Pope Francis and Krill

It is like a movie, Indiana Jones and the raiders of the lost Ark, and subsequent movies or books that link religious history and mystical power to current evil men seeking that power to conquer the world.

In this real-life tragedy the religious split between three sects of Christianity are in the spotlight: the Roman Catholic Church, the Russian Orthodox Church, and the Ukraine Church. Putin has completely coopted the Russian Orthodox Church and utilized religious conservatism and nationalism to proclaim a moral, religious, and national agenda to invade Ukraine. His elevator speech includes defeating nazism, proclaiming no gay parades will come to Russia, and a call for national purity. Krill is completely by Putin’s side.

The Roman Catholic Church has been seeking unity with the Eastern Orthodox Churches (Ukraine and Russia) for several years now. Putin’s war has taken a path to unify the two eastern Churches by military conquest.

Pope Francis went directly to the Russian Embassy as well as had a direct video conference with Krill. He has condemned war publicly and called for war to stop. Like Popes before him, he has not named the aggressors, Russia or Putin by name.

The war on Ukraine has nothing to do with God or Christianity. Putin has used a thin veneer of religious, cultural, and geographical history to present a false mandate that he is conducting a national/holy military operation to save Russians being oppressed and killed by Nazi’s in Ukraine.

It is a month now of death, destruction, and a massive humanitarian crisis. No external voices are deterring Putin. Not the churches, not China or other Russian allies, or the Western alliances.

There is to my eye two spiritual themes that are evident from a Christological perspective. The first is more appealing to our sense of human responsibility and courage. Russians inside and outside Russia are condemning their own country. This is Christ-like – to be a revolutionary willing to be condemned, tortured, and killed by the establishment for a belief in a higher principle then Russian nationalism or Krillian Russian Orthodox Christianity silence or outright support and blessing of Putin. This is human responsibility at its finest. And for courage, the Ukraine people defense of their nation has created thousands of seen and unseen acts of heroism, compassion, and unbelievable faith.

The second theme is not popular or acceptable to our human spirit. When Christ accepted his fate to be given up by Judas, condemned, and crucified he disappointed the hopes of his followers by not rising to be a conquering messiah, a warrior, a king. Instead he was a suffering messiah, embracing suffering and death at the hands of his oppressors. His handling of oppression, suffering, and death from a Christological perspective taught Christians that somethings are more important then human life.

In our own hearts we all mostly believe this sentiment that somethings are more important then our own comfort, peace, tranquility, or even our own lives. We sacrifice and may even suffer for other people or for principles all the time. We embrace suffering as a necessary price when we have to for the greater good.

Christianity takes this suffering one step farther – it proclaims we embrace our suffering with and for our God, not for our own ego driven needs or long term material desires. In every tear drop of suffering and every unnecessary death is a spiritual opportunity to transform human tragedy into spiritual ascendency not only in real time, here and now, but in contemplation of eternal time.

I would fail as A Pope as I would call out Putin and Krill perhaps if I sat in the papal chair. All that would do is secure further splitting and put more Catholics at risk in these territories – it certainly would not deter Putin. Pope Francis has no authority over Putin or Krill, as neither accept his Papal authority and rightful ownership of head of the mystical church. Very similar to Nazi Germany failure of the church and the world – too little and too late response to Hitler.

I would also call out more vigorously the details of those suffering everyday, joining them in sorrows publicly, sharing on the meaning of suffering, and calling the world to share this burden. This would be largely unpopular and also not very beneficial unless wedded to a call for true sacrifice to help those suffering directly and meaningful global action to stop the war – not vague calls to action, but detailed support by every Catholic believer to protest, boycott, and take action at every-turn. Be a spiritual Zelensky. To be fair, our Pontiff is very old, but he has at his disposal many skilled orators that could carry the message with more pointed and consistent force of spirit.

Fortunately I am not the Pope. I would certainly bring the church beyond its calling and probably bankrupt it and cause great internal and external turmoil. Many accuse the current Pope of doing just that already – and he has only moved the needle of church reform a few degrees.

