The man who did not become Caesar [who wanted that or nothing], the applicant refused by medical school, all experience profound disappointment. But the spiritual travails only begin when that chagrin consumes the awareness that we are something more than our emotions and projects.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
The Lord said to him in reply, “Hypocrites!
Does not each one of you on the sabbath
untie his ox or his ass from the manger
and lead it out for watering?
This daughter of Abraham,
whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now,
ought she not to have been set free on the sabbath day
from this bondage?”
When he said this, all his adversaries were humiliated;
and the whole crowd rejoiced at all the splendid deeds done by him.
NAB Bible (lectionary reading quoted in part; emphasis added).
1. The reaction of the crowd is not the somber one of too many of today's devout: when they heard God, they rejoiced. We hear God today at every Mass when we hear the readings. Why should we not rejoice? Shouldn't we rejoice?
2. "All his adversaries were humiliated." Even God had to pay a price for humbling the arrogant. I recall a list of sayings that proposed a series of good but risky or costly actions and then commented: "Do it anyway" (or words to that effect). Many splendid things we just have to do anyway, even when we know that there will be a price to pay. Free people do that.
The last line of the quoted reading captures, for me, what must have been the ambience and atmosphere around Jesus: it was exciting, splendid, wonderful. Don't forget that the same experience is still at the heart of authentic Christianity. If you have not experienced it, keep looking. There is more beyond what our mediocrity assumes is enough or possible or permissible.
Monday, October 26, 2009
"The early years of the church were all based on evangelization," he added. "When the structures began to evolve and develop it became catechetical, notional -- you teach people certain things, they can repeat them, then you baptize them.
"The emphasis on the thrust of evangelization -- provoking conversion in people -- and helping people find a real relationship with a personal God -- that gradually was missed out."
Source link above (emphasis added by me).
Too many on the traditionalist end of the spectrum simply want more of the "notional" approach criticized by the Cardinal. Such an approach is a dead-end.
By the way, the Ghana Cardinal has just been named to the top Vatican post on social justice and has played a key role in the soon to be concluded Synod on Africa held in Rome, as also recently reported at the same blog (see link). Let's keep our eye on his future.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Lk 12:54-59 [emphasis added]:
Jesus said to the crowds,
“When you see a cloud rising in the west
you say immediately that it is going to rain–and so it does;
and when you notice that the wind is blowing from the south
you say that it is going to be hot–and so it is.
You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky;
why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
“Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?
If you are to go with your opponent before a magistrate,
make an effort to settle the matter on the way;
otherwise your opponent will turn you over to the judge,
and the judge hand you over to the constable,
and the constable throw you into prison.
I say to you, you will not be released
until you have paid the last penny.”
Several points come to mind.
1. Again, we see the great irony--also pointed out by the great prophets of the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament--between our assiduous attention to so many relatively unimportant matters and our indifference to what is most fundamental and important. This ironic thread runs through the Hebrew Bible and right through the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament. We see the irony today as much as it was seen back then: we fuss over our diet and over our physical health and appearance only to end up degrading the very same bodies in licentiousness; we worry ferociously about money and tax deductions, but we fail to grasp the great destiny for which our souls were created; we obsess about how we may impress others with our "success" and markers of social status, but we fail to be human. The ironies go on and on. And so, the great Teacher is asking: you take great care in observing the weather and predicting it, but you do not see the course of your own lives? Yes, I have seen highly (formally) educated people who, in reality, were pure imbeciles when it came to what counts in life: honor, justice, character, selflessness.
2. He asks, "Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?" Take a moment to savor that indictment. Christianity is not asking you to stop thinking for yourself, but rather to start thinking seriously, maybe for the first time, about what is right, what is really important in life. It is a call to the examined life, as also proposed by Socrates. It is a call for initiative of the mind and of reason to get to the bottom of what we are about in life.
