For further reflection

. At Vienne (1311–1312) the council condemned the Knights Templar in the language of “anger and wrath” reminiscent of the prophets.37 Pope Julius II’s decree in Lateran V (1512) against the cardinals who had attempted to depose him minced no words: “We condemn, reject and detest, with the approval of this holy council, each and every thing done by those sons of perdition.”38 The Council of Constance (1418) denounced John Wyclif as a “profligate enemy” of the faith and a “pseudo-Christian,” and handed over his disciple Jan Hus to be burned at the stake.39

On Vatican II:  The genre can be precisely identified. It was a genre known and practiced in many cultures from time immemorial, but it was clearly analyzed and its features carefully codified by classical authors like Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintilian.49 It is the panegyric, that is, the painting of an idealized portrait in order to excite admiration and appropriation. An old genre in the rhetorical tradition of the West, it was used extensively by the Fathers of the Church in their homilies and other writings. It derives from neither the legal tradition of classical antiquity nor the philosophical/dialectical but from the humanistic or literary.

The purpose of the genre, therefore, is not so much to clarify concepts as to heighten appreciation for a person, an event, an institution, and to excite emulation of an ideal.To engage in persuasion is to some extent to put oneself on the same level as those being persuaded. Persuaders do not command from on high. Otherwise they would not be persuading but coercing. Persuasion works from the inside out. In order to persuade, persuaders need to establish an identity between themselves and their audience and to make them understand that they share the same concerns. They share, indeed, the same “joy and hope, the same grief and anguish.”59 The form prompts and enhances congruent content. It should come as no surprise that reconciliation has been one of the perennial themes of the epideictic genre. Although ecumenism of some form was on the agenda of Vatican II from the moment John XXIII announced the council, it found appropriate expression in the new genre and could feel very much at home there. Since the genre wants to raise its audience to big issues, its content in a Christian context is typically the major doctrines of creation, redemption, sanctification. Implicit in this penc. Implicit in these reciprocity-words, moreover, is engagement and even initiative. In the document on the laity, for instance, the council tells them that they have the right and sometimes the duty to make their opinions known.61 Implicitly the reciprocity words are empowerment words. Closely related to reciprocity words a

In this regard the council’s emphasis on conscience as the ultimate norm in moral choice is remarkable: “Deep within their conscience individuals discover a law that they do not make for themselves but that they are bound to obey, whose voice, ever summoning them to love and to do what is good and avoid what is evil rings in their hearts.”63 WI will summarize in a simple litany some of the elements in the change in style of the Church indicated by the council’s vocabulary: from commands to invitations, from laws to ideals, from threats to persuasion, from coercion to conscience, from monologue to conversation, from ruling to serving, from withdrawn to integrated, from vertical and top-down to horizontal, from exclusion to inclusion, from hostility to friendship, from static to changing, from passive acceptance to active engagement, from prescriptive to principled, from defined to open-ended, from behavior-modification to conversion of heart, from the dictates of law to the dictates of conscience, from external conformity to the joyful pursuit of holiness.

This is the style for the Church that Pope John seemed to be pointing toward in his allocution on October 11, 1962, opening the Second Vatican Council: the Church should act by “making use of the medicine of mercy rather than severity . . . and by showing herself to be the loving mother of all, benign, patient, full of mercy and goodness.”66 The shift of Vatican II in style of discourse

The shift of Vatican II in style of discourse has, therefore, deep ramifications. It and the many other special features I have mentioned distinguish this council from every previous one. By adopting the style it did Vatican II redefined what a council is. Vatican II, that is to say, did not take the Roman senate as its implicit model. I find it difficult to pinpoint just what its implicit model was, but it seems much closer to guide, partner, friend, and inspired helpmate than it does to lawmaker, police officer, or judge.

VATICAN II: DID ANYTHING HAPPEN? JOHN W. O’MALLEY, S.J. Recent emphasis on the continuity of Vatican II with the Catholic tradition runs the danger of slighting the aspects of the council that were discontinuous. Among those aspects are the literary genre the council adopted and the vocabulary inherent in the genre, different from that of all previous councils. Examination of these aspects yields tools for constructing a hermeneutic appropriate to this council, and not only shows how distinctive Vatican II was but also allows us to get at that elusive “spirit of the council.” The substance of this article was delivered as the Roland Bainton Lecture for 2005 at the Divinity School of Yale University and shortly afterwards as one of the “Gathering Points” lectures at Marquette University.

Internal Power

The Lord God did not counter the threats of history with external power, as we human beings would expect according to the prospects of our world. His weapon is goodness. He revealed himself as a child, born in a stable. This is precisely how he counters with his power, completely different from the destructive powers of violence. In this very way he saves us. In this very way he shows us what saves.

