A Joyous 2022 – An Invitation

Last year presented insidious challenges to our collective well-being. We suffered significant losses to the original COVID variant and an explosion of the Omnicron variant, deaths unrelated to COVID, ongoing “populism” politics spurning unhealthy anxiety and hate, economic hardships, and the not-so-hidden repercussions of global warming.

These external challenges are in addition to whatever personal demons (metaphorically speaking) we each individually carry on our shoulders. Past traumas, personal failures, relationship difficulties, disabilities, medical issues, and personal challenges are common baggage we all carry on our shoulders.

Is it normal to feel this exhausted all the time? Drawing. | Alien  drawings, Drawings, Tire art

The continuous and unrelenting nature of suffering in its multifarious presentations can be overwhelming, depressing, and draining. Pervasive tiredness can overcome the strongest among us. For some, this can even leap over into clinical depression or other mental health or physical manifestations requiring professional medical interventions.

A Tzu Chi USA described the Buddhist handling of the term suffering – referred to as dukkha in Pali and duhkha in Sanskrit – as indescribably with a single English word either. According to Buddhist sutras (scriptures), three root sufferings and three cravings contribute to suffering. Pain, anxiety, stress, distress, discomfort, frustration, and “unsatisfactoriness” are words used to capture suffering. If interested in knowing your “enemy” of peace and joy well – the Buddhist traditions provide a pretty good road map.

My own faith has an apostolic letter devoted to suffering by Pope John Paul II called “Salvific Doloris” which, in part, concludes, “Suffering is certainly part of the mystery of man. Perhaps suffering is not wrapped up as much as man is by this mystery, which is an especially impenetrable one.”  Despite this open-ended answer to the question of suffering, the Pontiff within this letter also prescribes spiritual answers for facing immense suffering. Its teachings help me attribute meaning to my trials and provide me, at times, deep consolation spiritually in my times of darkness.

The Beauty of Suffering: Salvifici Doloris « Catholic Insight

The pontiff points out where in scripture suffering is referenced: “Sacred Scripture is a great book about suffering. I would be lying to you if I did not own that sometimes great spiritual aridity leaves me feeling alone with today’s problems. These times, I am challenged to double down on my faith and persevere in faith. The Pontiff quotes from the books of the Old Testament a few examples of situations which bear the signs of suffering, and above all moral suffering: the danger of death(5), the death of one’s own children(6), and, especially, the death of the firstborn and only son(7); and then too: the lack of offspring(8), nostalgia for the homeland(9), persecution and hostility of the environment(10), mockery and scorn of the one who suffers(11), loneliness and abandonment(12); and again: the remorse of conscience(13), the difficulty of understanding why the wicked prosper and the just suffer(14), the unfaithfulness and ingratitude of friends and neighbours(15); and finally: the misfortunes of one’s own nation(16).” Do these sound familiar to you today?

Why am I spending so much space on suffering on a blog on a Joyous 2022? I know joy will not be possible for us if we do not accept the reality of suffering and the potentiality for its destructive force in our lives going forward. Understanding suffering, preparing for suffering, and perhaps even maturely embracing suffering (for the spiritually transcendent few among us) is what both religious traditions above teach. Both of those paths are long paths of contemplation and significant commitment – which I encourage.

In the meantime, however, I recommend a lighter path today or preferably simultaneously with one of the above paths.

“Gratitude, thankfulness or gratefulness, from the Latin word gratus “pleasing, thankful,” is a feeling of appreciation felt by the recipient of kindness, gifts, help, favors, or other types of generosity, to the giver of said gifts. The experience of gratitude has historically been a focus of several world religions.” (What post is complete without a Wikipedia quote?)

However, achieving this feeling is not my recommendation for a joyous 2022, though I hope you

have these feelings often! Transforming these feelings into action consistently and progressively throughout 2022 will profoundly increase your joy. If done so with a genuine and humble spirit, it may synergetically have a profound impact on those around you. USC University of Southern California noted that spiritual or philosophical gratitude has its roots throughout history. Not a USC fan, how about “Harvard Health Medical School: Giving thanks can make you happier” or “Healthline: The Benefits of Gratitude and How to Get Started.”