3. "Make an effort to settle on the way": Yes, wake up and do something because something must be done. The Gospel calls for action, not for smug self-satisfaction or inertia or for blind habit and custom. "Make an effort": try to change the course of your life after judging for yourself what is right. Dare to judge what is right. Dare to look closely at what everyone else may overlook or simply acquiesce in with fatalistic resignation. Dare to be subversive.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Here is an excerpt:
An emphasis on uniformity of worship is a relatively recent development in Catholicism, Ms. Rowland [a scholar of Benedict's thought] notes. The 16th-century Council of Trent, which imposed a number of reforms on the whole church to fend off the rising challenge of Protestantism, prescribed the form of the Latin Mass that Catholics used almost exclusively for more than four centuries thereafter. By sanctioning the current trend toward liturgical diversity, Benedict is leading his church forward in the spirit of its oldest traditions.
. . . .
Millions of Charismatic Catholics today, most commonly in Latin America but also in Africa and the Philippines, regularly attend spectacular Masses featuring Pentecostal-style faith healing, speaking in tongues and preaching that echoes the upwardly mobile aspirations of the Prosperity Gospel.
See source link above (emphasis added).
As you can see from the preceding excerpt, Rocca also recognizes the vibrant Charismatic reality in the Catholic Church today, especially in the developing world (also called by some the "Two-Thirds World" because it represents such a large chunk of our planet).
My fuller personal reaction to the full article follows:
Spectacular analysis. It reflects my own intuition about this development. You see the difference between Benedict and the neo-Tridentine uniformists.
The columnist Francis Rocca notes what I also thought about recently: the Anglican use of the ordinary form is a Protestant liturgical development that the Pope has just validated, true to Catholic teaching that the Holy Spirit is active among Protestants (a teaching which some neo-Tridentines hate to admit or even reject outright)--thus, the Pope's move is authentically ecumenical, contrary to some earlier press comments. I am also glad to see the recognition of the charismatic reality of the Church in the column and how obviously traditional the charismatics are. The only quibble I have is that, even with some minor requested changes and adjustments, the Pope did approve the distinctive nature of the way the Neo-Catechumenal Way celebrates Mass in its gatherings. The neo-Tridentines were, in my opinion, taken aback by the Vatican's final approval of the Neo-Catechumenal Way's statutes as an approved Catholic entity, an approval which does not match the neo-Tridentine monomania for liturgical uniformity.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
[Blogger emphasis added]
VATICAN CITY, 20 OCT 2009 (VIS) - In a meeting with journalists held this morning in the Holy See Press Office Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia O.P., secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, presented a note on a new measure concerning "Personal Ordinariates for Anglicans entering the Catholic Church".
Commenting on the English-language note, which has been published by his dicastery, Cardinal Levada explained how, "with the preparation of an Apostolic Constitution, the Catholic Church is responding to the many requests that have been submitted to the Holy See from groups of Anglican clergy and faithful in different parts of the world who wish to enter into full visible communion.
"In this Apostolic Constitution the Holy Father has introduced a canonical structure that provides for such corporate reunion by establishing Personal Ordinariates, which will allow former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony. Under the terms of the Apostolic Constitution, pastoral oversight and guidance will be provided for groups of former Anglicans through a Personal Ordinariate, whose Ordinary will usually be appointed from among former Anglican clergy.
"The forthcoming Apostolic Constitution provides a reasonable and even necessary response to a worldwide phenomenon, by offering a single canonical model for the universal Church which is adaptable to various local situations and equitable to former Anglicans in its universal application. It provides for the ordination as Catholic priests of married former Anglican clergy. Historical and ecumenical reasons preclude the ordination of married men as bishops in both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. The Constitution therefore stipulates that the Ordinary can be either a priest or an unmarried bishop. The seminarians in the Ordinariate are to be prepared alongside other Catholic seminarians, though the Ordinariate may establish a house of formation to address the particular needs of formation in the Anglican patrimony".
