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Posted by on Sep 5, 2011

Laboring in Love – Blessed Mother Teresa of  Calcutta

Laboring in Love – Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Blessed Mother Teresa, photo by Túrelio

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta (feast day September 5)  worked for decades in India, first as a teacher in schools run by the Sisters of Loreto and later caring for the homeless and dying on the streets of Calcutta. Though controversies exist regarding her work and her legacy, men and women around the world now share in her mission of care for the poor as Missionaries of Charity, not just the dying but also assisting those living in poverty.

Today, as we celebrate Labor Day in the United States, it is worthwhile to remember Mother Teresa’s perspective on the work we do.

“To show great love for God and our neighbor we need not do great things. It is how much love we put in the doing that makes our offering something beautiful for God.”

May we remember her words as we go about our daily lives; that we may touch those around us with love and God’s presence.

 

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Posted by on Sep 27, 2010

A Chasm Was Fixed Between Them

In the Gospel for the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C, Jesus tells the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31).

A rich man lived sumptuously, with everything money could by at his disposal. We don’t know how he came to have his money. Probably he was not a bad man. He was, however, a man who was not overly concerned with the plight of the poor of his community. We can assume this because a poor man called Lazarus lay on the doorstep of the rich man day after day, covered with sores, and the rich man did not take care of him. Even the dogs paid more attention to Lazarus than the rich man did. They came and licked his sores.

Now, in defense of the rich man, there were lots and lots of poor people around. Lots and lots of sick people. Maybe even some people who didn’t work when they could have worked to support themselves. Jesus doesn’t tell us what the rich man was thinking or why he didn’t stop to help Lazarus. He just notes that Lazarus was hungry, sick, and licked by dogs.

As Americans, the idea of having a dog lick one’s sores is not appealing, but it was even worse in those days. Dogs were not the much loved pets that they are for us. Dogs worked for a living or they were strays that fended for themselves. In many countries, dogs that were not working (tending flocks or guarding something/someone) were considered fair game as food by the poor. So here is Lazarus, lying sick and hungry at the door, having stray dogs licking his sores and unable to chase them away. Not a pretty picture.

As happens in life, Lazarus died. The angels of God swooped down, picked him up and took him to Abraham. Abraham, father of the Jewish nation, welcomer of all who came to him, welcomed Lazarus as well. He cared for Lazarus as one of his own.

As also happens in life, the rich man’s turn came to die. He died and was buried. But he did not find himself with Abraham. He was alone and in torment. He could see Abraham. He could see Lazarus with Abraham. He longed for a single drop of water to ease his pain, so he asked Abraham to send Lazarus with a drop of water for him. Note well —  he didn’t ask Lazarus for forgiveness or for the gift of a drop of water. He asked Abraham to send/order Lazarus to bring the water.

Abraham reminds the rich man of the relationship that had existed in life between the two men. He also tells the rich man that there is a great chasm fixed between them, one that neither side may cross freely.

I had always wondered about that chasm. Why would a loving God set up a barrier that would keep those in His presence and company (Heaven) from reaching out and helping those who were not (Hell)? Wouldn’t those who were united with Love and in Love be so overflowing with love themselves that they’d want to help those who were separated from Love?

Our homilist this Sunday, Fr. Ken Lavarone, OFM, addressed this question. Fr. Ken pointed out that the chasm between the two men was one of lack of relationship. Lazarus could not come to the aid of the rich man because there was not a relationship between them. The rich man had always stepped over Lazarus or ignored him. Even after death, the chasm remained. The rich man spoke to Abraham, not to Lazarus.

Jesus’ story continued. The rich man asked Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers of the fate that awaited them – sort of like in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Abraham responded that the brothers had Moses and the prophets to warn him, as the rich man himself had had. When the rich man noted that the brothers wouldn’t listen to Moses and the prophets, Abraham retorted that those brothers would also not listen to one who returned from the dead.

These final lines of the story are of huge import for us as well. They were directed to the religious, church-going folks of Jesus time and of the early Church. Jesus returned from the dead. Affirming the message of Moses and the Prophets, Jesus said we are to care for the poor and helpless among us. How we do it will vary. Some will have monetary resources that will be shared. Others will have talents that can help make life more bearable for their less fortunate sisters and brothers. Some will only be able to offer a smile and a kind word — a recognition that the other person is also human and worthy of respect. Each of these responses is a way of entering into relationship with the other person. Each of these bridges chasms that would otherwise keep them apart.

