Category Archives: explaining

Deo Gratias

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Deo Gratias is Latin for “Thanks be to God.” Remembering to give thanks for all of our blessings, big and small, helps us to find God in our everyday moments and gives us an attitude of gratitude! Colleen at Thoughts on Grace has organized this meme and you can contribute by clicking here. This week I’m thankful for:

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  1. New friends who’re willing to explore the city. Saturday I took two Australian teachers to the museum, where we saw this magnificent gold shrine (above).
  2. Tea. It’s a splendid drink, hot or cold. There’s something so pure in a good cup of tea.
  3. Ideas. I’m being blessed with a manageable amount of ideas, from God no doubt, for the story I’m working on.
  4. Horatio Alger books. I’ve read 6 in the last few weeks: Ragged Dick, Struggling Upward, Andy Burke: Only an Irish Boy, Erie Train Boy, Store Boy, and one more. They’re aimed at older kids, but I love the character’s pluck. What’s more these heroes are overall good kids who stand up for the idea of taking the right path and not feeling inferior to those who do the “cool” things like smoke or cheat. I’ve sent my niece and nephew two of them and hope they read and enjoy them.
  5. Healing. I sprained my ankle about two weeks ago and it’s starting to feel like normal.
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Art & the Church

Barbara Nicolosi wrote a wonderful piece that we should all mull over on why art matters to Christianity.
Here’s the first part with a link to the full post:

What We Have Lost and Why it Matters
The sad thing is, if you walked on the street and took a spot survey, asking people to name the Patron of the Arts, few people would say, the Christian Church. People would probably say The Sundance Institute or the National Endowment for the Arts or the Bravo Channel. And they would be right! Hollywood does MUCH more to keep alive the arts than does the Church.
In fact, the testimony of the arts at a typical parish on a Sunday morning, can only be that the arts do not matter a whit to the Church today. I would go so far as to say that the arts in many Christian churches have become a scourge to torment the People of God.

We stagger in to the Church on Sunday morning hoping to find a glimpse of heaven, and we receive the worst vestiges of badly performed pseudo-pop music from the largely stoned, self-important, anti-intellectual folk music era, now only kept alive in our churches. In most cases, what we are exposed to musically in our churches is bad compositions badly executed. Sometimes, it attains to bad composition well-executed, but as poor imitations of what is happening in secular music, generally, the stuff we are hearing in Church is inappropriate to the liturgy in style, excellence and lyricism.

Click to read more.


Of many things

St. Ignatius of Loyola

St. Ignatius of Loyola (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Facebook someone asked for essays on the Jesuit concepts of consolation and desolation. Here’s something I found while waiting for the Ask the Librarian for Loyola.

IN SOME WAYS I am an old-school Jesuit. In a succession of assignments and apostolic responsibilities, I have lived by St. Ignatius Loyola‘s perplexing maxim that he preferred a man of self-denial to one of prayer. I am scandalized, but only slightly, by some young Jesuits’ need for the spiritual satisfactions of direct pastoral experience. One of the first lessons Ignatius learned during his hermit period at Manresa was to forgo what he called the consolations of prayer and to reduce his physical austerities for “the good of souls.” Ignatius, one of the great Spanish mystics, loved prayer; but he encouraged detachment from its satisfactions and even advised sacrificing time from prayer for the sake of uniting oneself to God’s will in bringing spiritual progress to others.

I learned that lesson in a different way early in my Jesuit life, as a novice at Calvary Hospital for the Cancerous Poor in the Bronx. The first patient I was assigned to look after was a big-boned Irishwoman known for her cheerfulness, who was suffering with a brain tumor.

Veronica was everyone’s favorite patient. But for the two weeks she was in my care, she was ill and sedated. It was as if she were comatose. She sipped her water, swallowed her food, but uttered not a word. The first response I received from her came the day I introduced her to my replacement. She said, “I know you. You have taken care of me. Thank you.” It was as if she arose from the dead with words to pierce my soul.