More on Vatican II:

Improve Church

I am a cradle born Catholic post Vatican II.  At times I have visited other denominations many years ago at the height of youthful disenfranchisement with my own church, but by and large I found the Catholic doctrine is solid – our delivery still remains an issue!  What our priest say after the Gospel is read is also key.  If I were pope, I would “order” a secret missive that priest slowly start expanding that segment of interpretation and application of the readings by about a minute a week or so until it achieves a significance of lasting impact.  Of course, that would call on our priest to have greater depth and oratory skills in a time of great shortage!  Pulling back quantity (number of masses) for quality (content) may in the long run fill the pews, and eventually increase discipleship.  In poorer communities, the morning mass should be followed by social morning breakfast (free perhaps with a non-public place for donations to help with cost out of sight of kids) where all members are encouraged to sit and dialogue on the sermon.

I contacted my parish several weeks ago to meet with the monsignor over healthcare conflicts as a social worker, first by e-mail with content and than by phone.  We scheduled a week out.  The day of the appointment I was cancelled. .   We came close to finding an appt. another week or two out and than I decided thanks but no thanks.  The secretary was great.  My own crisis of issues had resolved anyway.   Access to spiritual direction is an issue as well.  While I may have the skills and commitment to challenge myself (i.e. like this course), the spiritually fragile would be gone from the above.   They might return if a follow up note was sent by e-mail from the priest – sorry we couldn’t make it happen kind of thing.  The greatest weakness of our church are pastoral, followed by media and politicians appropriation of the faith.

Vatican II and Pope Francis

Michael Novak, author of article “Reconsidering Vatican II,” targets media for overstating and oversimplifying doctrinal shifts during Vatican II as well as currently, with the immense popularity of Pope Francis.

Through triangulation of reading several key documents of Vatican II (Sacred Liturgy, Dogmatic Constitution on the church, Social Communication,  Decree on Ecumenism, Church in the Modern World, and others), historical reviews of Vatican II impact and meaning (traditionalist, progressives, and reformist positions), and actions and words of Pope Francis, I am convinced that the vast majority of people have a misconception of Catholicism, Vatican II, and the living church, both Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

Catholic apologetics (or their offshoot polemic apologist) do not have the ear of the masses or perhaps even of the bishops?

Our church pivots violently between oversimplified watered down catholicism and overly dogmatic traditionalism, neither of which can carry the word of Christ alone.  The former abandons the rich deposit of faith gifted to us over two thousand years of Christian development post Jesus Christ as well as the the morals and teachings the B.C. era.  The latter ignores the challenges of a living tradition subject to an ever changing world and  and treats the historical church as if it was a dead letter, not evolving, and wedded to the definitions of the pre-modern world.   Without a unified presentation that is coherent and consistent the voice of the church is given to “naysayers,” professional politicians, and media.

The media, through no fault of its own, serves the reader’s digest version of Catholicism while being swayed by the temporal desires of the day, The public digest the various forms of criticisms, predictions of doom, and overall negativity without access to well versed theologians, grounded prayer, or a well grounded independent faith. And like our political system, people run to their safe havens of silo’s of belief, sheltered in and bunkered down with like minded people, secured by the comfort of consensus and moral conviction.  The Devil himself is envious of such a well developed trap for dividing humanity – voluntarily built by laity and priestly types alike.

“The public does not go to the press for solid scholarship,” The press understands this and plays to what we want to hear and read.  

There is a depth and a mysticism to Catholicism that defies understanding, defies traditional and social media, and befuddle theologians as well.  Yet, many are willing to proclaim authority and the moral high ground despite ample evidence that we are mere specks of dust, wayfarers on a journey of the Cross that is still 2000 years young.  

The misconception that drifts into the church and the media is to dissect and divide events and timelines, to shape the divine according to our whims and fancies, to redefine without serious contemplation and knowledge of eschatology or grounded theology.  The church is divided by media into liberal versus conservative, pre-vatican II versus post-vatican II, believers versus non-believers, and countless other irrelevant distinctions given our fundamental belief that our beliefs call for an “authentic universal humanism” that serves all humanity, sinners and saints alike.  And again, this is not the media’s fault.

The drama and the divisions in the tabloids and the social media are of our own making, by our  own failings, and desires.  The naysayers and politicians will always be there to speak for the truth as well.  

As we prepare for Pope Francis, how can we learn from this error of oversimplification, demonization, idealization, and other all too human errors of cognition?    

