Sunday, October 23, 2016

Maturity in faith and knowledge comes through forgiveness and mercy

This meditation came after participating at the memorial mass of St Pope John Paul II, Saturday morning October 22. 

Maturity is a growing in faith and knowledge of, in, and by Jesus Christ so to loosen our grip on our offenses, thus allowing ourselves to being open to being forgiven, so that we can then become fully alive and agents of that same forgiveness and mercy. This is not an act an individual takes up, rather it is an act of entering into communion and unity with … everyone.

Saturday Oct 22, 2016 - Memorial of St. Pope John Paul II
First Reading - Ephesians 4:7-16
Brothers and sisters: Grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore, it says: He ascended on high and took prisoners captive; he gave gifts to men.
What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended into the lower regions of the earth? The one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things. And he gave some as Apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the Body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood to the extent of the full stature of Christ, so that we may no longer be infants, tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery, from their cunning in the interests of deceitful scheming. Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole Body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the Body’s growth and builds itself up in love.

My meditation: He ascended with those prisoners of sin (those bound up in and by the rule of death) and he gave them gifts of being Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, so to help us journey to fullness of life, maturing in faith and knowledge so to not be always tossed about by death and every wind or scheme that comes along.

Prayer over the Offerings
Grant our supplication, we pray, O Lord that the sacrifice we present on the feast day of blessed John Paul the Second may be for our good, since through its offering you have loosed the offenses of all the world.

My meditation: loosed the offenses of the world” – what does that mean and how do we participate in loosening – letting go of – unhooking ourselves from our offenses and how do we participate in the mission of forgiveness? We first need to be open to receiving forgiveness and reconciliation. First what is this experience of forgiveness and how do we allow ourselves to be open to the experience?  We begin with a recognition of needing to be forgiven.

Click here to view a video "Being Forgiven" on the unsettling feeling of undergoing the experience of being forgiven which is the first step in becoming an agent of forgiveness and mercy.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Introspection: Rather than finding autonomy, it is finding the other

Mimetic theory contradicts the thesis of human autonomy. It tends to relativize the very possibility of introspection: going into oneself always means finding the other, the mediator, the person who orients my desires without my being aware of it.
-Rene Girard, Battling to the End, p.10  
Introspection, rather than finding autonomy, is finding the other.  So, introspection is the exploration into the question, which other will you find?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Thomas Merton - Everything Done as Prayer or it Turns to Ashes

Everything I do, reading, study, writing, etc., simply must be done in such a way that it is prayer and preparation for prayer. That means first of all not doing it to satisfy my voracious appetite to know, to enjoy, to achieve things, to get tangible results and taste the immediate reward of my own efforts because, if that is what leads me, everything turns to ashes as soon as I touch it.

~ Thomas Merton, Entering the Silence: Becoming a Monk and a Writer (The Journals of Thomas Merton Book 2)

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Thomas Merton on Spiritual Direction and the Holy Spirit

Come Holy Spirit.

Today is Pentecost Sunday and what better day to comment on the benefits of spiritual direction. 

In his little book called Spiritual Direction and Meditation, Thomas Merton describes what he means by spiritual direction.

He calls it “a continuous process of formation and guidance, in which Christians are led and encouraged (in all of our special vocations), so that by faithful correspondence to the graces of the Holy Spirit, we may attain to the particular end of our vocation and to union with God.” Spiritual direction is not merely ethical, social or psychological, it is going beyond.

The spiritual director focuses on the life of the whole person, not merely the life of the mind or of the heart. According to Merton, the purpose of spiritual direction is to penetrate beneath the surface of our lives, to get behind the ‘self’ that we project to the world, and to evoke our interdividuality, our interconnectedness, moving us in the direction of holiness – which is the likeness of Christ in us.

The function of the spiritual director is to create a space for the Holy Spirit to help us discern what is truly spiritual in us. Part of this function is to help us discern the movements of our desires, the spirits swirling around in us, to help us sort out which inspirations come from the spirit of evil and which from the Holy Spirit.

Another part of this function is to enable us to recognize and follow the inspirations of the Holy Spirit in everyday life. A spiritual director creates an informal, trusting atmosphere in which a person can feel known and understood. Spiritual direction is necessarily personal and yet ever linked to the beyond.

