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.
I know how isolating eating disorders can be, especially around the holidays. I am here to share some hope with you.
— Read on www.americamagazine.org/faith/2020/12/27/catholic-eating-disorder-239589.
Posted for at least 1 word press follower…1 is enough, but I know there are more out there suffering anonymously.
Yes, even to you the the Jew, the Hindu, or the atheist. Even to you the sinner, the hypocrite, the outcast. To the proud and powerful, Merry Christmas. To the meek, the poor, and hungry, Merry Christmas.
And to my brother Christians, may you have a special Merry Christmas filled with grace and peace – and perhaps a little spiritual reckoning for a new chapter in your journey.
A nagging thought sometimes intrudes when I am reading theological works of the church fathers (like Augustine) or recent theologians like John Henry Newman. So much teaching is on “qualifying” Jesus Christ as the messiah and Christianity as the way to live a holy and spiritual life that what gets lost is what does it mean for us today, 2000 years later.
What is qualifying? In Alcoholics Anonymous, one of the pivotal signs of an alcoholic’s ability to benefit from the program or to benefit others is to “qualify” themselves by sharing their lived experience. By qualifying that they have lived the life of an alcoholic, they can then give their experience, strength, and hope to others on how to live a sober life founded on spiritual principles. In essence, they must have experienced the deprivation of being alcoholic before their message can be heard by alcoholics.
So to it was with Christ. He became man and suffered the things man suffers in the extreme so that man could accept his message on how to live a holy life. He self-qualified himself for all to see by being crucified on the cross. This qualification along with his actions during the three years of his ministry provided believers with a road map for how to treat others and live a holy life no matter how bad your suffering.
In Alcoholics Anonymous, and other 12 step groups, they don’t spend time qualifying a “higher power.” They qualify themselves as being alcoholic (flawed), they are themselves not a higher power, and that a higher power can restore them. And more importantly, the program works for many that give it their all (https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2020/03/alcoholics-anonymous-most-effective-path-to-alcohol-abstinence.html). They don’t fight about defining God, though many have religious affiliations. How they live a spiritual program is the key to sobriety and happiness.
So, if we got past “qualifying” Christ and all the theological evidentiary arguments, what would be left other than have faith and believe in Jesus Christ the Messiah?
An Op Ed in the NYT today by Peter Wehner entitled “The Forgotten Radicalism of Jesus Christ” will challenge Christians and non-Christians to seriously reevaluate our moral framework. The article makes the case that we water down the radical life of Christ today. It calls us, as does A.A. for the alcoholic, to live radically different lives. This can be inconvenient and even immensely challenging at first. It is radical.
The article for me is a call to practice radical compassion and empathy in all aspects of my life. This is not just a Christian ideal to be pursued only by Christians, but a human ideal imprinted in our spiritual souls and genetic DNA.
When we ignore it, we suffer individually and collectively. The bling of materialist acquisition or individual grandeur is no substitute for a substantive spiritual life. A substantive spiritual life, although perhaps guided by “qualified” religious faiths, is measured by what we do.
The article along with quoting President Lincoln, demonstrates Jesus modeled practicing inclusion for everyone.
Have a Radical 2021. It is time to be different!
Pope Franics defined six foundational points for judging the future for the American and African Continents. Briefly, he less than 60 seconds he enumerated them for us:
- Reality (Opulence versus loss of human dignity)
- Generation of Justice (Everyday is a conquest opportunity for everyone)
- Unconditional Commitment versus a culture of indifference
- History as a guiding Axis
- Be God’s people, not God’s elite
- Solidarity (Fighting against structural poverty)
As Catholics we are in the first week of advent. Roughly four weeks of renewal by practicing increased prayer, use of symbolism in our masses and homes, and culmination on Christmas day, the birth of Jesus Christ. It also starts the new “liturgical year.” It is almost like a spiritual new year’s eve, you can use the time to sure up your spiritual base and make resolutions for the coming spiritual year.
What a perfect time to give thought to social justice and our indifference to suffering (#3) here at home and abroad. His message though is one of hope. Each of us has a “conquest opportunity” (#2) everyday to fight social injustice. It calls us though to see what is before our eyes and listen to what our ears hear: suffering all around us in many forms. We must face the reality (#1) of a broken economic system (nationally and internationally), world hunger, COVID, and housing/education/healthcare deprivation.
To do this we must be educated beyond the social media fades and memes of the day. History (#4) has all we need to know for now to move forward. We have rich experiences with failed political systems, failed religious fundamentalisms, and misuse of science by omission (ignoring reality) or by commission (our great ability to destroy people with weapons of mass destruction or environmental poisoning of their water, land, air, or food supply).
