Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Peace and Truth - The Peace that Convicts Us of Our Lies

The one symbol most often identified with Jesus and his Church is the cross. Today we celebrate The Exaltation of the Holy Cross. The cross is a sign of suffering, a sign of human cruelty at its worst. But by Christ’s love shown in the Paschal Mystery, it has become the sign of triumph and victory, the sign of God, who is love itself. Pope Benedict XVI wrote: "In one respect the cross does have a terrible aspect that we ought not to remove... To see that the purest of men, who was more than a man, was executed in such a grisly way can make us frightened of ourselves. But we also need to be frightened of ourselves and out of our self-complacency. Here, I think, Luther was right when he said that man must first be frightened of himself so that he can then find the right way. However, the cross doesn't stop at being a horror... because the one who looks down on us from the cross is not a failure, a desperate man, not one of the horrible victims of humanity. For this crucified man says something different from Spartacus and his failed adherents, because, after all, what looks down at us from the cross is a goodness that enables a new beginning in the midst of life's horror." As my friend, Gil Bailie surmises that if you or I were on the cross, looking down at our persecutors, we would have seen ravenous wolves. Jesus looks down and see lost sheep. In this 'difference' of looks - (1) the apparent peace we grasp at by expelling our enemies versus (2) the look of Real Truth and Goodness, is revealed the grace of His Peace. Pope Benedict XVI continues:
Peace convicts us of our lies. It brings us out of our comfortable indifference into the struggle and pain of the truth. And it is only thus that true peace can come into being, in place of the apparent peace, beneath which lie the hidden hypocrisy and all kinds of conflict. Truth is worth pain and even conflict. I may not just accept a lie in order to have quiet. For it is not the first duty of a citizen, or of a Christian, to seek quiet; but rather it is that standing fast by what is noble and great, which is what Christ has given us and which can reach as far as suffering, as far as a struggle that ends in martyrdom - and exactly in that way of peace. Christ embodies the great and undiluted loving-kindness of God. He comes to help us bear the load. He does not do this simply by taking away from us the pain of being human; that remains heavy enough. But we are no longer carrying it on our own; he is carrying it with us. Christ has nothing to do with comfort, with banality, yet we find in him that inner calm that comes from knowing that we are being supported by an ultimate kindness and an ultimate security. We see that the entire structure of the message of Jesus is full of tension; it is an enormous challenge. Its nature is such that it always has to do with the Cross. Anyone who is not ready to get burned, who is not at least willing for it to happen, will not come near. But we can always be sure that it is there that we will meet true lovingkindness, which helps us, which accepts us - and which does not merely mean well toward us, but which will in fact ensure that all things go well with us.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Founding Fathers' Vision for Independence Day

The following Independence Day meditation is from The Magnificat by Anne Husted Burleigh, author and scholar on John Adams.

"In God’s plan of history—that mysterious drama that unites God’s providential care with our freedom –there are particular moments that reveal with glittering clarity that God is in charge. For Americans, Independence Day marks the anniversary of such a moment.

"Nearly two and a half centuries ago, on July 4, 1776, members of the Continental Congress approved  Jefferson’s magnificent Declaration of Independence, proclaiming “these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

"For the first time a nation sprang forth, not simply from the bond of people living together in a place for years, but rather from an idea, the principle of the truth of the human person as sacred and unrepeatable. The Declaration acknowledged our origin as beings made by God, with rights God himself gave us. It is God’s law—his plan—that declares unequivocally that in our creation by the divine hand rests our equal liberty and the rights inherent in us a God’s creatures. Our liberty arises not from us, but from the one who made us.

"Independence Day Honors not our own artificial schemes of liberty and quality but the founding  principle of natural law that alone protects who we are: each one of us chosen, loved, and created as  free beings by God our Father. No other authority will do: nothing other than divine truth provides proper grounding for ordered liberty. On God’s authority, then, the American founders in 1776, “with a firm reliance on the Protection of divine providence,” ventured forth in the great experiment, mutually pledging “to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor.” 

By Anne Husted Burleigh

Anne is a long-time writer, among whose books is a biography of one of the American founders, John Adams. She and her husband live in Cincinnati near their children and grandchildren.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Bishop Barron - How to Discern God's Will for My Life

A great resource from Bishop Robert Barron and the folks at Word on Fire. 

