Saturday, February 28, 2009
These "accountants" are talking about tithing - a traditional practice within the Jewish and Christian communities that goes back to the time of Abraham, when he gave the priest-king, Melchizedek, "a tenth of everything" (Gen 14:20). The idea of the tithe is not that the Church seeks to take anyone's money. In fact, it is first and foremost a spiritual practice, in which the one giving is recognizing that his or her blessings - be they monetary or material or even spiritual - all of them come from God. It is a way of giving back to the One who gives generously to us. Tithing is not for those who have something "left over." In fact, Jesus condemns this sort of giving in Luke when he praises the poor widow's faith in giving "her whole livelihood" (Lk 21:4), as opposed to those who drop in even a huge amount.
Again, the act of tithing is not so much a materially measured thing; instead, it is an act of trust and faith in God. It is not "I will give a lot to God in hopes He will give much to me." God does not need our money to be generous to us - and that's why we give back to Him. His giving is gratuitous, and ours is grateful.
As for the recipient of that tithe, the Church. It is used to advance the mission of the Church: to proclaim the Gospel to every creature. This is done through charitable outreach, through worship, through education, through fellowship and the like. So, whether it's 10%, 8, 5 or whatever, tithing is another way we all can give 100%.
Friday, February 27, 2009
So, I think I'll have that filet-o-fish meal, let's not supersize it today, okay? (And a cup of water!)
Thursday, February 26, 2009
“Father Maciel deserves our prayers, as every Christian who dies does, that he’ll be forgiven and we leave the final judgment to God as to what his life and death amounted to,” Archbishop O’Brien said.
Saying that the Legion’s founder “leaves many victims in his wake,” the archbishop called for the “full disclosure of his activities and those who are complicit in them or knew of them and of those who are still refusing to offer disclosure.”
He added that the finances of the order should be opened to “objective scrutiny.”
Archbishop O’Brien said he has grave concerns that the Legion fosters a “cult of personality” focused on Father Maciel.
“While it’s difficult to get a hold of official documents,” Archbishop O’Brien said, “it’s clear that from the first moment a person joins the Legion, efforts seem to be made to program each one and to gain full control of his behavior, of all information he receives, of his thinking and emotions.”
The archbishop said many members who leave the order suffer “deep psychological distress for dependency and need prolonged counseling akin to deprogramming.”
Saying that “I know that there are good priests in the movement” and acknowledging that Legion members are in full accord with the theological teachings of the church, the archbishop also said some of the practices of the movement are unhealthy.
“This is not about orthodoxy,” he said. “It is about respect for human dignity for each of its members.”
Back in the summer, O'Brien took some rather tough measures against what he perceived as a lack of transparency in the dealings of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi in the Archdiocese of Baltimore and elsewhere, threatening to have them leave their work in the diocese. After some pressure was placed on him, he demanded full disclosure from the LCs as to their activities here and full transparency. The Legion has long been accused of operating outside of the authority and purview of parishes, drawing people to their programs and even placing a wedge between the legitimate authority of a local bishop and loyalty to the Legion.
In the wake of the new revelations about Fr. Maciel's life and peccatos, and the apparent sluggish response in facing them on the part of the Legion, O'Brien is close to having had enough. Meanwhile, there is growing call for greater openness on the part of the leadership of the Legion to be straightforward with the Church about where they stand as far as relationships to local bishops and to cooperation with the People of God in parishes and dioceses.
While the Legion does many wonderful things and operates some very faith-filled and successful programs, the stain of these revelations about their founder, and (perhaps worse) and unwillingness to open up to scrutiny, can throw all of that good into suspicion. Jesus calls us to come to the Truth, and that Truth will set us free.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Monday, February 23, 2009
I need some time to unplug. So, I will take a pre-Lent break until Ash Wednesday and then try to be faithful to a daily post for a Lenten discipline. See you real soon! Y? - because we love you!
(Thanks to whomever linked to me on New Advent! What a treat!)
Sunday, February 22, 2009
People often stop me
at the well,
or along the path to the village,
and they ask me about those days.
They want to hear the story
of how water became wine,
and how a terrible storm was calmed by a word.
They ask about the day my husband, Peter,
dropped his nets to follow a stranger.
And every time our neighbors have a little too much wine,
they ask if Peter really tried to walk on water!
