Friday, October 28, 2016

Ponder: "to widen our lens"

“Almost everyone, including the well off, can be moved to care about the less fortunate and less powerful, in spite of whatever effects wealth may have on them.  Individual stories help.  Exposure helps.  Just paying attention-to the waitress, the person in the crosswalk, the cleaning staff in the corridor of the conference center—helps.  Imagination helps, too.

I know a man who runs a large, urban affiliate of Habitat for humanity, a nonprofit program in which low-income families build their own homes alongside community volunteers and then buy the houses at a reduced rate.  On the first day of construction, he tells me, retired guys from the suburbs itching to break out their power tools show up to work with the future homeowner, often a working single mom with young kids who’s never been on a construction site in her life. ‘They have nothing in common and no idea what to do with each other,’ he says.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Right Place, Right Time, Missing the Point

Roger was lounging in the lobby as I checked into the Hotel Sandy, a cheap hostel just down the street from Rome’s Termini Station.  It was nearly suppertime, and he was yawning and stretching, as if he’d just woken up.  I asked him if he knew where to find a good pizza, and in a high-pitched New Zealand accent, he said he knew just the place if he could come with me. 

We were unlikely dining companions: me, an earnest theology student, making my rounds of the shrines and ancient ruins; Roger, an accomplished carouser, wandering from club to club until the break of dawn.  He woke up just in time for supper.  But somehow, it worked.  For five days, every evening we’d meet again in the lobby and head out for pasta, and share what we’d been discovering in the Eternal City.

The fourth night, Roger announced he would be leaving soon, and wanted some advice on what he really needed to see.  His pious Catholic grandmother had suggested Rome, it seems, hoping it might nudge him a bit in the right direction, and he didn’t want to turn up in her parlor entirely empty-handed. 

 He needed to see the Sistine Chapel, I insisted. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Ponder: "in their difficulties they know the suffering Christ"

“This is why I want a Church which is poor and for the poor. They have much to teach us. Not only do they share in the sensus fidei, but in their difficulties they know the suffering Christ. We need to let ourselves be evangelized by them. The new evangelization is an invitation to acknowledge the saving power at work in their lives and to put them at the centre of the Church’s pilgrim way. We are called to find Christ in them, to lend our voice to their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to speak for them and to embrace the mysterious wisdom which God wishes to share with us through them.   Our commitment does not consist exclusively in activities or programmes of promotion and assistance; what the Holy Spirit mobilizes is not an unruly activism, but above all an attentiveness which considers the other “in a certain sense as one with ourselves”. This loving attentiveness is the beginning of a true concern for their person which inspires me effectively to seek their good. This entails appreciating the poor in their goodness, in their experience of life, in their culture, and in their ways of living the faith. True love is always contemplative, and permits us to serve the other not out of necessity or vanity, but rather because he or she is beautiful above and beyond mere appearances: “The love by which we find the other pleasing leads us to offer him something freely”.  The poor person, when loved, “is esteemed as of great value”,  and this is what makes the authentic option for the poor differ from any other ideology, from any attempt to exploit the poor for one’s own personal or political interest."
Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium 197-198.

Horizontal and Vertical

From the October, 2016 WORD of Saint Timothy's Episcopal Church
“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” I Corinthians 12:27

The then-director of music Filippa Duke gave me a clear warning before services on my first Sunday morning at Saint Timothy’s .  “It will be the longest peace you’ve ever seen.”  She was right, of course.

The five to seven (and sometimes ten?) minutes of warm greetings in the middle of the Sunday Eucharist certainly is a notable feature of your life here.  It’s wonderful to see someone back after an extended illness being warmly welcomed, and children chatting with people older than their grandparents.  When the peace is passed here, people embrace across lines of race, class, and political conviction that keep us apart so starkly in our wider society. 

