Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Just disappointed. Not because "that picture" is being used by Vanity Fair - that was certainly to be expected. Rather, what disappoints me - and, I suspect your fans and their parents - is that the picture was even taken in the first place. Cyrus responded to the incident by saying this:
"I took part in a photo shoot that was supposed to be 'artistic' and now, seeing the photographs and reading the story, I feel so embarrassed," Cyrus said Sunday in a statement through her publicist. "I never intended for any of this to happen and I apologize to my fans who I care so deeply about."
I believe her. I believe that she is embarrassed and that she never intended the picture to be publicly used. I believe this because she is 15. Teenagers have a hard time seeing beyond the choices that they make from one moment to another. They are working on it, to be sure. However, a teen is stuck between two worlds: that of childhood innocence and that of the adult world. Our culture doesn't make it any easier, either. That's what parents are for. My biggest question in all this is why didn't Billy Ray step in - as I think any father would have - and tell Annie Leibovitz that his daughter was not posing like that. It's not being a prude - it's being a DAD.
I think that Miley has learned a lesson here. I hope that her parents have too. This culture is sexualizing young people at earlier ages than ever. I have already noted how proud I have been of Miley Cyrus' wholesome example she sets for young people. This episode is disappointing, but even more disappointing would be if no one learned anything from this. Young people need to learn that their actions do play a role in shaping who they are. Parents have the job of helping them see this, with love, and guiding them gently toward shaping their lives in a way consonant with their values. The idea is to help them have "the best of both worlds." If they can do this, she will emerge as an even stronger role model than before.
If that's the case, Miley, "I can't wait to see you again!"
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
On Sunday morning in an Indonesian town, a mall transforms into a place of worship - or many places of worship. Because of repressive laws in the Muslim nation, public places of worship for Christians have come under occasional attack. Thus, congregations have been slipping into shopping centers and holding their services there. While this might still violate the law, it seems a safer alternative than having their own churches ransacked. In America and the western world, such intolerance of faith seems inconceivable, but the actions of these congregations serve to illustrate Jesus' words to the Pharisees who ask him to silence his followers: "If they were to keep silent, these very stones would shout."
The castle of the Beast in "Beauty and the Beast" is inhabited by dozens of pieces of furniture, pots, pans and silverware who are alive while their master slowly awaits his inevitable demise. In the absence of the love that could fill that castle, the inanimate objects - once human themselves - cling to their relationships and conversations to stay alive. And when the possibility of a fully loving household arrives with Belle, they are fully animated to make that happen.
When we find the world pushing our own religious expression back, and feel like we have to "keep that private," or keep in inside, remember that if we don't let that light of faith shine, we will eventually be shamed by the praise of the stones - and Jesus didn't come for no rocks!
Monday, April 28, 2008
The film "Google Me" tells the story of Jim Killeen's search for his namesakes around the world, discovered by "Googling himself." Come on - we've all done it! Jim actually went and found seven of these guys (called "Google-gangers"?) and the film tells the story of that search.
Interesting to me is that this action, which is the modern (or is it post-modern?) form of narcissism for many, has led this man to actually connect with a larger world. See? The Internet doesn't just isolate us - after all, it is the "world wide web". Hmm, let's see how many "me's" there are out there...
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Saturday, April 26, 2008
The new "Iron Man" movie comes out in a week. I'm not a huge comic book hero fan, but... put them on the screen with some cool special effects and a soundtrack provided by Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath, and I am there. I didn't know much about this character or his story line, but, apparently, in this film Robert Downey, Jr., plays billionaire industrialist Tony Stark, who builds and supplies weapons to the US military. During a "delivery" he is ambushed and kidnapped by Afghan troops who "nurse" him back to health in order for him to build them a missile.
Recognizing that he "should be dead already," Stark comes to the conclusion that his purpose is something bigger than being used as a tool for others. He builds the iron suit and escapes, then improves the suit (so it's really cool looking) and takes on his superhero persona.
That's what so many young people are seeking today. "Why am I here?" and "What am I going to do?" are common, vexing questions for them. For the Christian, this sense of meaning must come from our relationship with Christ. We were saved - rescued - "when we were yet sinners," as St. Paul says, in order to fulfill our destiny as children of God. The world will tell us that we are merely shells of bodies and that our actions are not what matters - only our resolutions or intentions ("I'm a 'good person'."). But it fails to recognize that our actions do shape who we are - they form us.