“Tell me what you saw.
Tell me what you heard.
Tell me what you know about Jesus.”
It’s hard sometimes,
to know just how to begin,
because it’s not always easy
having Jesus for a friend.
As soon as we met Jesus,
our quiet lives
turned upside down
and everything was changed.
like lepers becoming whole,
began to seem normal,
and ordinary things,
like bread and wine
became something startling and new.
it seemed as if every person in Galilee
with a limp
or a rash
or a demon
eventually found their way to our house.
It didn’t matter
if it was late at night
or long before dawn;
when Jesus was here,
the whole town crowded
around our door,
blocking the path,
and begging to come in.
I worried about the children,
and tried to keep them safe.
But they scrambled through the mob
and dodged walking sticks
and stray dogs,
and talked—even to lepers!
as Jesus stretched out his hand
to embrace them all.
I worried about the food,
and tried not to mourn every fish
and count every loaf.
Peter told me
that Jesus would make them
fishers of men.
Well, that sounded very nice,
but I couldn’t help wishing
there were a lot more fish
and a few less men.
I can’t forget
the first time I met Jesus.
My mother was sick,
and I was so afraid.
Her fever raged,
and the children cried,
I wasn’t ready to say goodbye.
And then he came.
They told Jesus about her straightaway.
And moved by pity,
he went to her,
took her by the hand,
and then he helped her up!
Since then, I have seen
a cripple dance
and a blind woman see.
I’ve watched devils run away
and I have touched a leper’s hand.
not even the miracle of my mother,
prepared me for the time
that someone stripped the roof.
Jesus was here that night,
and his words filled the room.
The crowd spilled through the doorway
and many stood outside,
trying to come in.
Leaning forward to catch each word,
I felt something hit me on the head!
Brushing a sudden shower
of twigs and dirt from our robes,
we looked up in amazement
to see hands
tearing a hole in the roof!
When they made an opening
large enough for a stretcher,
as someone lowered a paralyzed man
down through the roof
and onto the floor,
right there in front of Jesus!
In my house!
Through my roof!
As I said,
It’s not easy
having Jesus for a friend.
Jesus turned to the paralytic
but instead of healing him
as we expected,
“My child, your sins are forgiven.”
It was as if a sudden storm
swept through the room.
The word hissed from a dozen lips
as scribes shouted “Blasphemy!”
and the crowd watched in amazement.
Who could forgive sins?
And yet it was clear that Jesus
wanted to teach us something
about sin and forgiveness
and maybe more important--
something about himself.
For when he told the paralytic to rise
and take his pallet and leave,
out the door,
down the road—
I often think about that night,
and about those people
who brought their friend to Jesus.
They didn’t care
if people laughed at them
or shoved them aside.
They didn’t let
crowded paths or blocked doorways stop them.
They didn’t worry that they had come too late
or had not been invited at all.
They didn’t ask permission
to climb up on my roof.
They came to Jesus
as fools and vandals--
and trusted him to help their friend.
I think they got more that night
than they bargained for.
We all did.
Jesus asked us,
“Which is easier to say,
‘Your sins are forgiven’
or ‘pick up your stretcher
and walk’ ?”
I wanted to shout out,
Neither is easy!
stretch my faith and my courage
almost beyond their limits.
There are days
when it would be easier to believe that fish fly
or nets repair themselves
than to believe I can be healed and forgiven of my sins.
It’s not easy,
having Jesus for a friend.
I meet the strangest people now,
People I’m not sure I want to know.
People that Jesus taught me
I need to know.
I give more now.
More than I ever wanted to give.
I give fish and bread
and my privacy—
and the safe and comfortable life
I knew with a man who used to be named Simon--
I’ve even given my roof!
I think about things now…
Things I never even considered before.
like forgiveness and sin and death and life
and the ways that God reaches out
to transform them all.
people ask me
to tell them
about Jesus and Simon Peter.
They want to know what it was like
to sit at his feet
and listen to his words.
Sometimes they ask me about the night
when someone ripped off my roof
and lowered a paralytic to the floor.
I’m never quite sure
where to begin.
I only know
that everything changes
when you have Jesus for a friend.