Now comes the hard part. Pope Francis is not calling on the elite or calling us to be the elite (#5). He is calling on us to act wherever we are, everyday, as if we were his disciples. As if we were one of God’s people. How are we measuring up outside of tending to the people within our family circle?
The mountain top is high and I am saddened to say we will most likely not see the top of the mountain where we can say we achieved before us what is God’s intention and God’s plan for heaven on earth. However, we are still called to strive for that spiritual perfection that aims by action to move us continuously in that direction. No one of us alone can bear the weight of this calling.
Go forth and conquer! Maybe not. Perhaps we can go forth and conquer our own desires and actions first during this advent. Perhaps after that we can act and do something ourselves rather than looking to what others can do. If we can do those two things moderately well – we won’t have to ask others to join us in solidarity (#6), they will join us of their own volition by seeing the peace in our hearts and glow in our souls.
There are so many opportunities everyday. All we have to do is look and act. Reading alone will not suffice. Most of you that are reading this are striving to do just that everyday. May some reflection time strengthen your resolve and bolster your energy.
A special prayer today to the physicians and nurses that are our last line of defense for our many sick and dying COVID patients. In the United States our nation is indifferent and defeated from within as the virus has run its course virtually unopposed and aided by a society willingly ignoring its deadly reach. Now we suffer together as one, some more than others.
The Catholic vote was practically split even between the two candidates. Those that voted for Trump often in private conversations deflect from owning Trump, saying they voted for his policies rather than his personage. A significant portion however, deny reality and accept and passionately support his presidency. Especially Evangelical Christianity. Trump himself has referred to them as idiots.
Interestingly, our non-believing genuine Atheists are able to see the secular and political truth. They by and large rejected his presidency bid both times. A mature Atheist has self-identified his/her moral and ethical responsibilities. They do not have the cover of superficial religious ideology to cover their vote either way.
Why did half of the country and almost half of Catholics support Trump? I am not among them, but I believe demagoguery played a big role. The price of taking a stand against him was too high for them. The opinion piece attached labels demagoguery and it’s genesis and firmly attaches it to Trumps base and top administration officials:
I believe that Christian Trump supporters had to suppress their spiritual conscience this second time around. Or they flagrantly embraced him exercising spiritual abandonment and extremist self-justification.
Demagoguery comes in many shapes and sizes. It counts on historical blindness. In all its forms it is dangerous. It can take over political and religious institutions alike. It can destroy nations from within and threaten world peace.
Is our youthful nation seeing the death of Western Christianity? It can not stand on its merits with this hypocrisy. Is our nation and national identity in jeopardy? The current extremist Republican Party is making our nation act like a failed state by undermining democracy, speaking falsehoods, and crippling government (Mitch).
It is hard as well to a Christian believer and a non-Trump supporter. Large swaths of our faith hypocritically stand by a demagogue for selfish reasons, many of them built on falsehoods.
Two pillars of my nation are defiled and assaulted today: genuine and authentic Christianity and the fundamentals of American democracy.
The price of belief in God is too high for many believers when confronted with the choice of supporting or denouncing President Trump. A vast majority of Republicans and Republican leadership have traded in any pretense of morality and ethical action for blind allegiance for Donald Trump.
America has stood up and voted out both, but only by 4 to 5 million votes. Without continued aggressive and persistent support Joe Biden and team will be crippled by political and spiritual toxicity of the far right and Trump/Mitchisms.
Only a handful of republicans and The Lincoln Project have stood up. President George Bush has also consistently stepped up after his presidency both for President Obama and now Biden.
Are you guilty of demagoguery? Neither side politically is immune to this existential threat? Nor are any of the worlds great religions immune.
At the end of the day you and I are individually responsible. No garments of religious or political affiliation will cover our actions. We will stand naked before the mirror and have to face our actions for what they are in intentions and in deed.
I did not know will not suffice. We know. And if by chance we escape honest self-appraisal, we will see the consequences of our actions here and now, not to mention a great reckoning when we face our mortality.
One could not write a more spiritually symbolic ending to the Trump presidency. A White House surrounded by walls, a leadership torn apart, COVID rampant inside its walls, a bruised Mitch, and an election lost by the greatest voter turnout ever. And still, ardent supporters cling to falsehoods.
Tyranny is not the answer. Tyranny is what Trump seeks. The silver lining is at least more than half America said no, the insanity stops here. It is too late for all those who have unnecessarily died due to covid, for over 500 children whose parents were taken away, and perhaps later today for those who may lose their health insurance. All of these actions are the responsibility of every voter who said yes to Trump and every voter whos went silent.
There are republicans out there who said no to Trump and yes to candidates down the ticket. To me they are heroes of democracy like the Lincoln Project. They would not let demagoguery rule.
