saved. While not throwing aside Catholic teaching the way that Calvin and other reformers had done, the Jansenist movement changed the tone and the attitude of how we are supposed to relate to God. We are so damaged and unworthy that we should receive communion only rarely. We should engage in a lot of prayer and penance because God still sees our sinfulness and brokenness and is always “ticked off” or at least supremely disappointed. There was no way that you could be human — loving, caring, and inconsistent — and make God happy, because we are all hopeless “screw ups.” Jesus may have suffered and died for us, but all we do is repay him with sin. The Jansenist attitude causes the loving Jesus to be off in the distance and our relationship with him to become formal and focused on certain types of religious practices that make no allowance for human frailty, weakness, or growth.

The Jansenist attitude became a prominent part of the Catholic Church in the United States since it was brought by Irish and French immigrants and the priests and nuns who accompanied them. One could not receive communion without going to confession first. Many types of minor human mistakes, even the gestures the priest used at Mass could be gravely serious mortal sins that cut us off from the love of God completely. Eating meat on Friday was a mortal sin; owning slaves was not. Not observing certain days of fasting and not eating meat (abstinence) were mortal sins; beating one’s wife or children was not. The tragic legacy of Jansenism and the Calvinism that is a big part of Anglo American culture is that we are seen as beyond real healing and redemption. We are so messed up that God’s healing love, forgiveness, and happiness are not within reach. This has become a major reason for people to give up on God and religion altogether. Such a distorted “god” is inhuman, abusive, and unloving.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

In the 1600s, at the same time that Catholic and Protestant movements were focusing on the brokenness and crookedness of humanity and how far we are from God, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque and St. Claude de la Colombière promoted a renewed focus on the love and forgiveness of Christ. This devotion came to be known as devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Since Christ is truly human and truly divine, this vision brings us an understanding of Jesus as loving us in a completely human way but with unlimited Divine love. This is the Divine love that continuously overflows in creation, redemption, and resurrection in our lives.

The devotion to the Sacred Heart has had its own excesses. There was a tendency to actually worship the heart of Jesus itself as opposed to rejoicing and reveling in God’s love. This is called an error of logical typing, an error which would lead to eating the menu instead of the food. Another problem was to humanize the love of Christ to the point of believing that our rejection of God’s love could somehow “hurt” him in the way that we suffer rejection when others do not respond to the love we offer them. God cannot be other than God, which is love. (1 John 4:16) God cannot help Godself. The divine love is what God is. If we love imperfectly it is because we are human and we love with all of those human limitations. This is the only way we can respond to that divine love that is always creating, redeeming, and bringing new life out of death. But it is not the way God loves.

This understandably human mistaken notion that God can be “hurt” led to a number of practices such as special prayers, fasting, and mortification of the “deadening” impulses related to hunger, thirst, and sex, as well as the deadly sins of pride, anger, lust, envy, gluttony, avarice (greed), and sloth or laziness. While these are important parts of spiritual training or getting “in shape” (called asceticism), they were often done to somehow make up for all of the bad stuff everyone else was doing to “hurt” God. These are called acts of reparation. In this mode we focused on the transcendence of God — the loftiness of the Almighty as separated from everyday creation and living.

The Second Vatican Council (1961 – 1965) focused more on the immanence of God — the presence of God in our daily lives. The Church’s concept of itself was no longer that of a “perfect society” that was complete and sufficient within itself like a strong kingdom or empire. The Church became the People of God on pilgrimage, living in and following the living Christ of the Resurrection. This changed the expression of our devotion to the loving presence of God. Images of the Divine Word Incarnate in Jesus became more human. Jesus became more Jewish looking, more middle-eastern, and more like a young virile man. Many earlier images of a pale, wan, almost effete white man no longer matched the Catholic imagination of the post-modern period that emerged after World War II.

Not all Catholics welcomed this development. Such a generous, understanding, and lovable Jesus who is the image of the Living God seemed to downplay the seriousness and widespread nature of sin. Getting in shape spiritually (asceticism) now focused on changing structures of sin and oppression — human rights, civil rights, freedom, and equality. This was quite a shock to the Catholic imagination which had focused so heavily on the interior and heavenly direction of our relationship with God. By retreating from the world to our “perfect” society we had security due to the certainty we enjoyed. Insecurity returned when we realized that faith is the opposite of certainty. Suddenly, the life of Christ was a not a noble walk of the white Aryan with fair hair through Palestine. The life of Christ as the model for our lives became a struggle to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven that ends in apparent failure, torture, and death. Yes, the resurrection transforms us all. The death and resurrection of Christ which we live out in our lives is God’s definitive “no” to evil and to death.