Kudos and thanks to Dr. Susan Flemming McGurgan, director of the Lay Pastoral Formation Program at the Athenaeum of Ohio.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
In many major American cities, the tawdry sections of town that once housed pornographic cinemas, bookstores, and strip joints have given way to shiny new office buildings and Starbucks coffee houses. Does this sign of urban renewal also signify moral renewal? Has America finally grown bored with a surfeit of pornography? Unfortunately not. Pornography has simply relocated from inner city slums to a far worse location -- the home, which it now infiltrates via the latest technology. [...]
The reason is that the key to democracy is not free choice. As we know from the Weimar Republic, people can freely choose anything, even Hitler. The key, as our Founding Fathers knew, is virtue. Only a virtuous person is capable of rational consent because only a virtuous person's reason is unclouded by the habitual rationalizations of vice. Vice inevitably infects the faculty of judgment. No matter how democratic their institutions, morally enervated people cannot be free. And people who are enslaved to their passions inevitably become slaves to tyrants. Thus, our Founders predicated the success of democracy in America upon the virtue of the American people. [...]The alternative to the massive presence of pornography is not, as Mr. [Milos] Forman [director of The People vs. Larry Flint] might suggest, the loss of freedom, but its maintenance. Censorship of pornography is a sign of a morally healthy society that can distinguish between obscenity and free speech. From the time of our Founders until not too long ago, America was a place that not only forbade hardcore pornography but, through its laws and social mores, actively encouraged lives of virtue. These formative influences made it clear that sex belongs within the context of the family. This teaching was not the result of prudery, but of a political and moral prudence that comprehended the basis of a free society.
The full article is definitely worth your time to read and share.
In our quest, we have been directed to a few other resources, which I would like to share with you. One is an education program for parents, teachers and teens called Illusions: Uncovering the Truth About Pornography. There are "Testimonials" there that show the effects that porn has had on individuals, marriages and families. Powerful stuff.
The other resource is a sort of accountability program that helps people with a partner - and accountability partner. For a small fee, you can sign up for "Covenant Eyes" which monitors your online use and reports to your "buddy" who helps you stay honest.
None of these things are "perfect," but they are great starts to help people realize the danger of pornography, which strips us of more than clothes - it strips away our humanity.
Friday, February 20, 2009
It is always edifying for me to see the faith of young people and young adults - particularly the latter, since young adulthood has been the locale of so much lost faith in the past. We as a Church need to improve our outreach and ministry to this demographic. I don't think that they "go away" simply because they have no solid foundation catechetically (although that is a problem in some cases). Sometimes, I think that we as a Church (we pastors) fail to respect the intellectual development of our youth. Homilies remain superficial and trite (if not downright boring and unengaging). It is a challenge for preachers to go deeper and not to be afraid to be smart in our homilies from time to time. Yes, we need to be mindful of the "least common denominator," but if we keep the faith level of preaching at the third grade, then we can expect the sharpest of our people to wander.
Some of the young people I follow do a great job of reminding me of the hunger they have for "smart faith." Two young women in California blog about their life and experience in film school. Pay a visit to Journey of a Catholic Nerd Writer and Catholic in Film School. These two women are strong in their faith, and they are out there trying to have an impact on culture as well. I wish them all the best and assure them of my prayers. Rebecca, the author of the the second one mentioned, has another fashion-related blog called Modestia.
The guys are represented here as well. Thom Curnutte is a Third Order Secular Franciscan who blogs at Ad Dominum as well as Anglican Wanderings from time to time. Thom, in a true spirit of St. Francis, "keeps it real," and calls me back to a broader view of our faith than the "conservative-liberal" labels would have us see.
So keep at it, my young friends. Faith is a journey, not the destination - Beatitude is the end. I am happy to walk that journey with you all!
Thursday, February 19, 2009
At the same time, my mother was very sick and was discovered to have the beginnings of ovarian cancer. She was to have surgery while I was on the retreat. Knowing that I was soon to be one of his charges, Dolan was very concerned for me that I got to be with my mom and take care of what I had to with my family. After an afternoon session, he said, "Now go and see your mom." It was the day of her surgery.
Mom has fully recovered (thank you, God!). In late August, when I landed at Fiumicino Airport in Rome, Dolan was there to greet the "New Men," as we were called. When he saw me, the first words out of his mouth were, "Austin! How's your mom?"