We have been given the perfect "shell": we have "put on Christ." With that knowledge, we now seek to do what we know is right and good for others and ourselves. Just as Tony Stark/Iron Man realized his purpose through that life-altering event, so we have been changed and adopted as God's children, to go out and bring that sense of purpose to others.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Newman was an Anglican churchman, who sought to find the "true Church" by looking back toward our origins. In his search, he came to the conclusion that simply because the Church today does not exactly resemble the proto-Church of the ancient Near East, that does not mean that the Church is any less true. He expounded an understanding of the organic "development of doctrine," and came to see in the Catholic Church the closest resemblance to the truly evolved Church of Christ (that is, the Church that Christ wanted to establish through the Apostles). He converted to Catholicism and eventually became bishop and then cardinal. Newman was known for his erudition and his dedication to the "idea of the university" - an idea that he said could not be complete without the inclusion of Theology.
Britain has good reason to be proud of this native son, and all people of learning can find further affirmation of the compatibility between faith and reason.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
The question of infallibility is one that vexes many Catholics and non-Catholics alike. First, it does not mean that the pope can wake up one day and declare the world flat or round nor the moon to be made of blue cheese. Those are scientific matters about which the Church is not competent to "pontificate." However, infallibility is in play in matters of faith and morals, when the Holy Father teaches "ex cathedra", that is, in his capacity as the Chief Shepherd of the flock. Infallibility is a charism - a gift - given to the Church to ensure that what She teaches is what Christ wants us to know and do. As a guarantee of His Presence, he has sent the Advocate -the Holy Spirit - who ensures that, when we teach others what we believe and how we are to live based on that, we are teaching the Truth.
Why don't we all enjoy that? In a sense, we do - but only under the Holy Spirit's guidance, in union with the whole Church. There is a "sense of the faithful" that is a sort of innate, connatural knowledge of our faith, which Vatican II recognized as the "sensus fidelium". This does not mean that we can just believe whatever we want as it is convenient for us (as some have thought); rather, it means that we are guided in this communal faith by the Holy Spirit - the Spirit of Truth - who leads us into all Truth.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
"Be proud of your Catholic faith," Dolan started. "Also, be proud to be American."
American Catholics; Catholic Americans. This has been the struggle - and the triumph - of the Church in the United States from the beginning. Dolan's talk highlighted the curiosity - unique in the world at the time - of a Church totally separate from the State, and vice-versa. Carroll's accomplishment for the nascent American Church, was itself revolutionary. He established a hierarchy in a completely free-floating clergy, he solidified a commitment to Catholic education, saw the expansion of the Church - including a quadrupling of the Catholic population and doubling of the clergy, and he established national trust of a religion that was looked upon with suspicion for its loyalty to Rome among fiercely anti-monarchical separatists. Not bad for a boy from Southern Maryland.
We are all heirs to this American Catholic legacy of being Catholic Americans. We all have John Carroll to thank. We can be proud to be Catholic - and proud to be American too.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
That's what priestly life is like for me. Certainly, as a human being - as a man - I am torn at times between my vocation to serve and a desire to have a family and feel the love that way. These feelings come and go; they are stronger sometimes more than others. However, the reality is that I do what I do - and I think any priest does - because I have fallen in love. Love is the key to any vocation. It is for love that anyone makes the sacrifices that solidify any vocation. St. Paul reminds us, in a reading so often read at weddings, that "Love never fails." Even when our humanity can, love never fails. Remembering that I have fallen in love helps me to remain faithful.
Love is what lends force to celibacy. That might seem odd in today's culture, which looks at celibacy as a "turning off" of one's sexuality, but truly, one cannot be celibate unless one is in love. Now, some priests will tell you that it is a gift that God gives, and others will say it is a discipline that we just "do." I'd say that it is both. However, without love it cannot be lived as either.
We need to pray for those who have fallen in love - and that more people do. This is not the "love" that we see on TV or in the movies. That has very little to do with a vocation. Rather, we need to pray that more people find the true Source of Love and embrace it. Only then does God catch us in His web and set us on fire with the strength to truly be who we are made to be.
Monday, April 21, 2008
The Holy Father's visit to the United States has been a blessing. However, for anyone who pays close attention to what he actually said, his visit is a challenge as well. Often, he spoke of the responsibilities of freedom, social and economic injustices in the world, peace and justice, environmental stewardship, and yes, that buzzword, "globalization." I think here we have gotten somewhat of a preview of his upcoming encyclical on social concerns - which should be out in late summer, and be entitled Caritas in Veritate ("Love in Truth"). It should be a reaffirmation of Catholic social doctrine as well as a call to all people of faith to remember that we take our place in a new world where the values of love, concern for the poor, solidarity and responsibility are still values.