Michael Rubbelke in his post “Devotion to the Sacred Heart Today: The Heart of the Poor, Creation, and Mercy” offers an emerging vision of the Sacred Heart Devotion. The images of the Sacred Heart in his post offer a stark contrast. The first is a traditional image of the white serene Jesus. The second is a contemporary icon by Robert Lentz. This image of Jesus is a brown man with tightly curled African hair. He is portrayed in a more South Asian Hindu style, jutting forth from the icon with arms extended and stylized flames bursting from his hands. Perhaps this is the post-modern icon of the Sacred Heart. It gives expression to Pope Francis’ vision of a church of the poor for the poor, a call to be responsible stewards of creation, and a profound call to announce and to become the Divine Mercy.

This is a more challenging and less comforting Sacred Heart. It also brings more of the challenges of a direct, open, and honest love relationship with the Living God.

Image: Sacred Heart of Jesus, Joseph Fanelli,
used with permission

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Posted by on Jun 13, 2015

The Sacred Heart of Jesus: Source of Limitless Love

The Sacred Heart of Jesus: Source of Limitless Love

Sacred Heart by David Clayton Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus originated as a meditation on the love that Jesus has for humanity.  In the 1500s, Jesuits and Franciscans promoted devotion to the wounded heart of Jesus. However, they did not stress the physical bleeding heart of Jesus crowned with thorns that has come down to us. This common  image does not necessarily help people feel closer to Jesus today. Presenting Jesus with a heart with flames of love and a face full of love and light emphasizes his limitless divine love in a very human way.

A Physical Organ or A Symbol of Love?

Sacred Heart - Pompeo BatoniThe devotion to the Sacred Heart has not always  included a focus on the suffering of Jesus and his actual physical heart. During the first ten centuries of Christianity, devotion to the humanity of Christ did not include honoring the wounded Heart of Jesus. From the 1200s to the 1500s devotion to the Sacred Wounds increased. However, it was private, individual, and of a mystical nature. The thorn crowned heart shows the change from honoring Jesus’ love for humanity to humans making reparation for sin. In the 1670s, the apparitions of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to  Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque,  moved the devotion into the public life of the Church and it became centered on sorrow for sin. Popular piety continued this emphasis and eventually promoted worship of the physical heart of Jesus to such a point that Pope Pius XII had to correct this. The pope explained that the Sacred Heart belongs to the “Divine Person of the Eternal Word” and is a symbolic image of his love and our redemption. (See Haurietis aquas). Eastern Catholicism promotes some devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. However,  the devotion is controversial because of the mixing of the theologies of divine love and human reparation for sin within it. Eastern Catholics do not share the Western preoccupation with the physical heart of Jesus.

Devotion to Love

SacredHeart Fanelli 1994Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a devotion to His love. It is a response to the extravagance of Jesus.  His suffering and human sin are important for our consideration in other ways. However, this focus is not suitable for a devotion which focuses on love. This is particularly true today when addressing young people in first world cultures in which few symbols are shared. A heart in flames is a direct and simple symbol.

It is interesting that one of the main resources of devotion to the Sacred Heart, the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (1899), is anything but human, warm, or loving. The Litany is formal, monarchical and transcendent. There is little sense of the human heart of Jesus reaching out to humanity to give consolation, peace or special graces. The prayer is true to its historical context, a time in the Church of formality and a sense of distance from the divine.

Despite the turn towards human individual experience and emotion in the 20th and 21st centuries, many Catholics do not feel personally close to God or have a warm experience of God’s love for them. Many still relate to God as a judge and an enforcer of rules.  Contemplating Jesus in the Gospels gives us a richer mystical image of the truly divine and truly human Jesus Christ full of warm friendliness, compassion, and humility with a heart full of love.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, by David Clayton – used with permission
Sacred Heart, by Pompeo Batoni –  public domain
Sacred Heart of Jesus, by Joseph Fanelli – used with permission

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Posted by on Apr 8, 2012

“Christ is Risen”  “He is Truly Risen”

“Christ is Risen” “He is Truly Risen”

This ancient greeting and response burst forth from a joyful people, marking a new day, a new creation, a New Covenant — our Easter morning. Following the heartbreak and despair of Good Friday and the empty sadness of the Holy Saturday that followed, Life rises up again, unbroken and undefeated, never again to die.