Purely a personal post without judgement on your political view. This election has upset my spiritual grounding more than most. Understanding how and why is important to alleviating an emotion that is counterproductive to being present and open to others with different opinions. My own angst is tangible. Beneath it lies anger, sadness, pride, righteousness, fear, and other emotive experiences. The election is not happening in a vacuum, it is on top of life’s routine stressors and the unusual 2020 stressors (COVID, economy, and life changing threats).
Unlike prior elections the Republican Party and current President are ignoring reality and long honored traditions. This is no surprise. The President elect could not thank the current president for graciously conceding his historic win – because it did not happen.
President Trump is not conceding yet. He may never concede verbally. No one needs him to at all. He successfully bought many voters off the bench as did Joe Biden. Both candidates broke historic records – but Biden won the most votes ever. The two camps could not be more polarized. In this regard, it would be helpful if the current President finds an honorable message.
Both the president and the president elect are blip of sound in political history. That little sound however resonates for generations. Their supporters are responsible for the consequences, both good and bad. At the end of the day though, this political drama will pass. We will still be left with COVID epidemic, huge deficit, health care crisis, and a divided nation.
Biblical scholars can point you to references that depict this human tragedy (Brother against brother). Biden took the first step tonight in attempting to address the whole nation.
An unspoken question remains. President Trump has several pending legal investigations in different states that are currently paused or hung up on his immunity status as president. Biden will have no influence on those moving forward. Biden may also find once in office illegal activities. What will he do?
One blogger noted Biden will do what Obama did and announce that he will not prosecute the preceding administration. Is this right? I think so if the motive for prosecution is politically motivated for revenge or for future positioning. But what if things done were truly illegal that harmed American people?
Many suspect Trump is aware of the legal peril awaiting him post election. Some believe his clinging to power is because he has no choice. It is literally all or nothing. That makes him a very dangerous man. Desperate people can do desperate things. This trickles down as well. A portion of his party is in desperate straights. They need his support or at least his base support in the future. The huge turnout this election is a threat to the white majority as well. This vote was a repudiation of what Trump peddled to – a base of selected people and states versus “others” as defined by Trump despite huge success getting out nearly half the vote for their core beliefs. Getting that much turn out and losing is crushing. A desperate president supported by a desperate base driven by existential fear that includes a mixture of truth and falsities is really dangerous.
This mixture makes me the enemy even though I by definition (white, male, middle class) appear to fit the stereotype (minus carrying arms and waiving a flag). By supporting the democratic challenger in their eyes I am threatening their freedom, their identity, their entitled share of economic resources, and their faith. I am either misinformed or a traitor to the tribe.
With that mindset, how can I engage? How can Joe Biden engage? With President Trump it is clear you cannot engage, you can only change his view by having shear force and power. Their is no negotiation. If his base follows the same principle, I have no option to embrace. I am left with avoiding where possible, participating in false information, gossip, or frivolous rhetoric. But I cannot be quiet if injustice is at my door step, down the street, in the next town, or anywhere where my voice and the voice of others can make a difference. This not only applies to the current administration, but to the next one as well as to Religious institutions like the my beloved Catholic Church. No manmade institution is without error. My voice is a very tiny blip, but when joined with many other blips, like this election, becomes a sonic boom.
This raises real ethical questions and affects relationships. It tears apart families, communities, and the nation. Add in Religious beliefs and now we have a vastly religiously immature public wielding religous clubs to support politically held beliefs that leave no room for dialogue. Sit down with many religous believers and you may find many whose spiritual development stopped at the level of what they were told to believe and do, not at the level that goes deeper into a contemplative and enriched spiritual responsibility that accepts the presence of competing truths, nondualist ideas, and the infinitively small amount of knowledge that we each possess. This is why the truly great mystics almost always are presented in history as humble individuals.
Religion and Politics is messy. If it does not challenge your spiritual conscience – your spiritual conscious is likely asleep. And if you wholly adopt your parties positions without doubt you are probably intellectually asleep as well. Perhaps the only time this type of attitude is acceptable, and even this is questionable, is when you are a trained marine. Precision and carrying out orders is counted on for the good of the whole in split second decision making.
However, spiritual beliefs and political choices are not presenting you with a life threatening decision that most be made in the moment. Your decisions though will affect your life and the life’s of others down the road. You have a civic, moral, ethical, and spiritual obligation to struggle with the dual truths presented by both parties. Most of the time both parties believe what they say. However, you have an obligation to weed out falsehoods of your own party and belief system and be intellectually honest. Without that you cannot judge or hear the other side.
