In a “closed” moderator run Facebook group focused on Catholicism and early Christian writings a member posted an innocuous meme of a monk from a long time ago saying the force be with you and a subtitle of the truth is often defined by our perspective.
Within seconds the post got 16 likes and 1 comment to remove this travesty please. The poster without comment removed it for he offended 1.
It was humorous and pointed to modern day handling of good and evil through a Hollywood movie. I can’t find the meme on the web, but the monk also held a saber.
What annoys Christians when movies dabble in mysticism or philosophical spiritual truths? Some feel these types of movies promote heresy or misdirect young minds. Others may feel the magical undefined portraits of spirituality simply under value and assault centuries of religious teachings.
The one truth I know is in general, Hollywood movies are not aimed at spiritually profound and deep contemplation and Christian movies in general rarely get a good rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Monks and Jedi’s crossover all the time into each other’s domains. Perhaps only the Monk attains anything close to remaining isolated from the interchange between secularism and religious thought.
A good day for me is when my secular life and my spiritual life are inseparable and indistinguishable without effort or thought. A great day is when intense effort is required and grace carries the day. Yoda would agree with this thought. Science fictions fans could tell me what the difference is between the Jedi code and the Sith code below:
We all know what a bad day looks like – days consumed with trivialities, unnecessary conflict, silliness, or perhaps even harmful speech or actions. If you can avoid these bad days by practicing a Jedi Code – more power to you!
Monks, Friars, and even Jedi’s have bad days too! They train and aim for the good and great days!
Catholicism and its messengers don’t have the marketing skills of star wars to spread the “true word.” It is sad and troubling that our children lack the knowledge of the worlds great religions or philosophers but can quote a Jedi code! Perhaps even some concern that the story telling battle of good and evil in Hollywood movies that allude to mystical sources further confuse the historical stories that are in the bible as merely stories.
Pop culture – philosophy – and religion becoming indistinguishable.
A more detailed look below on how to tell the difference between these men in Robes can be found here: https://youtu.be/xwBiBQztbYA. If your looking for spiritual guidance from a master – let me recommend Franciscans or Jesuits – and they have pretty awesome robes or cassocks.
May the force be with you!
This is no small story. The leaders of Germany today are a generation or two removed from the cloud of 1933 dictatorship and allegiance to one man or institution but not ignorant of the dangers of autocracies. Yes, you can have religious or political autocracies – or even more dangerous, when they are one and the same. They come in many shapes and sizes. Some perhaps sincerely well-intentioned. Unchecked individual power as a form of religious or political leadership has proven to be vulnerable to unfathomable evil in the name of good intentions.
German churches (priest) are standing up against church doctrine. They are not silent as some were in 1933. Not this time: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-57055162. This little story in the BBC is not so little. Consider that “Germany is no stranger to schism: 500 years ago, Martin Luther launched the Reformation here.” This story has wings and several news agencies recognize the magnitude of this story: https://spectrumnews1.com/oh/toledo/ap-top-news/2021/05/10/german-catholics-to-bless-gay-unions-despite-vatican-ban.
The article above does point out that Pope Francis has already reminded the German hierarchy that it must remain in communion with Rome during its reform process, known as a “synodal path.” The movement though has the supports of German lay people and many priest. “In Berlin, the Rev. Jan Korditschke, a Jesuit who works for the diocese preparing adults for baptism and helps out at the St. Canisius congregation, will lead blessings for queer couples at a worship service May 16.”
No Nazi gas chambers and LGBTQ recognition and acceptance are not equitable on the surface. They are very far apart on the continuum of intolerance, persecution, and genocide. But they share the being on the continuum. Anti-Jew sentiments were present decades prior to these sentiments were turned into denial of human rights to the Jewish people and the atrocities that followed:
“Though persecution of Jews has a history of at least two millennia, the late-19th
and early-20th century witnessed a high-water mark in hatred against Jews,
especially in western Christian societies. In essence, Hitler was handed a loaded gun ready to fire – and he did not hesitate to use it. (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0192512104038166)
A steady drum beat of increasing micro-aggressions carried out by everyday people one day ignited by a Hitler wrapped in fabricated nationalism, enforced with promises of glory and fear of loss of life or liberty if you were not on board.
Hitler used philosophy and religious ideas to ferment loyalty. The Catholic Church stance on LGBTQ issues is and will be used against LGBTQ people no matter how nuanced the words are by the Congregation of The Faith writings or the Pope himself.
But what about church teaching today? No disciple of the Catholic Church would argue that our institution of faith has been fast or evenly timely to adjusting Church teachings when it was so clearly necessary. The history of church Synods proves that the life of Jesus Christ and what Christ’s teaching meant was never a static interpretation. Heroes and villain’s are everywhere in Christian history – sometimes the villain’s of yesterday are later proven to be the heroes of today. This is not an anomaly specific to Christianity.
Are the participating German priest heroes or villains? From afar I think they are heroes assuming they are standing up for accepting LGQTQ individuals as whole and equal human beings in the eyes of God and mankind. They are breaking ground for an institution that is not ready for this radical acceptance of individuals that differ radically from accepted Christian thought on gender identity and expression.