It is a small world, after all.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
We are mindful as well of those who suffered death, injury, and loss
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, Saint John Neumann, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, Venerable Pierre Toussaint, and Padre Felix Varela: any one of us could be among them, for there is no stereotype to this group, no single mold. Yet a closer look reveals that there are common elements. Inflamed with the love of Jesus, their lives became remarkable journeys of hope. For some, that meant leaving home and embarking on a pilgrim journey of thousands of miles. For each there was an act of abandonment to God, in the confidence that he is the final destination of every pilgrim. And all offered an outstretched hand of hope to those they encountered along the way, often awakening in them a life of faith. Through orphanages, schools and hospitals, by befriending the poor, the sick and the marginalized, and through the compelling witness that comes from walking humbly in the footsteps of Jesus, these six people laid open the way of faith, hope and charity to countless individuals, including perhaps your own ancestors.
And what of today?
When the Holy Father met with youth yesterday, he acknowledged their enthusiasm and faith and issued a challenge - one that they all are up to. Who will be saints for this new era of hope? The presentation of the various "New World saints" reminds us that holiness - saintliness - is possible, and our youth see that. We need to hold up these heroes - not as pious icons to adorn a wall, but as living examples to inspire the good work of which our young people are capable. Heroes are all around us, and our imitation of the saints - which is imitation of Christ - marks our lives as "incredible."
Saturday, April 19, 2008
I have been impressed with the entire scene. In an effort to inform (not tear down), the media have given the public a wonderful look at a man whom many in America did not fully know. For example, CBS news has a great interactive presentation of the Holy Father's visit, telling about the history of the pope, this pope and up-to-date coverage of his events here. I was lucky enough to assist our local CBS affiliate here in Baltimore at the papal Mass in DC, and found the anchors, directors and camera crews to be respectful, curious and faithful - no matter what their faith background. The Spirit is truly at work here!
Many of the classic fairy tale movies of Disney open with a book and a storyteller's voice reading. This quickly fades as the story comes to life on screen. Like it or not, the media have been the storytellers here for the pope's visit. A storyteller is at his or her best when they almost disappear and the story comes to the front. And the story here is what is important. Thank you, "media," for telling it well with us.
Peace and Prosperity with God’s help!
Paix et prospérité, avec l’aide de Dieu!
Paz y prosperidad con la ayuda de Dios!
سَلامٌ وَإزْدِهَارٌ بعَوْن ِ الله ِ!
Мира и благоденствия с помощью Боҗией!
The Holy Father's address to the UN highlighted, as was expected, the importance of human rights to the promotion of global harmony and peace. A significant paragraph from his address goes thus:
Experience shows that legality often prevails over justice when the insistence upon rights makes them appear as the exclusive result of legislative enactments or normative decisions taken by the various agencies of those in power. When presented purely in terms of legality, rights risk becoming weak propositions divorced from the ethical and rational dimension which is their foundation and their goal. The Universal Declaration, rather, has reinforced the conviction that respect for human rights is principally rooted in unchanging justice, on which the binding force of international proclamations is also based. This aspect is often overlooked when the attempt is made to deprive rights of their true function in the name of a narrowly utilitarian perspective. Since rights and the resulting duties follow naturally from human interaction, it is easy to forget that they are the fruit of a commonly held sense of justice built primarily upon solidarity among the members of society, and hence valid at all times and for all peoples. This intuition was expressed as early as the fifth century by Augustine of Hippo, one of the masters of our intellectual heritage. He taught that the saying: Do not do to others what you would not want done to you “cannot in any way vary according to the different understandings that have arisen in the world” (De Doctrina Christiana, III, 14). Human rights, then, must be respected as an expression of justice, and not merely because they are enforceable through the will of the legislators.
The Catholic slogan, "If you want peace work for justice" (Pope Paul VI), reminds us of the relationship between the role of this "unchanging justice" in securing enduring peace. This justice is not simply a matter of legislation, because - God knows -we can screw that up. Rather, it is attuned to the eternal Truth that is the very essence of God himself. It is out of that Truth that the pope's global outlook on peace and war, human rights, and even immigration and refugees stems. It is not a matter of "faith-based marketing" (as a certain congressman from Colorado suggests), but rather the sharing of a truth that sets all people free.The Holy Father's presence at the UN today is a reminder that Jesus not only goes to Disney World, but to the World.