This writing has led me to a condemnation of the American Public for being intellectually dishonest, spiritually shallow, and dangerously selfish. I myself am guilty of all three at times though I strive to be open to honest dialogue (receiving and giving), spiritually mediated decision making, and selfless actions for the good of the whole. I can claim as some self-help groups espouse “spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.”
What does that mean when it comes to this election? The election has exposed our vulnerability of the enemy within our nation. A spiritual malaise or spiritual rigidity has permeated the culture. The vacuum has been filled with pursuit of temporal things: entitled wealth, preserving social status, extreme nationalism, egotistical thinking, tribalism, adrenaline seeking behaviors, expression of rage (social media rage, political rage, extremist groups rage), and actual harmful acts and laws.
Is their an enemy lurking within you? Do you put your political party over intellectual honesty, over personal relationships, over your spiritual beliefs? Does your political view have spiritual maturity? Is it well informed of all available information or is it just a vestibule of rigid political ideology and superficial nods to a scent of religous truth (enough to comfort while not necessarily being spiritually honest).
I love and recognize within the republican base friends, family, and acquaintances who have God in their hearts and I pray for them as I pray for myself to be spiritually and politically pure and motivated to seek spiritual perfection by right actions.
I pray for the next administration to use its political power for the same. Mostly I pray for those who are victims of social, economic, and political forces that deprive massive segments of the worlds population of housing, food, healthcare, and basic human rights and dignity. And when I say and write prayer, I am advocating that what follows that is action. It is a call to God’s grace and mercy, but also a call to you to act as well. Pick one thing that you can do better and explore it well.
I am challenged spiritually by the unknown of Trumps legal issues and actions post election. I should take no pleasure in his demise as an individual or as a former representative of ideals that I believe were harmful to many people. There is not a simple answer if I had the power to pursue criminal charges against him post his presidency. The weighing of human justice for others versus empathy and forgiveness factor into the equation. What should not factor in is any sense of self-righteous anger, revenge, political drama, or other affective emotions that come into play with these highly politicalized issues. Our nation must do what is right by the law, right by justice, and not what is politically expedient or desirable! This is an example of precontemplation and engagement of an issue that may grab the news in the future. It will interfere with our nation bonding and healing.
What can I do to reach a mature and spiritual understanding of this issue and reduce its negative impact on relationships and society as a whole? Is it a non-issue not worthy of my time as I have virtually no influence over its trajectory? Or should I be cleaning my spiritual closet, at least internally, of the toxicity this issue presents?
Whatever you do, cross the line to someone on the other side, embrace them, for they are you on the opposite side of the mirror.
My vote was cast weeks ago, but still I was at the morning polls. My neighbors, my wife, and my daughter were all on this parking lot line. Inside I delivered donuts to the poll workers who represent the bipolarity of American life ensuring a fair and honest election across our great nation. My other two children have voted already. For the first time my family has voted as 1 voting block, uniform on the presidential ticket. The day is beautiful, The sun is shining. The Flag stands tall.
I am home now as are the two presidential candidates. Both proclaim to be Christians. May they join me in a day of prayer and action that resembles imitation of Christ in all words and actions.
My candles and prayer space are open to all today virtually. Above all I feel America has a pivotal choice today between two different American visions. I have done my part to support the vision I believe is closer to the imitation of Christ in policy, practice, ideology, and speech. Now it is up to other votes to get to the polls and vote their spiritual conscience. I refuse today to watch the news and pundits. They can wait for nightfall.
Today is for contemplation and prayer that the God of my understanding will find his way into the hearts, minds, and hands of the remaining voters that have yet to submit a vote. May their vote represent what is best for all humanity within our nation and all over the world. May, if it be God’s will, the American people come out of this election with confidence, increased unity, and a greater sense of global responsibility.
The following prayer is said to have been written by Stephen Langton, the archbishop of Canterbury around the year 1200. May the Holy Spirit visit our nation, our homes, and our souls today and in the days to come:
VENI SANCTE SPIRITUS
Come, O Holy Spirit, come!
From your bright and blissful Home
Rays of healing light impart.
Come, Father of the poor,
Source of gifts that will endure
Light of ev’ry human heart.
You, of all consolers best,
Of the soul, most kindly Guest,
Quick’ning courage do bestow.
In hard labor You are rest,
In the heat You refresh best,
And solace give in our woe.
O most blessed Light divine,
Let Your radiance in us shine,
And our inmost being fill.
Nothing good by man is thought,
Nothing right by him is wrought,
When he spurns Your gracious Will.
Cleanse our souls from sinful stain,
Lave our dryness with Your rain
Heal our wounds and mend our way.
Bend the stubborn heart and will,
Melt the frozen, warm the chill,
Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful who in You,
Trust with childlike piety,
Deign your sevenfold gift to send.
Give them virtue’s rich increase,
Saving grace to die in peace,
Give them joys that never end. Amen. Alleluia.