That experience of the value of an emotionally unrewarding task stayed with me afterward, sustaining me in difficult tasks and hard times. Doing God’s work serving humanity is often without immediate satisfaction. It does not require spiritual consolation to sustain it. Mother Teresa, after the vision that led her to found the Missionaries of Charity, is said to have prayed in desolation the rest of her life. She once said, “When I meet Jesus, I will say, ‘I loved you in the darkness.'”

I thought about spiritual consolation and its absence recently as I read Karen Armstrong‘s autobiography, The Spiral Staircase (2004). A prolific writer on the history of religions, Armstrong spent seven years as a nun in a community whose rule was inspired by St. Ignatius, our Jesuit founder. The version of Ignatian spirituality imparted to Ms. Armstrong focused on breaking the will, but without “the mysticism of service,” Joseph de Guibert’s description of Ignatius’ apostolic charism. Such a spirituality is bleak enough; but in addition, Armstrong reports, in the course of seven years in the convent, she did not enjoy one moment of spiritual consolation.

I do not have a particularly vivid prayer life, but I cannot imagine what it would be like to be deprived of all spiritual consolation. “I never felt caught up in something greater,” Armstrong writes, “never felt personally transfigured by a presence that I encountered in the depths of my being.” She could not even still herself, she reports, “to wait on God.” Only 20 years later and after a life filled with disappointments, did she have her own metanoia, as she wrote her well-known History of God (1993). Then she understood “true religion” as a practice that opens the heart to others. “The habit of empathy,” she wrote, “had to become part of my life, and it had to find practical expression.” Her transformation had begun. She experienced what Alfred North Whitehead describes as one of the fruits of prayer, “the love of mankind as such.” Her most recent book, The Great Transformation (2006), an interpretation of the origins of the world religions, has as a key theme the primacy of compassion and nonviolence in the growth of religious consciousness.

Over the years, I had some memorable moments of prayer: when, for example, after a personal crisis I rediscerned my Jesuit vocation, or when, as I prayed in a mountain meadow over “the lilies of the field,” I felt God’s providence at work. But mostly my consolations have been unspectacular, what St. Ignatius describes as “every increase of faith, hope, and love, and all interior joy that invites and attracts to what is heavenly and to salvation of one’s soul by filling it with peace and quiet in its Creator and Lord.”

That said, I am all the more in awe of those, like Mother Teresa, who do beautiful things for God deprived of even these everyday sorts of consolations. My respect for Ms. Armstrong’s often inspiring scholarship is all the greater knowing how her insight was wrested from her own peculiar darkness. And I wonder at God, who gives light to some and not to others and accompanies us all in darkness as well as light.

America’s editors are pleased to welcome Margaret Silf as our newest columnist. Her essays will appear monthly under the banner Reflection Place. An internationally known spiritual writer, she will also bring a British and European perspective to our pages.

Drew Christiansen, S.J.

Reference

Christiansen, Drew. “Of many things.” America 3 July 2006: 2. Academic OneFile. Web. 8 June 2013.

New Saints

The story of the Martyrs of Otranto. They’ll be canonized on Sunday, May 12, 2013.


The Christ Hymn

I found this devotion both sincere and helpful. I’ve never been good at memorizing scripture, but thanks to Eva will try.

By Eva Lapp, a sophomore peace, justice and conflict studies major from Goshen, Ind.

SCRIPTURE: Philippians 2:5-11 (NRSV)
DEVOTIONAL:

Growing up, memorizing Bible passages never made sense to me. My experience at church and school was that I would repeatedly stumble through a passage until the words stayed in my mind and on my tongue just long enough that I could receive a golden sticker or a shining A+. Occasionally I would convince myself that the next time I would really study the passage and become a good Christian who could rattle off any number of memorized verses. But this spiritual discipline never became my “thing.”

Then this past fall I took a required Bible course here at Goshen College and, lo and behold, we had Scripture memorization quizzes. What a joy, I thought sarcastically. After slogging my way through several passages and fulfilling my grade expectation, I came across today’s passage, the Christ Hymn. I went through the same motions: memorize, take the quiz, get an A, forget the passage. But, a few weeks afterwards, I came across the passage again and wrote it in my journal. The next day I looked at it again and tested my memory skills to find that I could recite most of the passage!