The answer to Ukraine is not one world leader, nation, or religion. It lies in the heart of soul of individuals like you being active, committed, persistent, and vigilant wherever you are today, to stand up for what is morally right and just.

NYT Article on Pope Francis response:

www.nytimes.com/2022/03/18/world/europe/pope-francis-ukraine-russia-war.html

First Fridays

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dominus vobiscum!

Forever Catholic

Reading some of my previous post one might draw a conclusion that I am anti-Catholicism and perhaps even sliding towards leaving the faith.

The truth is I will not leave Catholicism – unless an unmistakable divine revelation visited me with an alternative path. That does not mean Catholicism will not leave me or reject me for my dissenting voice regarding contemporary application of Christ teaching.

When one hears the word Catholicism they picture the Pope, the Vatican, and sadly a legacy of priest and Catholic institutions that falied to protect the people they served. All three of these entities, which essentially carry the doctrinal message from one generation to the next, are at the end of the day as fallible as the lay public that fills the church pews.

All Catholics comprise Catholicism and its ever reforming “one body” defies a clean definition at any given point in time. Take the divergent positions within the church hierarchy, the multi-cultural base of believers, and the mystery of the Holy Spirit as intermingled forces that define Catholicism. Catholicism is changing every second for two thousand years now.

My own personal objections and disillusionment with specific actions of the priestly caste, or doctrinal rigidity of the Curia, or hypocrisy of believers is not a reason to leave – but a reason to stay.

For dissenting voices to leave the faith would leave the faith increasingly isolated and perhaps tilt its spiritual evolution away from Christ-Centric teachings. Don’t let anyone tell you the church’s teachings are static and don’t change. The church has been changing every moment that passed since Christ death.  The changes that emerge over time are often driven by persistent ‘bottom currents” of this silent majority. Like oceanographers, we only have a minimal understanding of the currents that drive spiritual evolution and sentimental events in church history. We do not see what lay beneath the surface with great accuracy.

OCEAN 515 Ocean Circulation Observations

My influence alone is one tear drop in an ocean of hope and faith. The Catholic faith as a whole continues to evolve towards embracing a way of living that “God” would approve as genuinely holy and divinely inspired. The invisible Catholics (active and lapsed) that carry out the principles of the Beatitudes without the self-righteous proclamation of absolute moral authority are the accelerants for institutional changes in the church. Much as deep marine tidal currents contributions to tsunami events or overall ocean health, this silent majorities impact is steady overtime but barely seen in times of calm or crisis.  

You know genuine holiness when you see it. You can feel it radiate from the individual. You can see it in their humble and graceful actions all the time, in adversity and in good times. They are free somehow of judging others, of seeking validation or personal gain, and of becoming entangled in self-serving human desires for themselves or for other institutions.

You know it even quicker when the motivation is disingenuous or misguided. Sometimes we do not want to recognize it – as acknowledging disingenuous actions committed by our friends, family, church, or nation comes with a price. The greatest danger to Catholicism and humanity is when we ignore these “whispers or outright screams” by being silent or otherwise complicit.

I have bought these whispers forward to priest in different parishes. Sometimes I was on target with theologically driven content, other times the limits imposed on the church to put out there Catholic idealism as the bar, not watered down messages was clear. The same applies to political parties.

These days it is a good day for me when I can treat everyone I meet with kindness and love in my heart, without judgement for their circumstance, and without malice or impatience when their views or actions are opposed to my conceptions of what is right. Perhaps one person at a time, one blog post at a time, one prayer at a time, one tear drop at a time – I can alter the direction and the face of Catholicism to be more Christ like in action everyday, every moment. However the outcome is not mine to control – only the intent and the actions within my sphere of influence.

Pope Francis, as an example, is taking small steps within his sphere of influence, to change the direction of the church. Many of his actions are seen as anti-clericalism. That is a pure Christ like stance similar to Christ criticisms of the elite religious caste of his time. His newest reformation is aimed at the Curia. An article in American magazine is not hopeful about the obstacles the church faces at reform: https://www.americamagazine.org/id/newsletters. The results of our faiths stances on current issues impacts other institutions and peoples rights all over the world.