It’s still not my favorite thing about your common life (and I breathed a sigh of relief when told it wouldn’t be nearly as long at my next parish), but I’ve come to see that there’s something deeply important about it. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Ponder: "a house which is not for Time's throwing"

"We have found safety with all things undying
The winds, and morning, tears of men and mirth,
The deep night, and birds singing, and clouds flying,
And sleep,and freedom, and the autumnal earth,
We have built a house which is not for Time's throwing,
We have gained a peace unshaken by pain for ever,
War knows no power. Safe shall be my going,
Secretly armed against all death's endeavor;
Safe though all safety's lost; safe where men fall
And if these poor limbs die, safest of all"

Rupert Brooke,  “Safety”

Ponder: "the true way of all your loves upon earth"

“Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament. .... There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves upon earth, and more than that: Death: by the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste (or foretaste) of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, or take on that complexion of reality, of eternal endurance, which every man's heart desires.”

J. R. R. Tokein, “A Letter to Michael Tolkein, 6-8 March, 1941”

Ponder: "companions in shipwreck, not guiding stars"

"There is in our Western culture the romantic chivalric tradition still strong, though as a product of Christendom (yet by no means the same as Christian ethics) the times are inimical to it. It idealizes 'love' — and as far as it goes can be very good, since it takes in far more than physical pleasure, and enjoins if not purity, at least fidelity, and so self-denial, 'service', courtesy, honour, and courage. Its weakness is, of course, that it began as an artificial courtly game, a way of enjoying love for its own sake without reference to (and indeed contrary to) matrimony. Its centre was not God, but imaginary Deities, Love and the Lady. It still tends to make the Lady a kind of guiding star or divinity – of the old-fashioned 'his divinity' = the woman he loves – the object or reason of noble conduct. This is, of course, false and at best make-believe. The woman is another fallen human-being with a soul in peril. But combined and harmonized with religion (as long ago it was, producing much of that beautiful devotion to Our Lady that has been God's way of refining so much our gross manly natures and emotions, and also of warming and colouring our hard, bitter, religion) it can be very noble. Then it produces what I suppose is still felt, among those who retain even vestigiary Christianity, to be the highest ideal of love between man and woman. Yet I still think it has dangers. It is not wholly true, and it is not perfectly 'theocentric'. It takes, or at any rate has in the past taken, the young man's eye off women as they are, as companions in shipwreck not guiding stars. (One result is for observation of the actual to make the young man turn cynical.) To forget their desires, needs and temptations. It inculcates exaggerated notions of 'true love', as a fire from without, a permanent exaltation, unrelated to age, childbearing, and plain life, and unrelated to will and purpose. (One result of that is to make young folk look for a 'love' that will keep them always nice and warm in a cold world, without any effort of theirs; and the incurably romantic go on looking even in the squalor of the divorce courts)."

J. R. R. Tolkein, "A Letter to Michael Tolkein, 6-8 March, 1941"

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Ponder: "a proper distance is a condition for communion"

"To refuse this silence filled with confident awe and adoration is to refuse God the freedom to capture us by His love and His presence. Sacred silence is therefore the place where we can encounter God, because we come to Him with the proper attitude of a human being who trembles and stands at a distance while hoping confidently. We priests must relearn the filial fear of God and the sacral character of our relations with Him. We must relearn to tremble with astonishment before the Holiness of God and the unprecedented grace of our priesthood.
Silence teaches us a major rule of the spiritual life: familiarity does not foster intimacy; on the contrary, a proper distance is a condition for communion. It is by way of adoration that humanity walks toward love. Sacred silence opens the way to mystical silence, full of loving intimacy. Under the yoke of secular reason, we have forgotten that the sacred and worship are the only entrances to the spiritual life. Therefore I do not hesitate to declare that sacred silence is a cardinal law of all liturgical celebration."
Robert Cardinal Sarah, “CardinalRobert Sarah on the ‘Strength of Silence’ and the Dictatorship of Noise.” The Catholic World Report. 3 Oct 2016.