That's the Tim Dolan I know. Periodically, he would check in with me about my mother and smile that big Irish smile of his. I am grateful for his leadership at the NAC, but even more grateful for his pastoral sense.
Now, it seems any day now, he is the presumed next Archbishop of New York. If you want big hits on your blog, mention his name! He is a consummate Churchman, a loyal son of the Church, a fabulous preacher and speaker, and a very down-to-earth man. Much attention has been directed his way ever since he was ordained a bishop in 2001, and that scrutiny will continue. But, I will always see the man - the man who every day just before Evening Prayer would be found wandering the halls outside our chapel praying a Rosary which he carried behind his back. Dolan had and fostered in us a great love of Our Lady, as well as for her Son in the Eucharist.
I didn't always agree with him in his decisions, but I know he made them in the best interests of the young men for whom he was responsible. When he had to make difficult or controversial decisions, he sat with those most affected or put off and talked about the why's of the circumstances. He was a pastor.
His book, Priests for the Third Millennium, presents many of his conferences for the seminarians, and when I read it, I can still see him, front and center in our chapel, Bible on the podium, ever-present beads of sweat on his forehead. He commands attention when he speaks, and he speaks well. The image I have of his is standing there, arm reaching out, as if to draw his hearers in to his point. Dolan reaches people.
In November of 1999, about a year and a half after her surgery and treatment, my mother got to visit me in Rome. When I walked her down the hall of the College toward the chapel, Dolan appeared with that big smile and engulfed mom in a hug. "Welcome," he told her. "It's so good to see you here." "Mom," I then said, "this is Monsignor Dolan."
New York - if it is God's will - get ready for that hug.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Good luck, guys!
Monday, February 16, 2009
So...are you reaching your potential? Are you being whom God has called you to be - has made you to be? How would your "Stork" look at you today? There are two places you can be: where you are; and where you are called/made to be. When those two are the same place, there is contentment. When they are not, there is still Grace. I tell young people all the time when I talk about vocations that if there is a deep sense of joy and happiness doing what one is doing, that is a good sign from God that you are living your vocation. This is what the spiritual writers have called "consolation."
We all have that calling - intimately connected with our potential. Both are gifts from God. When we are created, we are given those tools to realize that potential. If we are using these tools well, there is consolation; when those tools sit untapped and unused, there is a certain sense of unrest that we might try to fill with many different things - some healthy, some not.
The first thing we need in realizing our full potential is not a random attempt to find and use those gifts. In fact, it is not "active" at all. It is prayer. Pray to, first, know what your vocation is; then, that "tool box" will open. Pray that the Stork help you to look into that potential with which you were created, and then ask for the grace and strength to live up to it every day.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
The king of Hawaii, Kamehameha V, established a village on the island of Molokai for those afflicted with the disease, with the hopes that they could take care of tilling the land and caring for themselves. Unfortunately, due to bad planning and some hopelessness on the part of the residents, the village soon deteriorated into drunkenness and disarray. It seems, being abandoned by your people and government in your plight has an adverse effect on people.
The local bishop wondered how these people could get spiritual and pastoral care – seeing how such an assignment amounted pretty much to a death sentence. Jozef, however, stepped up. He would go. Upon his arrival, hope returned – even in the midst of that despair and inevitability. Laws were enforced, homes and schools were built, and Jozef himself would dress wounds, bury the dead, comfort the sorrowing and teach the children.
Today, we know Jozef better by his religious name: Damien – Damien of Molokai – and in October, we will know him as Saint Damien of Molokai.
The religious prescriptions of Leviticus that we hear this morning, certainly, served a practical purpose for a small community. It is important to enforce quarantine for a time in order to keep a group healthy while the afflicted recover. Leprosy, in the Old Testament and Jesus’ time, was a nasty business. However, adding to that nastiness was the assumption that the affliction carried with it a moral sense – a stigma – a judgment.
These lepers were used to being cast aside. They were alone and cowering on the edge of society, looking in from their “safe distance.” All the things “normal” Jews took for granted: eating with others, doing business in the market, worshipping in the Temple – all these were out of reach for a leper.
When Jesus heard this man’s plea, “If you wish, you can make me clean” he heard the years of loneliness and derision, the longing to be complete and included, and his heart was “moved with pity.” Mark, always economical and careful with his words, tells us “he stretched out his hand [and] touched him.” Christ – God-made-man – reestablished contact for this man – both with God and man. He did not despise his condition; he did not shy away; he did not judge.