Scott T. Allison wrote an article called “Heroic Lag: The Time It Takes Society To Catch Up With Its Heroes.” He describes the long history of how heroes were once villains for their ideas – only recognizance later in life, or more commonly, post-humorously. Society needed time to catch up to their radical ideas – in the meantime they were anathema! His article finishes with the following condemning line of the American system: The American two-party system creates an in-group versus out group mentality in which ones party affiliation often determines one’s position on the issues. Tribal deliberations are rarely a good route to resolve ambiguity. Such delineations only increase heroic lag and prolong cultural suffering.”
The idea of cultural suffering is too watered down for me. Tribal deliberations on “ambiguous topics” are often used as weapons to oppress, demonize, and persecute people. And for most Christians understanding gender identity, gender expressions, science of anatomy and genes, and even the history of early Christian writings and the origins of Christian thought in this area is very ambiguous minus a few comforting catch phrases or scripture phrases taken out of context.
Imagine Germany, the home to one of the largest genocides in history, a nation know for its commitment to law and order, being ahead of America in embracing and standing up for radical change? Don’t imagine – it is real in this instance.
Uncomfortable questions if you accustomed to blindly accepting religious or political ideology of a faith or party that you inherited based solely – for the most part, on where you were born and what circumstances you inherited.
Like science and philosophy, Religion is not immune to development and necessary correction. We are not the same people Christ visited 2000 years ago. We have evolved, painfully slowly, and so to must our spiritual understanding of Christ and humanity. And we continue to take steps backwards.
Germany has come along way: “Human rights in Germany enjoy a high level of protection, both in theory and in practice, and are enshrined in the Grundgesetz. The country has ratified most international human rights treaties. Reports from independent organizations such as Amnesty International certify a high level of compliance with human rights, while still pointing out several issues, in particular police brutality and mistreatment of refugees. The 2008 Freedom in the World report by US-funded Freedom House gives Germany a score of “1” (the best possible) for both political rights and civil liberties.”
“Human Rights watch gives us Americans a bad grade and recent lost ground under Trump: In 2019, the United States continued to move backwards on rights. The Trump administration rolled out inhumane immigration policies and promoted false narratives that perpetuate racism and discrimination; did not do nearly enough to address mass incarceration; undermined the rights of women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people; further weakened the ability of Americans to obtain adequate health care; and deregulated industries that put people’s health and safety at risk.”
I am wondering how our great cathedrals and churches cast their shadows on secular society. As people walk outside them everyday they cannot see the beautiful light of suns rays through the artisan glass on the insides of these large cavernous buildings. The light, the art, the symbolism of aiming for a higher spiritual plane are out of reach – even for many of those that enter the church doors by accident or with spiritual intention.
It is too confusing for some. No church has successfully presented itself as spiritually coherent – despite centuries of trying, they seem to only become increasingly debilitated by edifices of grand words and rhetorical argument.
Within the blizzard of theological writings, under the rays of the colored glass, in the quiet spaces there are answers for individuals and for nations – if only we can listen and have the courage to express radical love when it is needed. The nation states and religious institutions will not change unless the few brave being the voice of the unpopular.
Perhaps acts of spiritual or political dissent can be the highest form of faith or patriotism – when well informed and acted on for the greater good for all. You know the real thing when you see it. That person radiates light and quiet confidence. They are not seeking your approval or validation. They are not seeking their own glory or fighting for their own cause. They simply are doing what is intrinsically the right thing to do.
You may not know their name today. History may remember them more kindly. They do not care. Somehow they have reached a plateau where they know their actions, whether successful or not, will contribute to the spiritual arch that is man’s destiny – beyond the greatest distances that sound, light, or our imaginations can travel, to a place with no flags.
The symmetry of nature and humanity can be elusive and fleeting before my eyes. The mundane and the irresponsible rule our days, steal our time, sap our spirit, and dull our senses to what is important, beautiful, and present in every moment if we look for it.
I know the symmetry by its absence. I can feel the darkness, the irritability, the hunger for things that cannot satiate the human spirit.
When nature and humanity are bound together by the spiritual force that binds, the radiance of light, strength, and warmth are undefinable.
She is like a water lily in the pond, with radiant colors and delicate patterns, resonating beauty onto all that surrounds, complimenting without negating, soothing pain, while reflecting all around the depth of goodness is life and death, what is worthy, and what is not in the stillness that is required when no words will suffice.
When the silence must be broken, and the actions are taken, a single purple Iris rises, and then a field, healing the wounds that can be tethered, and she gently witnesses those that cannot be removed, sharing the reality in its ungarnished truth.
Regardless of circumstance, she rises like an orchid and caresses the soul, each according to the measure required, without expectation or reserve, a gentle objective love that transcends all, that cannot be owned or unrequited, just received and understood for the moments needed, before passing into eternity as gently as the moment of necessity arrived.
A symmetry of nature and humanity she is, a force of love and compassion beyond bounds of ordinary human understanding.
A great friend to many, mentor to the young, mother, nurse, women, and wife – in each a blossoming flower that knows no seasons. She is the symmetry that conquers the mundane, the trials, and the challenges with a beauty and power that can only be described as a spiritual force bound within an exceptional lovely women.
Dedicated to my wife Theresa
Anyone know the name Thomas Rousseau David’s Byles? In my minds eye he deserves human recognition as a saint.
The United States Conference of Bishops sets the bar low, at least, post-humorously low: “All Christians are called to be saints. Saints are persons in heaven (officially canonized or not), who lived heroically virtuous lives, offered their life for others, or were martyred for the faith, and who are worthy of imitation.”