In Jesus’ story, both men were children of Abraham due to their identity as Jews. Today, we know that we are all children/descendents of one woman who was a member of a group of people who lived in Africa around 200,000 years ago — a woman known as “Mitochondrial Eve.” We all have a responsibility to each other. We all can give the gift of a smile that raises another’s hopes and heart. We all sometimes turn away from the circle of community of God’s children. The good news is that someone did return from beyond the grave with a reminder that we can turn back at any time. We just need to remember that care of God’s little ones (the poor and the powerless) comes first when we choose our elected officials, design our social safety nets, vote for funding of community services, and allocate our personal resources of time, talents and treasure.

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Posted by on Jun 18, 2010

Father’s Day – 2010

Father’s Day – 2010

 
 

"Let's play Sandwich!"

“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability. To be alive is to be vulnerable.”
Madeleine L’Engle

I have known many fathers in my years. Each is unique. Each brings his own special gifts to his family, friends, and associates. Some fathers love to hunt and fish. Others are gardeners. Some come home and watch TV. Others get lost in a book. Some pack up their families and go traipsing around the country every chance they get. Others are content to stay in their own community, considering a picnic at the park a fine outing.

Regardless of the particulars of each man’s habits and preferences, there are some characteristics that I think are common among fathers. Probably the first is that they really had no idea what they were getting into by fathering a child. (I must say that in my experience, mothers don’t know this bit of reality in advance either!) Nevertheless, hundreds of thousands of men have willingly entered into the path of fatherhood. And then the adventure began …

Fatherhood requires a willingness to be more than the progenitor of another human being. It requires a willingness to be vulnerable and to learn as you go. Parenthood brings out the best and the worst in each of us. We learn as we go along – making mistakes, making amends when possible and doing some things right the first time (even if by accident). We find out what deep darkness can lurk within us. We also find out what depths of patience and love can be tapped, especially if we remember to call for help from the Father of us all. We delight in watching our children discover the world and their own identities. We sorrow with them when they fall and help them get back up and try again. We grieve with them when something precious ends and can’t be regained.

To a child, the father is a powerful figure. He stands so tall and is so strong. He picks us up and twirls us around and the world whirls too. He comes home happy and the household sings. He comes home frustrated and tired and the household … Well, we hope the household reaches out to reassure and comfort him. Doesn’t always happen that way, but that’s the ideal. Sometimes he gets angry. Sometimes he laughs when he feels like crying. Sometimes he picks a flower to say, “I love you.” Sometimes he just lets his child crawl all over him and pull at his chin whiskers and ears.

Fathers come in many sizes and shapes. Some are old. Some are young. Once a man becomes a father, he never stops being a father, even if his children move far away or are estranged from him.

Being a father means being vulnerable. Vulnerable to love. Vulnerable to having your heart broken. Vulnerable to losing a precious person. Vulnerable to finding precious meaning in small, everyday ordinary activities.

Vulnerability is not necessarily a bad thing. Only hearts that are open and unshielded can receive the gift of love that is pouring into the world each day, keeping all in existence.

So as we approach Father’s Day and celebrate the lives of the men in our lives who have given their lives to us in so many ways – those who have physically given us life and those who have given us faith, hope and encouragement as “father-figures” or teachers or godfathers – let us be grateful and supportive of them. They have learned and continue to learn the great secret that by opening themselves and becoming vulnerable, they receive the greatest blessings of this life – the love and wonder of sharing in the work of creation with our Father.

Thank you to all of you men who have accepted the joys and challenges of being fathers to your children and to those who have come to you in need of a father’s guidance. May the Lord’s rich blessings be always yours as you do your best to share what you’ve learned and help the next generation along on their journey as well.

Happy Fathers Day!

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Posted by on Jun 3, 2010

On Falling in Love – A Thought from Pedro Arrupe, SJ

I’ve seen this quote from Father Pedro Arrupe, S.J. in the past and always been delighted with it. I came across it again today. It seems quite apt as we are celebrating the time of the Holy Spirit of Love during this season of Ordinary Time.