The 12 step self-help community also relies heavily on the nurturing of gratitude and service (action) all throughout the program, but especially in the 12th step. Click here for an audio story of one of the founding members of Alcohol Anonymous entitled “Gratitude in Action.” Epidemiologic studies, as well as studies in treatment-seeking populations, converge to support the finding that

Groan. Groan. Not Another Gratitude Meeting – AA Beyond Belief

early-life trauma is common in people with alcohol dependence. Battling alcoholism or any other addiction in addition to healing from early childhood trauma is not easy. This is not surprising. The 12 step self-help community, although not a religious group, does espouse a spiritual foundation that culminates with the 12th step: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs. In this step, people in recovery get to most practice gratitude in action in a humble manner. Some A.A. groups devote an entire weekly meeting to the topic of gratitude alone. Look at Cleveland Alcoholics Anonymous Cleveland article – Gratitude in Early Recovery. If alcoholics and addicts recover using Gratitude in part as medicine – it can work for everybody. There is no condition or ailment they have not experienced or faced in their fellowship.

Practicing Gratitude is so easy and so accessible to everyone. It is a great starting point to a new you and a more positive future. It may lead you to have enough strength and motivation to take other challenging steps as well – with things on your “to-do” list you have put off or never thought was possible.

Here are some additional tools if you do not know where to start or need more motivation:

Life Hack: 4o simple ways to practice gratitude.

Positive Psychology: 7 Best Gratitude Apps to increase your well being

The above links may lead to sponsored or “pay for apps” as well. Gratitude and peaceful living are in high demand and are big business. If they help you get started or keep going – they may be worth the investment. Regardless of how to get started and keep going – discipline is required to actually “do” rather than just read, understand, and feel gratitude.

Everything you need is in this post or one of the links provided for alternative ideas. Your local library also has free resources.

I acknowledge you may be suffering; I know I cannot fully grasp your situation or enduring pain. I invite you to seek Joy anyway in 2022 by practicing the action of Gratitude every day in whatever form you decide.

Sincerely if you managed to read this entire blog and are committed to at least five minutes a day – please leave a comment now with that commitment on my blog and report back later!

Regardless, may peace, joy and health follow you in 2022!

Regards,

P.S. I made a small contribution to Tzu Chi USA while writing this post in gratitude for their detailed description of the suffering and the work they do….gratitude in action. I have no affiliation with this group.

Pope Francis responds to attacks from EWTN, other church critics: ‘They are the work of the devil.’ | America Magazine

There is, for example, a large Catholic television channel that has no hesitation in continually speaking ill of the pope.” He said: “I personally deserve attacks and insults because I am a sinner, but the church does not deserve them. They are the work of the devil. I have also said this to some of them.”
— Read on www.americamagazine.org/faith/2021/09/21/pope-francis-ewtn-critics-241472

A Pope who strives to be pastoral and Christlike recognizes EWTN and a large faction of the flock has been coopted by non-Christian ideology and pseudo religion.

Historically, nation states and powerful people have attempted to use religious institutions to consolidate, preserve, or acquire power. EWTN has fallen into being an acquired voice of ultra right political conservatism. Look up it’s donor base and it’s mega commercial off-shoots. It has become a political communication tool equal to or greater than the cooperation of Evangelical Christianity by the far right (or by money and building funds).

Popes throughout the centuries have come into disfavor when standing in the way of the rich and powerful. Pope Francis is no exception. His vocal condemnation of economic exploitation, environmental negligence, and superficial religiosity has earned the ire of Catholics who have fallen prey to secular comforts and identity with a privileged class.

A man with one lung is standing up to inverted Catholicism – where religion is serving a privileged group rather than serving God and all his creation.

Yom-kippur guide to A.A. Step 9?

Alcoholics Anonymous Step 9 begins with “Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” If your a Jewish Alcoholic working the steps – Step 9 might not be that unfamiliar to you.

Although lifetime prevalence among Jews for alcoholism is lower than those with a Christian background, it still affects 11.1% of Jewish men and 3.4% of Jewish women with some studies hinting these numbers are on the rise for Jewish youth.

Yom-kippur is in short a day of atonement. However, a simple description of its spiritual importance and the days of repentance before this day cannot be described or defined by me here. Simply put, it is a big deal, akin to Christmas or Easter for Christians. The below article captures some elements of this religious tradition for non-Jewish readers, certainly not the rich history and theological basis.

