The Business of Western Catholicism

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.

Here is the article: https://www.ncronline.org/news/opinion/wealthy-conservative-catholics-are-new-us-magisterium?fbclid=IwAR2_UasY1aBvIEn9oFXtxSAnQU97vT3UKA83KC9QndYyqEJwTSN9OxZ99Jw

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.

“I believe because it is absurd”

I believe because it is absurd

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: 

 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 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  
  • Humility
  • 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.”

Original Intent and wordage of Tertullian

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.

Believe in the Impossible today – take a leap of Faith!

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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)

[ii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Credo_quia_absurdum

[iii] https://bible.usccb.org/

[iv] https://youtu.be/iEIvGC1WsbM

[v] G.K. Chesterton, What’s wrong with the World

[vi] https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/story/gospels.html

[vii] https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1997-04-28-9704280142-story.html

[viii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KD7B3wr3xeY

[ix] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_Fathers

[x] http://www.thehypertexts.com/Famous%20Heretics.htm

[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

God’s answer in the mail?

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!

Reward

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.

False Prophets

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….

The Sign of The Cross

“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:

https://media.wordonfire.org/ebooks/The-Sign-Of-The-Cross.pdf

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.

Eucharistic Coherence

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.”

Have you been historically or recently guilty of grave sin?  Before you answer this question, read “What is a Mortal Sin?” [iii]. I myself am a fan of Dante’s work detailing sins:

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.[3] 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.).[4] 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]https://www.thebostonpilot.com/opinion/article.asp?ID=189316

[ii] https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/politics/a34205908/joe-biden-stance-on-abortion/

[iii] http://www.saintaquinas.com/mortal_sin.html

[iv] https://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P3W.HTM

[v] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_excommunicated_by_the_Catholic_Church

Tribute to Rush Limbaugh?

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!

www.nytimes.com/2021/02/20/opinion/sunday/rush-limbaugh-dead-reaction.html

USCCB Idiocy

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 Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman

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.

Arrows of God

The recent Washington Capital riot and our national response has sent me to a quiet place to reflect and contemplate where we went wrong. Pursuit of power by any means became evident. “Too often, even in our own Catholic tradition, we have aligned our power with the power of the state, with the power of money, with the power of control, with the power of authority, or with the power of ambition, and as a result, we have distorted and even avoided the true meaning of spiritual power.”[i] We have become immune to the arrows of God.

arrow in leg

This a.m. the movement of power and shift of power orientation exemplified by Christ came to light. John the Baptist, the voice crying in the wilderness preparing Christ’s way[ii] and John the Evangelist were both at the baptism of Jesus.  John the Baptist was practicing asceticism and cleansing baptisms in the desert.  John the Evangelist was a disciple of John the Baptist.  The first John prepared the way for Jesus Christ and the second would witness and document Christ’s life (3 Letter of John, the Gospel of John, and perhaps the book of Revelation (theological debate). 

Between the two of them and many others the definitions of power were upended forever as witnesses and Disciples of Christ.  One of today’s readings from John the evangelist, 1 Jn 5:1-9[iii], describes how the baptism and sacrifice of Jesus Christ transformed our understanding of power to how we could overcome the world by living in Christ.   That is when our faith shifted out alignment with political or religious authority to a higher power.

“In Truth, I see that God shows no partiality.  Rather, in every nation whoever rears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.”[iv]   This was presumably written by St. Luke the Evangelist (fifth book of the new testament).  We have mutual accountability in every nation and individually here as well as in the United States.

In essence, Jesus came into the world as religious and political leaders were thriving on abuse of power and lay people were aligning themselves with these institutions and their leaders in both practice and identity.  Both were used by the power of brute force and use of rhetorical persuasion to justify unjustifiable living.  He was the unsuspected answer to scripture of the old testament. 

Today, whether Democrat or Republican by political party, Christians answer to a higher power.  We still vote and participate in the world that we live in as Christ had John baptize him when there was no need.   Whether as a nation, or as individuals, we must “act rightly.” 

It is evident to all that any Christian has no viable justification for supporting Donald Trump other than  seeking alignment for affiliation with being considered powerful, increasing authority, gaining wealth, or pure ambition.  Alignment with Trump can be explained in no other way.  Note political alignment with the two American parties is not the issue – the issue is aligning with the actions of Trumpism, the lies, and the abuse of power that has killed many and harmed thousands by fiat. 

This idolization of Donald Trump by many Americans and even some religious institutions has demonstrated our loss of individual responsibility is a collective societal failure. 

Continue reading “Arrows of God”

Mysticism

Friedrick Nietzsche, German Philosopher, declared “God is Dead” in the late 1800s. In the 1980s I would author opposing papers regarding this assertion. The earlier version would assert an atheistic worldview and render belief in a personal God futile. The latter version would assert the opposite, that religion was dead, having lost its way and become a dead letter rather than anything representing a guide to a truly holy life. Post enlightenment and today we are far removed from the desert fathers or the mystics of the early Catholic Church.

After reading an article in America Media this a.m. “This is your soul on Mysticism” I wondered if Mysticism and prayer was “dead” in Catholicism and Christianity.