Nothing is more practical than
finding God, that is, than
FALLING IN LOVE
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination,
will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed
in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, who you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with
joy and gratitude.
Fall in love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.

Pedro Arrupe, SJ

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Posted by on Mar 15, 2010

Quote of the Day – Meister Eckhart on Loving

Quote of the Day – Meister Eckhart on Loving

 
 
 

Meister Eckhart

The Hope of Loving

What keeps us alive, what allows us to endure?
I think it is the hope of loving,
or being loved.
I heard a fable once about the sun going on a journey;
to find its source, and how the moon wept
without her lover’s
warm gaze.
We weep when light does not reach our hearts. We wither
like fields if someone close
does not rain their
kindness
upon
us.

Meister Eckhart

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Posted by on Mar 8, 2010

Quote of the Day – Mother Teresa of Kolkata

Quote of the Day – Mother Teresa of Kolkata

“Let us be like a genuine and fruitful branch of the vine, which is Christ, accepting him in our lives the way he gives himself to us: as truth, which must be spoken; as life, which must be lived; as light, which must shine out; as love, which must be loved; as a way, which must be trodden; as joy, which must be communicated; as peace, which must be radiated; as sacrifice, which must be offered in our families, to our closest neighbors, and to those who live far away.”    Mother Teresa

As quoted in Heart of Joy: The Transforming Power of Self-Giving, by Jose Luis Gonzalez-Balado (Servant Publications, July 1987)

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Posted by on Jun 2, 2009

Late Term Abortion: A Mother’s Story

Late Term Abortion: A Mother’s Story

parents

Robin Young of National Public Radio’s “Here and Now” interviewed one of the patients of murdered late-term abortion provider, Dr. George Tiller.

“We speak with a former patient of late-term abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, the Wichita, Kansas doctor who was murdered on Sunday. She explains why the procedure was so necessary for her.”

Abortions past the 20 week “age of viability” are difficult to justify by pro-choice advocates. How could the loss of one of the three physicians who performs these procedures, which are less than 1% of abortions, represent any moral or clinical loss? The implications for the physical and mental health of families becomes evident in this interview. The values presented in this story are about the desire and wonder of having children, the anguish of carrying a doomed child, the inability of doctors to present the couple with any real alternatives.

An earlier ban on late term or “partial birth” abortions provides an exception for the health of the mother. Aren’t these just cavalier acts of barbarism by selfish women?

What would you do with a child that you wanted very much but who would not survive birth? What would be the most loving and caring thing to do? This is a very compelling story that should give us pause when we want to throw the first stone.

My Late-Term Abortion
President Bush’s attempt to ban partial-birth abortions threatens all late-term procedures. But in my case, everyone said it was the right thing to do — even my Catholic father and Republican father-in-law.
This article provides another instructive example from 2004 published in the Boston Globe.

In this second case, the situation seems to be less clear cut since the birth of this child would have meant a short and very unacceptable quality of life for the child as judged by the parents.

In both cases there were voices which opposed the choices made by the parents. Reviewing both cases is useful in terms of gaining a more nuanced perspective on the ethical and moral issues involved and the struggles of these couples.

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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 Nov 17, 2008

Paul Tillich on Grace – Quote of the Day

Paul Tillich on Grace – Quote of the Day

Autumn leaf color - Image from wikimedia
Autumn leaf color – Image from wikimedia

This reflection comes courtesy of Theologika trustee Terry Hershey, quoting theologian Paul Tillich.

“Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness.
It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life.
It strikes us when, year after year, the longed-for perfection does not appear, when the old compulsions reign within us as they have for decades, when despair destroys all joy and courage.
Sometime at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying, “You are accepted. You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know.
Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later.
Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much.
Do not seek for anything, do not perform anything, do not intend anything.
Simply accept the fact that you are accepted.
If that happens to us, we experience grace.”

Paul Tillich

May grace reach into your life and surpise you today and always. Amen.

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Posted by on Oct 20, 2008

Fidelius and Diabolus: The Not So Gay Marriage Dialog

Fidelius and Diabolus: The Not So Gay Marriage Dialog

Image taken from oneyearbibleimages.com

Image taken from oneyearbibleimages.com

Diabolus: How’s it going?