Ponder: "the last treasure of those who have nothing left"

“When I traveled to countries that were going through violent, profound crises, sufferings and tragic miseries, such as Syria, Libya, Haiti, the Philippines after the devastating typhoon, I observed that silent prayer is the last treasure of those who have nothing left. Silence is the last trench where no one can enter, the one room in which to remain at peace, the place where suffering for a moment lays down its weapons. In suffering, let us hide ourselves in the fortress of prayer.   Then the power of the jailers is no longer important; criminals can destroy everything furiously, but it is impossible for them to break in and enter into the silence, the heart, the conscience of a human being who prays and nestles in God. The beating of a silent heart, hope, faith and trust in God remain unsinkable. Outside, the world may become a field of ruins, but inside our soul, in the deepest silence, God keeps watch.”

Robert Cardinal Sarah, “CardinalRobert Sarah on the ‘Strength of Silence’ and the Dictatorship of Noise.” The Catholic World Report. 3 Oct 2016.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Ponder: "when all the 'practical' problems have been solved"

Neither studying microscopic sea creatures nor studying Shakespeare nor designing exquisite copes nor compiling medieval sequences will ever be practical in a direct, worldly sense. Yet these are the small (and large) disciplines of life in community that must be sustained if we are ever to be an integral whole.
 Sure, we should feed the hungry and clothe the naked and comfort the afflicted. We must do those things, and woe to us if our peculiar competencies are merely a distraction from doing so.
But I submit that true vocation, true work, is not, when seriously done, a distraction from something more important. It is the important thing, the human thing, that remains when all the “practical” problems have been solved, that remains when new problems arise that will never be imagined by our methodologies of utility. The question should always be: when we satisfy our need for material progress and success, what will remain? Lord help us if it is a world with nothing interesting to learn.

Sam Keyes, “Details Matter: On the Disciplines, Covenant, 29 Sep. 2016.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Ponder: "trusting his audience back"

"The scorebook will close on a cultural icon who earned trust in a way that is hardly seen anymore--not just through longevity, but through trusting his audience back.

[Vin Scully] did not question plays or players just to gin up a reaction.  He didn't utter undeserved accolades or excuses for the home team just because he was its employee.  He didn't engage in hype or hopped-up controversy.  He trusted that his audience would appreciate an intelligent, measured account of the game, laced with knowledgeable analysis and a never-saccharine icing of erudition...He belongs to a category that includes Johnny Carson, Carol Burnett, Barbara Walters and the pre-scandal Bill Cosby--avuncular, wise truth-tellers who entertain, accompany, and win our trust because they believe they can connect without hype, hysteria or superheated energy.  The key ingredient here is grace, an element that's so sorely missing from our politicians who--especially this year--try too hard or hide too much, relying on artifice and exaggeration because they refuse to believe that we might respond well to something genuine, honest, imperfect."

Marc Fisher, "Vin Scully Called it Right."  The Washington Post, 2 Sep. 2016, B1,4.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Ponder: "capable of filling life with new splendor"

“Every form of catechesis would do well to attend to the ‘way of beauty’ (via pulchritudinis).  Proclaiming Christ means showing that to believe in and follow him is not only something right and true, but also something beautiful, capable of filling life with new splendor and profound joy, even in the midst of difficulties.  Every expression of true beauty can thus be acknowledged as a path leading to an encounter with the Lord Jesus...If, as Saint Augustine says, we love only that which is beautiful, the incarnate Son, as the revelation of infinite beauty, is supremely lovable and draws us to himself with bonds of love.  So a formation in the via pulchritudinis ought to be part of our effort to pass on the faith."

Pope Francis, Evangelium Gaudii, 167.

Ponder: "the first proclamation must ring out over and over"

"The kerygma is trinitarian.  The fire of the Spirit is given in the form of tongues and leads us to believe in Jesus Christ who, by his death and resurrection, reveals and communicates to us God's infinite mercy.  On the lips of the catechist the first proclamation must ring out over and over: "Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.'  This first proclamation is called 'first' not because it exists at the beginning and can then be forgotten or replaced by other more important things.  It is first in a qualitative sense because it is the principal proclamation, the one which we must hear again and again in different ways, the one which we must announce one way or another throughout the process of catechesis, at every level and moment."

Pope Francis, Evangelium Gaudii, 164.