Mysticism is not dead. About a third of Catholic believers will report if asked that they have had a “mystical” experience. That is a pretty high number given few of us have a disciplined “mystical” or “contemplative” prayer life.

The pandemic has provided us with increased isolation and an awareness of our mortality. Confronting the power of prayer now or deepening one’s prayer life is a positive pandemic opportunity.

I don’t imagine us walling ourselves off like Julian of Norwich though sometimes I wish I could live a hermetical life. Take a look at this article. How has the pandemic increased or decreased your connection to God? Perhaps a spiritual retreat is in your future.

https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2020/12/17/mysticism-covid-19-julian-norwich-239506

Death

“I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”
Mark Twain

I have a healthy respect for death these days, though unlike Twain, I still retain a certain degree of fear regarding my mortality.

disgust

How prepared can we be for the dimming of our own light? I have witnessed the prepared and the unprepared. Neither is pleasant, but the prepared are far better off in the final moments.

If you had a year to prepare for the day the light goes off, what would you do? Is there someone close to you who needs help preparing as well? Our lives and the lives of those we love do not need to end with despair or disgust.

Give death its due in 2021:

Make a list of what is important to you and your loved ones. Some ideas may include:

  1. Create or update your advanced directive.
  2. Take care of any asset issues (Will).
  3. Make amends where you can except when to do so would hurt others.
  4. Consider seeing a spiritual advisor (of your religious belief).
  5. Love the people in your life all your remaining days.
  6. Bucket list?
  7. Help others prepare?
  8. Exercise and eat right.

Live Life:

Giving death its due does not mean not living life but the opposite. Bring joy and happiness wherever you go. Perhaps avoid things that might kill you or make you miserable to be around!

Choose activities wisely. No sense running towards death. You probably have many things you want to do still before you meet the guy in the hoodie.

excercise

All humor aside. We don’t want to live looking backward. Do what you can now, concretely. Get it done.

Knock off the low hanging fruit first. Build in some healthy habits. Work on the human relationships as if each one was a relationship with God himself! There are so many resources out there for managing “To do” list. Planning for eternity is probably ranks pretty high up their in priorities!

Planning for a peaceful death does not have to be grim. Done with levity and purpose, it will make the quality of your life now better! It is about living our best life now. Start with a list and then get a daily agenda productivity app to make things happen in the “Life Domains” that need the most attention: personal relationships, advanced directive, will, God, health now, bucket list, or whatever is important to you. Don’t let it escape you – stick to the list even if it proves tenacious. By the end of 2021 if you do this – people will notice something different about you! They might not know what it is, but they will want to know you more! Do it quietly or do it loudly – just get it done.

Peace and serenity await you.


peaceful-death-1

Poverty

The Catholic Church declares this month Poverty Awareness month: https://www.usccb.org/committees/catholic-campaign-human-development/poverty-awareness-month.

The call to all Catholics is for “solidarity with the poor.” It is an honorable goal. The site above has information and links to sites where you can take action.

A contrarian critical mood has gripped me regarding “solidarity with the poor.” We are the poor. No I am not saying I or you can claim abject poverty. The average American has about 8000 dollars cash available. Net worth medians vary by age from 13000 to roughly 200,000 dollars. By global standards this is not poverty.

Poverty awareness however is a difficult sell. That 8000 dollar savings account can be wiped out with one or two financial blows. The net worth median in real dollars keeps shrinking for most Americans.

Fear of economic failure is a realty for many Americans. It is not a comfortable subject. COVID 19 has wiped away a lot of wealth and moved many from green to red. The balance sheet of debt, the pending bills, and the employment outlook is not something our neighbors want to share with each other.

In that position, it is hard to answer the call for poverty awareness. The reality is, in my view, if one among us is living in unnecessary poverty, we are all poor. We must answer for our indifference to human suffering caused by poverty.

A good deal of Americans, however, have been reduced to worrying about their own survival in these harsh economic times. This threat has shaken Catholic Americans and narrowed our awareness and support of the broad Catholic Social teachings regarding the poor. Many have joined the ranks of the poor anonymously.

What to do? Whatever you can! Any act of kindness, small donation, or prayer will do. Whether you are rich or poor you are part of the solution to world poverty.

All is not gloom. If the world poverty clock is right, more people are exiting poverty than joining the ranks of the poor: https://worldpoverty.io/. That does not help the 20,000 who crossed over the poverty line today or the other 743,800,000 living in poverty.

This is not an existential threat. It is real and current. Raising awareness is simply not enough.

This Stanford review article entitled “Stop Raising Awareness Already” has some powerful points: https://ssir.org/articles/entry/stop_raising_awareness_already.

Raising awareness campaigns can fail to create any meaningful action or in some cases create backlash that can even make the problem identified worse.

Jesus Christ entire active ministry was about three years. He did not just raise awareness. He taught. He served. He followed a strategic plan to transform the world. He enlisted others. And finally, he made a grand sacrifice to redeem us all.

You know what is wrong today with humanity. Social media, news media, community issues, friends, family, and perhaps our own actions testify against us in real-time. You are aware. You also know what you have to do. It is radical.

This January, go beyond aware. Create a strategic plan and act today.

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