Fidelius: You know we can’t talk – why do you persist?

Diabolus: That might be true if I were the Devil, but what if I’m your conscience?

Fidelius: There are no views but those of the Church.

Diabolus: True, but what about Church teaching, which acknowledges the “Sensus Fidelium” or Sense of the Faithful?

Fidelius: Stop bugging me Diabolus.

Diabolus: How do you know that’s my name?

Fidelius: You’re tempting me to think for myself. You’re torturing me.

Diabolus: No one can control your mind and heart. What’s bothering you?

Fidelius: I will take my counsel from my confessor, not from a post-Pepperoni heartburn!

Diabolus: “Pepperoni.” What a great name! Why don’t you call me that?

Fidelius: You are what you are.

Diabolus: And what is that?

Fidelius: The Tempter, the Evil One.

Diabolus: Have I ever suggested that you do anything wrong? Did I set your eye to wandering or encourage you to blow up when the Angels didn’t make the pennant?

Fidelius: Good people are tempted under the guise of good.

Diabolus: So, you’re a good person?

Fidelius: Yes. Generally, that is.

Diabolus: So then, why are you thinking about “it” again.

Fidelius: What “it”?

Diabolus: You know. Your conflict about gays.

Fidelius: They’re disgusting, you know that.

Diabolus: That’s not an uncommon opinion.

Fidelius: They make me squirm – and now they want to get married!

Diabolus: So, you think that it would be better to encourage them to stay with promiscuity as opposed to having a life of fidelity?

Fidelius: There can be nothing good in an act that is “intrinsically evil”.

Diabolus: So, you mean that you and Cynthia have never done anything “kinky”?

Fidelius: Shut up. We’re married.

Diabolus: My point exactly. You know, pleasure in marriage used to be called concupiscence.

Fidelius: What’s that?

Diabolus: You know – messed up like everything else after the fall of Adam and Eve.

Fidelius: So now you presume to teach me moral theology!

Diabolus: No. You learned it at that expensive Catholic college. Remember – the one you drank your way through?

Fidelius: Yeah, but it was after Vatican II. They weren’t Catholic anyway.

Diabolus: You mean like old Father Sullivan, who came to class in his cassock with the old yellowed pages on St. Thomas Aquinas?

Fidelius: He was different.

Diabolus: Yeah – he made you sweat to get a “C”. Not like the easy liberal that you gave you a “B+” for some beer can “sculpture” you threw together at the last minute.

Fidelius: Yeah, he was real.

Diabolus: Wasn’t he the guy that told you to have a happy sex life when you got married?

Fidelius: How do you know that? That was in confession!

Diabolus: Remember? I was there.

Fidelius: All I felt was so dirty.

Diabolus: You thought that he was going to throw the book at you.

Fidelius: Yeah, but he didn’t.

Diabolus: But there was a sin you didn’t confess.

Fidelius: What do you mean?

Diabolus: You remember. The time you stopped your fraternity brothers from beating up David Farnsworth, the fag?

Fidelius: He wasn’t gay – besides, “fag” isn’t politically correct.

Diabolus: Yeah. That’s why you found him dying in the AIDS ward a few years later at St. Mary’s, when you were helping the administration get their finances in order! A young guy out of business school and you go through the wrong door!

Fidelius: He never had a chance.

Diabolus: What do you mean? We all have free will. We all make choices.

Fidelius: His only moral choice was not to have sex.

Diabolus: He could have had a partner. You know – spend their lives together and all that? Maybe adopt a kid?

Fidelius: It would have been one mortal sin piled on another. He’d be deeper in Hell than he is now.

Diabolus: You don’t believe that.

Fidelius: Well, I heard Fr. Sullivan got to him before it was too late. But Purgatory’s no picnic.

Diabolus: So why did you pay for the Plenary Indulgence for him?

Fidelius: I didn’t pay for it. I just made an offering.

Diabolus: Strange. All this good will. Did you have a thing for this guy?

Fidelius: He was a guy. Got it? Like anybody. He deserved some decency, some respect.

Diabolus: But not a home.