With Christian people through the ages and around the world, we sing joyfully in praise this ancient hymn.

Christians, to the Paschal Victim
Offer your thankful praises!
A Lamb the sheep redeems;
Christ, who only is sinless,
Reconciles sinners to the Father.
Death and life have contended in that combat stupendous:
The Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal.
Speak, Mary, declaring
What you saw, wayfaring.
“The tomb of Christ, who is living,
The glory of Jesus’ resurrection;
Bright angels attesting,
The shroud and napkin resting.
Yes, Christ my hope is arisen;
To Galilee he goes before you.”
Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining.
Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!
Amen. Alleluia.

Victimae paschali laudes from the Liturgy for Easter Sunday
“Easter Lily” by George Cochran Lambdin, in the public domain, created before 1923.

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Posted by on Sep 14, 2011

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross – An Ancient Feast Still Relevant

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross – An Ancient Feast Still Relevant

Feast of the Cross - Russion Icon, 1680

The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross dates from the fourth century, when according to tradition St. Helena discovered the True Cross on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was dedicated in 335 AD and the cross was kept inside the church. The dedication of the church was celebrated on September 13 and the cross was carried outside the church for veneration by the faithful on September 14. As part of the celebration, the cross was lifted up so all could see it. This was the reason the feast came to be called the “Exaltation” or “Raising Aloft” of the Holy Cross or the Precious Cross (depending on whether one spoke Latin or Greek). Another,  more recent, translation of the term Exaltatio is “triumph.”

Beyond the physical practice of raising the cross up so that people could see it and venerate it, the triumph of Jesus over death on the cross has been a source of hope for people through the ages. In fact, Jesus told his disciples, “If I am lifted up high I will draw everything to myself.” (Jn 12:32)

In The Dialogue, 26, St. Catherine of Siena describes God’s explanation to her of Jesus’ role as bridge between the divine and the human.

“… Do you know when it [this bridge] was raised up? When my Son was lifted up on the wood of the most holy cross he did not cut off his divinity from the lowly earth of your humanity. So though he was raised so high he was not raised off the earth. In fact, his divinity is kneaded into the clay of your humanity like one bread. …

When my goodness saw that you could be drawn in no other way, I sent him to be lifted onto the wood of the cross. I made of that cross an anvil where this child of humankind could be hammered into an instrument to release humankind from death and restore it to the life of grace. In this way he drew everything to himself: for he proved his unspeakable love, and the human heart is always drawn by love. He could not have shown you greater love than by giving his life for you. …

I said that, having been raised up, he would draw everything to himself. This is true in two ways: First, the human heart is drawn by love, as I said, and with all its powers: memory, understanding, and will. If these three powers are harmoniously united in my name, everything else you do, in fact or in intention, will be drawn to union with me in peace through the movement of my love, because all will be lifted up in the pursuit of crucified love. … For everything you do will be drawn to him when he draws your heart and its powers.”

“His divinity is kneaded into the clay of your humanity” and then all raised up, drawn into the life of the Trinity. What a great gift we have received. We no longer gather in Jerusalem expecting to see Jesus’ cross carried out for our veneration. We celebrate the raising aloft of our lives in union with His gift of life on the cross, drawn by love to that union.

(Image is in the public domain in the United States because its copyright has expired.)

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Posted by on Jul 25, 2011

Novena to St. Ignatius Loyola – Soul of Christ – Day 4 – July 26

Novena to St. Ignatius Loyola – Soul of Christ – Day 4 – July 26


Opening Prayer

Anima Christi

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O Good Jesus, hear me.
Within Thy wounds hide me.

Suffer me not to be separated from thee.
From the malignant enemy defend me.
In the hour of my death call me.
And bid me come unto Thee,
That with all Thy saints,
I may praise thee
Forever and ever.
Amen.

A favorite prayer of St. Ignatius, the Anima Christi has its origins in the 13th century, but the author remains unknown. It may seem a little jarring to juxtapose the exuberant “Worthy Is the Lamb” with the ancient and more subdued Anima Christi. However, they focus on our recognition of the source of our salvation and the compelling power of God’s grace. Across 800 years, the cultural idiom may have changed but not the Holy Spirit.