There is no verification process here, no Congregation for the Causes of Saints, or road of scrutiny gradually being elevated as candidate, venerable, blessed, and for some finally Sainthood in the official Catholic. This latter designation is a steeper hill. It is estimated that over ten thousand saints have recognized by “the Roman Catholic Church.”
This Canonization process, in crude brevity, requires one be martyred for the faith or have verifiably performed a miracle not explained by science.
My bar goes below both definitions: “Any person, Christian or not, alive or dead, who lives a heroically virtuous life, selflessly serves others, is tested by a period of intense acute sacrifice or sustained sacrifice over time, and whose life is worthy of imitation” is Saintly. These people could not care less if we noticed their holy lives unless it furthered serving others, spreading love, and living for the greater glory of humanity and God by whatever name we call the unknown one.
Getting back to Thomas, he bought peace to people facing death by unpleasant means when he himself could have escaped the same fate.
This priest reportedly boarded the Titanic to travel to officiate a wedding request. When the ship hit the iceberg he was on deck praying. He went down to third class and calmly helped people find there way to the deck. He declined a life raft, unlike the captain, and stayed and prayed with those that went down with the ship. https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2021/04/14/titanic-anniversary-catholic-priest-refused-lifeboat-rescue-240380
Is it by accident that fate can be answered by faith? Or the seriousness of Post Humorous thoughts about our loved ones is sometimes best handled by humorous banter and acceptance of our mortality?
Perhaps even more intriguing about Thomas is that he was a Catholic convert. It says something when an individual seeks out a spiritual practice that speaks to him and is willing to leave one denomination for another, neither being perhaps better then the other.
Did fate bring him aboard that ship? I don’t know. I only hope I could lead like he led when circumstances call for sacrifices, big or small.
An interesting article in NCR looked at wealthy Catholics choreographing think tanks, not for profits, multi-media message to portray Catholic values in a way that supports big business and far right ideology.
Many Catholics are informed by this voice rather then scripture, traditions, and Pope Francis.
The silver lining is enough Catholics are educated enough to sniff out secularized or politicized Catholicism to avoid a repeat of a modern form of Catholic Crusades under a different cover. Not by much though, Trumpism took evangelical Christianity and many Catholics for a political crusade built on anti-Christian values cleverly decorated with a flag, a few causes, and even a bible for a prop.
The tug of war between being a relevant player on the world stage as a major religion and the risk of being co-opted by political or national interest was present at the time of Christ Birth, the time of his death, and still persist today.
The local priest needs a congregation. Even more he needs patrons who can contribute vastly more sums then what most can afford to contribute.
So, 2000 years after Christ death Priest are often giving parables that cleverly avoid disenfranchising constituents that may harm the weekly offering or end of year contribution.
The truth is hidden in the phrases, but only for those awake enough to listen and honest enough to take a self-inventory benchmarked against the words of God.
More often then not, religion shortchanges the essence of a spiritually lived life for a transactional ritual which happens to include tithes.
It is not all bad and certainly not purely the fault of the priestly caste. We all own our little piece religions failures.
We also own today and the opportunity to think, pray, and act purely with clean purpose and conscience, with holy and humble intentionality.
Stand up, push back, and reclaim a version of Catholicism that includes rather then excludes, models rather then condemns, sacrifices rather then hoards wealth and power.
The modern day Christian apologist[i] face a steep hill today defending the faith. The mystery of Christ Life, Death, oft forgotten visiting of hell, and Resurrection and the trials of the the traditions of the Catolicism have led to the mocking of Catholics apologist stance as being “I believe because it is absurd”[ii] . This accusation arose during the enlightenment period as a twist on Tertullian’s work. On this good Friday, it resonated with me after taking some time out this day off for Good Friday Readings[iii] and Stations of the Cross.[iv] I cannot imagine any sincere and honest Catholic believer not feeling absurd at different points in their spiritual life, if not personally, then at least when defending the history and current positions and actions of the church.
The mere word apologist implies to some confusion with the word apology! From the very beginning an apologist maybe fasley accused of admitting wrongfullness and seeking forgiveness. Christian Apologist are not seeking your forgiveness – they are seeking to give humanity faith and hope in Jesus Christ.
What is the steep hill? It is very difficult to “speak in defense” of Christianity theologically when the Catholic Church itself has torn itself into shreds by:
- Committing grave sins in the name of Jesus Christ historically like the Crusdades,
- Complicity by errors of ommission, silence, or support of political systems or political leaders that oppress, victimize, and persecute people,
- And Hypocrissy such as the Church on-going confrontation with Sex abuse, demonization of LGBTQ individuals, cafeteria style application of church social teachings, abandonment of the poor and the oppressed, and unwillingenss as both an institiution and as individuals to sacrifice status, money, and power to truly pursue a Christian life life.
This is less a condemndation of Jesus Christ then it is a condemnation of the Church and of Christians as G.K. Chesterton said:
“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”[v]
Our multitudinous failures to live the Christian ideal for me proclaims our apologist history, while theologically important for inter-faith dialogue and preservation of the faith and on-going unveiling of humanities spiritual development, is misplaced when targeted at the common man. It is the cart before the horse. We have no place for apologist or evangelization if our hearts and our institutions of faith are not presenting a coherent belief and actions that bring to life the Christian ideal here and now.
