A wonderful meditation from The Magnificat.
Sunday, April 25, 2021
Monday, April 19, 2021
Wednesday, March 17, 2021
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 rather than individual best describes human beings and the word points to a term that we may be more familiar with, interconnectedness.
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.
Wednesday, March 3, 2021
Friday, February 12, 2021
Wednesday, February 10, 2021
In the Beginning…' Pope Benedict XVI
In a Lenten sermon given in 1981 in the cathedral of Munich, Germany, “Cardinal” Joseph Ratzinger said the following:
“In the Genesis story that we are considering, still a further characteristic of sin is described. Sin is not spoken of in general as an abstract possibility but as a deed, as the sin of a particular person, Adam, who stands at the origin of humankind and with whom the history of sin begins. The account tells us that sin begets sin, and that therefore all the sins of history are interlinked. Theology refers to this state of affairs by the certainly misleading and imprecise term ‘original sin.’ What does this mean? Nothing seems to us today to be stranger or, indeed, more absurd than to insist upon original sin, since, according to our way of thinking, guilt can only be something very personal, and since God does not run a concentration camp, in which one’s relative are imprisoned, because he is a liberating God of love, who calls each one by name. What does original sin mean, then, when we interpret it correctly?
“Finding an answer to this requires nothing less than trying to understand the human person better. It must once again be stressed that no human being is closed in upon himself or herself and that no one can live of/or for himself or herself alone. We receive our life not only at the moment of birth but every day from without–from others who are not ourselves but who nonetheless somehow pertain to us. Human beings have their selves not only in themselves but also outside of themselves: they live in those whom they love and in those who love them and to whom they are ‘present.’ Human beings are relational, and they possess their lives–themselves–only by way of relationship. I alone am not myself, but only in and with you am I myself. To be truly a human being means to be related in love, to be of and for. But sin means the damaging or the destruction of relationality. Sin is a rejection of relationality because it wants to make the human being a god. Sin is loss of relationship, disturbance of relationship, and therefore it is not restricted to the individual. When I destroy a relationship, then this event–sin–touches the other person involved in the relationship. Consequently sin is always an offense that touches others, that alters the world and damages it. To the extent that this is true, when the network of human relationships is damaged from the very beginning, then every human being enters into a world that is marked by relational damage. At the very moment that a person begins human existence, which is a good, he or she is confronted by a sin-damaged world. Each of us enters into a situation in which relationality has been hurt. Consequently each person is, from the very start, damaged in relationships and does not engage in them as he or she ought. Sin pursues the human being, and he or she capitulates to it.”
(Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, ‘In the Beginning…’: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall, trans. Boniface Ramsey, OP [Eerdmans, 1995], pp. 71-73)
Actually, in opposing their Creator people go against themselves, deny their origin and consequently their truth; and evil, with its painful chain of sorrow and death, enters the world. Moreover, all that God had created was good, indeed, very good, but after man had opted freely for falsehood rather than truth, evil entered the world.
I would like to highlight a final teaching in the accounts of the Creation; sin begets sin and all the sins of history are interconnected. This aspect impels us to speak of what is called “original sin”. What is the meaning of this reality that is not easy to understand? I would just like to suggest a few points. First of all we must consider that no human being is closed in on himself, no one can live solely for himself and by himself; we receive life from the other and not only at the moment of our birth but every day. Being human is a relationship: I am myself only in the “you” and through the “you”, in the relationship of love with the “you” of God and the “you” of others. Well, sin is the distortion or destruction of the relationship with God, this is its essence: it ruins the relationship with God, the fundamental relationship, by putting ourselves in God’s place.
Wednesday, January 20, 2021
Enjoy this video clip from the movie, Evan Almighty, where the waiter, Al Mighty, played by Morgan Freeman, explains prayer as, 'God providing opportunities'. What are we going to do with the opportunities in our life?
· Joan: Excuse me. Can I get a refill please?
· God: Coming right up.
· Joan: Thank you.
· God: Excuse me. Are you alright?
· Joan: Yeah. (God looks at her unconvinced.) No. It’s a long story.
· God: Well, I like stories. I’m considered a bit of a storyteller myself.
· Joan: My husband… Have you heard of New York’s Noah?
· God: (Chuckling) The guy who’s building the ark.
· Joan: That’s him.
· God: I love that story, Noah and the Ark. You know, a lot of people miss the point of that story. They think it’s about God’s wrath and anger. They love it when God gets angry.
· Joan: What is the story about, then? The ark?
· God: Well, I think it’s a love story about believing in each other. You know, the animals showed up in pairs. They stood by each other, side by side, just like Noah and his family. Everybody entered the ark side by side.
· Joan: But my husband says God told him to do it. What do you do with that?
· God: Sounds like an opportunity. Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, do you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If they pray for courage, does God give them courage, or does he give them opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for their family to be closer, you think God zaps them with warm, fuzzy feelings? Or does he give them opportunities to love each other? Well, I got to run, a lot of people to serve. Enjoy.