Friday, April 18, 2008
From this perspective one can recognize that the contemporary "crisis of truth" is rooted in a "crisis of faith". Only through faith can we freely give our assent to God's testimony and acknowledge him as the transcendent guarantor of the truth he reveals. Again, we see why fostering personal intimacy with Jesus Christ and communal witness to his loving truth is indispensable in Catholic institutions of learning. Yet we all know, and observe with concern, the difficulty or reluctance many people have today in entrusting themselves to God. It is a complex phenomenon and one which I ponder continually. While we have sought diligently to engage the intellect of our young, perhaps we have neglected the will. Subsequently we observe, with distress, the notion of freedom being distorted. Freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in - a participation in Being itself. Hence authentic freedom can never be attained by turning away from God. Such a choice would ultimately disregard the very truth we need in order to understand ourselves. A particular responsibility therefore for each of you, and your colleagues, is to evoke among the young the desire for the act of faith, encouraging them to commit themselves to the ecclesial life that follows from this belief. It is here that freedom reaches the certainty of truth. In choosing to live by that truth, we embrace the fullness of the life of faith which is given to us in the Church.
He goes on to say,
These harmful developments point to the particular urgency of what we might call "intellectual charity". This aspect of charity calls the educator to recognize that the profound responsibility to lead the young to truth is nothing less than an act of love. ... Once their passion for the fullness and unity of truth has been awakened, young people will surely relish the discovery that the question of what they can know opens up the vast adventure of what they ought to do. Here they will experience "in what" and "in whom" it is possible to hope, and be inspired to contribute to society in a way that engenders hope in others.
This "intellectual charity" is aimed at reminding those we educate - our youth - that our faith is not a matter of belief in a set of precepts, but in a Person. Faith is a relationship - and love is the basis of that relationship. It reminds me of something that a teacher once told me: "You don't lie -or tell half-truths - to people you love."
Check out the Holy Father's homily as well.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
That's how the little alien "Stitch" describes Lilo and her sister at the end of Lilo and Stitch, as he chooses to remain with them. For me, it was a great validation of the goodness of people, even in the midst of hardship, difficulty - and brokenness.
The Holy Father is in the US now. He has come as an apostle - one sent by Christ; he has come as Peter - one sent to encourage his brothers and sisters; he has come as a father - one sent to guide us and remind us that we are God's children. Today, we hear a lot about the relevance of the Church in the world, the relevance of the pope in the Church and the relevance of faith in our culture. Some have even suggested that the Church is dying, and the "faithful" role of leaders is to help it die. But a look at the attitudes and energy of the Young Church would contradict such an opinion.
Our young people are coming into ownership of a faith that is guided and passed on within the Church. However, they are unclear as to what that Church is. An older generation, formed by the skepticism of the past 30 years, have not really been equipped to hand on that Church to them - nor have they really wanted to. But the youth of our Church want the Church. As Archbishop Sambi pointed out last week, the Church gives young people (and not-so-young) some necessary characteristics for finding their place and their voice. The Church has remained true to its identity, and such clarity is attractive (look at the growth of evangelical Christian groups, who give certain answers from the Bible); the Church provides a place where young people feel they can belong - a community; and the Church continues to call all people to be better - to live virtuously in the face of collapsing morals. Not really the mark of a dying Church.
Pope Benedict comes to us, in a sense, to remind us that even while we may be broken by declining numbers of attendees at Mass, by sex scandals, by cultural moral relativism - we are still good. Jesus came to such a world as well. God sent His only Son to remind the world that He still loves us. Christ's presence among us in his Church and in the Sacraments - is further proof of this love.
As the Holy Father visits us, he is in essence saying, "This is my family. It is little - and broken - but still good.
"Yes. Still good."
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
On April 16, 2007, the worst assault on a college campus in the US took place at Virginia Tech, when Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 of his fellow students before killing himself. The attack shocked the nation and left a campus reeling from the magnitude of the violence and loss. I remember having just accepted an appointment to Towson University earlier that week and thinking, "What am I getting into?"
This was probably not unlike the thoughts of any student getting ready to come to college last year - and it is easy to imagine any student asking that question these days. There seems to be violence everywhere, and with that comes an unsettling sense of uncertainty in an already uncertain time. This is the time of year when high school seniors finally make up their minds as to where they will attend college, and they are all probably a little frightened - not just as to what their academic life will be like, but what their life, period, will be. Let me share some thoughts that have emerged from the tragedy of Virginia Tech and the experience of working with college students in general.