I fear that for many believer’s evangelization and apologetics becomes less about sharing a life worth living and more about self-preservation, egotism, and squashing spiritual fragility within themselves and within the church. It becomes about the best defense of our faith is a good offense joining military and philosophical thinkers like George Washington, Mao Zedong, Machiavelli or Sun Tzu.
This was not the way of Christ. To know the way of Christ we have to know both Christ words and Christ life. His life of course is the greater testimony. His words though left behind provided us lessons in the form of parables or direct guidance on how to live a holy life. Mankind has ever since struggled with the literal versus the allegorical, the context, and the authenticity of the Gospel narratives. PBS did a Frontline piece that reduced the Gospels to “Neither biographies nor objective historical accounts, the gospels resembled religious advertisements.”[vi]
These are fighting words that jolt many believers into non-Christian actions including offensive attacks on the messenger, shabbily constructed defenses of the biblical texts, obfuscation or flight. Christians and those attacking Christians are often very skilled at rhetoric and avoiding carrying any argument forward with an open heart and mind. This is as true today as it was in Christ time. So how did Christ prepare the Apostles to go forward without him knowing the road would be unwelcoming:
“And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing. And He said to them, Take nothing for your journey, neither a staff, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have two tunics apiece.”
“Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that city. And as for those who do not receive you, as you go out from that city, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” Luke 9:16
Christ instructed them to go out in twos, to represent him (power and authority), to proclaim his words and message, to heal, to do so selflessly, and to walk away from those who choose to not believe and continue on. He did not say to remain in argument with unbelievers or create laws to enforce his message. Nor did he offer to validate their unbelief but rather in perhaps the least non-confrontational manner, they were to shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against those refusing the message.
How did this teaching and parable take form in two-thousand years past Christ death and resurrection is a testament to both the good and the bad of Christianity’s application of the life of Christ? Paul the apostle shared in Philippians 2:1-30 (roughly written mid-50s to early 60s A.D.) the following:
“2 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4
This is not the typical message we hear from apologist, the pulpit, or conservative Catholicism today. To provide anyone encouragement in Christ Paul says nails the meaning of humility and evangelization in 4 lines. He nails the actions we must demonstrate to be able to encourage any participation if belief in Christ. He speaks to the demand for unity and a coherency in “full accord and of one mind.”
The life of Christ and his death exemplified this message in his birth, his ministry, death (Good Friday), visit to Hell (Holy Saturday), and Resurrection (Holy Sunday or Easter).
The life of Christ is not historically disputed. He was born, he preached, and he was executed by crucifixion. All three of these elements are historically supported and accepted by historians and theologians. After that, the debate begins on everything else:
- Born of the Virgin Mary
- Healing stories (real or allegorical)
- The meaning of the last support (and the Eucharist)
- Human prophet or Son of God
- Who was responsible for his death
- Holy Saturday
- His resurrection
- Post-houmous sightings
The power of spirituality and the life of Christ does not lay within the contextual disputes of religious and philosophical scholars, but on the lives we live. My morning reading of scripture and my time reflecting on the 14 stations of the cross have no meaning to anyone I will encounter later today or tomorrow. Nor should it have any meaning or context other then guiding my interior thought and exterior actions.
Achieving spiritual coherence is not easy. If my Catholic belief and practice is coherent and in “full-accord and off one-mind” my encounters with everyone will be embodied with love, compassion, humility, sacrifice, and faith. Not a single word about my faith need be said in the secular world. They will know by my light and by my actions. That is the horse, that is what comes first. Without that, they will have no interest as to what is in the cart. What is in my cart?
- The living word of God including the old and new testament
- Two thousand years plus of church tradition
- Two thousand years plus of my faith’s success and failures
- A guide to universal human dignity and life affirming principles
- A tool-kit for unveiling suffering, bearing suffering, and sharing the burdens of suffering of others
- Awe of everything around me, of the universe, and the unknowable eternal
- Unending writings, biographies, and testimonies of people who have tapped into glimpses of spiritual transcendence and living a meaningful life, not limited to Christian and Catholic believers
- Openness to non-duality
- Appreciation of things large and small
- Knowledge of the temporality of the human condition
- Mentors, priest, family, friends, and living fellowship
- Moments of fleeting spiritual consolation (selfishly sought and desired beyond my station in life!)
- Faith and Hope in the essential meaning of life
In my own life, my faith is “certain because it is impossible.” This was the original Terrellian defense, “prorsus credibile est, quia ineptum est” or “It is certain because it is impossible.”
Today in Catholic Tradition Christ will have walked a little less then a mile to be crucified on a cross. The carrying of that cross (weighing perhaps 80 to 110 pounds or more) in his depleted body due to the scouring and beatings by the Romans was no small feat. He passed roughly at 3 P.M. today and yet we call it Good Friday for what is to come. It is impossible to integrate this series of events into a rationale spiritual account as it is for the non-scientist to explain the origins of the universe, the exactness of blackholes, and what lays beyond the depths of our most powerful tools exploring the galaxies beyond our gaze. For that matter it is impossible for the theologians and scientist as well to present a definitive explanation.
What he did during his life and what comes after is what fills my spiritual cart. Your cart maybe different then mine and that is okay by me if the horse that pulls it shines with the radiant light of holiness that transcends our human shortcomings.
I have a preference for the Eastern Orthodox interpretation of Christ storming the gates of hell between the time of his death today and his resurrection on Easter Sunday.