If you are home today and have some time, please join me in some quiet contemplation or solitude with a Gregorian chant. You will not be alone despite the absence of proximal company. Many across the nation and globally will pray with you for America to choose the right course.
The delicate blend of fate versus self-determination is in play. Sometimes the “bad” or the “evil” have the short-term upper hand, as if fate has favored their side. The good must meet the effort of the bad equally and than some to compensate for the accidental fate that sometimes delivers us great blows. In America, in my view, our blue and red voters are all of one God as our left and right hands are all of one body.
They are not intrinsically good or bad until they act. Within each voter is the imprint of being able to act in the imitation of Christ. Their vote, their voice, and their intentions will be their barometer of where on their spectrum their desires for God can be defined. The same measure applies to me.
Godspeed and God’s grace to all of you this very special day.
What does it mean to “chase” something? Is it something you find positive as an adult? Webster’s dictionary uses several analogies. The Chase for…
- Hunting of wild animals,
- Pursuit of robbers,
- Frenzied seeking or earnest desire for an object or ideal.
Any of these three can ideas present an anticipation of acquiring some pursued affection that we want to possess. Killing that duck or dear maybe bring adoration of fellow hunters or food home to the family. Capturing a thief after a chase will make society safer, restore a sense of justice in society, and perhaps a sense of heroism or gratitude from society. Seeking immense wealth, fame, any number of new shiny objects, abstract accomplishments like increased knowledge, or conquering personal physical limitations can all be chased after as well and lead to immense satisfaction once obtained. Lurking within the chase is the anxiety and possibility of failure making success all that more pleasurable. The greater the risk of failure the more valuable the success.
And yet I advise you to give up the chase? In a more literal sense, I advise you to give up the attachment to the affections and desires for these humanly defined successes. Take the frenzied anxiety and egotism out of the effort. Do your best with intentionality and effort and the results will be what they are meant to be. You may influence a positive outcome and, in most endeavors, will succeed providing you have chosen logical and meaningful goals to pursue. And where you don’t succeed you will be all the better not having carried around undue angst and overstated need for what you pursued. If you sincerely have honestly appraised each affectation for its relative worth and applied sufficient effort for its attainment, the rest is up to fate and not an indictment or a celebration of your individual merit. We came into this world with nothing and we will go out the same way.
An epic election will be held on Tuesday, November 3, 2020. I have done my small part within the immense machinery of the United States electoral process. I am hopeful others that hold the values I have and will vote and bring home victory for the candidates that I believe are the only acceptable choice. I have much angst and some anger where I should have none. I have already done my part with prayer, voting, small donations, and probably pointless social media post. I must let go now. I have no ego to be right or wrong here, only commitment to do my best to support a candidate that will better serve all humanity.
This however, is only the surface chase! If you need to chase these things like when we were kids trying to win hide and seek, enjoy the chase! There is a higher chase that I have been foolish with and find myself time and time again going astray.
I have chased God. What folly. Neither I, nor you, or any of the great spiritual leaders can chase God. If we find ourselves chasing God, we are probably chasing a mirage or a man-made God. God is not something to be chased, but to be experienced.
For many of us our religious education and upbringing was benchmarked by completing a series of sacraments (Catholicism) or religious ceremonies as defined by different faiths of the world. While these are important in and of themselves for communication and customs among mankind, they are meaningless without a personal and contemplative deeper dive within our inner most selves.
This dive is impossible if we are rigidly defined by the religiosity of mankind (with closed ears and eyes the duality of opposing truths) and caught up with the perils of chasing human affections.
God is not to be chased for in books, temples, churches, foreign lands, momentary situational blessings or tragedies, or any other passing temporality. These things may possess momentary transcendental spiritual glimpses, but they are of in and of themselves not God. I am not saying to close the books, turn the temples and churches into shelters, or not visit historical holy places!
I am saying I cannot chase God. I can try to not run from awareness of God and his desire for me and for my actions to be in agreement with his will.
I can be aware of my propensity for many affections: pride, financial success, professional recognition, social status, will for and intentions for those I love, compassion and caring for the oppressed and suffering in the world, health, and most importantly and secretly desired, spiritual consolation. When this propensity takes flight with a chase – I can shut it down and say “God’s will, not mine, be done.”
In that way I can proceed without angst and egotism, with intentionality and effort, to achieve what is right in God’s eyes rather than my eyes. The outcome will be a mystery and I will not necessarily know success from failure in the multiple mysteries that we all play a role in communally as one peoples under one God. I will only be one with love and compassion for others doing what I can without expectation of return, of acknowledgement, or of any humanly defined rewards or avoidance of pain and suffering.
In all things good and bad, my goal is to act intentionally and to not chase with an air of anxiety, madness, or a self-justified air of entitlement. This too is true of my pursuit of God. I can only open my heart and pray for his presence. He will show me the way or the path of enlightenment as measured to what I need to fulfill his purpose.
I surrender my chase and pray for guidance in all that I do, small and large. Above the distractions of everyday life, within each of lies the answers to eternal truths and God’s intentions by whatever name you call him. Look deep inside.
Pope Francis rocks the faith by acknowledging and promoting civil union for LGBQT people. Backlash is certain as traditional conservative Catholics will run to argument that this position tacitly approves “disordered relationships.”
Our church does not possess the answer as to how to hold this position given that science and psychiatry have no evidence to define LGBQT as a moral choice. Evidence points in the other direction. LGBQT presence is universal and historical.
A disordered thread of specific bible verses sewn into the traditions of the church and societal bias has created a view of humanities sexual orientation being narrowly defined to the detriment of LGBQT people and historical reality.
LGBTQ people simply do not fit into the procreation narrative. For that matter, nor do straight people who whatever reason, do not engage in procreation. The Old Testament and the Gospels did not define a role for LGBTQ people. They were simply invisible. Perhaps the closest documented utility for people not meeting accepted straight men-women relationships were Eunuchs. Eunuchs were people who performed various roles in society first documented at least two hundred years before Christ. They were considered effeminate and often had great responsibilities or duties. I do not have sufficient detail here on how a person became a Eunich. I assume some were born without external genital, others were castrated. And variations are present in different cultures including women and men.
The idea though is people existed and served a utility other than procreation. This is a brutal example. I wonder if gay men were victimized based on effeminate presentation and forced to be Eunichs? Some reader will know the history. I think this reference identifies how brutal and bizarrely humanity treated people historically and how stigma and persecution can live legitimatized by institutions. Like it or not our faith is a religion ensconced in an institution rife with human error.
What did the Pope say? He said: “Homosexual people have a right to be in a family. They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it. What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that.” News coverage link below.
Note he did not legitimize LQBTQ as a Catholic union or sacrament. He simply acknowledged our church traditions and sacred text do not support LGBTQ union spiritually. The history of this well defined Catholic position is too rich to cover here. See my post “An incomplete look at Homosexuality and Catholicism (unfiltered)” at https://retsamsghost.com/2018/09/26/an-incomplete-look-at-homosexuality-and-catholicism-unfiltered/.
Richard Rohr wrote once that “sola Scripture” has left many at the mercy of their own cultures, their own limited education, their own prejudices, and their own selective reading of some texts while avoiding others. Partly as a result, slavery, racism, sexism, classism, xenophobia, and homophobia have lasted authoritatively into our time – by people who claim to love Jesus.” He was criticizing Protestants here but had equal related criticisms of Catholics.
He referenced Merton saying “it is dangerous to put scripture in the hands of people whose inner self is not yet sufficiently awakened to encounter the spirit, because they will try to use God for their own egotistical purposes.”
A clever orator can use the Bible selectively to make the case for anything to suit there position. How often have we seen this from politicians, religious leaders, lay people, and perhaps within our own families?
The instinct of Catholics and most people is to attack a message that is inconvenient to our strongly held worldview. It attacks our identity and our pride. We can be guilty of putting ideology or faulty cemented theology above the living, moving word of God – above a spiritual calling to continue to transcend and evolve.
Pope Francis News article:
*Pictures from article “Daniel and the three young men: God rescues Biblical eunuchs, affirming LGBTQ people of faith.”
When will we learn that when we are most confident and assured we should be cautiously optimistic that we may still not possess the ultimate truth…life is an ever unfolding revelation. I will not judge LGBTQ civil marriage either way here. To do so would be to invite controversy rather than invite introspection.
My view is after all, inconsequential in view of I am neither an LGBTQ individual suffering discrimination and spiritual oppression or a self-defined vanguard of Catholic Theology. What about you?
An open window view over a green backyard bracing for fall. The trees gently sway as I listen to a Catholic audio meditation regarding Lectio-divina. The reader ask me to listen closely to a few lines of scripture. After setting the passage and the scene my eyes close and listen, and a few lines in I hear and pay close attention to the following:
“28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
During that last line a wind blew in and back out closing and opening the door behind me and my eyes. I see the wind departing as the early fall leaves settle down.
The reader continues, did any word or phrase leap out at you? A mystic might say yes, the Holy Spirit entered my house and passed over me as you said, for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. For most of us, it was just a breeze, no more.
The reader continues with guidance on lectio-divina as I watch the trees and leaves remaining still. The reader ask us to listen a second time, and I close my eyes listening to Christ words as written in scripture.
Again, a gentle breeze blows in and out, at that exact phrase “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” At no other time during my reflection and prayer time are the leaves disturbed or wind pronounced.
The mystic says you have your proof Joseph. The cynic says your eyes and senses deceive you and your imagination mistakes coincidence for spiritual consolation.
Spiritual consolation or Spiritual imagination? It is unanswerable. But both identified the phrase “my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
The contemplation that followed, the prayer and seeking understanding, followed by action is what is important. My personal struggles are not heavy relative to my brothers and sisters. My nations hypocrisy and moral failings are deeply concerning, but not imminently causing me great pain and suffering (except for the compassion and love I have for oppressed people of the world). And yet I feel my burden large and sometimes grossly unfair, fanned by righteousness and anger. My sin unveiled in an instant.
Without going into details, I have been given much to be grateful for, more than my individual merit and effort can account for given my limitations and grave errors over my life time. God has provided me a light burden, though at times, I felt the opposite.
Contemplatively, have I placed an undue burden on others? Do I expect to much from others to meet my expectations? Am I too quick to anger or to quick to judge when others fail me. Yes.
What I seek from God should I not be seeking to provide to others when I am able to do so?
At the end of the day, mystic or cynic, I have journeyed with Christ words and arrived at a raised consciousness of some traces of my spiritual sloth.
I am not called to disappear from the secular sphere of expectations, but I am called to know where that line ends between secular expectations and my Catholic orientation. There is a great terrain of higher demands for Catholics to live by that exceed secular law but should not be imposed on secular society. In fact, there is a great deal of Catholic values that my church and fellow believers hold to be true but do not ourselves demonstrate by practice (despite genuine effort and desire). My role calls for me to vote, to send a few dollars to political campaigns, and to have a reasoned and balanced voice. In place of anger, is sadness and compassion. In place of harboring negativity, harbor hope.
More close to home, double down on caring for others than chasing my own desires. Double down on the burden I place on others being light and when disappointed my response being compassionate and merciful. That is not to say to let go of expectations or responsibilities that others have, but to let go of justified anger and unnecessary drama.
In neither politics or our personal life are we called to be a door mat. We are called to be active and a living testament. That will place us with standing up for ourselves and our beliefs and shaping a dialogue of mutual respect and understanding.
One reading, one prayer, two breezes…..
The newest Encyclical Letter FRATELLLI TUTTI of the HOLY FATHER FRANCIS ON FRATERNITY AND SOCIAL FRIENDSHIP includes a strong diet of healthy Catholic values like Love of thy neighbor, universal love, truth, kindness, gratuitousness, and forgiveness. Pope Francis provides ample liturgical context and scripture to ground these starting with the parable of the Good Samaritan assisting a stranger on the road followed by multiple scriptural references before proceeding to, as many Popes have before him, denounce forms of leadership and governance that are not aligned with Christian values and harmful to our collective good.
Catholics are used to Popes taking a stand against dictators and Communist regimes that limit religous freedoms or oppress their people. This encyclical, for the discerning eye, is highly critical of President Donald Trump and the United States current leadership in the world.
In Chapter One, “DARK CLOUDS OVER A CLOSED WORLD,” Pope Francis addresses current trends and societal issues that hurt universal fraternity. He discusses ideas like aggressive nationalism, transnational economic power exercising divide and conquer strategies, limitless consumption, and expressions of empty individualism. In the context of “the end of historical consciousness” he tells how he gave advice to young Catholics to be wary leaders who promote them to reject prior experiences of their elders and look forward to only a future that he himself holds out.
This is not particularly shocking at all. But than he goes onto say, this person “needs the young to be shallow, uprooted and distrustful, so that they can trust only his promises and act according to his plans. That is how various ideologies operate, they destroy (or deconstruct) all differences so they can reign unopposed. To do so, however, they need young people who have no use for history, who spurn the spiritual riches inherited from past generations, and are ignorant of everything that came before them.” He follows this up with the following:
“15. The best way to dominate and gain control over the people is to spread dispair and discouragement, even under the guise of defending certain values. Today, in many countries, hyperbole, extremism and polarization have become political tools. Employing a strategy of ridicule, suspicion, and relentless criticism, in a variety of ways one denies the right of others to exist or have an opinion.”
Any honest Catholic voter and Trump supporter is aware that Trump’s demands are listen only to him as anyone else is against him: Media, Scientist, Bi-partisan Debate Commission, his own hired and fired administration staff, and anyone or institution that expressed an opinion other than his opinion. And he does so with the force of office of the White House, conservative media, and ridicule especially reserved for women and/or people with disabilities. Pope Francis goes on in this chapter on the illusion of communication on topics such as closed and intolerant attitudes, digital campaigns of hatred and destruction, shameless aggression, and verbal violence.