First, there is an inherent connectedness among the young people on campus - and between campuses - that just about ensures that one will always have a friend. Our young people are friendly and see in those who share their experiences true brothers and sisters. The tragedy at VT touched every student.
Second, no matter what tragedy may come - be it the horror of these shootings, the heartbreak of a break-up, or a D on your Great Expectations paper - there is an underlying spirit that says "We will go on - together." The bonds of love and friendship do not die with a person's body. The soul has been touched, and that goes on forever. Today, we pray for those who lost their lives one year ago; we pray for their families and friends who remain; and we pray - please pray - for the young people who will follow them into this scary but grace-filled world.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
What fun! This holiday is especially popular among the youth, and I can see why. How about a holiday when we get to visit a waterpark or have pie fights? I don't know - it seems that there are not enough holidays with this kind of life infused into them. I'll keep you posted when I invent a new one.
Monday, April 14, 2008
In case you've not heard, an Alabama woman was on trial for an altercation at Disney World last year where she allegedly assaulted another woman as they were getting onto the teacup ride. On Friday, she was found guilty of battery and now faces sentencing. However, as one might expect, she says it was not her fault - because she did not start it. According to her testimony, as she was herding her young-ins onto the ride she was kicked by another woman.
So "I kicked her back," she said.
That was the example she gave to the young people she was leading there. Someone runs into you or kicks you, you get them back. We wonder why such "little" incidents get coverage, but something here doesn't sound right, and that's why I'm bringing it up.
Yesterday, we celebrated "Good Shepherd Sunday," and today we hear again in the gospel of Christ the True Shepherd. He makes the distinction between good shepherds - whose sheep know their voice - and those who are not. When a shepherd is not reflecting the love with which Christ empowers them, the flock knows something is amiss. We see that in the scandals that affect the Church. But shepherding is not a uniquely priestly role. All leaders - from the president to a guide on a teacup ride - are shepherds and should reflect something of that care that Jesus shows, when he "lays down his life for the sheep."
When our leaders show that an injury is to be met with more violence and injury, they are not acting in accord with the Good Shepherd. As Jesus said yesterday, "they will not follow" that one. It might be comical to think of a grandmother and another woman fighting over a teacup ride, but it is also very sad. What did these children from that church group learn? What will they take home with them from Disney World? A few mouse ears, t-shirts, and a sense that it's OK to meet hurts with more hurt?
These days, as we reflect on Christ the Good Shepherd, and prepare to meet the Chief Shepherd, the pope, let us also pray for the grace to be shepherds ourselves. Our voices only ring true for young people if our actions are in accord with the love with which we speak.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Saturday, April 12, 2008
A few people have asked me what "Jesus Goes to Disney World" means? "Why did you name your blog that?" Well, I'll tell you.
Friday, April 11, 2008
"I've heard it too many times to ignore it/
Coming up on "Good Shepherd Sunday," as the 4th Sunday of Easter has been dubbed, we are called to contemplate not only the image of Christ as the Good Shepherd, but also those shepherds in our lives who has also been good. Namely, we pray for and ask God to send us more priests. Without these shepherds there is no Eucharist, and without the Eucahrist - as many have noted before (Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II) - there is no Church. The enduring presence of Jesus in this world depends on those shepherds, conformed to him through Holy Orders, who guide the flock and make the miracle present every day.
This is not a time to belly-ache that the Church needs to change her rules in any substantive way. No. It is a time of prayer, when we "ask the Master of the harvest to send us more laborers." And, we also pray for those wonderful priests in our lives now. Don't know any? Then pray for the ones you have. Pray that priests who struggle to image the Divine Shepherd be blessed with the grace to show everyone that Jesus is real and worth their sacrifices.
I keep a small statue on my desk. It's an ancient image of Christ, the Shepherd, that was also in the entry to our library at the seminary. A young, hearty shepherd embraces a lamb over his strong shoulders and carries a serene, but joyful look on his face. This is the image I seek to show to others: strength that comes from the Gospel and others' prayers, care for those entrused to my ministry, and joy that comes from Christian Hope.