Christ descends into hell to liberate those imprisoned priors including the Adam, the prophets and martyrs of the Old Testament.[vii] The split between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox church along with the many denominations of Christianity has left us with ample opportunity to be open to interpretation of biblical history and meaning. I raise this as an example of how easily we can be divided on the interpretation of the life of Jesus Christ and subsequent teachings, symbolism, and images used to convey the faith. The image below is clearly different then the one above, yet both represent Jesus storming hell to conquer Satan after his death. What exactly that means is open to interpretation. There is not one expert among us. I, for example, believe we create hell on earth more so then I am worried about hell after my death. I take comfort rightly or wrongly in the idea that the knocking down of the gates of hell and the defeat of Satan is a message of hope for us in the eternal life coupled with a message to seek to create heaven on earth now.
The Universal Christ by Richard Rohr [viii] presents such an open interpretation of “Christ” that will challenge all Catholics (conservative and progressive) to reevaluate our interpretations of Jesus Christ the son of Man and “Christ” the eternal.
Richard Rohr and other contemporary priest like Bishop Barron, James Martin and even Pope Francis himself are targets of conservative Christianity on many fronts. The early church fathers[ix] as well as Christ himself were often labeled rebels or heretical by the authorities and people of their time and Tertullian who I included here. Even Thomas Merton is accused these days as a dangerous thinker by many. One writer completed a complete list of the tip ten heretics of all time[x] that include people like Thomas Jefferson, Donald Trump[xi], Joan of Arc, Saint Paul, and Jesus himself! Sometimes heretics turn out to be saints.
Time may reveal to the critics that these spiritual authorities are simply revealing spiritual truths that we failed to recognize before now. The book “The American Catholic Experience Through Stories, Memoirs, Essays and Contemporary Saints and Sinners” brings live the dynamic tension of trying to live a holy life in a modern western culture:
“A holy life, like a poem, a painting, or a piece of sculpture, is, as its linguistic roots attest, something of a whole. The root of the word holy is kailo, which is old English for hal, or whole, as in halsum, or wholesome.”[xii]
Achieving holiness through the narrow lens of a specific religious doctrine put into the hands of undeveloped or immature spiritual leaders and their equally unprepared believers is a higher task then that of the great apologist! It is a recipe for disaster that we have seen play out repeatedly over history. If we are not humbled by the errors of our religious and political institutions, we are either ignorant or willfully blind.
Living a holy life offers greater riches then a secular life, but that is not why one lives a holy life. Striving to live a holy life is written in our core, imprinted on our souls. When we ignore that calling, we suffer greatly.
I don’t believe you have to be martyred or crucified to achieve a semblance of a holy life. An interesting post by Adam Powers provides 10 questions for self-evaluation if you horse and cart are aligned with a Holy Life.
The depths of spiritual belief, the actions of daily life, and the mystery of transcending oneself present mystical challenges beyond any post. Catholicism has served as my cart. I have no name for “The Horse” with authority as any attempt by humanity to define it falters by the limitations of our capacity to understand the infinite.
My Catholic faith provides me names of God the father, the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ (the Holy Trinity). Delving into this framework is a long path down the road of theology which is worth taking – but not at the expense of our humility and calling to live a holy life. The cost of this path is beyond what most of us are willing to pay, and frankly most of us professed Catholics have not invested fully in what we profess to believe. An yet I believe as evidenced by this writing to you on Good Friday hoping you find yourself living a holy life, content with both your blessings and your suffering, prepared for the challenges of today, and for your last mortal days, and for eternity.
References and footnotes below. All pictures are available on internet and not my own – easy to find by simply using quote attached, referenced below, or subject phrase.
[i] A person who offers an argument in defense of something controversial or a branch of Christian theology that defends Christianiity against objections (wikipedia)
[v] G.K. Chesterton, What’s wrong with the World
[xi] Out of intellectual honesty and spiritual obligation I request you exclude Donald Trump from the list of Heretics or Saints. He deserves no honor with the others on any list of heretics or saints as his positions have proven to be amoral and completely predatorial and self-serving without any substantiative content or individual merit – purely a political figure in history that wielded power of portions of Christian Evangel churches and roughly half of Catholic believers. The Church leaders that supported or defied him are another story.
[xii] Saints and Sinners, Eugene Kennedy Article page 109
My search for living a spiritual life has been hard fought. Not worthy of mention compared to the great biographies of Christian mystics or to the great sinners who eventually had a dramatic conversion experience.
Here I am now on my God quest reading Catholic theology, early Christian writers, the lives of the saints and the primary source – holy scripture. Here I am now actively praying and partaking in sacramentals and the sacraments practiced by my faith.
I am still living in mediocre spiritually. The great veil that hides God’s presence to mankind rarely is parted for me. On the brief encounters where I have felt this grace, while in the moment they are undefinable, afterwards the genuineness and authenticity of these events become suspect, or at least dulled by long periods of aridity.
I am a high maintenance Christian. I need continual spiritual nourishment in my life and crave spiritual consolations more so then I deserve!
Alas, I can put the books and prayer aside. I can rest at home and simply pray on this Prayer Rug:
Never mind that the rug is paper. If I pray right and stare into Jesus’s eyes that are now closed, they will open. I only have this miraculous rug for 24 hours and must return it Saint Matthews Church so they may send it on to other homes. One women’s prayers were answered with 47000 dollars!