Foregiveness

Reflection

St. Ignatius focuses the First Week of the Exercises on sin and conversion. The activities concentrate on becoming aware of our sinfulness, our unworthiness, and God’s willing pardon. Sometimes this awareness can be overwhelming in inappropriate ways. The purpose of these actions is to change our hearts. In this regard, St. Ignatius is something of a behaviorist. His approach is to notice particular tendencies or actual sins and to keep a scorecard of our victories and defeats. Clearly, it is not enough to know our failings; it is more important to do something about them.

For those who are newly turned from sinful and self-destructive lifestyles, the First Week is a time of awareness, repentance, and a behavioral change in our awareness of our thoughts and actions. In many ways this mirrors St. Ignatius’ own experience during his conversion and pilgrim years. As a man of his times, he lived in a time of strict and rigid codes of honor, duty, and obligation. Feudal lords could exact terrible consequences from any of their vassals or peasants who breached obligations, whether the breach was real or perceived.

For many people today, Christian conversion is experienced in the intensity of the charismatic experience. The focus is on forgiveness, the terrible price Christ paid for each one of us, and the joy of our salvation. The reformation of our lives is worked out in this broader context.

Regardless of whether we are in the 16th or the 21st centuries, our journey begins with the experience of our salvation and the changing of hearts shown in our actual behavior.

Placing Ourselves in God’s Presence

Inhale slowly and deeply. Exhale slowly and mindfully.
Relax. Be at peace. Be aware that you are in God’s loving presence wherever you are.

Reviewing Our Lives With Gratitude

When did I first become aware of my sinfulness and God’s forgiving love? Who were the people in my life who showed me their changed hearts by their example? When did I first give or receive forgiveness from someone important in my life? When did I first stop looking at a check list of sins and realize that my actions could hurt and offend God?

Reflecting on Our Feelings and Spiritual Movements

What thoughts and feelings come to my mind and heart when I let God and others down? What do I feel when I see and reflect on the suffering and death of Christ? How do I feel when my love is not returned? Why is God’s love so encompassing?

Focusing on What Comes to Us

Let your feelings and images well up within you. What strikes you the most about the course of your life? What feeling or images come to you more clearly and peacefully?

Talking With Jesus Our Friend

Converse with Jesus as He is right now, right here – your friend. Share what comes from your heart – in a look, a few words, a smile. Talk frankly about the things that you are doing wrong in your life. Talk about grudges, bitterness, your regret, your shame. Ask for his healing and make a plan to start changing things, little by little, day by day.

Jesus, your love and your grace are enough for me. Let nothing come between us.

Concluding Prayer

St. Ignatius, you signed your letters “pobre de bondad,” poor in goodness, and called yourself a pilgrim. Please pray for me to be open to what God is calling me to do to announce and build up the kingdom. Transform my petitions into questions of discernment and pray for us to remember that all of our true needs and desires are already known to God. Pray that I be taken beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life.

In your writings and by your example we are reminded to pray for the Church and the Holy Father, for all who dwell in darkness and for the millions lacking food, water, and other necessities. We join our prayer with yours for true openness so that we can contemplate the Divine presence in all things and praise, reverence and serve God Our Lord in action.Pray for us to have the courage to meet and to serve the Lord Jesus in the poor and the suffering.

Praise be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
Now and Forever. Amen.

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Posted by on Apr 28, 2011

Easter Week Daze

I tried to blog during Holy Week. I would like to say that I was too caught up in ecstasy to touch the keyboard, but I was really silenced. It wasn’t really writer’s block. It was more a sense of something I am learning in my old age – to keep my mouth shut. As an extrovert this is an occurrence of note, since I don’t often know what I am thinking until I am expressing it.

Per usual, after the stress of the event, I can begin talking or writing about my experiences of Lent and Holy Week now that we are in Easter Tide.

Easter Triduum, from Holy Thursday to Easter Vigil, is a montage of one highly charged event ebbing and flowing over many others. The breaking of the bread at the Last Supper; Judas sent off on his errand; Jesus looking for support and finding us asleep. The darkness at noon covers all creation. Nicodemus asks for the body of Jesus. Mary of Magdala weeping as she asked the Gardener, “Where have you laid him?” followed by the overpoweringly personal entreaty of a close Friend, “Mary.” The disillusioned disciples heading back home and being consoled by a stranger Whom they invited in for the evening. The guest only reveals Himself in the moment of the breaking of the bread. After all of the betrayals, the abandonment, with the marks of the crucifixion on His body, His first words to the men who “threw Him under the bus” was “Peace.” In all of previous salvation history, God’s messengers manifest with the same greeting of peace, but now God does it directly, for the first time.