Please pray for our priests, seminarians - and those who are called but are not yet aware of what that Voice is calling his name.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Friendship is not a contest. Anyone who has friends knows this. Friendship is a relationship, and it seeks to serve not only one person but both. Throughout the years, many have talked about friendship, it's meaning and value. In the Church, one of the most famous treatises on friendship comes to us from St. Aelred of Riveaulx. In his 12th-century work, De Spirituali Amicitia (or "On Spiritual Friendship"), Aelred lays out what defines true friendship. He finds in Jesus Christ the model and perfection of friendship and in Christian life the fruit of such relationships. Friendship, for him, is based on Christ's example of self-gift; it is true in the sense that there is no alterior motive for it; and intimacy is the mark of such a relationship. As Aelred writes, a friend is a “guardian of our mutual love or the guardian of my own spirit so as to preserve all its secrets in faithful silence” (I. 20).
Friendship is more than a reward for hanging around long enough. True friendship is a relationship that somehow helps the friends be greater than they are alone. A good friend brings out the best in us, and vice-versa. Sirach tells us, "A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who find one finds a treasure." Jesus calls his disciples "friends" because he has shared everything with them so that "their joy might be complete." Now, that's a reality show I want to be on!
Many Christian authors have delved into the beautiful relationship that is friendship. Aquinas saw friendship as a "habit" requiring the attention and effort of the friends for the sake of the other's good. Augustine rooted friendship in the love of God, which is its Source and its fulfillment. For Aelred, friendship is truly a "walking together" in love. He opens his reflections like this:
“Here we are, you and I, and I hope a third, Christ, is in our midst. There is now no one to disturb us; there is no one to break in upon our friendly chat, no man’s prattle or noise of any kind will creep into this pleasant solitude. Come now, beloved, open your heart, and pour into these friendly ears whatsoever you will, and let us accept gracefully the boon of this place, time, and leisure” (I. 1).
Now, we probably won't hear that from any "contestant" on MTV. Do you hear that, Paris? That's hot!
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Gotta love whoever created bobble heads!
Here's what the pope himself has said in advance of his trip:
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
So, yes, New York and Boston, we were first! (not unlike the current position of our baseball teams - sorry, we have to enjoy that while it lasts!).
The Premier See has been the hub of American Catholicism since the founding. The "American Experiment" (to quote John Courtney Murray) has been a model for Church and State relations (yes, I said relations not separation) ever since. The Vatican even asked Ben Franklin who the first US bishop should be - not fully understanding this freedom of religion idea in 1789. Franklin had made a journey with a native-born Jesuit, John Carroll, and found him to be a good man, certainly the type he'd like to see lead the new nation's Catholics.
The life of the Church in the United States has been an interesting one, and it continues to be. We all continue to struggle with the reality of being both American and Catholic. However, in the midst of that struggle, let me say this: It is possible. We treasure freedom here - and even try to "export" it to the world - but true freedom comes from embracing the Truth. In a way, as Americans striving to be fully free, our faith helps us realize both dreams - being American Catholics and Catholic Americans. They don't exclude the other - and it is not necessary to hide your faith in order to be acceptable to the public. Faith pursues Truth, and Truth makes us free.
Check out the celebrations for the bicentennial here.
Monday, April 7, 2008
We all know how hard that can be. We all have those negative forces pulling us down and can easily fall into griping and complaining. This is a conscious decision to leave that behind, to be positive and to affect the lives of others through that positivity. Part of this is accepting that our expectations and needs are just that: our expectations. When the world and others do not live up to those expectations or needs, we must not get huffy over that disappointment. The fact is that the world doesn't owe me anything. Once we accept that this life is a gift and an offering from the wonderful hand of God, then we can sit back in wonder and awe (gifts of the Holy Spirit) and be happy. But that takes time, doesn't it? According to this campaign, it takes three weeks - but it's a lifetime in the living.
So, how does this happen? Well, don't worry; be happy! There are always reasons to smile and hope, and there are those people out there who are helping us see them. Ask your favorite priest, ask your grandmother, or ask "Eazibee", who keeps a blog of "Reasons to Be Hopeful." Stop and smell the roses; they're all a gift!
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Today, we hear the story of the Risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus. The disciples, likewise, do not recognize him until a later point, yet they know there is something special there, as they discuss all the things that happened that week.
“What sort of things?”
That’s what Jesus asks the two disciples on the way to Emmaus. You can almost see the wry smile on our Lord’s face as he asks that question; perhaps he enjoyed the irony of the moment, as they failed to recognize him and yet talked about him. Perhaps you’ve been in the same situation once or twice. Easter joy continues to touch us as we follow this wonderful encounter.