Yes, this wonderful prayer rug will provide many blessings if I pray on it tonight and mail it back tomorrow. If I do, a blessed medal will follow. I am guessing after that a request for money will come. After a second of internet research you can see the mailer I received is from James Eugene Gene Ewing representing a by mail ministry loosely affiliated with a brick and mortar church: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Matthew%27s_Churches. The mailer came with several papers and a return envelope pre-stamped addressed to a P.O. Box.
It is easy to see the fraud here. Yet, Eugene lives a very luxurious lifestyle with this pitch. According to wiki above he targets low income, Hispanic, and elderly believers.
How about the prosperity churches? Joel Osteen will tell you praying (and giving) will make you rich. There are over 700 denominations of Prosperity churches that stress prayer, attending services, and a strong emphasis on tithing. Their delivery and message can be quite a theatrical production with charismatic preachers, singing, music, and multi-media assault on the senses. Motivationally a rock concert vibe with a chanting crowd. Like Eugene, Joel has perfected getting super rich and has an entourage beneath him flourishing as well – a spiritual ponzi scheme with building funds, special missions, and other calls for tithing…which will be returned to you ten fold!
Let not my cynicism stop there. My own faith requires tithing, has built immense church structures, has its own city (Vatican City), and once had a system of monetary exchange for indulgences to atone for ones sins!
It is not just the priestly type that may pose as sheep while being wolves. We see it in all vocations: lawyers, doctors, teachers, police, and especially politicians! The common thief has more honesty and spirituality then some of these who pretend to be what they are not. They know what they do and sometimes are even remorseful about their actions.
How do we know the difference between a true “teacher” and a false prophet? We know it when they tell us what we want to hear even when we know it is not there’s to promise. We know it in our intuitive gut if we listen and develop a personal prayer life. And even if they still fool us awhile, they will reveal themselves in short order given human time.
Note I used the word teacher rather then prophet. Theology wise the prophet line ended with Jesus, though the Muslim community would disagree and the Jewish community are still waiting for the true Messiah.
Very few men or women today can or should be put on a pedestal above your own discernment. Guide yes, but not with blanket authority or trust. That is earned.
There are no short cuts to a relationship with God. We can draw closer by prayer, asking, and acting rightly. None of that guarantees anything. We do it because we have come to believe and we have a matured religiosity beyond simply being told to believe. It is wrapped in a thin concept of faith and hope that must be lived and experienced. The experience must over time intrinsically have both internal and external validity and cohesion. When it doesn’t you know it is probably a human desire rather than a divinely inspired influence.
Who aspires for mediocrity? I do aspire to live a holy life that is coherent in thoughts, belief, and action. I do seek out examples of those before me who possess elements of these qualities. I do not seek the fame of some of the great martyrs nor do I have the courage to ask God for more challenges or more suffering! Perhaps I am more apt to ask
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” for the most trivial inconveniences to more serious suffering that I may face.
In essence, I don’t believe our church leaders should be in the promise business. I believe they should be in the dialogue and lead by example business. The dialogue emphasis on what actions are expected of us to live a coherent spiritual life. What God does with that is where we have faith and hope.
We need spiritual leaders to be visible markers in our society initiate and continue the dialogue. We don’t need them to be sending out prayer rugs and promising prosperity or any other human request or fox hole prayer answer. What a disrespect to God and to all those whose prayers are not answered and tragedy visits them personally.
How much damage is splintered Christianity doing today to the faith as delivered to us 2021 years ago? Is it that bad that we expect a mass mailing campaign and prayer rug are the solution?
No, we expect more of each other and of our own individual actions. The rest we give to faith and hope that either our needs or prayers will be answered or that we will have the courage and strength to bear our crosses well. Priest or not, we are not God. We can act in his likeness and share each other’s triumphs and struggles.
Anyone need a prayer rug? I have one cheap….
“But as for me, it is out of the question that I should boast of anything at all, except of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world has been crucified to me and I to the world. . . . After this, let no one trouble me; I carry branded on my body the marks of Jesus.”
—GALATIANS 6:14, 17
This Galatians quote leads off a free book from Word on Fire ministries on the meaning and practice of the sign of the cross (link below). I had a few moments to explore it while at the airport. The book provides a nice blend of scripture, early Christian writers, and current Church writers on the history, meaning, and practice of the sacramental practice of making the sign of the cross.
In general I am wary of free modern day religious writing. Often free comes with a hidden price. At the very least, your time is valuable! This quick easy read was worth my time. The above quote and the chapter on suffering resonated for me. Most importantly, the reminder of the broad intention and desire we have when making the sign of the cross was hammered home as if we held the spikes that pierced Jesus on the Cross.
What are you thinking when you wear the crucifix or make the sign of the cross? Immersed in our secular lives it is easy for this simple gesture to become nothing more then a meaningless habit as evidenced by our behavior moments after our right hand completes the journey to Amen.
Do I deserve to wear the crucifix around my neck proclaiming my belief in Christ? When I make the sign of the cross is my heart, my soul, and my actions aligned with God’s intentions?
If you use the link below please also visit Word on Fire ministries who provided the e-book free. I have no affiliation other then being Catholic myself.