I understand that the traditional teaching is that the sacrifice of Jesus satisfied the Father’s need for atonement, but somehow, it is hard for me to imagine that God, in Jesus, would not take offense at the rejection of his goodness. Yet, Jesus doesn’t take offense even as the disciples and all of us cower in hiding.

The only thing that I can compare this daze to is to singing the last note of Hadyn’s Creation Mass as a member of the Loyola Men’s Chorus. The director had told us that we would know if we had succeeded if there was a deafening silence before the audience responded. The last note hung in the air. The director brought his thumb and forefinger together; the note evaporated high in the nave. The silence was profound and seemed to last forever. The temperature dropped and then there was thunderous applause.

I am still in the coolness of the silence after that last note. It is not a bad place to be. I hope you are too. Peace.

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Posted by on Apr 26, 2011

Violence and Atonement: A Necessary Link?

Violence and Atonement: A Necessary Link?

Fireweed by Joseph N. Hall

The relationship between violence and atonement is closely woven in scripture and theology but it seems inimical to me. As a life long Catholic, anthropologist, and amateur theologian, I grew up with the notion of the Mass as the unbloody sacrifice of Calvary. Things changed after Vatican II to a focus on the Paschal mystery. Despite all of the language we have about the Father requiring satisfaction, it does seem contrary to Jesus’ own teaching about the fact that human fathers, “evil as you are,” would not give your son a stone when he asks for bread. (Matt 7:11)

Clearly, there is patriarchal and tribal language in the concept of satisfaction. This is still prevalent, as seen in a recent gang rape case in Pakistan. A young woman was brutally gang raped by men of another sub-tribe because her 13 year old brother had apparently flirted with a young girl of the other group. To settle the conflict and avoid greater reprisals, the elders of the young woman’s group offered her as a settlement. http://articles.latimes.com/2011/apr/22/world/la-fg-pakistan-rape-20110422

This is not only revolting to our current sensibilities, but it challenges the notion of sacrifice in the tribal sense. My own existentialist take on redemption has to do with authenticity. God took upon Himself our human condition and brought mercy, healing, and peace. For this he was publicly tortured to death.

My own post-modern sense is that the Father is not so much offended by our sin as appalled by it, as an act of vandalism or destruction of works of great beauty conceived in boundless love. The freedom that is required for the reciprocation of love can also be used to reject it. I personally cannot conceive of an infinite God who is somehow diminished or “offended.” To continue to anthropomorphize the Father as a post-modern, post-Freudian human father leads us to a Father, Son, and Spirit caught up in the continuing ongoing creation of bonum diffusivum sibi – good diffusive of itself. The Incarnation and Christ event are the result of an unlimited and unconditional love.

Clearly, this post-modern language flies in the face of Old Testament pastoral society and the cult of Temple sacrifice in the New Testament. Early Christians had to find a way to explain the Christ event in their own cultural and historical context. However, there is no denying that a post-modern Father is less monstrous to the secular humanist ethics and sensibilities that derive from the Christian tradition of the West.

As terrible as the death of Jesus was, it was completely overshadowed by the fact that no evil can come between us and the Love of God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:39)

The great peril of a tribal metaphor is not its irrelevance nor its systemic violence, but rather the chasm it creates between God and us that continues to be the original and fundamental blasphemy alienating us from God and ourselves. The preface to the Eucharistic prayer at the Mass of the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday begins in astonishment “Father, you love us still and sent us the Christ.” Yes, what amazement there is, that in spite of our rejection, God never stopped loving us.

The demand for violence attributed to the Father elevates evil to the level of the divine. The unrelenting intrusion of the divine in the human train wreck, of necessity, requires God to confront violence; which he does with non-violence – even to death on a cross. (Philippians 2:8)

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Posted by on Apr 14, 2009

Easter Monday 2009: The Post Modern Blues

Easter Monday 2009: The Post Modern Blues

Borgognone 1510

Borgognone 1510

Easter time in the 21st century is a curious season. We are living in a time in which the rationality of the Enlightenment has been obliterated by the irrational violence and deconstruction of the Modern Era which ended with the creation of the atom bomb. In the 20th century we saw the the rise of the irrational as a counter to the idea of reason as the engine of human progress. Advances in science and engineering led to death on a massive scale whether in its industrial production form in the genocide of Jews and other peoples or its explosion from the sky in carpet bombing of Dresden or the incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The darkness within the brilliance of the human heart and mind was also manifest in the Vietnam War epic movie “Apocalypse Now” based on the theme that facing the horror of one’s evil can only lead to self destruction.