"The provision of this new structure is consistent with the commitment to ecumenical dialogue, which continues to be a priority for the Catholic Church, particularly through the efforts of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The initiative has come from a number of different groups of Anglicans" who, said Cardinal Levada, "have declared that they share the common Catholic faith as it is expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and accept the Petrine ministry as something Christ willed for the Church. For them, the time has come to express this implicit unity in the visible form of full communion".
The cardinal further indicated that "it is the hope of the Holy Father Benedict XVI that the Anglican clergy and faithful who desire union with the Catholic Church will find in this canonical structure the opportunity to preserve those Anglican traditions precious to them and consistent with the Catholic faith. Insofar as these traditions express in a distinctive way the faith that is held in common, they are a gift to be shared in the wider Church. The unity of the Church does not require a uniformity that ignores cultural diversity, as the history of Christianity shows. Moreover, the many diverse traditions present in the Catholic Church today are all rooted in the principle articulated by St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians: 'There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism'.
"Our communion", the cardinal added in conclusion, "is therefore strengthened by such legitimate diversity, and so we are happy that these men and women bring with them their particular contributions to our common life of faith".
[This biblical view is definitely not the neo-Tridentine model of or aspiration for one uniform liturgy for all Catholics in the West (the Roman Rite). It seems to me that this approach will eventually create an Anglo-Catholic form of the Roman Rite, in addition to the ordinary and extraordinary forms of the Roman Rite (or, more likely, a subcategory under the ordinary form of the Roman Rite). I look forward to attending one of these Catholic-Anglican liturgies one day. The old Book of Common Prayer from the Anglican tradition is a treasure of the English language, on a par with the language of the King James Version of the Bible. So, if you have problems with English translations in the ordinary form, you are getting another option, in addition to the new missal translation in the works. Ah, yes, the model of Pentecost is unity out of legitimate diversity, as all heard them praising God, each in his own language. If you want to understand Benedict XVI, look to the Bible.]
In a joint declaration on the same subject, Catholic Archbishop Vincent Gerard Nichols of Westminster and Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury affirm that the announcement of the Apostolic Constitution "brings to an end a period of uncertainty for such groups who have nurtured hopes of new ways of embracing unity with the Catholic Church. It will now be up to those who have made requests to the Holy See to respond to the Apostolic Constitution", which is a "consequence of ecumenical dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion.
"The on-going official dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion provides the basis for our continuing co-operation", the declaration adds. "The Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) and International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM) agreements make clear the path we will follow together.
"With God's grace and prayer we are determined that our on-going mutual commitment and consultation on these and other matters should continue to be strengthened. Locally, in the spirit of IARCCUM, we look forward to building on the pattern of shared meetings between the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales and the Church of England's House of Bishops with a focus on our common mission".
Saturday, October 17, 2009
As little children, we overcame some fears by simply holding our parents' hands. Even when our parents were not nearby, their assuring words often kept us from yielding to fear. We overcome all fears in a similar way, keeping our hands in the nail-scarred hand of Jesus. Although we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we fear no evil, for He is with us (Ps 23:4). We fearlessly undertake the fearsome task of making disciples of all nations because He promised to be with us always, even "until the end of the world" (Mt 28:20).
"The Lord is my Light and my Salvation; whom should I fear? The Lord is my life's Refuge; of whom should I be afraid?" (Ps 27:1) "Fear nothing, then" (Lk 12:7).
Later, the meditation mentions how one saint found the courage to lead an abundant life with many demanding roles in life. We are called to the same. The pay-off from escaping fear is empowerment to live a truly abundant life in many roles beyond what we think we are able or can (and, surely, on our own steam, we are indeed right to think that we cannot carry out so many roles).