The power of stigma is strong. There are many labels, as we have seen, that place people somehow outside of us and our worlds. Be they illness, political persuasion, sexual orientation, nationality, race, economic condition, or whatever, these stigmas create the barriers that keep us from fully “stretching out our hands and touching” one another. As much as we may try not to, or want to admit it doesn’t exist, there is an implicit judgment. This was especially the case up to some years ago around those who had HIV/AIDS.
The challenge of the gospel is to imitate Christ – whether he is speaking out with an unpopular opinion, criticizing authority for hypocrisy, or reaching out to those whom society at large has written off. Our task is, first of all, to see those people in our lives who are calling to us, “If you will it, I can be clean.” Sometimes, the first step in healing is to simply be recognized as a person with intrinsic value.
Before Blessed Damien came to that leper colony on Molokai, the residents had given up hope on themselves because society, it seemed, had given up on them. His arrival must have seemed like a break in the clouds and the very light of God shining down on them. We too can be that ray of light in another’s day.
Today, you can visit the US Capitol building in Washington, and there, in the National Statuary Hall, there is a bronze statue, placed there in 1968, of that brave priest from Belgium who found his place with the suffering and dying in Hawaii. He is the only priest to be so honored. But even more important an honor than that, Damien makes his home now among the Blessed around God’s heavenly throne. What got him there? His adherence to that Spirit of Christ that says, “I do will it. Be made clean.”
We may never be honored with a bronze statue anywhere, yet our call is the same. The holiness that our faith demands of us calls us to see Christ in all people and to reach beyond ourselves, beyond expectations, beyond convention, and touch those whose lives have been for so long without that touch. Then, as we stretch out our hand, Jesus stretches out his. And we are touched as well.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Through the ministry if your
Son, Jesus Christ, you showed us
the pathway to discipleship.
Make us models of your
Gospel in action that by our
words and deeds young people
may be inspired to lives of
justice, holiness and love.
Renew our dedication to the
entire Church, especially the
young church of Baltimore.
Strengthen us to be
evangelizers in the world today.
It's a good break - from all the craziness, stress, disappointment, politics and pain that this ministry might bring; and, it helps me to see the joy, faith, excitement, fruit and faith that it brings as well.
To all my colleagues in this vineyard of youth ministry: thank you for your gifts, and may God continue to bless us all!
Friday, February 13, 2009
The year is 1967. The Second Vatican Council has only been over for two years and the Church is in a visible state of turmoil. In the next decade tens of thousands of religious and priests will leave their orders and forswear their vows. Female religious communities will be especially affected by the dwindling numbers. Religious orders will re-examine their charisms and their constitutions. The laity too will begin its slow contraction.
As John Henry Newman pointed out well before Vatican II, turmoil almost inevitably follows every major Church council. But this photograph spells out the Council's new promise. When it is taken, on October 27 1967, these four women are the living proof that aggiornamento (updating) is really taking place. Sober in the habits of their respective orders, they are the Vatican's first women officials.
The rest of that article is here.
Yesterday, she posted an interview with one of those women, Madre Margarita Claveria, which also presents a wonderful read.
What were the circumstances under which you were chosen to be one of the first four women to work in the Congregation of the Institutes of Religious life?
The Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation of Religious Life (Hildebrando Antoniutti) ask Pope Paul V I for there to be women also working in the dicasteries of the Holy See. The pope thought it was a good thing and in time we began as the first women, all religious from different Orders and of different nationalities.
I was in Rome, after several years of being a teacher of Latin, Greek and History in our Colleges in Zaragoza and Barcelona (San Gervasio) and I was soon appointed Superior and Director of the College and two years later, Provincial Superior, a position which I held for 14 years, after which I was sent to Rome, where the Mother General designated me to work for the Holy See.
What sort of feelings did you have when you heard the news of your appointment?
Not anything “special”, [I thought] only of the responsibility. We started but it soon became “normal” that other women worked and were employed in the Offices of the Vatican. Soon it was noticed that the women we were more active and conscientious workers than men. In the beginning our companions were a bit “disconcerted”…
What were the beginnings of your work?