     "As a priest, and now a bishop, I hear often from many people searching for God’s direction in their lives. They wonder, what does God want me to do with my life? How can I be faithful to God in my day to day decisions? How can I hear God and be sensitive to his promptings? We all ask these questions. They are a normal part of the Christian life. That’s why Brandon Vogt and I recently devoted a whole episode of our podcast, “The Word on Fire Show,” to exploring these questions. Below you’ll find an edited transcript of the show so you can read it slowly, at your own pace, and reflect on how God is leading you in your life. In the end, all discernment boils down to one ultimate goal: finding the path of greatest love. Let’s seek that path together."

Listen to Bishop Barron discuss the context of the book HERE!

Sunday, April 25, 2021

What Does it Mean to Believe IN?

 A wonderful meditation from The Magnificat.

From “Believing That” to “Believing In”

In the Gospel of John, the personal nature of the act of faith is stressed by the very use of the verb “to believe.” In the Gospel, we encounter the expression “to believe,” which means to lend credence to or hold to be true. For instance, to believe Scripture (Jn 2:22), or Moses, or Christ (Jn 5:46). We also encounter the expression “to believe that,” meaning to be convinced that, or just to believe. For instance, to believe that Jesus is the Holy One of God, that he is the Christ, that the Father has sent him.

But alongside these well-known usages, there is one unknown to profane language yet most dear to the Evangelist, and that is the expression “to believe in,” as in the sentence: Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me (Jn 14:1). Believe here means: have faith in, entrust yourself to the person you believe in, build your own life on that person. It indicates a total and unconditional trust that is to replace all human insecurity. A trust in consequence of which the heart can never again be troubled by anything. Jesus asks the same kind of trust for himself that God asked of his people in the Old Testament.

Believing in the Son of God is something different and more than believing that Jesus is the Son of God…. As regards the former, there are all sorts of degrees and you would never finish progressing through them. In other words, you can always trust more in Christ, by surrendering yourself to him more and more and losing yourself in him, until faith in the Son of God becomes the whole reason for your life. Like Paul, who could say: The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal 2:20).

Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, o.f.m. cap.

Cardinal Cantalamessa is a Capuchin Franciscan friar and the preacher to the papal household. [From Jesus Christ: The Holy One of God, Alan Neame, Tr. © 1991, St. Paul Publications, Slough, UK. All rights reserved.]

Monday, April 19, 2021

The Vast Expanse Between the Good Life and the Holy Life - A Reflection by Father Donald Haggerty


The vast separation between the good life and the holy life is always far more than we realize. The difference is not evident simply in the exterior activity of life. The generous accomplishments of a good person may outshine the limited works of the holy person. What distinguishes the holy person is the interior quality of a soul seeking God, and this is often not seen so visibly. The good life will always be observable to some degree, but whether or not a life is truly holy can easily be concealed in its essential truth. The most important acts of a holy life take place in secret, within quiet depths of the soul. And these most important acts are the offerings it makes for others. There is no great love of God unless a soul is great in offering itself for others. And this begins in the intensity of its prayer, where God alone sees.

The word holiness ought not to be tossed about too lightly, as though the reality were easily reached. There is a danger that an overworked and casual evocation of holiness as the goal of life reduces the immense challenge of giving all to God to a manageable habit of steady, low-cost generosities. Dorothy Day kept on her bedside table a striking phrase of Dostoevsky that conveys, by contrast, the starker reality of a true offering: “Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams.”  It is precisely the harsh and dreadful nature of sacrificial love that makes such love and the offering that accompanies it most fruitful for the salvation of souls.

A task in prayer that must be repeated with regularity: to search for the deeper solitary region of the heart where a single word spoken in silence has more impact on our soul than hours of replete eloquence taking place at the shallows of life.

 ~ A Reflection by Father Donald Haggerty, ‘The Contemplative Hunger’

Check out Fr Haggerty at Ignatius Press HERE.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Prayer Draws You Into New Life - Into Christ

Colossians 3:4 - When Christ, who is your life, appears...

Prayer is to forge us into the likeness of the beloved, and thus it is bringing Christ to life in the believer. This is the mystery of prayer - bringing Christ to life in us, thus bringing Christ’s image of His Father to life in us. This is the Christian idea of centering, as a key ingredient for prayer, which means a focus on Christ to where it draws your whole being into Christ. 