Fidelius: He wasn’t homeless. He was making good money as an attorney.

Diabolus: No one to come home to; just work, parties, the bars …

Fidelius: He knew marriage was for straights. He was a good Catholic.

Diabolus: Yeah right. A gay can be a good Catholic; as likely as the Good Samaritan.

Fidelius: The Samaritan was real.

Diabolus: Maybe – or was he just a way for Jesus to show up the “good” people who had no compassion?

Fidelius: We can’t encourage gay culture. We’d be undermining the family; the basis of society.

Diabolus: Right. We can’t encourage a culture of life and fidelity.

Fidelius: It’s wrong. Remember, God made Adam and Eve – not Adam and Steve.

Diabolus: An interesting piece of demagoguery, but it doesn’t seem very compassionate.

Fidelius: The kids’ll get the wrong idea. They’ll think it’s okay.

Diabolus: Is that why so many gay people hate themselves?

Fidelius: It’s not my problem.

Diabolus: David became your problem when you saved him from that pack of apes.

Fidelius: I would have done it for anybody. Nobody deserves that kind of hate.

Diabolus: So where do you stop on this slippery slope?

Fidelius: It’s easy. The Church says, don’t beat ’em up but don’t let ’em get married.

Diabolus: That’s why you and Cynthia have only 3 kids – after 20 years?

Fidelius: We couldn’t have afforded more kids. You know that. With Cynthia’s problems it probably would have killed her.

Diabolus: So you love your wife more than God?

Fidelius: There’s a difference between God and the Church.

Diabolus: So who’s being the Devil now?

Fidelius: It’s in the Apostles Creed… “I believe in God, the Father Almighty.” Toward the end it says “I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.”

Diabolus: Conscience. That weasel thing you picked up from those liberal priests!

Fidelius: It was a Vatican II thing. I had to write a paper on it.

Diabolus: So you did learn something!

Fidelius: Only because Fr. Sullivan made me re-write it 3 times.

Diablolus: I can’t imagine St. Thomas being on the side of conscience. He was a real theologian – and a saint.

Fidelius: Yeah. It’s a big thing for him – like it was for those Moslems philosophers he studied.

Diabolus: They only blow up stuff.

Fidelius: Conscience. You know – “formed according to the teaching of the Church.”

Diabolus: So why did Aquinas end up on the list of forbidden books so long?

Fidelius: He was accused of subjecting God to human reason.

Diabolus: Well I gotta go. Time “to prowl about seeking the ruin of souls”.

Fidelius: What about me?

Diabolus: You’re hopeless!

Fidelius: Hopeless?

Diabolus: Just the opposite, I’m afraid. No sale here today.

Fidelius: What about gay marriage?

Diabolus: Deciding that by a crowd? I like lynchings. Remember? But you know, it’s not my thing. You should look at that WMD “weapons of mass destruction” bracelet you wear.

Fidelius: It’s WWJD! What would Jesus do?

Diabolus: Yeah. I wonder. Later dude.. out’a here..

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Posted by on Apr 10, 2008

Memory, Identity, and Resurrection

Memory, Identity, and Resurrection

sky-computer-generated.jpg

This Easter Season, I have been puzzling over why the people who lived with Jesus and shared the intimacies and hardships of his travels didn’t recognize him when they encountered the Risen Christ.

I have been reading Oliver Sacks’, Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, and came across the notion of emotional memory. Sacks relates the very tragic case of a brilliant music scholar and choral director who suffers an almost total amnesia as the result of encephalitis. He had no episodic memory, which meant that everything kept popping into existence all of the time. However, his ability to sight read and play music from memory was quite intact. He also “recognized” his wife and clung to her. Apparently, according to Sacks, our physical and emotional memory is somehow distinct from our memory of events past and present. It is something much deeper. He also states that our development of episodic memory comes to the fore after the age of two. In those first two pivotal years we develop deep emotional bonds. Learning music, riding a bike, and other types of motor learning have their own place outside of episodic memory. The bonds of deep love even transcend the loss of memory of specific events.

The scene in the garden with the Risen Christ and Mary of Magdala has always resonated deeply within me. Mary is still in a serious state of shock on top of her tremendous grief. Her disorientation seems almost complete when she hears her name in the music of a voice that transcends the memory of events.