Like that of all the priests and religious men who already worked there. A bit boring in the beginning but then we entered into the material.
Did you feel like you were opening new paths?
Yes. It felt a bit like we were the first. But soon it seemed completely normal to us, as much to those concerned as to others. The first four Religious, we started in October. In the end—as I already said—almost all the dicasteries had women Religious and female members of secular institutes in their personnel.
Did you find much resistance or difficulties on the part of the men who were in charge of your work?
No, to the contrary: support and confidence. They even paid attention to our feminine intuition, more subtle than that of the men, and consulted me frequently.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Seeing all this, I can't help but sit back and wonder at it all. If there is a biological process that governs how this complexity develops and evolves, there is no reason why that process cannot be part of God's plan as well. In fact, in early March, the Vatican will be discussing this very point at a conference marking the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species.
One of the benefits of my father's course of cancer treatment and recovery has been having him home to visit on my days off. When he was leaving work back in the fall, coworkers gave him books and DVDs to occupy him at home. On such DVD was the BBC series Planet Earth. This stunningly videographed and well researched documentary on the earth explores our little planet, revealing wonder after wonder of our natural world. Sitting there and watching about the extreme conditions at the poles, or mountain tops, or deep in caves; the diversity of life in various ecosystems; and the complexity and fragility of it all, I cannot but marvel at the beauty of God's creation.
Just because it's scientific and educational, that doesn't mean we can't see God's hand at work! Pick it up sometime - it's worth it!
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
I always think about what our young people think about seeing these heroes fall. What do these scandals say to them? Are heroes worth having, or will they all eventually have some dirt dug up or some mishap that will bring them down and crush them?
The pain that people involved with the LCs or Regnum Christi is real, and it is not their fault. It comes from a new awareness of the shortcomings - the sins - of another individual. They need our prayers to be able to move beyond this pain and disillusionment to healing and wholeness. They need heroes as well. Those who idolize sports heroes who cheat or engage in unhealthy, self-destructive behavior are not wrong for expecting good from their idols; they need real heroes. We all do.
What do we look for in our heroes? Strength? Perfection? Superhuman quality? That might actually be what we want, but is it appropriate? Now, don't get me wrong: I am not advocating easing up on holding public (and private) heroes to high standards. Rather, I am wondering if it is realistic to impose super-, or even non-human expectations on people who are, after all, human.
Instead of that - and this is what I'd want young people to understand - what we should expect is excellence. Excellence is always possible in anyone. The ones who make a habit out of it - those people are heroes. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle called this excellence "arete" - which we translate now as "virtue." Perhaps that is the definition of a hero? If so, does it force us to reevaluate whom we take as our heroes? Virtue is a habit of excellence - not as an athlete or a priest or a scholar or whatever - but excellence as a human being.
Seen in this light, to be truly "human" is not a put-down, it does not mean that we are limited; it means that we are who we are made to be, and we are so well.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Edward William Eldridge Jr. took his own life at the age of 62.
He lived alone in a small semidetached, red-brick house on Daywalt Avenue in Northeast Baltimore. He had no wife, no known children, no brothers, no sisters, and his parents died years ago. He listed his only aunt as a beneficiary, but she, too, had passed away.
He had no friends, at least none close enough or willing enough to stay with him at the hospital for a few hours so he could undergo the arthroscopic knee surgery he was scheduled to have on the day he died. He had nobody he could talk to or who could help him when he lost $100,000 of his retirement savings to the faltering stock market.
Now Eldridge's body lies at Ruck Funeral Home in Towson - a viewing is scheduled for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. tomorrow, memorial service at 11 a.m. Wednesday - his earthly remains saved from becoming a ward of the state and from a pauper's grave by the Baltimore homicide detective who got the case, went to the house and recognized the dead man as a colleague and an old acquaintance. He had "shot the breeze" with Eldridge years ago when the detective walked a foot post and the now-dead officer was the Police Department's Central District wagon man.
That detective, Randy Wynn, saw in this poor man a human being whose life carried meaning and value, even when others were nowhere to be seen - even when Mr. Eldridge saw it himself. This is love - true love - that has no other motive but the good of another human being, even in death.