Don’t ask me, I have no idea!  However, Pope Francis seems to be able to live and enunciate the humility and the divine at the same time.  He may have the answers as to what it means to realize Vatican II without jeopardizing dogmatic tradition and divine revelation.  And, the rest is up to you to be a discerning student of life and all things divine.

Vatican II reference

In defense of tradition catholic views

Vatican II reflection 40 years later

A review of “Reconsidering Vatican II” by Michael Novak has led me to believe that the author was originally from the progressive camp at the time of the “event” of Vatican II and with time and reflection firmly can to a reformist camp position.   On the one hand, he acknowledges great gains and insights regarding ecumenical issues and impact on relations with nations, eastern churches, and Jewish peoples.  On the other hand, he clearly depicts the devastating impact on religious orders that he attributes to the progressive expansion of Vatican II that bought the religious orders to a place of meaninglessness, disconnected from the church.  I see it as a laissez faire religiosity that unchecked, like capitalism, leads to dissolution of the main purpose of what the “system” or “institution is there for in the first place:  to improve “authentic universal humanism.”   The unity of progressive and traditional paradigms is required for true pursuit of the divine nature of the church.

Vatican II references and Preparing for Pope Francis

Liberation Theology:

Pope Francis has roots in Argentina that are strongly connected to Liberation theology.  His outlook and actions are reflective of this theology.  This scares western society.  Why?  Catholic/Christian roots have a rich tradition of social responsibility and economic justice.

The most recent defining doctrine for the Catholic Church is Vatican II.  I anticipate Pope Francis will be touching on many of the reflections that I jotted down below as I read over key documents of Vatican II: 

“Let us work to see that created goods are more fittingly distributed among men.”

“The People of God have not been immune from the faults and failings of human affairs — and are, therefore, subject to self-criticism and self-correction.”

“The faithful are called upon to embrace “a vision of a community of faith, hope, and love that answers to their deep and unsatisfied hungers for a truly human, truly meaningful existence.”

“On the other hand, a written record is a dead letter, needing constant interpretation and commentary in succeeding ages.”

“Though there may still be some who yield to the temptation to claim Omni competence for ecclesiastical commentators on the human scene and its contingent social, economic, and political complexities, they cannot appeal to this constitution for for such a pretension.  On the contrary the text tells us something significant about the churches true understanding of its own nature and function, as well as its modesty and humility with which it regards its relation to the world.”

“Or else, weighed down by wretchedness, they are prevented from giving the matter any thought.”  (Materialism)

“…implementation should be given to the right of all men to a human and civic culture favorable to personal dignity and free from any discrimination on the grounds of race, sex, nationality, religious, or social conditions.”  

 “In some places it even results in a decline of social status of the weak and in contempt for the poor.”  (Intensified wealth gap)

“…..payment for labor must be such as to furnish a man with the means to cultivate his own material, social, cultural and spiritual life worthily, and that of his dependents.” (Governing socio-economic life as a whole)

“…basic rights of the human person are counted the right of freely founding labor unions.”

“Feed the man dying of hunger, because if you have not fed him you have killed him.”

“It is not rare for those hired to work……to receive a wage or income unworthy of human beings.”

“Human beings should also be judiciously informed of scientific advances in the exploration of methods by which spouses can be helped in arranging the number of children.” (Ambiguous with regards to birth control)

“In even more sweeping terms, lack of full fidelity to the gospel on the part of Catholics is as an important cause of man’s unhappy condition today.”

The ditch for Catholics is a deep one when entrenched in our own moral failings – yet we attempt to prescribe morality for others.  It is time for serving and interior reflection – not condemnation based on our own sheltered and limited understanding. 

The Cure of Ars & Benedictine Option

Sarah Metts published an article “Fighting Evil Like the Cure of Ars” (Catholic Exchange 08/04/2015).  In brief, the article postulates that the way to fight evil in the world (abortion, murder, oppression, violence, etc.) is simply to be holy.  She sites work by Peter Kreeft where he states our enemies are not “liberal media, anti-catholic bigots, or even the culture of death, but fallen angels and sin.”  To fight those enemies we need Saints like “The Cure of Ars.”  St. John Vianney lived at a time when Catholicism was clearly counter-culture in France.  In his example, he attracted sinners to his confessional booth from all over the world by his holy life.  The article neatly points out our path to sanctity maybe a little more humble (prayers, confession, mass, help the poor).

The article connected to me on-going pieces in the American Conservative by Rod Dreher on the Benedictine Option. In essence, he is challenging the catholic faithful to learn how to live in a culture that is fundamentally counter to our values. We cannot all retreat to monastery life and live according to Benedictine rules, but we can create enclaves within the culture by living holy lives and attracting “barbarians” to the light.