Thursday, October 15, 2009
In Tolkein's Return of the King, we read the following words by Aragorn who finally emerges as the prophesied king whose hands heal, as Aragorn makes his way among the wounded attempting recovery after the great battle in the "houses of healing." He comes to one of the hobbits who was severely wounded and sickened after daring to slay the very, very powerful Black Rider and Lord of the Nazgul (the Nazgul are the terrible flying monsters sent into battle by Sauron, the Dark Lord). Here is Aragorn, the healing King, speaking when he comes to the wounded hobbit in the houses of healing:
'Do not be afraid,' said Aragorn. 'I came in time, and I have called him back. He is weary now, and grieved, and he has taken a hurt like the Lady Eowyn [she is the one who actually killed the flying Nazgul monster in the previous battle], daring to smite that deadly thing [the hobbit killed the Black Rider of the flying Nazgul monster]. But these evils can be amended, so strong and gay a spirit is in him. His grief he will not forget; but it will not darken his heart, it will teach him wisdom.'
Tolkien, The Return of the King, Ch. VIII (pp. 850-51 in the most recent one-volume Lord of the Rings edition from Houghton-Mifflin publishers; bold emphasis added).
Notice the words highlighted in the quotation as annotated below.
1. "Daring to smite that deadly thing": When we dare to face great evil, rather than ignoring it or running from it, we will suffer some serious wounds. We do it anyway.
2. "These evils can be amended, so strong and gay [joyous] a spirit is in him": Do not underestimate the powers of resistance and recovery of a healthy human soul.
3. "It will not darken his heart, it will teach him wisdom": Out of severe wounds, comes wisdom that cannot shatter the heart of the truly healthy soul.
How do we get that healthy soul in the face of such great shocks in life? Some have a good dose of it from a fortunate upbringing. Yet, whether or not you had the good fortune of such a good upbringing, all of us need some steady, extra doses of power to truly resist, overcome, and abundantly conquer the evils we inevitably face in life.
Matthew 11:28-30 (NRSV here and below): 28 "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
Philippians 4:3: I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Romans 8:37 (emphasis added): No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
[In the original Greek in Romans 8:37 above, we "hypernikomen"--you know that "hyper" means to an excessive degree; you also can easily surmise that "nike" (as in the famous name brand) refers to victory or conquest. Hence, we "hypernike," to coin a new term: we "hyper-conquer." Thanks to a priest friend for pointing this out to me.]
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
VATICAN CITY, 14 OCT 2009 (VIS) - In his general audience, held this morning in St. Peter's Square, the Pope spoke about Peter the Venerable, whom he described as "an admirable example of a man rigorously ascetic with himself yet understanding towards others".
Peter the Venerable, the Holy Father explained, was born around the year 1094. In 1122 he "was elected as abbot of Cluny", and died in 1156. "He cultivated friendship, particularly that of his monks, who were wont to confide in him sure of being accepted and understood".
"This holy abbot is an example for monks and other Christians in our own time, with its frenetic pace of life in which episodes of intolerance and lack of communication, of division and conflict, are not infrequent", said the Pope. "His witness invites us to unite our love for God with love for neighbour, and never to cease creating bonds of fraternity and reconciliation".
Benedict XVI highlighted how Peter the Venerable, "with profound ecclesial sensibility, affirmed that the vicissitudes of the Christian people must be felt 'in the depths of the heart' by everyone who considers themselves to be 'members of the Body of Christ'. And he added: 'they are not nourished by the Spirit of Christ who do not feel the wounds of the Body of Christ' wherever they may occur".
[And, since Jesus identifies especially with the most needy, in every sense of the term "needy," the wounds are all around us.]
The Pope went on to explain how Peter "also showed great concern and solicitude for people outside the Church, particularly Jews and Muslims. In order to favour understanding with Muslims, he commissioned a translation of the Koran".
The Pope also emphasised the abbot's "love for the Eucharist and his devotion to the Virgin Mary", as well as his "predilection for literary activities, for which he had a talent".
"Although he was not a systematic theologian, he was nonetheless a great investigator of the mystery of God. His theology had its roots in prayer, especially liturgical prayer. Among the mysteries of Christ he preferred that of the Transfiguration, which prefigures the Resurrection. It was, in fact, he who introduced this feast to Cluny" with the aim of favouring "contemplation of the glorious face of Christ".