Colossians 3:4 - When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

At some point in my life prayer became, not so much talking to, or reflecting on, meditating, contemplating for achieving union, to or with God..., yes all these things and more are part of prayer, but prayer became, Imitatio Christi - the imitation of Christ - a place within where my "I" in the here and now is continually being formed and reformed by God. 

Here is beautiful gift on prayer from Sr Ruth Burrows:

"Prayer is not just one function in life, not even the most important function; it is life itself. We are truly alive, truly human, only when our whole life is prayer."

Sister Ruth is a Carmelite nun at Quidenham in Norfolk, England. She is the author of a number of bestselling books.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Interdividual - We Are A Colony of Others

 Interdividual rather than individual best describes human beings and the word points to a term that we may be more familiar with, interconnectedness. 

Let’s use the aspen tree for a glimpse into this idea of being interdividual. The leaves of an aspen have an unusual ability to twist and bend to protect the trees from severe winds. Their twisting motion helps the tree to dissipate the energy more uniformly throughout the forest canopy - to reduce the stress on the tree. Additionally, the quaking movement is thought to aid in the tree’s growth, because the constant movement increases the intake of air by the leaves. Lastly, moving the leaves increases the ability for sunlight to shine on the lower leaves, thereby improving the rate of photosynthesis for the trees (that is trees - plural)

But wait, perhaps we should say TREE (interdividaul).

Aspens are unique in that a forest of trees can be actually one tree. Aspens grow in large colonies derived from a single seedling and spread the roots to create new trees. The new saplings may appear as far as 30-40 meters from the parent tree, yet they are a part of the same system. The individual trees may live 40-150 years above the ground but the roots can live for thousands of years. There is one colony in Utah that is believed to be over 80,000 years old! Aspen colonies can even survive forest fires because their roots are so well protected.

And because the colony is actually one system, they are quite generous to what could appear to be ”another tree”. If a tree on one side of the forest is thirsty, the trees will work in unison to pass water through the root system to the ailing tree from one that is in an area where water is more abundant. If another needs nutrients or minerals, again it will be passed through the root system from one tree to the one in need. 

One of the most famous of quaking aspens' vast underground root systems is a network called Pando (Latin for "I spread", and also known as the Trembling Giant). It is estimated to cover about 107 acres, weighs about 6,600 tons and dates back 80,000 years - making it a contender to be one of the Earth's oldest and heaviest organisms. Trees within the root system grow and die, but these are replaced with fresh growth. The entire colonial organism, which is said to be derived from a single male plant, contains about 47,000 stems.

Interdividual is a term coined by René Girard and it means, in general that we desire according to the desire of the other and which is often referred to as “mimetic”. There has always been some other who precedes us and which surrounds us, and which moves us to desire, to want and to act. We may acknowledge this when we see it illustrated in the way the entertainment industry creates celebrities, or the advertising profession manages to make particular objects or brands desirable. Just observing yourself in the mob of consumers on Black Friday. 

What becomes challenging for us is the claim that in fact it is not some of our desires that are highly mimetic, but the whole way in which we humans are structured by desire.

Girard has pointed out, much like the interconnectedness of the Aspen tree, that humans are those animals in which even basic biological instincts (which of course exist, and are not the same thing as desire) are ever-bond to the other. In fact, our capacity to receive and deal with our instincts is derived from a hugely developed capacity for imitation which sets our species apart from our nearest primate relatives.

As a result, gestures, language and memory are not only things which “we” learn, as though there were an “I” that was doing the learning. Rather it is the case that, through this body being imitatively drawn into the life of all those before us, gesture, language and memory form an “I” that is in fact one of the indications of the "social" other. Thus being highly malleable, it is not the “I” that has desires, it is desire that forms and sustains the “I”. The “I” is something like a snapshot, in time, of all the many relationships which preexist it and which it is a mirror image.

The image laid out here, of the person mimetic, is always reaching outward and inevitably getting caught in entanglements - physically, psychologically and every which way. As we twist and turn in our attempts to free ourselves from another, these very movements become highly contagious for others who often enjoin the swirling of estrangement until escalating into violence. The issue for restoring community is how do we break the spiraling cycle of violent contagion - bringing calm after the chaos? Instead of trying to break free from the other, thinking that is the way to become free, how do we, like the aspen tree, become part of the support system?

Not wanting to leave a post dangling, check out this link to an audio presentation The Scapegoat: René Girard's Anthropology of Violence and Religion.