The Supreme Court is reviewing a case right now where Catholic Foster Care agencies are seeking access to a) being a foster care provider and b) ability to screen out LGBTQ foster parent applicants: www.nytimes.com/2021/06/05/opinion/Supreme-Court-LGBTQ-foster.html. LGBTQ young people represent 24 to 34 percent of children in the foster care system. Think about that for a moment. How can a Catholic foster care agency appropriately serve a third of the populace when the bulk of its clergy and staff are ill-equipped to fully grasp the complexity and incoherent teachings the church has on LGBTQ issues and their application? Or a firm grasp on the sociological and biological sciences in this area?

Imagine a 14 year old adolescent with LGBTQ identity in the system perhaps driven by his parents lack of acceptance of their child’s identity then placed with an agency that labels him/her morally disordered and as part of their screening process rules out a segment of potential foster care parents that would be best suited for this individual? It makes me wonder if the Catholic church should be seeking or accepting secular public tax dollars for the business of education, foster care, healthcare, and other social services agencies at all if there are legitimate non-religious entities above to use the public dollar to do the same? Should not our aim be truly spiritual and in the community at large, amorphous in action, winning converts by attraction – rather then controlling access and provision of specific tax funded services agencies?

The reality is Catholicism falls short being Catholic. We are imperfect messengers of a faith and must do better, not by fiat, but by internal church reformation, individual internal spiritual maturity, and modeling true Christian actions without expectation of others to do the same. Our history of “good works” as institutional agencies is equally filled with works of beauty as it is with works marred by faulty application of church theology imposed on service users or actual outright abuse and criminal activities.

My Rose jungle is infested with Trumpet Vine
++

Our Pope and the visible church hierarchy are hedged in by thousands of years of traditions and deeply imbedded interpretations. These interpretations contain beautiful roses of spiritual truth and weeds of mistruths. Telling them apart is tedious as they are centuries old and embedded. Any attempt at change is often seen as a threat to Catholicism itself (Budworms for example) rather then natural self-correction (pruning), and when necessary nutrients and extra care when the spirit is in crisis (fertilizer or other gardening interventions). The integrity of the church itself is threatened by how to prune its traditions and evolve without losing its Christ-Centric identity.

It is a humbling and treacherous task for a human institution filled with toxic religous camps and influenced in an outsized manner by financial and political influencers. My opinion is the church must withdraw from its overextensions in many areas of public debate as well as withdraw from controlling all and being overtly involved in the secular disputes of the day.

Big Things in Small Churches – First Church of God Panama City

The church must downsize theologically, financially, politically, and as an institution (clerically). Our own house must address the theological and practical incoherencies where our clergy and our believers are in a state of constant hypocrisy. Where we are doing harm to people “not like us” we must withdraw our self-righteousness and look deeply inside our own house first for spiritual reckoning and renewal.

This requires for the institution and for each of us an active process to pivot or lean into a change process. It does not mean withdrawing from social justice issues or acts of good faith. It does mean revising our purpose to be closer to our core like values, increase our ability to embrace change (have options to redress institutional error), and proactivity in our personal and collective spiritual lives.

What the hell does this all mean? What do we need to do now? We often as Catholics mention pray in times of crisis, humility, and action. Catholicism does not have the absolute answers for today’s problems. Here is some of what I try to practice (very imperfectly):

Pray: Before acting seek out spiritual grounding. Easier said then done as prayer comes in many forms: known prays, readings, conversations, meditation, seeking true understanding of the depth of the problem, spiritual discernment on what our role and sphere of influence is, and requesting our higher powers assistance with finding the right path forward. Perhaps these four basic forms of prayer capture intentional purpose of prayer time for Catholics: https://www.cathedralstm.org/about-our-catholic-faith/expressing-our-faith/four-basic-forms-prayer/

Humility: We may not have the answer(s) and should own that outright. We do not own the market on understanding and explaining human suffering and misery, human behavior, and divine providence. We have individual experience and personal knowledge as to how we have faced troubling issues and perhaps we have additional expertise in some areas (solution-based recommendations that are evidence driven) that may be offered as suggestions.