How can we best take advantage of spiritual direction? “The first thing that genuine spiritual direction requires in order to work properly is a normal, spontaneous human relationship. We must not suppose that it is somehow ‘not supernatural’ to open ourselves easily to a director and converse with him or her in an atmosphere of pleasant and easy familiarity. This aids the work of grace: another example of grace building on nature.”

We need to bring the director into contact with our energy, with our real desires, as best we can, fearing not that nearly every effort we make to talk about our desires is couched or masked to please rather than to reveal. Being prayerful and open in the session with the director and the Holy Spirit brings us to a relaxed, humble attitude in which we let go of ourselves, and renounce our unconscious efforts to maintain a facade.  Merton explains that “often we ourselves do not know what we ‘really want’.” This gets to the key of what spiritual direction is about: the director is facilitating a space with the Holy Spirit to bring to light our inner spirit, “not as we are in the eyes of men, or even as we are in our own eyes, but as we are in the eyes of God.”  

“Direction will school us in being true to ourselves and true to the grace of God.”

In closing Merton asks how many vocations (religious and other) would be more secure if everyone could navigate the waters of life with the assistance of a good spiritual director.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Christian Leadership or Rather Building Up Saints

It is not the proper duty of Christianity to form leaders - that is, builders of the temporal - although a legion of Christian leaders is infinitely desirable. Christianity must generate saints - that is, witnesses to the eternal.
The efficacy of the saint is not that of the leader. The saint does not have to bring about great temporal achievements; he [or she] is one who succeeds in giving us at least a glimpse of eternity, despite the thick opacity of time. - Father Henri de Lubac, S.J.*

*pg 102; By Little And By Little: The Selected Writings of Dorothy Day Edited by Robert Ellsberg

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Where Violence is Born - David Cayley's 2 series on René Girard

In Part One of David Cayley's series, The Ideas of René Girard he says: "According to French thinker René Girard, human beings copy each other's desires and are in perpetual conflict with one another over the objects of our desire. In early human communities, this conflict created a permanent threat of violence and forced our ancestors to find a way to unify themselves. They chose a victim, a scapegoat against whom the community could unite. Biblical religion, according to Girard, has attempted to overcome this historic plight. From the unjust murder of Abel by his brother Cain to the crucifixion of Christ, the Bible reveals the innocence of the victim. It is on this revelation that modern society unquietly rests."

Listen to the podcasts below:
Part One
Part Two

Another excellent five-part radio documentary series made by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), IDEAS producer David Cayley introduces the thought of Rene Girard on the Scapegoat. The programs feature interviews with Rene Girard, Paul Dumouchel, Jean-Michel Oughourlian and James Alison.

"Girard has demonstrated how the Gospel has definitively unveiled the Scapegoat Mechanism - the sacrificial system on which human society has been based. A system which demands the sacrifice of innocent victims. Now that it has been demystified, however, it has lost its ability to control human violence. This now presents humanity with a stark choice: either perish through increasingly uncontrollable violence or build a society based on love."

Program 1: Violence in Human Societies and How Religion Controls Violence Through Sacrifice.

The Scapegoat: René Girard's Anthropology of Violence and Religion

Program 2: The Breakdown of Sacrifice in the Ancient World and the Emergence of a New Approach to Social Order in the Hebrew Bible

The Scapegoat: René Girard's Anthopology of Violence and Religion Part Two

Program 3: The Gospel as an Intellectual Breakthrough in Human Culture The Definitive Revelation of the Scapegoat Mechanism.

Program 4: The Innocence of the Victim: The Hidden Spell of Satan in the Scapegoat Mechanism Broken

Program 5: Christianity: The Invisible Foundation of the Modern World A Christian Response to the Enlightenment, Nietzsche and Modern 'Political Correctness'

Bishop Barron explains how RENÉ GIRARD shakes your world

Bishop Barron has reviewed and written on René Girard numerous times click on this link, and here he provides a strong case for how Girard's thought came to shake the world of many, including myself. View 'Bishop Barron on René Girard' video at the bottom of the article.