So here we are on the cusp of the third millennium. Human progress seems more of an illusion. In fact, our Post-Modern sensibility is all about the inability of reason and science to get at ultimate truth. Everything is examined and found wanting. Physics has become the study of relativity, uncertainty, and mathematical models. Religion and philosophy are the products of language we create. The scriptures of Christianity are cultural creations which tell us more of the people who wrote them. They are robbed of their revelation.

Human romance and love are reduced to methods for the socio-biological dispersion of one’s genetic load. Religious experience is suspect because there is no way to know whether one is just engaging in psychological projection to create a hideout from the ultimate reality of the purposelessness of human existence. We are here by virtue of  a cosmic accident with a very low probability.

In our world, there is the torture and death of Good Friday but there is no need for a Resurrection or any life beyond our current suffering because it is not possible since we can never know the nature anything beyond nature with any certainty. So here is the greatest event of all human history and our greatest personal hope – the Resurrection and it is a non-event on a beautiful spring day that is to be borne with a grim courage in a time when miracles cannot happen.

The news is too good. Maybe that is why we are stuck on the Friday of Crucifixion. The pain we know is better than risking its loss in the certain joy of Resurrection. As people of the Resurrection we would have to leave too much behind – hurt, anger, fear, and death.

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Posted by on Apr 12, 2009

Resurrection Sunday – 2009: Jesus Did Not Die for Me

Resurrection Sunday – 2009: Jesus Did Not Die for Me

Resurrection of Christ - Mikhail Nesterov (late 1890s)

Resurrection of Christ - Mikhail Nesterov (late 1890s)

Jesús No Murio Por Mi

Jesus Did Not Die for Me

Holy Weekend
The time of customary rituals
Of words spoken a thousand times
A season of the silence of death
Fasting, resolutions, and processions
A time of self-contained euphoria
As it seems sin sees the ending
We already know
and will flood all with life
A shallow season of hypocrisy
“Happy Easter”

A season of churches in a thousand different ways
yet a thousand ways the same
Cannot say other than what they have always said
“Jesus died for our salvation”
But “You know what?”
Jesus didn’t die for me
Jesus died because of cowardice,
greed, arrogance, love of power
by those who did not understand his message
by those afraid of the new
by those who had made a god to their own stature
by those who did not accept his offer of life to the full
not for just a few but for all men and women.
That death did not save anybody
Not even those who believed that they are saved by Jesus.

What saved me and you
And continues to save
Is that Jesus who became a person
Who identified with the people
Who was a baby and cried,
Who was a boy and played
Who grew and worked
Who was called to a mission and took it on
Who paused before the pain of men and women
Who in solidarity of gestures, words, and actions
Who did not silence what had to be said
And who though fearful, moved ahead
out of love, sheer love.

It was not his death, so cruel and unjust.
It was his life!
If death can be salvation
Whan can resurrection mean?
What sense does it make to celebrate Easter?
Death does not save
Even if it scandalizes theology
Life saves.
That is why resurrection is the great cry,
The lead story, the great news of our time
For this the stone rolls aways, the tomb opens
And foot steps are heard in the garden

God raises up Jesus
To condemn death forever
To announce that Life has won out
and that faith in the this Jesus who lives
who conquers the mercenaries of terror
is the faith that saves and
is the faith that makes us free.
What Peter said with such clarity
“This same Jesus whom you crucified
God has made Messiah and Lord”.

Jesus did not die for me.
They killed Jesus!
Jesus died because they tortured him in a blind rage
Because they wanted to shut him up and make him disappear
And because the powerful have always killed Him.

Yes, Jesus was born for me.
He also lived for me,
He taught, healed, pardoned, loved and rose again for me
for you and and for everyone.

Jesus did not die for me
nor for you nor anyone else
Perhaps, some day
We will stop honoring his death
In order to begin celebrating His LIFE.