Many see Alcoholics Anonymous as having Christian roots, but it’s written form and current practice steers clear of religiosity and practices a spiritual program without religious affiliation. One could easily adopt the principles of Yom-Kippur to A.A.s step 9.

www.nytimes.com/2021/09/12/opinion/yom-kippur-forgiveness.html

Forgiveness and seeking atonement is present in some form or another in must religious text. Psychologically and spiritually we recognize the value of atonement and forgiveness. In practice, however, this deeply moving and healing process often takes a back seat to our secular priorities and perhaps overheated political/economic conditions of our society. The latter should encourage us to seek out the former, not once per year, but daily.

Spirituality cannot be compartmentalized to within the synagogue, behind the Cathedral walls, or in a basement A.A. meeting. It is designed to be within every moment, every breath, every action – inside and outside of places of worship or self-help organizations with a spiritual emphasis.

Yom-Kippur is like an annual 9th step for everyone – you don’t have to be Jewish, Catholic, or an Alcoholic working the 9th step to practice seeking atonement and practicing forgiveness (safely).

A tradition worth exploring if you are unfamiliar. Almost attracts me to Judaism.

Motherhood turns you into a fountain that flows and flows. Then it shows you that you will run out. | America Magazine

So much is transient: our physical beauty and strength, our mental capacity, our relationships, our ability to care for the people we love. Our capacity to fix problems. It will run out. It is a relief that it will run out. What I gave, I gave. What I accomplished, I accomplished. What I failed, I failed. No doubt I am only at a plateau, and soon enough the mindless panic and distress will set in again.
— Read on www.americamagazine.org/faith/2021/09/03/motherhood-birth-rebirth-jesus-241281

The author above was addressing the experience of motherhood – a calling where nothing is left on the table, an utterly emptying of oneself until nothing is left.

As men we may choose this path as well with sports, work, or family. We leave “nothing on the table” for reserve when we are all-in. The elite among us can apply that same vigorous love demonstrated by motherhood to walking a humble, spiritual path.

The latter is quite a contradiction, as it is difficult to at once we be “all-in” with an athletes competitiveness or a warriors mentality while remaining genuinely humble and spiritual, living a holy life one breath at a time. Our downfall can be swift and merciless or beguilingly slow. Grand missteps for all to see or perhaps even more treacherous, small transgressions that we never even notice the road of spiritual descent.

The article nails motherhood and spirituality. The quote above nails the challenge we all have to just be good human beings. It can be tiresome and selfless living a moral and ethical life. Navigating our desires, our instinctual survival skills, and our collective shared needs creates explosive collisions of “individual self-will run riot.” We are called often and frequently to leave nothing on the table. Our mortality gives us only 1 lifetime to live with no promise or certainty of an afterlife or second run. We will, most of us anyway, hit a final apex point before descending towards deaths door.

Whatever you put your mind today…leave nothing on the table! The outcomes and results will be what they will be. Imagine if we applied the archetypical mother loves to everything we did collectively? Certainly our moral and ethical bar for societal expectations would rise dramatically.

The author goes a several steps father for an example by closing with the archetype “Son of God,” Jesus Christ, who emptied himself (Kenosis) – gave his self-will up was receptive to and accepted God’s divine will including a gruesome and painful death.

Who among us is ready for this type of sacrifice?

Contemplating life? Who are you anyway?

Who are you: Creator, Restorer, Messenger, Destroyer, or Bystander?

These actions for most of us require no evangelization, no debate or apologetics regarding religion, or public display of religiosity. Our message is simply how we live our lives and how we treat others in all we do. If we are living a spiritually coherent life we will naturally be great messengers of the faith without ever even uttering God’s name.

We are all messengers. How many of us are restorers? People who naturally or with great effort live the faith and help others to restore their lives in some “detail,” large or small, that brings them in closer proximity to God?

This question came to me a few days ago during spiritual reflection. A large emphasis of active Christianity is to be a messenger of the faith by first and foremost living the faith through everyday actions – not by evangelization.

Some of us may even be called to be creators in our own way to add to great gifts of inspiration for believers and unbelievers alike to get a glimpse of holiness or the way to holier lives. These are very special individuals with immense talent. Artist, Scientist, Writers, Priest, and people from all vocations adding master pieces of achievement that transcend human expectation and simultaneously ignite spiritual wonder. They are a rare breed.

Hopefully, if you are reading this post, very little of our time is spent being destroyers or idle bystanders. No doubt we are collectively guilty of both but hopefully, more often than not, moving towards divine living rather than away.