Word on Fire free book:
Catholic video on sign of the cross: https://youtu.be/
I tend to focus on what we do. Others focus on what the Devil is planning! There is no doubt we live amongst evil by whatever name you call it and sometimes it lurks with our own hearts. An intentional sign of the cross can stay our worst human impulses.
Catholic forums and the USBC are ablaze with the meaning of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. The term of the day is “Eucharistic Coherence.” George Weigel does a pretty good job summarizing in one article called “The Challenge of Eucharistic Coherence” on February 3, 2021.[i] Why the uproar now?
We have a Catholic President who does not politically support “Right to Life” issues regarding the unborn sufficiently to align with Catholic values on this serious issue[ii] despite the rest of his life and his values being consistent with the overall dignity of life values that the Catholic Church teaches (care for the poor, access to healthcare, housing, education, equality, dignity, capital punishment, immigration, etc.). He is perhaps the anti-trump where the flip is historically accurate where his actions, at least legally on the right to life front, were aggressive but poorly lacking everyplace else.
The Catholic Church is unsure of itself and rightly so about President Biden and the Sacrament of the Eucharist. The act of committing abortion meets three elements required that would easily preclude receiving the Eucharistic Sacrament:
- Abortion fits the Catholic Church definition of a “Grave matter” or a “Mortal Sin” as Catholicism considers the unborn child fully human from conception. Abortion is murder.
- Full-knowledge of the sin being committed is also a factor. No doubt President Biden is fully aware of his commitments to Catholicism versus his oath as president. The latter is a civil authority not aligned with Catholicism in all areas of law.
- The person must freely choose to commit or act or plan to do it.
To my knowledge, President Biden has not met any of these conditions. However, the Catholic Church would say he is complicit, as is our nation that ignores this issue, and many others, the dignity of life whether or not we commit an act or do not actively criminalize and incarcerate non-Catholics and Catholics who do not follow our moral definition of when life begins.
At issue is what to do about Catholics who willfully receive communion while not in a state of grace suitable for receiving the body and blood of Christ.
I have myself, on occasion, felt unworthy of communion and willfully opted out until, with the assistance of a confessor, I sorted somethings out to bring myself somewhat closer to an acceptable state of grace to participate in Holy Communion. Was that necessary? I can make the theological case that if I approached communion with genuine intention and placed my faults, the sacrament could absorb my sinful state without blemish. Was I guilty of grave sin? I have been guilty of grave sins or sins that are of grave matter as any premeditated “sin of a serious nature deliberately committed is a rejection of God’s law and love.”
Who among you are free of capital sins such as pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth? All of these are an affront to God by Catholic definition (Capital sins). Or how about St. Pauls list:
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
The Catholic Church has rules for the faithful (doctrine, traditions, etc.), and many of these rules are not suggestions! Immersing oneself in the Catechism of the Catholic Church Article Three[iv] is only a starting point for conducting a spiritual examination before receiving the sacrament of the Eucharist each Sunday. Aside from the prohibitions that are brief, this article contains 21 pages on the Eucharistic Sacrament’s beauty and meaning.
Think of it as an elaborate invitation to the most prestigious human gale, ball, event, or wedding. You are invited with the expectation that you will come prepared. There is no expectation that somebody else has to check you at the door for proper attire, etc.! They were some serious robes to the Last Supper.
What to do when these rules are not followed gets religiously complicated quickly. The Church has rarely managed well its power dynamic with kings, autocrats, dictators, or presidents. Ex-communication is the method used and authorized by Canon law:
“In Roman Catholic canon law, ex-communication is a censure and thus a “medicinal penalty” intended to invite the person to change behavior or attitude that incurred the penalty, repent, and return to full communion. Ex-communication severs one from communion with the Church; excommunicated Catholics are forbidden from receiving any sacrament and refused a Catholic burial but are still bound by canonical obligations such as attending Mass or fasting seasonally. Excommunicated Catholics, however, are barred from receiving the Eucharist or from taking an active part in the liturgy (reading, bringing the offerings, etc.). They are still Catholics per se, but are separated from the Church” Wikipedia has a list of excommunicated people from the first century to the current![v].
How many Catholics on Sunday morning conduct a sincere spiritual examination of their state of grace before receiving communion? If equipped to perform such an examination, what percentage would be short of the required grace defined by the Catholic Catechism?
I am less worried about President Biden’s state of grace than my own. I also have a hard time believing that one sinner or a thousand receiving the Eucharist with meaningful intention while not in a state of grace can in any way diminish God or the body of the church. I hold the sacrament as so powerful that it can heal any who come to the table willing to be healed.
The charge being levied at President Biden is Eucharistic Incoherence. I levy the same charge at myself and those throwing the stones first at Catholicism’s broad incoherence historically and current. As an institution we are far from without blemish and “more is being revealed” to us individually and collectively everyday as our humanity strives towards spiritual coherence.
We do strive to be and behave the opposite virtues of the “seven deadly sins.” What are they anyway?
Most of us are there trying our best to live a holy life, falling short individually and collectively. Celebrate and strengthen each other as these virtues are all around us everyday – people doing the right thing in the face of adversity. Let us not rush to judge or condemn with superficial knowledge and righteousness so quickly and may we receive equal consideration when our time for judgement comes today or at the end of days.
The Eucharistic Celebration, at its most basic level as originally intended, is miraculous and uniquely Catholic. Many words and paintings try to capture its essence, but only a personal journey and faith can truly reveal its meaning. Coherent or incoherent post I cannot decipher. I have not answered the President Biden dilemma that is apt to be misused by dividers and antagonist rather than by sincere soul-searching believers seeking coherence within and outside the faith.