Gerardo Oberman

translated by Randolfo R. Pozos 2009

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Posted by on Mar 14, 2009

A Weekend With the Holy Trinity

A Weekend With the Holy Trinity

shackcoversm

There are all kinds of stories of growing up Catholic but very few that focus on that core of the culture that is the Sign of the Cross. “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” This Trinitarian invocation begins and ends almost every event, every ritual, every meal – whether it is a blessing pronounced by the Pope or the gesture we learn from our parents before we can talk.

For all of Catholicism’s lengthy tradition, its mantras and catchphrases, Trinity Sunday is the only Sunday that fails to attempt in words what is incomprehensible. The priest who has a sermon for each Sunday looks into his bag or online list of stock themes, works hard on the presentation, and raises the white flag of surrender as he steps into the pulpit. The standard disclaimer is “We really cannot understand the Trinity. It is a matter of faith.” After confusing those who are awake in the congregation with St. Patrick’s shamrock “three in one” or various other analogies, he repeats the opening disclaimer and makes a hasty retreat to the Nicene Creed, where we sleepwalk our way through beautiful Trinitarian poetry that we ignore out of repetition. “…Light from light, True God from True God, Begotten not made, One in Being with the Father…”

For those of us who graduated from Catholic schools and had a good review of the Trinitarian controversies of the first three centuries and the further travails of this teaching in Church history, the sense of incomprehensibility grows.

William Paul Young’s allegory, The Shack, presents a weekend encounter with the Holy Trinity by a deeply wounded and grieving father. It is a mystical healing encounter that shows us that our concept of God has more to do with us than with the Divine. As a work of fiction it is easier for us to comprehend than the abstractions of theology. The contemporary setting and the issue of why the innocent are slaughtered make this central Mystery more accessible to us than the writings of the mystics who lived in different times and cultures.

I encourage you to read the book. Once you do, that automatic gesture – the Sign of the Cross will be the gift that it is – an entry point to the very life of God.

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Posted by on May 30, 2008

Feast of the Day – The Sacred Heart of Jesus

Feast of the Day – The Sacred Heart of Jesus

Sacred Heart of Jesus - Fronhofen Pfarrkirche

The Feast of the Sacred Heart is celebrated 19 days after Pentecost each year. It is always on a Friday.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart began to develop in the Middle Ages, but it was considered a private devotion, not a specific feast day. Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque  (1647-1690), a French nun and mystic, promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart in its current form and over time it was adopted as a formal feast. This devotion also includes Mass and Communion on the first Friday of each month.

A friend of mine was raised Catholic in an Irish family in Rhode Island. One day we were talking and laughing about some of the funny things that had happened when we were girls. She told of the time a non-Catholic friend of hers was visiting her family for the first time. The friend, a young man, commented that he was always shocked when he went into Catholic homes and was immediately confronted with a statue or picture of Jesus, with his heart showing – pierced and bleeding. He said something about how glad he was not to find that image in her parents’ home. He had begun to think that all Catholics were somehow off balance with this insistence on having the image around them. Then they went around the corner into the living room, and there was the picture on the wall, where it couldn’t be missed by anyone!

My friend and I were working together at the time. As we went around the corner into my home office, what was on the wall, but a picture of the Sacred Heart – more modern than the traditional one in her home, but unmistakably still, the Sacred Heart. We just laughed and knew again how much we had in common!

So what is it about the Sacred Heart? First, it’s important to remember that it’s not really about worshipping a physical human heart. The Feast of the Sacred Heart reminds us of the overwhelming love of God for us, as seen in the love of Jesus for us. As the Son of God, second person of the Blessed Trinity, Jesus became one of us, lived as one of us, died as one of us. God’s overflowing love poured through Jesus to us. It still does. Symbolically, Jesus’ pierced heart is a reminder that love is not always easy. It can be costly. Love flows out of the heart of God as the water flowed out of the heart of Jesus when pierced by the centurion’s sword. Nothing can stop that love’s flow but our refusal to accept it.

The Sacred Heart also reminds us that Jesus always forgives. God always forgives. Nothing we can do will keep God from loving us and forgiving us. We can turn away, but God is always there calling us back. Hoping we will once again accept love and mercy. Because God’s mercy is unfailing, all we need do is ask and accept it.

In celebrating the Feast of the Sacred Heart, we are called to love as Jesus loves, forgive as Jesus forgives and be compassionate and merciful as Jesus is compassionate and merciful. A tall order for our human hearts, but one to which, with the help of Our Lord, we are called.

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