René Girard, one of the most influential Catholic philosophers in the world, died last week at the age of 91. Born in Avignon and a member of the illustrious Academie Francaise, Girard nevertheless made his academic reputation in the United States, as a professor at Indiana University, Johns Hopkins University, and Stanford University.
There are some thinkers that offer intriguing ideas and proposals, and there is a tiny handful of thinkers that manage to shake your world. Girard was in this second camp. In a series of books and articles, written across several decades, he proposed a social theory of extraordinary explanatory power. Drawing inspiration from some of the greatest literary masters of the West—Dostoevsky, Shakespeare, Proust among others—Girard opined that desire is both mimetic and triangular. He meant that we rarely desire objects straightforwardly; rather, we desire them because others desire them: as we imitate (mimesis) another’s desire, we establish a triangulation between self, other, and object. If this sounds too rarefied, think of the manner in which practically all of advertising works: I come to want those gym shoes, not because of their intrinsic value, but because the hottest NBA star wants them. Now what mimetic desire leads to, almost inevitably, is conflict. If you want to see this dynamic in the concrete, watch what happens when toddler A imitates the desire of toddler B for the same toy, or when dictator A mimics the desire of dictator B for the same route of access to the sea. 
The tension that arises from mimetic desire is dealt with through what Girard called the scapegoating mechanism. A society, large or small, that finds itself in conflict comes together through a common act of blaming an individual or group purportedly responsible for the conflict. So for instance, a group of people in a coffee klatch will speak in an anodyne way for a time, but in relatively short order, they will commence to gossip, and they will find, customarily, a real fellow feeling in the process. What they are accomplishing, on Girard’s reading, is a discharging of the tension of their mimetic rivalry onto a third party. The same dynamic obtains among intellectuals. When I was doing my post-graduate study, I heard the decidedly Girardian remark: “the only thing that two academics can agree upon is how poor the work of a third academic is!” Hitler was one of the shrewdest manipulators of the scapegoating mechanism. He brought the deeply divided German nation of the 1930’s together precisely by assigning the Jews as a scapegoat for the country’s economic, political, and cultural woes. Watch a video of one of the Nuremberg rallies of the mid-thirties to see the Girardian theory on vivid display.
Now precisely because this mechanism produces a kind of peace, however ersatz and unstable, it has been revered by the great mythologies and religions of the world and interpreted as something that God or the gods smile upon. Perhaps the most ingenious aspect of Girard’s theorizing is his identification of this tendency. In the founding myths of most societies, we find some act of primal violence that actually establishes the order of the community, and in the rituals of those societies, we discover a repeated acting out of the original scapegoating. For a literary presentation of this ritualization of society-creating violence, look no further than Shirley Jackson’s masterpiece “The Lottery.”  
The main features of this theory were in place when Girard turned for the first time in a serious way to the Christian Scriptures. What he found astonished him and changed his life. He discovered that the Bible knew all about mimetic desire and scapegoating violence but it also contained something altogether new, namely, the de-sacralizing of the process that is revered in all of the myths and religions of the world. The crucifixion of Jesus is a classic instance of the old pattern. It is utterly consistent with the Girardian theory that Caiaphas, the leading religious figure of the time, could say to his colleagues, “Is it not better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to perish?” In any other religious context, this sort of rationalization would be valorized. But in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, this stunning truth is revealed: God is not on the side of the scapegoaters but rather on the side of the scapegoated victim. The true God in fact does not sanction a community created through violence; rather, he sanctions what Jesus called the Kingdom of God, a society grounded in forgiveness, love, and identification with the victim. Once Girard saw this pattern, he found it everywhere in the Gospels and in Christian literature. For a particularly clear example of the unveiling process, take a hard look at the story of the woman caught in adultery.
In the second half of the twentieth century, academics tended to characterize Christianity—if they took it seriously at all—as one more iteration of the mythic story that can be found in practically every culture. From the Epic of Gilgamesh to Star Wars, the “mono-myth,” to use Joseph Campbell’s formula, is told over and again. What Girard saw was that this tired theorizing has it precisely wrong. In point of fact, Christianity is the revelation (the unveiling) of what the myths want to veil; it is the deconstruction of the mono-myth, not a reiteration of it—which is exactly why so many within academe want to domesticate and de-fang it. 
The recovery of Christianity as revelation, as an unmasking of what all the other religions are saying, is René Girard’s permanent and unsettling contribution.