In my faith, we believe the days of prophets ended with Jesus Christ, the last Prophet, who was both man and God in one. Without anymore messiahs coming until the end of time – the refreshing and terrifying thought is, we are each one of us individually responsible to be messengers and restorers of Christianity, again, not by preaching, but by living lives that demonstrate spiritual cohesion without any expectation of return. Christianity (believers and a higher power) and transcendent human relationships are not transactional equations.

Just who are you today? Who do you want to be tomorrow and your remaining days? What do you have to do to be who you want to be now and forever….

We often here the word transcendent in relation to spirituality. In our humanity we are limited to transcending by courageous acts of love, selflessness, compassion, humility, and in rare cases greatness that exceeds the imagination. We transcend by how we treat each other, in good times and bad, over and over again, for whatever span of days we have the gift of breath.

I am, in my own mind, a little bit messenger and restorer with occasional weakness for bystander (idle) or even destroyer – living even in the smallest way, contrary to ideal divine life. If not always moving towards divine life we are moving away. The sad contradiction is moving towards a holy life need not be austere or be a terrible sacrifice. It should be joyful and inspiring with perhaps challenges of austerity and sacrifice when required. It is still not an easy road. We tend to want what we desire immediately and sometimes fail to examine the impulse for the new set shiny thing or the next desired accomplishment we have been pursuing. Neither desires may be bad in and of themselves, but often their priority is improperly ordered above other priorities more deserving of our attention.

A little contemplation and discussion with another may provide wisdom beyond measure.

I would like to believe I have had moments of transcending my humanness and rose above the fray of our collective ego driven consciousness. It does not take much to ignite my competitiveness or my fears, to summon my desire to win or desire to protect.

The challenge of balancing and integrating our instinctual drives and our collectivity humanity is on display everyday. What roles do we play to infuse our collective consciousness to be spiritually coherent? What role do you play at home, at work, at the voting booth, in the community, and at play?

Who are you anyway?

Therapy and Spirituality

Where spirituality and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy meet at the cross roads of a psychiatric crisis change can be miraculous.

This brave college student shared a deep experience of being “broken” by several life pressures. Quickly, in mental health speak concepts like adjustment disorder, cultural acclimation challenge, anxiety disorders, and perhaps major depression single episode come to mind. Diagnostically none of the words matter – the treatment and interventions are key. This kid found three elements for recovery or answers for his trial with life: family, therapy, and spirituality.

All too often we need a crisis before we consider the value of all three of these elements that can promote good health, healthy relationships, and internal peace.

His story is below. A short read with only superficial mention of the road to recovery. I imagine it was not easy and involved many steps, some deep and insightful. Others just ritual and developing muscle memory for the ego and for the soul.

If your suffering out there, seek help now. If you can’t find it, message me a zip code and type of mental health crisis you are facing. No promises, but I will look for resources. Of course, if you are thinking of harming yourself now, call the nearest crisis hotline near you, 911, or go to a hospital. God will be with you all along – you can seek him once the risk of self-harm is addressed.

https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2021/07/30/mental-health-ignatian-spirituality-college-241140

Restorative Justice and Christianity

Four thousand non-violent federal prisoners were sent to home confinement due to COVID emergency. The simple math is emergency ends – they go back. The legal analysis says the same. Social justice advocates see this as an opportunity to broadly commit to action reducing arbitrary or unjust prison sentences.

The Biden Administration has no clear path to do that legally or even case by case reviewing broad use (or abuse of clemency): https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/19/us/politics/biden-prisoners-covid.html?referringSource=articleShare. None of the above hits the nail on the head…early release should be defined as achieving some measure of restoration by the offender and a responsibility by the criminal justice system to provide incarceration programming that promotes reconciliation with the victims and the community while also addressing any debilitating issues the inmate arrived it with that might impede release.

There is some very dedicated prison staff and programs, great volunteer organizations, tons of scattered partnerships that vary by county or state. On the flip side there are courageous prisoners that have made the most of their tie in prison despite the odds. They deserve our praise. However it is piece meal and a relative “Hail Mary” pass that a convict going in will come out better prepared to not reoffend.

Restorative justice implies time spent in jail is not solely measured by the crime committed, it is measured by true rehabilitation and genuine character change. Hanging the individual alone is only part of the journey. On re-entry having supports and a purpose that promote human dignity and life is vital.