For Peter the Venerable the ideal for monks to follow "consists in 'tenacious adherence to Christ' through ... silent contemplation and constant praise of God".
"If this lifestyle, associated with daily work represents ... the ideal for monks, it can, to a large extent, also represent an ideal for all Christians who wish to become true disciples of Christ, characterised by their own tenacious adherence to Him through humility, hard work and a capacity for forgiveness and peace".
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
So, if you meet someone preaching a very perfectionist, angry, compulsive, legalistic God, take a look at the messenger--he or she may be simply preaching himself rather than the deity. Yet, notice that, while God is not perfectionist in the sense of necessarily jettisoning the materially flawed, He still insists on purification. He is not a perfectionist in the sense of automatically excluding the materially flawed, but He is a perfectionist of sorts in arranging for purification and purgation. Yes, He is much more subtle than many of our disordered personalities, personalities both very secular and very religious and which include every combination in between these two types.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
In his book Called to Life, retreat master Fr. Jacques Phillipe (see the category under his name in the blog sidebar for more posts about him) makes a point of calling each of us to remain in a state of thanksgiving, which he calls "a fundamental attitude of heart, a disposition of life, a way of orienting one's entire life" (p. 82). Now, don't tell me or others that you have nothing to be grateful for--all of us face ongoing challenges, uncertainties, worries, and looming problems, many of them quite serious, yet the fact is that many of us do live in a state of thanksgiving expressed in vibrant praise of the Giver of all good gifts. Many poor people living in the worst areas of the United States are known to give thanks and praise daily, often with tattered or well-worn Bibles in hand. Just drive around your local inner city and be observant. In sharp contrast, how funny that many of the most affluent or otherwise privileged really do not have an attitude of thanksgiving at all but rather an attitude of constant carping that they have not received the deference or attention that they claim to deserve from others.
Thanksgiving erupts in praise--sometimes a level of praise that even surprises me. That is why the charismatic renewal is so healing and so life-changing for so many of us--we first experienced in the renewal a level of exuberant praise that no one ever told us about for years or that we never before saw manifested:
Praise expresses the confidence that love is stronger than hate, light stronger than darkness, and the end of history will not be the triumph of evil but the victory of the good. Jesus said to the medieval mystic Julian of Norwich: "Sin is inevitable, but all will end up well!''
Fr. Philippe, p. 83.
It is not just a matter of the victory of good at the end of world history (although that is surely true) but also of the victory of good at the end of our personal history on earth. We praise God because he will bring our personal lives to a good end. (In many ways, I am often puzzled and surprised by the amount of attention religious people devote to speculating about the end of the world--my friends, your personal world is guaranteed to end very, very soon. We call it death. The mortality statistics can give us a pretty good time range for our personal eschatology, assuming that most things go well in the meantime.)
A life marked by fundamental gratefulness to Adonai and to others opens our eyes to reality. It is not a flight from reality but a deeper entry into reality. It is in fact our cynicism, disillusionment, and despair that cover up reality. Reality is shock full of the good and many goods if we open our eyes to look and discover. Living eucharistically, in a state of thanksgiving, is the way to see what is most real around us. Such gratefulness will issue in praise:
As Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the [Catholic charismatic] preacher of the pontifical household, says, "Praise immolates and destroys man's pride; he who praises God makes a sacrifice of something that is all-pleasing to God: mankind's self-praise. The extraordinary purifying power of prayer resides in this. Humility is hidden in praise.
Fr. Philippe, p. 85.
All the great terms of the equation are connected: gratitude opens our eyes to the ever-present Good and His goods (whether such goods are other people or nature in general or things in nature). This gratitude will have a flavor of our not meriting such goodness and so leads to a sincerely felt humility. On the way to this grateful humility, as a by-product, our pride diminishes. As I like to say, we can start putting our pride, ego, and vanity in our back pockets and increasingly forget about their neurotic demands. Then comes the great pay-off of authentic freedom and joy that no longer depend on feeding the monster called ego.