The lilting nature of this hymn speaks to my poetic sensibilities. Memorizing this passage was natural and in these days and weeks of Lent I recover this passage each day as a reminder of my faith. It is a reminder of my decision in life to follow Christ and what that entails. It is a reminder that Christ comes in the name of God, that Jesus is God and thus his actions reflect God’s vision for humanity. As I relish each word and savor the gentle prayer-like movement of the verses, I remind myself that….

The blessed one comes in the name of the Lord and thus, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus” (2:5).

SCRIPTURE: Philippians 2:5-11 (NRSV)
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

The Bishop’s Wife

TheBishopsWife1

A Facebook friend posted film dialog and I think it’s great:

Henry Brougham: Tonight I want to tell you the story of an empty stocking. Once upon a midnight clear, there was a child’s cry. A blazing star hung over a stable and wise men came with birthday gifts. We haven’t forgotten that night down the centuries; we celebrate it with stars on Christmas trees, the sound of bells and with gifts. But especially with gifts.You give me a book; I give you a tie. Aunt Martha has always wanted an orange squeezer and Uncle Henry could do with a new pipe. We forget nobody, adult or child. All the stockings are filled … all that is, except one. And we have even forgotten to hang it up. The stocking for the child born in a manger. It’s his birthday we are celebrating. Don’t ever let us forget that.

Let us ask ourselves what he would wish for most … and then let each put in his share. Loving kindness, warm hearts and the stretched out hand of tolerance. All the shining gifts that make peace on earth.

The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

I need to see this movie.


Happy Birthday, Dorothy!

Dorothy Day half-length portrait, seated at de...

Dorothy Day half-length portrait, seated at desk, facing right (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today is the birthday of the journalist, social activist, and co-founder of The Catholic Worker movement Dorothy Day (books by this author), born in Brooklyn, New York (1897). Catholic Workers lived in voluntary poverty and immersed themselves in service to others. The movement quickly spread, and by 1941, there were more than 30 such communities throughout the country. Today there are more than 100.

Her autobiography, The Long Loneliness, was published in 1952 — she authored eight books and more than 350 articles in her lifetime.

Dorothy Day, who said: “The greatest challenge of the day is how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution that has to start with each one of us.”


Hands of Peace

Hands of Peace

The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.

Numbers 6:24-26

I saw this sculpture by Henri Azaz in downtown Chicago on Clark Street at a synagogue and thought it was quite cool. The sculpture consists of English and Hebrew writing.


No Worries Mate

I enjoyed this sermon that I found on line, No Worries, Mate. It’s by a minister in New Zealand and is meaningful and humorous.


What the . . . ?

Commonweal‘s weekly email led me to an essay responding to a preposterous ad that aims to persuade liberal and nominal Catholics to quit the church because its teachings are “out of step with the times”. Is this for real?

Yep. As bizarre and poorly thought out as it sounds, these folks are for real.

I have to pity the people who put the ad out there to begin with.  They just don’t get that being Catholic or Christian or a believer of any faith is not the same as say belonging to a club like the Boy Scouts or Lions. Certainly, there are many with superficial faith, who did get a weak education or catechism, and they’ve got a slew of wrong ideas about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the church. That’s an issue the church needs to address, but I am glad that the church doesn’t just follow what’s popular and takes a long view.

I do agree that some changes need to be made in the church, but not based on this ad or the ideology of those who paid for it. The church constantly needs to strive for correct teaching. It’s not a job that’s ever done, but that doesn’t mean we need to fit in with the outside culture as it shifts and stumbles along.

Catholicism  goes deeper and it ought to. Yes, those who’s faith is like seed on rock may leave, but most of them left already, sadly. The church is not all about how many members there are. It shouldn’t be at least. Even if half the Catholics left, which I doubt would happen, this religion is here to stay. Every 500 years or so the church faces a major crisis and it looks like it’s in jeopardy, but it has always bounced back and grown.

Ironically, this little ad may wind up bringing people to Catholicism.