In my view, the primal cause of crime is directly related to how disconnected the person is from the “social contract” of our society. Individuals that are abused or neglected by families, the educational system, religion, or other systems will not value our social contract laws. People without a strong sense of a lived morality or spirituality where they are treated humanely will have little value in our rules other than passing time. Sending them back out to conditions that were the same or worse than when they went in is terrible policy and extremely costly. Exclude the minority antisocial or “privileged” criminals who had no apparent need to be criminals for a moment. Most prisoners in our jail system have been victims themselves of trauma, abuse, or other deprivations.

In one sense, when Christ came, he severed church and state cleanly. Let Rome do what Rome must do to run the world – but know eternal justice awaits. If we abuse our power as wielders of the justice system we will be judged no differently than those behind bars.

I have a sneaky suspicion that some behind bars right now will attain greater proximity to living a holy life before their death warrant card is called than many of us who have been spared incarceration. We all have a death warrant on our heads. We just don’t know what malady or tragedy will take us out.

I pray here for the social justice activist, prisoners, victims of crime, and the jailers themselves (and their overseers) for hope, vision, and courage to move our criminal justice system to a better place. There are better options proven in other developed countries. My prayers are not enough.

Christianity espouses theologically that we have a true restorative justice system. How we achieve that puts more accountability on us than the convict. As a society we are not willing to acknowledge that responsibility.

+

First Fridays

The National Shrine of Divine Mercy is always a stop for me if I am in the area of Stockbridge, Ma. The National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, which receives tens of thousands of visitors a year who seek spiritual renewal through the sacraments. I wandered there a few weeks ago while visiting family in nearby N. Egremont. Two prayer services, one confession, one mass, and a visit to the book store later I was gifted an unplanned spiritual retreat.

I can be very cynical about the dangers of religious Icons, rituals, fraternal communities, and organizations just like the Marians. A recognized Catholic organization currently publishers of St. Faustina’s diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul, in many languages. The organization presses produce religious artwork, pamphlets, magazines, prayer cards, books, and appeals – some 50 million pieces of literature and images a year – which are sent out to a world yearning for meaning, mercy, and healing. St. Faustina is, by historical accounts, a relatively new Saint, canonized April 30, of 2000.

Much of the National Shrines work and message revolves around the theme that St. Faustina was a prophet as evidenced by the following words in her diary: “I sent prophets wielding thunderbolts to My people. Today I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful Heart.” (Diary, 1588). A little theological contradiction here, the prophet lineage ended with Christ in Christianity – so technically not a prophet per se, but certainly an example of a person who lived a life entirely focused on communion with God.

How do we give reverence to people who model spiritual living without idolizing individuals who may or may not represent a genuine spiritual calling by the eternal absolute divine source of all created things? Catholicism is rich with reverence for fathers of the church, saints, religous symbols and rituals. There is always a danger of the immediate visual imagery or ritual practices supplanting or distorting our understanding of the one true God (accepting monotheism for simplicity sake). Who among the world’s established monotheistic religions believes their institution has not fallen victim to human hubris in their claims for spiritual supremacy over other religions?

There is not a faith today or historically that is not guilty of hypocrisy or discordance with its own scriptural text, never mind God’s will. The off shoot quasi Catholic/Political arms of conservative Catholicism (like the Church Militant) who claim to be guardians of the faith – even opposed to Papal authority when it suits them are an example of spirituality gone wrong. The latter and other represents the greatest threat to my identify as a Catholic. There is a culture of extremist using Catholicism for political, personal, and cultural gain – or at least ability to maintain certain privileges’ currently in their possession as a majority class of people. Carefully picked Catholic issues championed not for real change – but for hate and fear politics. Even at the highest levels Church Authorities like the US Stated Bishops have lost their way by allowing political influence to dictate poorly defined theological positions and public statements that perpetuate division and alienation.

And still, Catholicism and all its off-shoot traditions, churches, artwork, rituals, and contradictions holds a special place in my heart. It is not the beauty and glamour of the Papacy, the theological density of the church writings, or the physicality of the great cathedrals that grab my attention.

The building above itself, while authentically beautiful, is not the inspiration. The people I encountered and witnessed in prayer and adoration that day were, in my view, the “A Team” of the faithful. They travelled from near and far to celebrate Mass at this chapel and their collective interior prayer immersed in collective adoration and ritual was and is very powerful. Life, however, for all but a few of us, is lived in the communities, not within the Shrine’s walls.

The test of any faith is what happens when we return to the community. Is our actions and our felt presence of the creator as strong or even stronger than when we are on our knees before the cross?