15 Customer Service Skills & How to Improve (Step-by-Step)

Action: After proper application of Prayer and Humility we maybe in the position to act personally. What is our intent of acting and are we the best person to act on any given task. Will our actions help not only the immediate issue but support long term change. Are our actions driven by what is best for everybody or negatively influenced by our own desires for personal gain (hero pride, personal wealth or status acquisition, intellectual or spiritual self-righteousness). You may be surprised where the spirit takes you if you follow it.

Missionary Opportunities - archden.org

Tribute to Rush Limbaugh?

I remember President Trump being unable or unwilling to address gracefully the deaths of political foes or deaths that were inconvenient politically. Others before him did a better job on the national stage. Most of us can take off our fighting gloves when death visits us, even if only for momentary pause, a recognition of a fellow humans light being blown out for the last time.

My Aunt Gertrude many years ago listened to Rush everyday. He painted a worldview that protected her beliefs and identity as the rest of the world was moving away. It gave her peace and perhaps took off the edge of loneliness as an elderly person living in her suburban home alone in Nassau county.


Rush, thank you for providing her security as the world changed. I am confident that within your bio there once was an innocent political passion to be the vanguard of honorable Republican idealism and maybe even embers of that idealism during your waning days. Another opinion piece today gave you credit for building a very profitable and powerful conservative empire catering to all the Aunt Gertrudes nationally and new republicans in the 80s, 90s, and even today. The author also said your vision and that of several like you has ended in ashes. He said so respectfully.


I want to thank you for giving me a point on my first time ever playing in a Deadpool game. When invited to play this 2021 gambling pool to pick ten celebrities that will pass in 2021, I fondly picked you. Don’t get all ideological on me.

I also have Jimmy Carter on my list, who I didn’t like as President, but adore for his post Presidency life. My list has both heroes and villains, non-discriminatory picking from the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (my team name). You and God will sort out where you fit now.


Perhaps I was a little discriminating with my list of ten. I outright could not put Pope Francis on my list both for my admiration for his Jesuit principles and for fear of being struct with great misfortune if I did!

Where does this all fit with Christian thought on sin, forgiveness, and divine Providence? For the first time now, Rush may indeed know more now than any of us who remain here toiling in human mediocrity striving for spiritual perfection.


And yes gamblers out there, there is even a pool for who will die next. Check out stiffs.com. Don’t mock me, you probably have bought life insurance before or know someone who owns a policy that may benefit you!

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

USCCB Idiocy

I penned a letter to The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops just now making the same mistake they made with their penned Inauguration Day letter. If you read the Bishops letter you would immediately note it missed the beauty of the inauguration, the many Catholic aspects and values presented, and its inconsistency with Pope Francis message as well. My error was writing my concerns at all to their media office. My words were not well thought out or prayed on, though I think my discernment with intent was on target, my words were far from kind or gentle. Here is what I wrote:

“Dear USCCB;  Once again the usccb.org has devalued Catholics, the usccb.org, and the teachings of Jesus Christ by the issuance of the inauguration statement that was so clearly political and beneath the office of the Bishops.  Handed a gift on that day, the conference chose to pen a letter of further division.  Church  authorities continue to make it difficult to defend the faith and truly be the light we seek to represent.  Reprehensible and reactive action  – ill-timed and selfishly released by usccb.  The ever shrinking Catholic lay public continues to lose confidence in the usccb as its leadership continues to thrive on being the news rather than being the solution.  No humility.  No discernment.  Why I am I writing a letter to express my discontent I do not know.  I have no expectation of the usccb.org to be able to set the horizon of ideal Catholic values and social teaching without itself becoming muddied in acrimony, division, and greed (for status, power, money, and positioning within the church).  I start my day with readings from usccb.  At the moment, I am very saddened and want to walk away from the usccb.  I want to cancel my direct debit weekly contributions.  I want to encourage others to leave.  That is not what I will do, but others will, thanks to the shortsightedness of that penned hypocritical letter.   Our nation has been through so much under the former administration – not to mention the rush to execute people on the way out the door, that to see this petty response is just plain idiocy and self-aggrandizing behavior, not the word of God being expressed by humble servants.”