Even in their amazement at this traveler’s lack of awareness, they recount the stories of Holy Week and that Easter morning. They not only tell Jesus what had happened, but they also share with him their take on the whole thing: “We had hoped…” Their hopes, apparently, crushed. And yet, as we learn at the end of this story, all the while their “hearts were burning within” them.
“What sort of feeling” is that? What sort of things brings that about?
These two on the road are not unlike any disciple: searching, following, sometimes lost, but never alone. They had had an encounter with Jesus Christ in their lives and had seen what sort of person he was. They knew there was something special there, and based on that, they had hoped that he would be “the one” – the one to fulfill their expectations. But even as they listened to his words and seen his wonderful acts, they were missing the true meaning of Jesus’ ministry.
But the effects were there.
These two had been brought together around Jesus. That bond of fellowship was enough to keep them together even after the disaster of Good Friday. Their hearts burned with the agape love that Jesus had shared with them, and now, in his very presence that love was catching fire again. They shared their perspective – their point of view – their expectations. Then as Jesus began sharing the Scriptures with them and explaining the necessary path of the Messiah, their hearts were burning within them.
It’s the encounter with Christ that has that effect in our lives. We have our expectations, our plan. And when we see that moving slowly or even falling apart, we become discouraged and dejected. However, when we take those moments to recognize the Presence of Jesus among us and allow him to speak to us, our hearts catch fire and burn within us.
What do we do with this “heartburn”? The disciples give us a clue. After recognizing that presence in their visitor and in the breaking of the bread, they are move with joy to run all the way back to Jerusalem to share that good news with the Apostles and holy women. They recount all those things that happened in their encounter with Jesus – and so must we.
What sort of things?
The things that our Lord does here and now, and every day, to set our hearts on fire with love and send us forth as disciples to others.
Saturday, April 5, 2008
In Mulan, the title character finds herself torn between the expectations of society and what she knows is right. She is struggling to know who she is in the midst of this conflict. "Who is she?" "Where does she 'fit'?" "What must she do?" are all questions that bring about the plot and action of the film. But this is more than an escape from our world in the land of film. These are questions we all must answer.
John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter interviewed the papal nuncio, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, on Tuesday. The Archbishop shared thoughts on the pope’s upcoming visit and the state of the Church in the
"How would you analyze the situation facing the Catholic church in the
When you are a minority, as Catholics are in this culture, you need three strong principles. The first is a clear identity, a clear sense of what you are and what you want to be. As a minority, if you lack a clear identity, you're like a drop of wine in a glass of water … you'll disappear. The second thing is a strong sense of belonging. I would express it in this way: you need a community, and the community needs you. Whoever walks alone sooner or later will be lost in the desert. Third, when you are a minority, you need a deep commitment to excellence. You must excel in human qualities, in family qualities, in professional qualities, in the qualities of Christian life, in order to be a light for others. If you don't have a sense of excellence, you will be submerged by the majority.
When you have these three qualities -- a clear identity, a sense of belonging, and a sense of excellence -- then you're ready to collaborate with everybody, ready to engage yourself for a better humanity and a better future."
I thought, Now, there are the qualities that our young people are looking for in their lives – a clears sense of who they are and what they believe, friendship and community, and a model or standard by which to live. All of these things are offered in a clear way by the Church, and are best modeled by people of faith. Whether we believe it our not, adults – and parents in particular – have an enormous impact on the values and beliefs of our young people. They are torn between the excellence that faith and a faith tradition shares and the passing glory of this world.
This is why adults need to be there, involved in the faith life of our youth. We should be asking them if and when they are going to church and “pestering” them. Yes, they will complain; yes, they will rebel. However, what they remember is not the actual fight, but the integrity and strength with which we promote the faith we want to share with them. That doesn’t just “happen,” and if we think that our kids will one day “get it” we are deceiving ourselves.
They are programmed and tuned to seek out excellence – to establish a sense of who they are, where they belong and what they believe. Aristotle called this excellence arête – which we now call “virtue.” It’s there for our youth. We need only model it to them.
Friday, April 4, 2008
I've been jumping from thing to thing since I got up - apparently late for 8:30 Mass! I threw on some shoes and celebrated, and I've been running ever since. Here's a simple moment to just pause and pray. You can enjoy this, and I'll have my own chat with the Big Guy. Hasta luego...