Pope Francis recently made a decision to limit the Latin Mass. The decision has drawn worldwide media coverage including the Times article below. Why is such a decision controversial when roughly only 1% of the world’s population speak Latin! The logically inclined can see that he withdrew approval as the ritual was serving division rather than unity, man rather than God. American Media has an article by a believer who loved the Latin mass, but after reflection, arrived at this sentiment. The moment our spiritual practices or rituals are serving man’s desires rather than Gods we have gone astray.

There is a place and a context for spiritual art, music, ritual, and other forms of worship. It always goes back to intention. Are we serving God and all Gods people when we worship, when we pray, when we act on our spiritual beliefs? If not, we are disrespecting generations of faithful who have carried the message of Christ for 2000 years and ignoring the essence of the “Trinity.”

The faithful get glimpses of this essence in worship, in Catholic traditions and sacraments, and in the physical structures of our shrines and cathedrals. The essence of our beliefs, however, are lived and experienced through the expression of our souls as stamped by the Trinity and expressed through our thoughts and actions. All the cathedrals in the world and rituals performed are worth nothing if believers are not able to strive for living a divine life where we are living examples of spiritual living in everything we do and everything we nurture.

St. Augustine I am told preached that God became man so that we could become divine. Our divinity is not expressed by achieving religous dominance by clever rhetoric, flashy buildings and and rich symbolism, or cleaving to political power to project our influence. It is simple, pure, and straight forward spiritual living that rightly orders our affections and desires in accordance with higher spiritual principles. These principles can be found in our church traditions, in our sacred text, and the life of Jesus Christ. In the blink of any eye, however, they can evaporate before our eyes and mind and be used to serve disordered selfish affections and desires rather than the greater good.

The Latin Mass, for example, can provide great beauty and spiritual egotism when practiced by a select few. Two contradictory truths in one ritual (sacrament). The choreography of the Latin Mass with its focus of prayer directly at the alter rather than the people has an air of mysticism and beauty that can move you like no other mass. Latin language, music, robes, and intricate priestly ritual performance of the mass passed down from 1570 to 1962 was no small change in our church’s practices. The Tridentine mass is a thing of beauty. However, if only one percent of the world speaks Latin is this the right vehicle for God’s message? The practice of this mass has devolved into something that is no longer relevant. Our society has evolved to warrant people being participatory and responsible for their own salvation. The pews no longer filled with illiterate people. People demand now more than bells, whistles, candles, huge edifices, and great works of art or music. They demand spiritual coherency.

Any religous institution that purports to carry out divine will must have internal and external spiritual coherency both within the institution structure and with the believers that represent the faith. When an institution wanders off the path of holiness – the believers will find themselves divided and in a state of great spiritual angst from which many disordered thoughts actions will be given license to create further disharmony. Acrimony and hostilities aimed at both Catholics with a different theological base and others (all of secular society or other faiths). Disillusionment and confusion with the idea of spirituality maturation requires change and discomfort. Hopelessness and numbness at the ineptitude of leadership to protect us from controversy or inconvenient truths that shake our spiritual foundations. It is a powder keg of misery when individuals have gave up their individual responsibility to a religous (or political) entity.

These institutions are bound to make grave errors as they are led by men, often many men, that fall prey to the misuse and abuse of the power they hold. We own their failures by willing consent – when we remain loyal when loyalty is not deserved.

The priest I met while at the Shrine of the Divine Mercy recommended I practice first Fridays. The spiritual rewards he implied on the surface seemed overly simplistic and ritualistic. However, I stood on-line with the “A Team” on that first Friday a few weeks ago for confession. Most were clearly practitioners of first Fridays. Some, who I judged to be clearly more holier than myself, spent a shockingly great amount of time in that confessional booth. The serenity and peacefulness radiating from most of the “A Team” including the priest said something about First Fridays. Keep in mind the “A Team” and the priest are not to be set up in my mind as idols – they represent fellow believers who have found a ritual that feeds their souls and hopefully ability to live a holy life outside the church. Inside the church is the practice field – outside the church is the real game!

It is a shame that Latin is a dead language. Nobody would argue that certain languages and text are more beautiful or powerful as they are prior to translation. However, if we were purist, we would all be speaking Greek – the language of the first century Christians!

Dominus vobiscum!

The church in the West is in decline—and nationalism won’t save it | America Magazine

Recently my Catholic grammar school along with 20 others were formerly announced to be closing. Catholicism in the west is in a death spiral. Christianity is in a similar spiral while attempting to align itself with republican extremism known as Trumpism – which is a highly driven nationalism party with some very unchristian ideals.