Conquest Opportunity

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:

  1. Reality (Opulence versus loss of human dignity)
  2. Generation of Justice (Everyday is a conquest opportunity for everyone)
  3. Unconditional Commitment versus a culture of indifference
  4. History as a guiding Axis
  5. Be God’s people, not God’s elite
  6. 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.

Celibacy

I just read Pope Francis ruled against married priest in the Amazon. This decision is not what I would say is covered by “Papal Infallibility” definitions. The article below admits as much as the Catholic Church has granted exceptions in the past. If any Pope would have allowed married priest or women clergy it would be Pope Francis. He is guided though by church history, church traditions, and a serious counterweight of the conservative Wing of the Catholic Church. Pope Francis appointed Cardinal Robert Sarah as prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments. Cardinal Robert Sarah is a strong advocate of traditional and conservative church traditions. I have read some of his works, and while I may disagree with parts of his conclusions, he hammers home the dangers of relativism.

In this instance I fear Pope Francis has out of weariness and pragmatism ruled against married priest and increased the Catholic Church’s irreverence in the world. Secular society and believers cannot accept blatant hypocrisy. If you have exceptions you cannot at the same time claim it is sacrosanct.

So what is the pragmatism? Pope Francis recognizes the church is deeply divided on this issue and has effectively pushed the controversy down the road apiece. There is also church administration obstacles like salaries and healthcare do not support a family in the Catholic Church. Than there is the prospect of further controversy should a priest marriage fall apart or other issues that plague families detract from his priesthood.

Do these outweigh priesthood shortage, the church sex abuse history, and the rate of depression and loneliness that priest suffer?

I have sidestepped the theological argument as it is too dense to capture here. Suffice it to say that by granting exceptions you undermine the position that married priest is an absolute no.

I propose a hybrid approach for now. Allow it with a glass ceiling. The higher calling is total dedication and celibacy. Leave it up to parishes and communities to find a balance?

Too clever by half: Shrewd but flawed by overthinking or excessive complexity, with a resulting tendency to be unreliable or unsuccessful.”

How often do we tread into waters beyond our expertise, consume a thimble size grain of knowledge, and proclaim with assurance what is right? Or equally as dangerous accept blindly ideology or beliefs without discernment and individual responsibility?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/pope-francis-wont-allow-married-priests-in-the-amazon-but-in-this-part-of-the-world-married-priests-are-the-norm/2020/02/13/693d30be-4dc2-11ea-967b-e074d302c7d4_story.html

Impeachment

It is difficult to apply spiritual principles to our civic responsibilities. A common refrain from many believers is to cast off politics or ignore when the party that they support historically loses its way.

Pope Francis recently discussed teaching the faithful discernment when it comes to voting. He stated it is our responsibility to get beyond the superficial and be intellectually informed and honest. As an example he bought up Administration reform. Most of us are in this world and active in civic life and social networks. Very few have the calling of a cloistered life. What to do? Impeachment has riled our nation and our politicians and vast amount of Americans are dug in not on principals, but on party identity, self-interest, and pride.

I believe Donald Trump is bad for our nation and for our brothers and sisters internationally. I believe on this on spiritual, moral, ethical, and political grounds. I also believe he has committed impeachable actions and the Republican Party has the minimum responsibility of seeking evidence to clear him and present it to the public. Whether or not the democrats could of waited for court processes is secondary now. I am not for impeachment – I am for full disclosure to have transparency and ensure our system of democracy retains checks and balance. These are my beliefs having scoured multiple sources of many months within and outside my wheelhouse of comfortability. Other Christians have stepped up to the plate on Donald Trump. Historically Christians have stepped up on social justice issues and faced severe consequences from alienation from fellow Christians to martyrdom including death by horrible means.