So many oceans of ink and uncounted forests have been lost to the question of how we can find the Jesus of history. The disciples left us stories and experiences that are far beyond episodic memory. Their invitation is catechetical – an invitation into the mystery of a love and relationship so intense it is beyond time and memory.

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Posted by on Mar 31, 2008

Easter Communion or Condemnation?

Easter Communion or Condemnation?

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To receive communion during the Easter season has been a long established precept of the Catholic Church. It is a practice that we should examine more closely. To receive Christ in the Holy Eucharist requires one to be in the state of grace – free of serious or mortal sin. We are advised – wisely – to put our souls in order. We are to turn away from sin and return to the community through the grace of absolution. There must be peace and love in our hearts and a definite change in our lives.

Fr. Burke, a Discalced Carmelite from Australia, expands on the notion of communion in terms of our living out the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist in our shared lives as Catholics and Christians. In his article, “St. Teresa and Two Spiritualities in the Church Today,” at http://www.carmelite.com/, Fr. Burke explains St. Teresa of Avila’s views on legalism as opposed to true and complete union with God and each other. It is well worth reading.

Fr. Burke has put into words what I have been feeling ever since I read selections from the popular blog, Cafeteria Closed, by Gerald Naus, who writes as Gerald Augustinus. Naus came to the United States from Austria in 1997. A former Jehovah Witness, he became a Catholic in 2005. His views are decidedly Restorationist. Unfortunately, they are generally stated in tones of arrogance, condescension, or condemnation. His posts on culture, politics, and religion are inflammatory and provocative, akin to those of Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, except that Catholicism is now the justification for neo-fascism. Naus’s recent post, On the Status of Palestinian Education, uses photos and a few inflammatory lines to libel all young Palestinian men. One might argue that many of Naus’s views are Catholic in the officially regressive sense, but there seems to be little of Christian charity or communion about them. From this narrow point of view anyone who does not agree with him is wrong and should be attacked. As a major blogger, Naus has a large following in which to sow his seeds of dissension.

You will know them by their fruits. (Mt 7:20)

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Posted by on Mar 30, 2008

Easter Tide: The Age of Faith

Easter Tide: The Age of Faith

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It’s all so obvious – right? Jesus is Risen. The women and men closest to Him have all seen Him, touched Him.

Yet they only recognized Him with difficulty. St. Mary of Magdala’s grief was not broken until Jesus called her by name. The Apostles recognize Him with difficulty and Jesus takes the initiative to introduce Himself. There is an air of surprise – an awkwardness that Jesus breaks with the greeting used by Angels and other heavenly visitors, “Peace be with You”. It is easy enough to see this as a blessing, but not as the gesture of reassurance that it is. The Risen Christ is not the historical Jesus that He was. Beyond time and space, the Divine Word – God Eternal – is now and ever was.

We can all now live in the Risen Christ and He in us.

“Without seeing you, We love you;

Without touching you, We embrace;

Without knowing you, We follow;

Without seeing you, We believe.”

– David Haas, “Without Seeing You”, from the album “Glory Day”.

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Posted by on Mar 24, 2008

Dance: The Easter Sacrament

Dance: The Easter Sacrament

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Yesterday on Easter Sunday, we sang a second communion hymn in Spanish and English “Resucitó” (He Is Risen). The latin beat, punctuated by conga drums and a driving bass line, turned most of us cradle Catholics into momentary Baptists, as our middle class “cool” gave way to clapping, toe tapping and widespread joyous singing. We were too well brought up to be too demonstrative, but this did not stop the smaller children from launching into a marvelously free dance of joy, aided by their older siblings. It was all in keeping with our name – Resurrection. Granted, we are not the most conventional group, which is saying something in Santa Cruz County. The concluding bars were punctuated by “gritos,” those characteristically Mexican musical shouts of joy, from the smaller children, whether Mexican or not. Things got more animated when we ended Mass with the spiritual, “O They Rolled The Stone Away”.

Terry Hershey, in the March 24, 2008 issue of his newsletter, Sabbath Moments, is also carried away by dance. Yes, Easter Week is a time to stop pursuing happiness and to just be happy.

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