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Walt was on the train back from New York, licking his wounds and resolving never to have such a disaster happen again. He was -if the story is to be believed - scribbling madly, drawing and writing story lines for a new character. He elongated Oswald's nose, shortened his ears and made them round. Presto! A new character! His name? You guessed it: Mortimer. Oh? You didn't guess it? Well, Walt's wife, Lillian, didn't like it either - too wimpy. "Walt asked her what she thought of the name Mickey, an Irish name, an outsider's name," Gabler writes (p 112). Lillian approved, and thus a mouse was named.
Now, there is, apparently, dispute over whether that version of the creation of Mickey is accurate, but the result is the same - "it all started with a mouse" (who came from a rabbit). Reading that made me think about another familiar beginning story that has been disputed - the beginning story, Genesis. Did God create just one man and one woman from which all of humanity descended? Was there a Garden of Eden? What about the dinosaurs and modern scientific discovery? And, if that is not actually factual, is there any basis for my faith?
Don't worry, there is. The basis for faith is not facts - it is Truth. Facts serve truth, but sometimes they can cloud it. Hence, the need for myths to stylize the reality that we can observe and pass on the truth that we serve. Science, in its turn, seeks truth, and uses facts to substantiate itself. The truth? The truth that our faith serves is this: there is a God who loves us, Who created the world in an organized way (i.e., with a plan), we are here with a purpose in God's plan, and we are seeking to know that plan and purpose even though we may be limited in our humanity. Hence, we have a need for God.
In the beginning, something happened. Faith tells us that God was - and still is -behind that, and that He sustains us throughout - even when we fail. If we pin out faith on "facts" which can be manipulated or outright wrong, then that faith can be manipulated and outright destroyed. But we serve the Truth, which is not a matter of a clever story or a well-drawn cartoon. Truth is eternal, like God, and draws us toward it, revealing who we are.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Those of us who pray might be tempted to say, "Duh!" - but there is actually science behind this conclusion. Remember: faith and reason are not opposed to one another, but work in harmony when properly applied, since both have the same Author.
We can think of the human brain as having three levels. The first is the one responsible for basic, primal emotions, like fear and anger. This is the "fight or flight" reflex. The second level is responsible more for basic nurturing activity, while the third and highest level is really what distinguishes our brains as "human." This part is the reflective, reasoning level of the brain. What meditation and prayer do is take us into this higher part of the mind and lets us dwell there, even when we reflect on events or situations that make us angry or fearful. Rather than acting out, harboring resentment or hatred, we are prompted to lay back, try to understand and treat others with kindness and love.
When we teach our young people to pray, we are not just trying to plug them into the "spiritual collective." No - we are trying to help them realize the more refined parts of their humanity. A young person who prays is less likely to fly off the handle at a little injury, and this is a mark of maturity. In a world where boys (and girls now) are urged to "save face" and "not let him get away with that", a prayerful young person is one who can shine even brighter than those dramatic injuries.
Aristotle once said that "the unreflected life is not worth living." St. Paul urges us to "pray always." Not because this is just a pious thing to do, but because it helps us to be kind - it helps make us more human.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Metric Time - where time was to be divided into "simpler" units based on 10's.
Spaghetti trees (BBC) - from which the Swiss would harvest the delicious noodles and ship them to Italy.
Alabama changes the value of pi - where a physicist wrote an article about the state legislature voting to establish the famous irrational number with the "biblical" value of "three."
Ah, jokes! What would life be without them? It seems that humanity is the only species on the planet with the capacity to joke. While many animals "play," we are the only ones with the sense of irony and humor that make items like the above "funny." If this ability to joke is uniquely human, then it probably belongs to our rational nature, and is therefore a reflection of God's gift of Himself in creating us in His image and likeness. In other words, God has a sense of humor.
I was reminded of this when we read the gospel last week of the events on the way to Emmaus (we'll also hear this reading this coming Sunday). The two on the way asked Jesus (whom they did not recognize) if he had not heard of the things that had gone on in Jerusalem those days. "What sort of things?" Jesus asks. You can just see the wry smile on our Lord's face as he asked that question - I know he had one!
God's sense of humor is often seen in our lives when we look back and see how He worked through us and for us - often despite us. If God picked me to be a priest, or if God gave her him as a husband, you know the Big Guy must be amused as He sits back and watches. So, today, as we lay yet more jokes down for our friends, remember that we are reflecting yet another wonderful aspect of our humanity - and of God.
Time to go now - and water my spaghetti trees.