Political parties aside, this article above in American magazine points out Catholicism must not wed itself to nations to enforce its beliefs by use of force held by nation states: “its alignment with government establishment or nationalism is problematic in Hungary and other countries, where religious leaders, appealing to a Christian national heritage, struggle to pass laws that would bring their secularizing societies back to their Christian roots. This top-down approach is not effective or sustainable in our current globalized world, and it overlooks the tremendous opportunities for revival and transformation from the ground up.

Christ did not appeal to Rome for power or status. He appealed directly to the people. At some point after his resurrection the succession of Papal authority intermingled with nation states and the church has never been the same. It seems impossible and implausible to disentangle the varied forms political religious alliances that we see today.

Their is hope. The article makes a plea for the church to return to its roots. The one line here missing is the church needs Catholics to lead – you to lead. As an institution it struggles to change direction even when fallibility is evident.

“The church can be a transformative force by standing with the powerless and vulnerable today as it did during the fall of Communism.”
— Read on http://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2021/07/15/catholic-church-west-nationalism-241053

The Biden Communion debate shows the exhaustion of the U.S. church | America Magazine

Our brains have become re-wired by years of futile conflict, and there is no obvious way out. We are simply habituated to react, and it would take tremendous energy and time to change, both of which we lack.
— Read on www.americamagazine.org/faith/2021/06/21/bishop-us-church-communion-wars-240902

Too tired to write…and this article explains why. Catholicism sees a member of the faith become president and chooses, rather than focus on his faith, to hold him to a different standard and create theology specifically for a sitting president.

I withdraw to prayer and solitude. My voice and my thoughts, not the brightest nor the least important, painfully have little influence on the American landscape.

I must tend to my interior garden, sure up by exterior love for those around me, and leave the rest for God and perhaps, people possessing the strength and wisdom to alter Catholicism’s course, and with it perhaps, the fate and faith of many.

Fathers Day

13 Funny Father's Day Memes That Are Just Too Perfect

It has been a long time since my Dad has walked this earth as a men among men and a proud father of seven. He died at 45 as I was finding my way in early elementary school. Nevertheless he gave me life, love, and other intangibles that are hard to define from an early age. On top of those were layered legends of who he was and additions of other lay fatherly presences within and outside the family. Thank you Dad and all of you who helped fill his void.

Father’s Day has taken on a festive occasion as children or adult children (or their mothers) take the opportunity to make it a special day and give thanks to Dad. From the thoughtful card, to the practical tool, or on the humorous side ridiculous socks or ties, fathers are acknowledged today. Most of the time there is nothing Kids can give a father that is greater then what they already have. As a Father all we want is for each of our children to be physically and spiritually flourishing – in body and soul. The rest, including their calling in life, trials and successes, and other mortal concerns will with Gods grace sort themselves out.

If there is nothing my children could give me greater than just the gift of fatherhood, what could we possibly give the creator of all, Abba the Father?

I imagine he would want the same form us as we want from our kids: take care of your health and your spirituality (soul) and the rest will take care of itself. In good health (and sometimes in bad) the well developed spiritually centered son or daughter of God will always treat others kindly, live a just and moral life, and be thankful for all their blessings. Today, Father’s Day, will be like every other, with some time set aside to be present with God, in adoration, contemplation, and dialogue. Humbly we give thanks to the unknowable universal being that we cannot on earth even agree on our Fathers name.

Today is not a day to wrestle with good and evil, with the past or the future. It is simple a day to be present and give thanks to the Fathers you know and “the Father that knows all.” Gifts optional!

Abba, Father: Divine, Spiritual, and Natural Fathering – St. Paul Center

Pivot with Ignatius

Today I start a mini-retreat hidden within the folds of everyday activities and life. Visit https://www.bc.edu/bc-web/centers/iajs.html.

Two items may support you taking and at home retreat. The first is an at home 12 week Ignatious guided retreat app available free (bottom left) of page. The second is the free portal containing a mini library of Jesuit material.

Or for a more intense experience with a nominal cost try: https://www.bc.edu/bc-web/centers/iajs/programs/retreat.html. This online 12 week retreat offers three introductory online retreats next week and follow up meetings throughout the 12 weeks plus the guide you purchase. If you sign up – see you there! Message me so we can connect!

%d bloggers like this: