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.
Objectively my political views lean left in American politics. I have plenty of company among Catholic voters. However, a solid group of the Catholics vote staunchly republican based on two issues: abortion and taxation. Abortion is the high moral ground vote. Taxation tends to be the selfishly motivated vote. Less taxes paid by the upper middle class and wealthy, less services for the lower and middle class.
The abortion issue provides moral cover for the taxation issue while ignoring other Catholic values and beliefs for some. This block of voters is solidly republican.
For other Catholics they do a deep dive into all aspects of how a candidate locally or nationally promotes Christian values. Sometimes they vote right, sometimes left. These issues, in addition to defending human life and the dignity of human life, include healthcare, economy, immigration, human rights nationally and internationally, environment, religious freedom, racism, and personal integrity.
This latter group, combined with prayer and personal struggle, are practicing voting a “discerning vote.” A discerning vote in Catholic ideology is an educated vote that is tested against all tenets of the faith, prayed on, and acted on. The action part is not just pushing a lever on November 2.
Whatever side a Catholic votes on, policies or projected values by that candidate or party will contradict Christian values. As Christians, when we vote for a party that goes against a Christian value (presumably because the vote supports many other Christian values), we should be taking other actions to address Christian Social issues that our vote abandoned.
If my candidate was a perfect candidate for Christian values except immigration. Perhaps in addition to my vote I am writing him/get a letter, doing an op ed, donating or volunteering to help immigrants. Our vote is an opportunity to do a litmus test on our full Christian life and where we fall short. It is not just a reflection of the candidate. It is a call to action. What will your vote be and how will your vote fall short of Catholic values? What will you do about that conflict and appearance of hypocrisy? Other than not voting, you have no choice but to pick a party or candidate that is imperfect.
The video below captures my voting process and thoughts accurately. The speaker is a well known Catholic lay person with impressive credentials. One line in this video is he believes our church is better served by seeking converts than by seeking heretics!
This is so powerful. Often during political elections we can descend into attacking secular society, non-believers, people we perceive as being sinners, other faiths not aligned with Catholicism, the political candidate or their party themselves. We can descend into party ideology, personal bias, nationalism, and herd mentality sacrificing our independent responsibility in the process.
This is a sure path to heretical voting! Rather than capturing heretics we become heretics. The exact opposite of our intentions as discerning Catholic voters. It is a good thing that Catholics do not vote as “1” voting block. To do so would remove the individual responsibility to own each issue in its own context today and then vote and act accordingly.
I know my vote today but will not share it here even though it is no secret. It will fall short of what many in the faith say is required of a Catholic voter. As an independent voter, I have consistently disagreed with their assessment in favor of a different approach (sometimes referred to as choose life democrats). This is my discerning mind. What about action other than my vote?
My vote falls shy of Pro-life calls for criminalizing and prosecuting women and doctors for abortion procedures. My faith tells me we should be doing everything we can as a faith to support pregnant Women with every option to have the opportunity to be mothers (without shaming or threatening freedom) in a manner that supports human dignity, by example, by attraction, and by sacrifice through our faith, not by secular law. If we do this well we will be supporting a pro-life culture, not just reducing abortions (legal or illegal), but promoting the dignity of life across the board.
Whether you vote right or left this November, please join me in contributing to this cause below. It is an example of supporting what I believe society and Catholics can do more of to support the dignity of all human life: https://secure.givelively.org/donate/every-mother-counts/birth-justice-in-2020.
At the end of the day we are all accountable, even charities. Here is this charities transparency and results page: https://everymothercounts.org/our-story/transparency/.
I hope you have gained some self-questioning and increased awareness by reading this blog. No matter how aware and informed we are, the depth of the spirit is always greater than our knowledge. This piece includes just a droplet of sincere contemplation, education, self-reflection, and action driven by discernment and prayer. It is by far not perfect and very fallible – but it is independent of heretical crowd sourcing and very much owned by me.
May my God find my vote, my opinions, and my actions in accordance with his will.
“He saw himself as an object, very small and distinct like a fly walking on a clear window pain; and it was unmistakably a fool.” Have you ever felt that way? Was it ever total and complete degradation leaving you isolated, alone, and perhaps humiliated?
I hope not. I hope so! I don’t know what to hope for you. This description above was written by C.K. Chesterton regarding St. Francis of Assisi and his journey into what some consider madness. At the juncture in his life above, he had failed at being a military knight, returned home and failed his father by stealing from him, and left town in dramatic fashion barely clothes with nothing and headed into the wilderness during a winters snow. In the moments after his departure, when he found respite in some cave or dark place, his rejection by family, friends, and even the church was complete. How did he ever come back out a changed man?
A detour describing the Tumbler of our Lady is presented here as well. In brief, the tumbler (jongleur) performs in front of our Lady. A juggler, acrobat, or tumbler standing on his head in front of the Blessed Mary. It takes a great freedom to be a juggler or acrobat as well as great discipline. The analogy Chesterton uses of course goes deeper. He drives it right into the heart of asceticism, more commonly known as self-denial and sacrifice. Takes the fun right out of it. Except St. Francis models asceticism that leads to great joy. I think of the marathon runner after they break through the pain, the artist that toils to the point of madness while achieving greatness, or the master craftsman that attends to every detail as if each represented the whole. All three practice self-denial to achieve something transformative, and though not envisioned, brings lasting joy beyond their understanding.
“But God, who knew his [the tumbler’s] intentions
And his great sense of duty
And the love for which he did his acts
Did not wish to hide his deeds;
Thus the Lord wished and bid
That the works of His friend
Be known and manifested,
Because he had joyfully served His mother,
And so that each one would know
And understand and see
That God refuses no one
Who in love trusts himself to Him,
No matter how he does his duty,
So long as he loves God and does right.” (Feminae)
St. Francis does not remain in that state of mind of being a fool. A transformation occurs and he emerges from the darkness somehow different. Chesterton puts it this way: “And as he stared at the word “fool” written in luminous letters before him, the word itself began to shine and change.”
There is an element of complete surrender here that perhaps only saints achieve. Many people who have hit “figurative” bottom in their lives experience this emptying making them more available to a spiritual transformation. I don’t just mean alcoholics, gamblers, or drug addicts. I mean anyone who played the part of being the fool.
Many never get this experience as they are too angry blaming others for their situation or to self-absorbed or even afraid to confront their own shortcomings. An eternal facade of perfection prevails over facing any risk of public humiliation or shame. To do otherwise might mean loss of material, status, or even relationships that one values. Sadly, in the end, corrosiveness possessiveness creates just the opposite results, individuals destroyed from the inside out clinging to something or set of things that in the end, cause their existential fall.
If you have played the fool, you are not alone. You have plenty of company. To be rare a amongst your peers, harnessing your folly through true humility and action can lead to a spiritual transformation. You may still be seen as a fool to some, but you will not care. The corrosiveness inside you will be gone. You will shoulder the pain and weights of many when before you could barely carry your own.
New research shows that people that rely on Fox News and conservative media bought into the narrative pushed by Trump in the early weeks of the pandemic and treated COVID 19 less seriously than people who got news from other sources. This increased their chances of getting COVID, their family’s chances, and our nation’s health. Not one study – but three studies. It is plain as day anecdotally to everyone – but now it is backed by research that Trump and his supporters amplified sickness, economic devastation, and death. By the way, we lead the world in numbers of infected and deaths.
Are you a fan of Fox News and ultra-conservative news sites? Of Trump? Then you are a big part of the problem – both COVID and the inability to confront the racial outrage in our country. Let me put it this way, Republicans accepting Trump and the group below is like me saying my Catholic Church only had a few bad apples (think sex abuse). COVID and racial discrimination deniers live in the culture of Fox News and the homes they reach. It is up to the people in those homes to force change.
Trump is counting on them to ignore reality – he is counting on you to do the same. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/media/the-data-is-in-fox-news-may-have-kept-millions-from-taking-the-coronavirus-threat-seriously/2020/06/26/60d88aa2-b7c3-11ea-a8da-693df3d7674a_story.html
I cannot throw rocks without looking myself in the eyes as well. In the analogy above, I referenced the Catholic Church. I have made it my intention to not feed into the elements of Catholic extremism or errant application of theological positions held by our church traditions. This is not an easy thing to do. It required change. Long ago, I joined and, after some time, quit the Knights of Columbus. The organization is filled with passionate and good people. The organizational structure, however, is prone to human error and purpose “drift” from its original intentions. Built into its fabric are too much ritual, secrecy, and financial conflict that promotes unhealthy spirituality – in my view. For this Catholic, it was something I had to withdraw from as the organization, in my opinion, overreached in purpose and its attitudes towards people unlike them. That is but one example. The Knights are an arm of the Catholic Chruch that I have stopped supporting. They are good people with a noble purpose. Many are living spiritual lives and practices that, by comparison to my actions, I feel are exemplary role models in Christ-like living. I left them before recent news articles came out with much of the same criticisms (including the National Catholic Register). The only way the Knights will reform some aspects of their organization is if internally, members leave or stop feeding those elements.
I have had meetings with a priest in both my former parish, my current parish, and the parish I have visited when the message is given seemed to cause me spiritual conflict.
As a silly example, a non-threatening one to for sure. I visited an unnamed catholic college campus that also had a seminary and a national shrine on the campus. After having some quiet prayer time at the Shrine, I visited the book store the way out. This store had “Thou shall not steal signs” posted throughout the store. The store was in the middle of nowhere, attracting only believers. The message hit me the wrong way and cost them a sale. That was not enough for me. I spoke with the staff on hand and then sought out a priest and discussed the same. The message in that store next to a national shrine of prayer did not reflect the welcoming and embracing message of Christ. It echoed commercialism and accusation.
I returned home and penned a letter to the university president. He offered to send me an Ignatian Bible that I had an interest in free and promised to revisit the store policy. Whether he did or not, I don’t know. I did not accept the offer. My motive was not to be silent on things small or large. I always purchase something from local bookstores or spiritual places I visit to support the community to have such sites. It cost me thirty minutes or so time, engaging people in a friendly manner and penning a letter on something trivial. Would not a true Christian say something like proceeds from sales supports the national Shrine and other Catholic programming? Scholarships may be available for items that you are interested in but cannot afford. Ask to speak to Father James! Perhaps the store is a victim of desperate sinners stealing bibles or other Catholic merchandise? Should we not be giving it away when we can or at least engaging the less fortunate who might be tempted to steal?
How does this apply to President Trump and the Fox News/conservative news media? Both support many elements of Republican and traditional values and even some Christian values. It applies as we cannot stand quiet on small things or important things when the arms of our political idealogy or faith are hijacked and used to promote harmful idealogy or act in harmful ways. The example I used of thous shall not steal, and the Knights of Columbus is somewhat mundane. My direct conversations with the priest regarding sex abuse scandals and church leadership is not silly.
You can be anti-Trump and Anti-Sex Abuse or other Catholic actions without renouncing conservative or Catholic identity.
I have gratitude for the gift of my faith and the gift of democracy, which includes the complexity of Catholicism (liberal to conservative) and the United States political system (liberal to conservative).
Trump and the extremist right-wing media are outside acceptable spiritual and political practices for any moral and ethical person. That does not mean Republicans and the conservative ideology is evil – but it does mean it’s base must stand-up to its internal rot. You have a choice between two flags.
As Catholics, we must stand up to Sex Abuse and other forms of non-Catholic behaviors by priests and our followers. Many Catholics are moving to an anti-Trump platform now. The Christian evangelical community is also showing signs of movement in this direction. It is too little too late for the current damage done by Trump to our country.
Hopefully, our nation’s healthcare and racial injustice tragedies will lead to our society becoming a more compassionate, just, and democratic nation as the founding fathers envisioned.
Religious beliefs and Political ideology are intertwined but not untangible when necessary. Now is a time where it is essential. Act now, especially if you are a Trump supporter – you are in the best position to counter Trumpian ideology. Research issues from scientific or accurate journalism. Pray with an open mind. Pen a letter. Get to know people outside your social circle. Be inquisitive – how can so many people disagree with me? What do they know that I don’t know?
If you or a family member are on your death bed due to COVID (or any other reason), I hold nothing against you regardless of your political affiliation or religious belief. I pray that you have time to find peace with your loved ones and to reconcile any misgivings as you prepare to exit our known temporal existence. My faith teaches me we all leave this world imperfect. We can be active even while on our death bed by reaching out to family and God to make things right – like the penitent thief who said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” For the rest of us that are healthy and well, more is asked of us today. It is not easy, for sometimes we must confront our own beliefs and the affiliations we hold dear.
My church leadership is silent regarding Archbishop Carlo Vigano’s letter to Donald Trump. Donald Trump has referred to the letter to conservative news sites as evidence of his support from Catholics. Nowhere is it mentioned this Archbishop is hiding from the Vatican. I guess it is wise not to feed this news cycle or this disgruntled letter-writer priest in hiding. I will follow their lead and not post his letter here.
The two of them together rebuke a society that is moving forward without them. One in power still, one not. There is clear evidence of both clinging and promoting ideas and policies that support maintaining self-promotion and, in some cases, positions that are directly opposed to Christ’s teaching. Yet, both cling to the illusion of righteousness.
In my opinion, they are the wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing, not the other way around. The delicate application of acquired power, whether in public service or religious service, is ripe for error for even those who started public service with good intentions to serve others. Both arenas also attract some hungry for power and attention who are not serving with good intentions for the public good or based on God’s calling.
Who are they individually, sheep that became wolves or always a wolf? Or perhaps you believe I am mistaken and that they are pure sheep after all who are genuinely and genuinely serving the people and God?
We know from history political and religious leaders have led congregations and nations to commit great evils in the name of nationalism or God. Leaders such as these are gifted at vilifying the “other” and creating passionate divisiveness, hatred, and mistrust. Their gift can bring pain and suffering to millions as well as destroy the political and spiritual institutions that they serve. They can only do so as far as the people are willing to follow or, at least, remain silent.
Who are we individually serving today? I am serving many personally in different roles. If I were saintly, my first serving priority would always be God, and through God’s lens, all other services would flow. I am far from saintly, and my priorities can sometimes put the visible and imminent in front of the invisible and eternal.
I serve my God in prayer, in thought, and actions. I serve my immediate and extended family in the same manner. Fellowship and work come a close third and fourth. That circle is pretty narrow. Kindness and compassion to my community is always an aim. Farther away is the world’s poor, the alienated, oppressed, and suffering peoples by many afflictions. What gets in the way of these noble pursuits? Serving myself and defining my entitlements and pleasures in life can easily sidetrack the above intentions. What good am I to others, after all, if I am miserable and discontent! Even these noble pursuits can be a downfall of seeking spiritual graces or public acknowledgment above the good intentions of serving others. Or perhaps even acquiring goods and power in the name of being better able to serve others leads to spiritual errors as well.
Back to Carlo and Donald. Who are they in their essence? How did their paths of service begin, how was the journey, and what do they represent today? The same question applies to their supporters. Who are they, what is their experience, and what do they represent today? How do Donald, Carlo, and their follower’s actions and beliefs stack up against the invisible and eternal? I would imagine they see themselves as necessary warriors of their causes.
How am I to not be silent without falling into being judgemental and self-righteous? I find solace in prayer and by minuscule actions every day that serves the greater good. More listening is called for now and reading.
And I write. I write here to try to ground controversy, hate, worry, and tragedy within the infinity of the invisible and the eternal. I give my tiredness to God and here, to other bloggers.
I am disappointed today in humanity and myself—nothing exceptionally grand or novel about today. In the sea of human failure and misery, my response feels wholly inadequate. I know my intentions and awareness are essential but useless without a sea of change for others, sharing a vision of greater humanity toward others.
In the face of people like Donald and Carlo, I can find myself wanting to fight like a wolf rather than a sheep. Within each of them is also the essence of a sheep as we are all capable of being both at the same time. The challenge is who did we feed, the wolf or the sheep. I cannot be silent, but I cannot be a wolf being fed by conflict, war, and ego-driven battles of ideology and spirituality. We must move forward and leave the history of social injustice, hatred of others, and discrimination behind us.
(0) Endings Always Bring; New Beginnings
A blogger that writes pieces longer than myself! The art of deep thought and wrestling with life’s meaning does not fit well in. Tweet or a meme. This post hits resentments, loss, and worries. My spiritual response….
What lamentations or resentments do I hold today against others? I can think of a few, and despite having gently nudged them out to sea, sometimes the damn fools wash back up on shore!
Some journeys can be slow. The book of Genesis finished this a.m. The importance of patriarchy and wisdom passed on from father to son is not lost in this book. Like modern times, fathers of the past had errant sons too. Jacob, while preparing for death, tells his sons, “Simon and Levi are brothers; Instrument of cruelty are in their dwelling place. Let not my soul enter their council” for the various ill-deeds their tribes performed. The rest of the brothers seemed to get off very well with their father’s blessings and prophecy, with Joseph being the leader of them all. Families are not perfect and Joseph forgave his brothers their ill will even after his father passed.
Meanwhile, in Matthew, Jesus is growing his ministry with miracles and words of confounding wisdom. The scribes and Pharisees are asking for signs and laying traps for Jesus. He is foretelling many will not listen to what is before their eyes. They listen with the intent to carry out their agenda – not the agenda of God or truth. Jesus drops the artificial ties that we all define our relationships by, even his blood relatives, by declaring, “For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” This is telling me my brother and sister are not defined by blood alone. it is also telling me if I listen with an agenda in mind, I am apt to not truly be listening.
And today, my meditation speaks to the “Mysticism of the Streets.”[i] Richard details the 1100 years of the desert fathers and then introduces St. Francis bringing monastic life and theology into the practice in the streets with other people. In ordinary life, the Friars of the Franciscan order followed not a life of solitude, but life among the people:
“Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.”
My Grandfather’s hard work, stoic nature, and disciplined mind came into my heart this morning. He was a quiet man. If whispers came to him that I broke a window or a fence in the community, he would, without words, ask me to join him to help with some project. There I was with him in hand mending a fence I broke, or a window shattered—no words needed to be passed. Quiet work, job done, no words exchanged. None needed. I was not moved to write this morning, which happens often enough.
I had the day off today by surprise. The governor made Juneteenth day a holiday. I was going to go to the gym but instead scheduled to give blood at the blood bank and visit a friend I had not seen in some time. I like to think I was doing a service, but a small part of me thinks I was avoiding the gym!
At the blood bank, a German lady serving the juice and cookies decided my name was German, and I was not to spend the 15 minutes reading a book alone. She pulled in another German lady to boot. We discussed Germany, my Grandfather, and Grandmother, the town of Ubrirkichen, stonemasons, the arbitrariness of money, and families torn apart by WWI and WW II. She knew exactly where the town was and her accent mimicked by Grandmother.
I had not thought of my Grandfather before this morning for some time, and an hour or two later, his immigration to the United States and strong character are celebrated. Elsa, his wife, my grandmother, is remembered as well for her love, principles, and tenderness. I do not remember her being beautiful in the way she is in this picture. I remember her being beautiful as a grandmother with a warm and delicate smile. Both of them were quiet people, but stronger than anybody I knew, perhaps that is still true today.
Happenstance? I think not. Patriarchy, history, and remembrance made real hours after my a.m. spiritual reading bought my Grandparents’ love and lives into my mind.
My day did not include much solitude or prayer today. It did include giving blood, sharing history with two German ladies, visiting an old friend, returning home to plant some flowers, joining my wife for dinner out, giving up the television room to my daughter and her friends just when I wanted to sit and watch the bloody news, and now writing this morning dew as the silences from the past and present have blessed me today.
Somehow scripture seemed intimately connected to my day without any conscious effort on my part – just gentle whispers of grace. These two grandparents left indelible images in my heart, and one of them gave me stubbornness as well, which sometimes serves me well and other times, not so well!
What would their words be today if they were here? I don’t think they would have to say a thing. They might start pruning a tree or inspecting a crooked door for repair, but words of guidance no need, they teach only by doing.
The Old Testament and The New Testament came alive for me today in subtle ways. Someone else reading the same exact passages would walk away with different sentiments and thoughts. How these sentiments and thoughts guide our lives is the test of true spiritual discernment.
[i] Richard Rohr Daily Meditations page 43.
Esau gives away his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew. A steep impulsive decision considering the firstborn gets double or more of the inheritance when their father passes! A youthful and rash decision for immediate gratification. Jacob manipulated his brother’s immaturity to have the firstborn birthright. At first glance, we could interpret this as merely brotherly gesturing and joviality. However, the Old Testament does not tend to present joviality or gestures. Every passage has intended purpose, and this passage captures brotherly jealousy and hatred and foreshadows further division.
A Baylor University Graduate thesis summed it up this way: “The primary thesis is that YHWH both uses and engages in deception for the perpetuation of the ancestral promise (Gen 12:1-3), giving rise to what I have dubbed a theology of deception. Through a literary hermeneutic, emphasizing the symbiotic relationship between both how the text means and what the text means, with theological aims, this study examines the various manifestations of YHWH as Trickster in the Jacob cycle. Attention is given to how the multiple deceptions evoke, advance, and at times fulfill the ancestral promise.”[i]
This is truly horrific. Isaac calls to his son Esau and says, “Behold now, I am old. I do not know the day of my death.” He then asks Esau to go and prepare him an exquisite “savory meal” so that he may eat it and then bless Esau in the presence of God before his death.” Esau takes off at once to prepare the meal. Jacob and his mother, however, prepare and execute an elaborate scheme and deceive Isaac. Jacob brings him a meal first, dressed up as Isaac, and received the blessing reserved for Esau.
Prepostouris? $36.5 billion is stolen from the elderly every year by financial abuse. Jacob clearly deceived his father and would be defined as financial elder abuse today! “It is estimated that $30 trillion will be inherited in the next 30 years . The result is a significant percentage of children and grandchildren fighting for what they believe is their fair share of inheritance while either one or both aging parents are still alive.” If your getting on in years, please save your loved the trouble and lock down your intentions now by a legal will and make peace with everyone so that their are no surprises. That is a legacy worth sharing.
My vision of Jacob has always been somewhat colored by Jacob’s Ladder story, which comes a little later on in Genesis. He rests his head on a rock and settles in for a night’s sleep while on his journey away from Esau’s wrath and has a beautiful epiphany known historically as Jacob’s ladder. God speaks to Jacob in this dream: ‘And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee whithersoever thou goest'” Jacob exclaims, “How full of awe is this place!” This is the Jacob my Christian roots celebrate and remember! Jacob, by this point, has now entirely supplanted Esau and becomes a patriarch in Jewish biblical history.
In Matthew chapter 11 today, Jesus entirely supplants John the Baptist, who is sitting in jail at the moment. Poor John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus Christ. He bought people knowledge of the Messiah’s coming, as Jesus proclaimed John the Baptist is a prophet, as it was written:
“Behold, I send My messenger before your face, Who will prepare your way for you.”
John the Baptist life demonstrates extreme faith, humility and obedience. Biblically, both John and Jesus miraculous birth were predestined and revealed by an Angel. John was born first, and Jesus later.
Jesus preached that the time for preaching and prophets are done. He is bringing us final knowledge.
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Paul MccCarren, SJ captures this message as Jesus telling us now is the time to “take on the burden he carries, the hardship of turning to God’s desires rather than our own.”
Before my hand hit the keyboard this a.m. my paint brush etched out the above drawing. The Old Testament representing Knowledge and the New Testament capturing practice. Esau replaced by Jacob. John the Baptist replaced by Jesus. Esau and Jacob account replaced by John the Baptist and Jesus Account?
I am left feeling Jesus and YHWH perhaps do have a sense of Jovialty. I do not believe following the way prepared by John the Baptist, foreshadowed by the Old Testament, and bought to fruition by Jesus Christ presents us with a “light burden.”
Hidden within both text are linkages and foreshadowings that unravel one moment and disappear next. Everyday is a new canvas.
We are left in the present moment practicing the embodiment of our knowledge in our everyday actions.
The moral lessons in these two accounts are too many to draw out here except one: My first born son owes me a savory dinner!
Jesus Christ is my bodhisattva. Walking in his steps is filled with challenges, failures, and ever unfolding mystery. Everyday starts afresh with a blank slate for which I can live in the present moment relying on the knowledge of the past and the practice today of being aware of what is God’s will.
While it is true we will have our share of adversity and suffering here on earth, truly walking God’s path provides the ability to project calm, joy, and peace to others no matter what the circumstance. We do not have to wear suffering on our sleeves, we can carry that weight in prayer and with others when called to do so.
Have a beautiful and blessed day where ever you find yourself physically and spiritually today.