The idea is to retreat to an interior spiritual life that is deeper in meaning and practice, deeper than catholic rituals that at times come to feel like civil religion as opposed to instilled spiritual belief.  Or at the very least, a reason for a bull horn and a political stance.  The article quotes Richard Rohr’s quote from Falling Upward: “The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better….I learned this from my father St. Francis, who did not concentrate on attacking evil or others, but just spent his life falling, and falling many times into the good, the true, and the beautiful. It was the only way he knew how to fall into God.”

As a catholic I can do more by living my life in pursuit of sanctity via prayer, sacraments, confession, good deeds, study, and vigilance than I can by attacking the counter-culture. And trust me I am not claiming any victories here in my pursuit of sanctity, what little victories I have had were given to me on a silver platter and my epic failures were primarily my own inventions – or at least with my consent.

When we live happy lives in harmony (as well as model how to virtuously deal with suffering), help the poor, and practice our faith we can attract more converts to our kingdoms door and God’s grace will do the rest.

The Benedictine Option is not casting aside our role in the communities, it is arming ourselves within a counterculture with the tools to remain faithfully oriented to God.  A lot of fancy terms, saints, and philosophers come into play.  You can simplify it by a using the four gospels often and praying directly with God.  Still, the lives of the Saints provide us with role models of sacrifice and simplicity as well – but they would be the first to say turn your eyes to Jesus and God, not to themselves.   Veneration not idolization!

“Personal Holiness changes the world.”

Whose Kingdom do I seek?

Mt. 6:6:  When you pray go to a private room and close the door.  You may pray there, say a thoughtful version of the Our Father (Mt. 6: 9 to 15).  Fasting privately can also increase faith.   For most of us prayer is experienced as a solitary and often lonely experience.  It does not have to be long.

Difficulty in prayer is to be experienced with patience. Sleepiness,  monkey mind (anxious prayer filled with human concerns or individual concerns), or self-directed prayer that may limit the ability to let God’s intentions and presence surface in our consciousness are some barriers.   Simply pray for God’s desires for you, and strength to follow the grand design.

Here is the rub.  How can I follow a grand design when so few actually hear God’s plans (like Prophets) personally and to not get ahead of myself.  The act of prayer alone is a grandiose act.  The immensity of approaching a deity with a two thousand year old letter of introduction. That is faith.

We do have guide post in scripture and inscribed in our hearts. The mystical believer can fine tune through rigorous contemplation and holy acts their inscribed purpose.  For most of us, it is a little nudge judging a circumstance, reflecting, and coming to know what is right in God’s eyes, in our sixth sense, a divine intuition.

Humility must be applied consistently.  We have no ability to harness divinity at our own rate and our own plan.  We do not manage God.  We have some minute influence and management/ownership of worldly things, but very little purchase on spirituality or divine presence.  It is no wonder we seek comfort in worldly attachments.

Prayer, when in its purest form, seeks the kingdom of God for all, not the mediocre of the kingdom of men and all its entrapments and temporal promises.

Eternal life calls for me to not look for validation from men, but from God.  However, temporal life should call for the same measure of accountability, creating heaven on earth by numerous mortal acts of love.

How can you not share this when in the throes of grace or what you think is grace?  And if  shared no good outcome is to be found.  You become smug claiming a proximity to God closer than others or you become labelled “God’s Fool,” chasing a mission that cannot be realized.  Both of these are good outcomes given the range of other responses meted out by  opposing religions or fascist governments, No good can come from this approach.

Evangelize by deeds great and small without any words,  God will do the rest.  Entangled thoughts in complex times and an inexperienced way fayer make for confusing post.

Reconciliation Delayed, Reconciliation Gained

Coffee Cup to Grave Sin and everything in Between


The Sacrament of Reconciliation

Since Vatican II a greater emphasis has been placed on God’s action in the sacrament of Reconciliation, than by its former name known as Confession, where an emphasis was on man’s actions.  The Sacrament of Penance, yet another name for the same thing, calls for us sinners to approach the sacrament with sorrow for our sins.

On day one of a four-day retreat, I was ready to seek Reconciliation at 5:30.  I had my list of sins, doubts and my act of contrition ready to go.  The chapel was perhaps 25 yards away from my writing pad, my notes, and my room.  At 5:10 or so a deep slumber overtook me and the window of opportunity slipped by on day one.  Just as well says I, I have thirty minutes of spiritual direction the next morning that can help me refine my confession and address any of the doubts as well.