I remember President Trump being unable or unwilling to address gracefully the deaths of political foes or deaths that were inconvenient politically. Others before him did a better job on the national stage. Most of us can take off our fighting gloves when death visits us, even if only for momentary pause, a recognition of a fellow humans light being blown out for the last time.
My Aunt Gertrude many years ago listened to Rush everyday. He painted a worldview that protected her beliefs and identity as the rest of the world was moving away. It gave her peace and perhaps took off the edge of loneliness as an elderly person living in her suburban home alone in Nassau county.
Rush, thank you for providing her security as the world changed. I am confident that within your bio there once was an innocent political passion to be the vanguard of honorable Republican idealism and maybe even embers of that idealism during your waning days. Another opinion piece today gave you credit for building a very profitable and powerful conservative empire catering to all the Aunt Gertrudes nationally and new republicans in the 80s, 90s, and even today. The author also said your vision and that of several like you has ended in ashes. He said so respectfully.
I want to thank you for giving me a point on my first time ever playing in a Deadpool game. When invited to play this 2021 gambling pool to pick ten celebrities that will pass in 2021, I fondly picked you. Don’t get all ideological on me.
I also have Jimmy Carter on my list, who I didn’t like as President, but adore for his post Presidency life. My list has both heroes and villains, non-discriminatory picking from the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (my team name). You and God will sort out where you fit now.
Perhaps I was a little discriminating with my list of ten. I outright could not put Pope Francis on my list both for my admiration for his Jesuit principles and for fear of being struct with great misfortune if I did!
Where does this all fit with Christian thought on sin, forgiveness, and divine Providence? For the first time now, Rush may indeed know more now than any of us who remain here toiling in human mediocrity striving for spiritual perfection.
And yes gamblers out there, there is even a pool for who will die next. Check out stiffs.com. Don’t mock me, you probably have bought life insurance before or know someone who owns a policy that may benefit you!
I penned a letter to The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops just now making the same mistake they made with their penned Inauguration Day letter. If you read the Bishops letter you would immediately note it missed the beauty of the inauguration, the many Catholic aspects and values presented, and its inconsistency with Pope Francis message as well. My error was writing my concerns at all to their media office. My words were not well thought out or prayed on, though I think my discernment with intent was on target, my words were far from kind or gentle. Here is what I wrote:
“Dear USCCB; Once again the usccb.org has devalued Catholics, the usccb.org, and the teachings of Jesus Christ by the issuance of the inauguration statement that was so clearly political and beneath the office of the Bishops. Handed a gift on that day, the conference chose to pen a letter of further division. Church authorities continue to make it difficult to defend the faith and truly be the light we seek to represent. Reprehensible and reactive action – ill-timed and selfishly released by usccb. The ever shrinking Catholic lay public continues to lose confidence in the usccb as its leadership continues to thrive on being the news rather than being the solution. No humility. No discernment. Why I am I writing a letter to express my discontent I do not know. I have no expectation of the usccb.org to be able to set the horizon of ideal Catholic values and social teaching without itself becoming muddied in acrimony, division, and greed (for status, power, money, and positioning within the church). I start my day with readings from usccb. At the moment, I am very saddened and want to walk away from the usccb. I want to cancel my direct debit weekly contributions. I want to encourage others to leave. That is not what I will do, but others will, thanks to the shortsightedness of that penned hypocritical letter. Our nation has been through so much under the former administration – not to mention the rush to execute people on the way out the door, that to see this petty response is just plain idiocy and self-aggrandizing behavior, not the word of God being expressed by humble servants.”
The lines I have highlighted may be different than the ones that catch your eye so I have reposted here without commentary. I cannot imagine anyone not having heard her inauguration poem. Her oration and presentation equaled her writing. She at the young age of 22 was unknown to me, but famous to many as a youth poet Laurette at age 19. Her story includes a challenge with the “spoken word” that she holds dearly as part of life purpose and legacy at the young age of 22. A Harvard graduate with a dream of perhaps a political future? If you have not heard her work, now is the time to take a break and listen to a new voice of wisdom and hope in America:
When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry. A sea we must wade.
We braved the belly of the beast.
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.
And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it.
Somehow we do it.
Somehow we weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.
We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.
And, yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect.
We are striving to forge our union with purpose.
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.
And so we lift our gaze, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.
We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.
We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.
We seek harm to none and harmony for all.
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true.
That even as we grieved, we grew.
That even as we hurt, we hoped.
That even as we tired, we tried.
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.
Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.
Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.
If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.
That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare.
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit.
It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation, rather than share it.
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
And this effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.
In this truth, in this faith we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.
This is the era of just redemption.
We feared at its inception.
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour.
But within it we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.
So, while once we asked, how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe, now we assert, how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.
We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation, become the future.
Our blunders become their burdens.
But one thing is certain.
If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.
So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left.
Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.
We will rise from the golden hills of the West.
We will rise from the windswept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution.
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states.
We will rise from the sun-baked South.
We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.
And every known nook of our nation and every corner called our country, our people diverse and beautiful, will emerge battered and beautiful.
When day comes, we step out of the shade of flame and unafraid.
The new dawn balloons as we free it.
For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.