Should you join my view. Absolutely not. My morning reading at Jesuits prayer inspired this post. We have a responsibility to be informed, discerning, and vocal. We must choose sides when it is uncomfortable. That is your spiritual and civic responsibility.

Doing so with humility, passion balanced with being dispassionate, and intellectual honesty is a great challenge. I leave you with the challenge to not be neutral, to get uncomfortable by getting outside your wheelhouse to be informed, and than to decide with discernment on what is right.

Prayer

“We must take sides.  Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.  Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.  Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant.  Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion or political views, that place must- at that moment- become the center of the universe. “

Lord, hear our prayer.  Amen.

Lord, hear our prayer.  Amen.

Elie Wiesel (1928-2016), professor, writer, Nobel peace prize winner, humanitarian, activist and Holocaust survivor

Confrontation with thy neighbor?

It has come to an epic confrontation for all American Catholics and Christians. Politicians, families, friends, religious affiliations, and work associations once in comfortable silos have been shattered by a crisis of conscience over immigration.  They have to face each other across the divide of rich and poor, red or blue, pro-Trump or not.

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There is real fear out there for the American middle class.  We cannot deny that global poverty is driving a refugee crisis across the globe. Still we need the labor force as well, both skilled and unskilled:

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Unfortunately our nation wants the labor without the responsibility.  These are complicated issues.  The above caption could be mistaken for drugs being sold over the border or for our demand for cheap labor.  America demands both from our southern neighbors.  Right now Delaware is short workers for our Crab industry.

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However, for Catholics and Christians it is not complicated.  We do not have that luxury for an excuse to be overwhelmed by complexities.  There is a moral issue here that we are well-versed in defending – Right to Life.

“There are no single-issue saints.”

Charles Camosy, a theology professor at Fordham University, presents the case for Right to Life supporters to stand up against the inhumane treatment of refugees seeking asylum and their children:  “https://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2018/06/22/pro-life-groups-have-obligation-call-out-trump-immigration.”  We cannot remain silent on immigration while claiming to be pro-life.  Charles makes a detailed case above on this so let’s focus on immigration.

Prior to Donald Trumps 2000 dollar a day per child tender age shelter system, some of us were comfortable being arm-chair politicians, flag wavers, moral voices, fiscal hawks, healthcare advocates, and various other forms of prognosticators. Yes, Red and Blue clashed and dug in on various issues with vigor and hubris. And yes Red and Blue alike took hypocritical stances on practically every issue.  This issue below has risen above that standard to our government being the actors committing the separation of children and parents and then trying to deny responsibility.

Today we have a President who is blaming the democrats for lack of a comprehensive immigration reform policy when the GOP defeated bi-partisan compromise bills under Bush and Obama Administrations and recently told congress to not bother trying until after November. Wait for the red wave as 1800 of 2300 children remain separated from their parents. His followers and supporters are looking for cover under any rock: blame Obama, blame Clinton, blame Mexico, blame judges, blame democrats, blame South America, blame mothers with children fleeing violence, blame M3, and anything that will divert from a Stephen Miller idea to up the ante on immigration by changing strategy and separate children from their parents.  This cannot go on.

So it is with a heavy heart that I write to democrats, republicans, family, friends, and anyone who reads this article to oppose the current administrations stance towards our southern neighbors.  I do not ask you to oppose Trump, or strong borders, or comprehensive immigration policy.

I ask you to not be silent on the practice of separating children from parents and to denounce the politics of hate and deceit by any party or elected politician.  Camosy spoke out, and despite his Catholic “pedigree”, was attacked by fellow Catholics and Evangelical Christians.  He is aware that this is required of him, to stand-fast for the truth.  You too may have to risk leaving the comfortable bubble of Trumpian identity politics just on this one issue.

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Our first fight is with each other on the sole narrow issue of is it wrong to separate children from their parents in the vast numbers and manner conducted by this administration.