On day two, with an early morning spiritual chat about sin and its meaning, the dangers of relativism, the intersection of politics and religion, and our individual and collective roles and responsibility, I refined my confession.  It was a little longer, but I was ready in the chapel at 5:10.

At 5:30 a tiny Pious Asian women heads behind the church altar for the confessional room.  I position myself non-verbally that I am next in line, antsy to reconcile my sins and retreat back into prayer.  The pious woman is taking forever.  Does she not know how many people are out here?    She cannot have that many sins.  She emanated spirituality and goodness.  She finally comes out and I head up, genuflecting on the way, and ready to turn the corner to the confessor.  The pious women signals to me, a barely audible sound, I turn, and she is coming back up.  I say to her I thought you were done, do you have to go back!  She explains she went back there to wait for the priest but he never came!

Another evening and a day passes to carry my burden and refine my confession.  Saturday afternoon proves to be deeply moving and my sins and the sins of our society are enormous.  I get to the chapel at 4:30 for an extra 5:00 p.m. confessional offered by the priest who missed the day before.  The Pious One is first in line already, seated right next to the entrance way up on the side of the church.  She goes in at 5 p.m. with the priest who provided me guidance the day before.  I will be next and he knows my thoughts.  Time goes by, and by, and some more.  Finally she exits the confessional and heads back and just as I am about to go up a Nun (of immense size) heads back in front of me.  Oh well, it won’t be long now.  But it is long!  If she is that long, I may need a week in there.

I move to a seat close to the front, not to listen, but to be next.  Than others follow suit and we now have a legitimate line of sinners eager to reconcile their conscience with the priest.

Another priest and heads behind the church altar.  I think maybe the first priest called for backup with the Nun.  An elderly lady, several rows back, clearly more pious than the rest, and not in need of confession, caught my eye and told me via a hand gesture to go back.  I went back unsure only to find two confessional rooms back there.

I confessed to the new young priest, adding two more sins to my list, which was not minute, that included misjudging the Pious Asian women and thinking negative thoughts about the large Nun who was next door to us and cut the line.

The easy sin was placed out there first for the young priest.  Oh how I wanted the veteran next door.  A dunk in donuts clerk was rather discourteous and rude to me, and in her rush, did not charge me full price for a coffee product despite my inquiry.  It was crowded and I took the coffee mug and coffee at a discounted price and kept going, more out of anger than anything else.  Missing church and prayers were considered grave omissions.  “Capital sins are also considered grave matter. These sins may include vices that are contrary to the Christian virtues of holiness:  pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth (acedia).” Dependent on one’s measuring stick; I suppose we are all guilty to some degree on anyone of these measures.  The gravest sins were for last, the sins of our society in their multitude.  You name the illness and depravity:  robbing or taking advantage of the poor, murder, adultery, and other sins of grave nature happen under our watch and society universally regardless of how you vote.

Wednesday, the first day, I did not have the wisdom or intuition to address the “sorrow for our sins” as deeply as I could on Saturday.  I do not rob the poor, work as an executioner, or commit other abominable crimes.   However, Christ came to save not my sins, but all of our sins.  We are in a betrothal period for union with the father, where we are all sinners and martyrs alike, unified by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

No wonder the Pious Asian women and the Large Nun were taking so long.  They were in their confessing for all my sins!   The atonement was rather generic for me; attend Mass regularly and reconciliation often!  The details of reconciliation appear to be sacrosanct and personal – if you have a real need to know my sins, ask the Pious Asian Lady and the Large Nun. Clearly Reconciliation is the right word, for we truly need God’s sanctifying grace for the actions of the world we live in today, individually and collectively.

Reflection of Retreat (July)

Retreat Summary Review:
• Am I open to God’s presence?
• Do I ask for what I must deeply desire?
• Do I know what I mostly deeply desire?
• Am I open to the treasury of the Catholic Faith, its signs, symbols, sacraments, saints?
• I am open to your presence.
• I desire consolation and union, the opposite of emptiness of spirit.
• Yes, union, guidance, healing, and purpose.
• Yes, with reflection and guidance.
Nicene Creed & Apostle’s creed meditation
• Father Paul McCarren 30 minute reflection on Priest
• Barriers to prayer (futile politics, worry, sleep, intellectualism)
• Keep it simple
• Transcendent in reality: Personal Creed
• Prophet
• Union
• You are not alone
• Daily Examen
• Desolation and Consolation
• Commissioned, sent, not my words but his words
• The Stations of the Cross
• Rite of Reconciliation preparation
• King
• King of Men Vs. King in God’s world
• Always facing God and always towards God.
• Choose life and collective guilt
• 21 forgiving passages
• My immediate family

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