You as reader or Trump supporter may disagree with my assessment. However, if you read all of the encyclical you will find that America is gravely ill with the unhealthy and dangerous ideologies that this encyclical addresses.
This election provides each voter an opportunity to rethink their vote. The encyclical promotes the idea from the parable above that “the decision to include or exclude those lying wounded in the along the road side can serve as a criterion for judging every economic, political, social, and religious project.” Remember, it is a parable from Jesus Christ. Those lying on the street today are the homeless in our communities, the impoverished living with hunger, the unemployed and jobless, the ostracized and criminalized, and the victims of racism or other viscous hateful actions or crimes.
The encyclical is calling us out as Americans and as Catholics for our hypocrisy – not just our Presidential hypocrisy but our collective hypocrisy. In one segment Pope Francis points out that although we may not commit the crimes (or sins of another) if we benefit from them we are complicit. This is really deep.
The entirety of the encyclical goes on with a vision of hope and a blue print for each of us to consider the local, national, and international levels starting with our own actions in the home and in the community. Parts of it appear radical and unreachable – only because we have been conditioned to accept world hunger, poverty, war, and inhumanity to each other. Trump as a leader embraces an America first policy as do many Americans as an example. This has far reaching consequences (read Chapter four 153. and Chapter five). It has also largely failed us diplomatically and financially.
Perhaps the single most powerful line criticizing our nation: “Democracy atrophies, turns into a mere word, a formality; it loses its representative character and becomes disembodied, since it leaves out the people in their daily struggle for dignity, in the building of their future.”
This criticism is not just applicable to republicans and President Trump that are threatening health care, slanting tax breaks to the rich, and other policy driven actions that hurt the vulnerable, but at the liberal camp as well that has failed to create sustained opportunities for said groups to attain and have equal inclusive membership in society. The social contract in essence is strained or broken in America. This is not a good thing for a nation that is only 244 years old. To take our democracy for granted is either foolish, pure narcissism, or both.
This encyclical is indeed a treatise and an education on social and political systems and leadership and Catholic beliefs on a range of multiple issues – but most of all, the dignity of all humn life.
The encyclical does not pick winners and losers, Red or Blue, or Nations that are most aligned with Catholic Values. It does however, say, Christians must often take a position, honestly and decisively.
There will be “Legitmate conflict” between candidates and the people who support them. Whatever candidate we support, we can forgive the “other” side for what we perceive to be their shortcomings. However, forgiving does not “involve renouncing our own rights, confronting corrupt officials, criminals, or those who would debase our dignity.”
So I am called to Love Donald Trump by this encyclical. I am called to love a man that I see as an oppressor of women, immigrants, the poor, and people considered “outside his base.” The encyclical points out however, that to love a man does not mean to continue to allow him to continue to oppress people. To truly love him, according to the encyclical and my opinion of Donald Trump, is to “seek ways to make him cease his oppression; it means stripping him of a power that he does not know how to use, and that diminishes his own humanity and that of others.” I can love him that way!
On a more serious note, I can love and do love people on both sides of the aisle. I care about the divisiveness and pain they each carry when weighing their moral conscious and voting for imperfect parties and candidates. I care about those who vote out of fear or ignorance. Or those that vote purely for selfish reasons that may not align with Christian values, with perhaps that selfishness being quite valid (having a specific industry job that is threatened or needing a few extra dollars in their check). These decisions are not easy.
Pope Francis starts the encyclical with his inspiration that he receives from St. Francis. Francis, he says, was able to “free himself of the desire to wield power over others. He became one of the poor and sought to live in harmony with all.” He tells the story of when St. Francis visited powerful non-believers with the intention of evangelization:
“Francis’ fidelity to his Lord was commensurate with his love for his brothers and sisters. Unconcerned for the hardships and dangers involved, Francis went to meet the Sultan with the same attitude that he instilled in his disciples: if they found themselves “among the Saracens and other nonbelievers”, without renouncing their own identity they were not to “engage in arguments or disputes, but to be subject to every human creature for God’s sake”. In the context of the times, this was an extraordinary recommendation. We are impressed that some eight hundred years ago Saint Francis urged that all forms of hostility or conflict be avoided and that a humble and fraternal “subjection” be shown to those who did not share his faith.“
We as catholic voters have the immense weight of evaluating all issues related to the dignity of life and voting accordingly. We also have to acknowledge that we live in a multi-faith society and our government is a referendum on civil matters, not on Catholicism.
Our vote is important. More important is how we carry ourselves and avoid all forms of hostility, conflict and a desire to subject others to our will. How we carry ourselves will win more authentic followers and believers than pandering to politicians or the courts.