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Our second fight is with government on passing a comprehensive immigration bill that is based on real numbers, economic needs of our country, safety, and Christian compassion.

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Our third fight extends past our borders into the geopolitical reality of world poverty and violence that is driving the immigration crisis world-wide.  Donald Trump is not our fight, as he has said he inherited this issue.  He does not have the staff around him to develop and create a reasonable and compassionate solution.

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The Tempation of Jesus in the Desert · “The Human Temptations of Our Divine Lord”

Ultimately we all have a confrontation in front of us that looms much larger:  A confrontation with Christ and God the almighty.  As Jesus had to fight off Satan we must fight off evil in our midst as well and confront it when it is uncomfortable to do so.

It is not at our deathbed where we have this confrontation but in the million decisions we make before we get there.  This confrontation supersedes all of the previous confrontations above – though each of those are important.  Without love for our neighbor in the midst of a national crisis we will only perpetuate the culture of hate and division.  I may not reach you in this issue.  Yet I recognize inside you a person to be loved who shares the suffering of every sojourner on this earth with me.  I am not free of error or obstinancy myself.  May the Holy Spirit guide me and our Nation to do the right thing.

We must confront the policy – not the people.  We must not accept distraction and obfuscation.

The refugee crisis is larger than we can fathom in the long run.  Vilifying the desperate will not solve our dilemma.  I could quote bible scripture here – but do not need to present that to this audience.  If you are Christian you know our roots as immigrants and Christ teachings.  If you are not Christian, presumably you have read this far as you have a conscience and are curious how a nation of Christians can support such a stance.   The answer is we cannot without compromising our faith:

“The pope, who has placed the issues facing migrants at the center of his papacy, also stepped into the issue, saying in an interview with the Reuters news agency that he agreed with statements by U.S. Catholic bishops, who called the separations “immoral” and “contrary to our Catholic values.” He added that “populism” and “creating psychosis” are not the way to resolve migration problems.

In this policy we create the action and the separation.  We tore children away from their parents.  Sometimes we try to impose laws for the good of others (i.e. abortion for the unborn and those who perform or choose an abortion) even though (I hope) we are not or have been in the position to consider this action.  In this case we are fighting for a law against what we do as a nation – not what others might do.  We are responsible.

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This is our mugshot together.  

We cannot remain divided.  I have heard people ask what would Jesus do?  Or could we in all honesty defend this policy with a “Christ stamp of approval.”  If you are not Christian, can you stamp this policy as being humane?

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Please write your representatives with prudence and compassion, especially if you are republican.  The party in power needs to hear from there base.  They do not fear democrats – they fear Donald Trump’s core base.  Without them they have seats in jeopardy.  Be there for them in November but be there for the immigrant children today.  Of course Democrats and independents you cannot idly watch and not act as well.  Our hands are as dirty as the rest – if not more so – who am I too judge?

A letter from the heart is best.  However, if you are not the letter writing type here is a sample:  https://ignatiansolidarity.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Sample-Letter-to-Congress-Immigration.pdf.

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Perhaps e-mailing is more expeditious? Find your representative here:  https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative.

Godspeed that this read may move you to advocate for the defenseless children at our southern border (while maintaining your political ideology).  No images of children or mass refuges behind Nazi concentration camp fences in this post – just a direct appeal to your sense of humanity for families fleeing one horror and finding themselves in another at our southern border.

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“We are now witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record.  An unprecedented 68.5 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 25.4 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.  There are also an estimated 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement.”   UNHCR

Think we have our unfairshare?

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Radical Transformation: Part VII

 

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Blessed Are the Peacemakers:
(Chapter 13: Transformation in Christ by Dietrich Van Hildebrand)

“It is a specific stigma of abysmal separation from God to maintain a quarrelsome and cantankerous attitude, a morbid delight in conflicts and bickering, a perverse pleasure derived from disharmony.”