The loneliness, despair, or illness that led this man to take his own life is no stranger to many of us. Yet, this is why we seek for meaning - not in any passing thing like material possessions, behavior or even other people - but in the relationship that points us to what is truly lasting and eternal. Those who suffer to the point of seeing no other way out of despair but to end their lives need our prayers, and our love.
Monday, February 9, 2009
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Cheery thoughts from our old friend, Job, today, aren’t they?
Have you ever felt like that, though? Just yesterday, it seems, I was starting college with a whole life of dreams and goals ahead of me, and this morning that is now half a lifetime ago. Nothing fun seems to last; and the most difficult times in our lives seem to drag on and on without end.
When I was in high school, my sophomore English teacher had us memorize a poem by Robert Frost entitled “Nothing Gold Can Stay”:
Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
so dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
Life passes – that is the way of things – has been from the beginning (“Evening came and morning followed; the first day”). While we can become sullen and melancholy over the “good ol’ days,” and look back at times that seemed so much better than now, life can only be lived forward. So what does our faith offer us in the face of this unceasing march of time?
We all go through highs and lows in our lives: we fall in love and can recount every moment of giddiness and expectation; we agonize over the hours and minutes before a mid-term or final; we pace as we await news of a test result. But one thing is certain: worrying or expecting does nothing to speed up nor slow down that passage of time. This is the case for those highs and lows in life, but what of the rest of the time – the “ordinary time.” Is there meaning and significance there too? I would like to think so.
Today’s gospel opens in just such ordinary time. Jesus is heading to his friends’ home after teaching. Simon’s mother-in-law is there, sick. Jesus “does his thing,” and heals her. And what does she do? She returns to the very things she usually does, and she waits on her guests.
The presence of Jesus does not call for us to step out of who we are. It does not always call for a radical change of lifestyle or behavior. Rather, it is a reorientation that is required, wherein everything we do – even the ordinary – is done with an awareness of God presence. It is Jesus who gives meaning to what we do.
Paul knew this. His preaching might have been extraordinary and heroic, but that was not Paul’s point. His point was the message – the Gospel of Jesus Christ – so that he could share that message with as many people as he could, for their benefit. Paul’s meaning was rooted in Jesus; once he found Christ, he would do everything – weak or strong, slave or free, all things to all people – in order to help others find meaning in Jesus as well.
Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, wrote an incredibly influential work entitled Man’s Search for Meaning. The book drew on his experiences as a prisoner in several concentration camps as well as a doctor and psychiatrist. He concludes that all life has meaning, no matter the condition, and that this meaning is discovered in each moment lived. Thus, even in the midst of severe suffering and even death, one can securely rest in that sense of meaning. Frankl concludes that this sense comes from our free choice to realize that there is a future to behold – this faith helps a person to retain a hold on their soul and know a sense of meaning in life.
“Everyone is looking for you,” the disciples tell Jesus.
Aren’t we all? Here, we find Jesus at our altar, in this Eucharist. We come here because here lays our meaning. It should be a moment of great import. We should want this moment to last forever. But, alas, this moment too will pass. We go on. So does Jesus, in fact: “He told them, ‘Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come’.”
The healing and the meaning that we seek – that people have sought from the beginning – that Job laments in our First Reading – this meaning, we know, comes from Christ. Looking back, we may see many wounds, many times when we were lost, hurt, confused, or scared. Jesus comes to us now – even in the ordinary moments – and calls us by name. He gives us true meaning.
Nothing gold can stay, but true life in Christ – that lasts forever.
Friday, February 6, 2009
That's right! I have it straight from the source of "truthiness." Colbert brings together Divine support for the Baltimore Birds - and the whole SSPX debacle here:
Camden Yards is pretty close to heaven for me - although (O's owner) Peter Angelos has been working hard to destroy my faith.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Standing in a locker room at Baltimore County's Kenwood High School, the teenage girl kept her cool when one of her peers passed by and hit her with a book bag.
"Under normal circumstances, that would have been a major fight in our building," said teacher Nancy Hanlin, recounting the incident.
Instead, Hanlin said, the girl told her classmate that she would have hit back "if I wasn't working on my virtues."
The fight that wasn't illustrates the changes that school officials say they are seeing at Kenwood, where a new character education initiative called the Virtues Project has begun altering the way teachers, administrators and students communicate with one another. The "virtues" are 52 good character traits, such as truthfulness, patience, responsibility and self-discipline.
Good news, no?