This is certainly a danger for every devout Christian who aspires to live a holy life and actively acts on their “hunger for thirst” for justice through advocacy, testimony, and other good deeds. At once by simply being in proximity to others who do not hold these values you are an anathema to their comfort level and perhaps even seen as a hostile threat to their well-deserved position in life. Pope Francis today, for example, has tread on secular ground of immigration, environment, capitalism, healthcare, and dignity of life issues that have threatened the Catholic Churches coziness with western democracies.

At the same time he has threatened the comfort sanctuaries of many conservative Catholics with his embracing theology of love and mercy. Truly Christian living has a higher cost than many lay Catholics are willing to expand both personally and politically with policies that protect and value all human life. Should he have remained quiet on more controversial issues? Resoundingly no! However, I cannot detect in his words and deeds any sense of a quarrelsome and cantankerous attitude. Nor do I see him embracing discord or disharmony. Despite his popular appeal he is ensnared in controversy from within and without.

It is hard to see how we can effectively be “Peacemakers” in a secular world that increasingly rejects our beliefs, persecutes our church, and commits countless acts of physical injury and soul-damaging indecencies, often in the name of nationalism or even God’s name himself. And yet we are called to do so.

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Where do we begin? Dietrich again has a manual for life in this chapter that immediately slaps those living in comfortable denial in the face (gently) and those prone to individual error a road map of human obstacles that thwart our spiritual progression in this area. Take this maxim:

“Those that are content in this world are the farthest from God.”

How could we be content living in a world that perpetuates and celebrates sin and avarice in many variations? How could we be content when within a stone’s throw of where our feet are planted in all probability is a human being suffering from some form of spiritual or human driven alienation?

Dietrich pounds at us with the challenge to recognize our “true metaphysical situation” and the radical change owing to the Redemption. However, it is only possible if we have the right response to the life and ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross to live our lives as he would live his life if he were here today.

Peacemaking starts with one’s interior attitude and works its way out. You cannot give what you do not have. What you do have cannot sustain personal injury and suffering if it is not well nourished and defended.
How do we bolster inner peace? Issue by issue Dietrich explores the venom of “hatred, vindictiveness, envy, and jealousy.” He delves into personal challenges of depression, anxiety, agitation, great excitement, fear, sorrow, and intense personal injury suffered unfairly by the acts of others. Who among us has not tasted the “leaden tinge of disharmony” resulting from personal tragedy.

The great secret of human suffering is unveiled in this chapter. Living a holy life will not remove me from experiencing pain, misery, humiliation and may even increase my share of this bitter reality. However, living a holy life can increase my inner peace when confronted with unwanted maladies of any size and transform them into opportunities to carry my cross in quiet acceptance of my divine providence:
Here is, in a word, resignation to God’s will – a thing impossible except as a response to the concept of the universe that is conveyed by to us by Christian Revelation. It does not dissolve suffering, but it transfigured suffering and removes from it that sting which threatens to destroy our inward peace.”

Aspiring to partner with God through living a prayer filled and contemplative life provides us with the necessary basis to confront evil, suffering, and tragedy within our own lives and the lives of others. As Dietrich says it, “Inner peace engenders outward concord.”  And on being mentally prepared:

“A true warrior of Christ is firmly established in the Absolute. He conducts his actions sovereignly from an irremovable point of vantage, against which all poisoned arrows sent by his adversaries prove powerless.”

We may not recognize the greater mystery of this wisdom when we feel arrows have pierced our heart. The other day I had set up everything to power wash my roof. Ladders, hose, cleaner, and time. The power button failed to elicit any response. I was highly dissatisfied, but gave up for the day. That same night my wife noticed that our roof had a leak. If not for the broken power washer I can assuredly say I would have made that leak worse and been blamed for destroying our roof with a power washer! Sometimes a denied desire (to wash the damn roof) is a good thing even though we may never know why.

Dietrich finishes with our calling to not only live with internal peace but to also be peacemakers. He provides an example of St. Francis of Assisi resolving a conflict between two clergy while on his death-bed with two new strophes of Canticle of the Son.
We are called to not be passive in being peacemakers. But we are also called to not be quarrelsome and cantankerous!

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