Thursday, September 30

lookin' like a goldfish

In Murphreesboro, TN, there is a storm brewing.  You see, there is a faith community in town and the community has outgrown their old worship site so they have bought property and filed paperwork to have a new one built.  This is horrible and the end of the world because the worship site is, in fact, a terror-drome, training fanatics to overthrow the government of God-fearing americans and impose religious dictates upon the masses.  No, they're not Opus Dei, they're a moderate muslim community who have been worshiping in town since the 1980's.

What flags this saddening display of intolerance and ignorance worth annoying enough electrons to write about it is not the arson (according to the ATF) at the construction site nor the fact that the lawsuit is based upon the construction of a cemetery.  No, the trouble comes from the most recent talking point from the opponents to this construction.

"Are you aware that's all the plaintiffs have wanted from day one is to know whether this is a religious institution?...Did you do anything to determine this was a religious meeting place?...Sounds like you don't know what a mosque is."

Islam is, by most estimations, the second largest organized faith system in the world.  To intimate, let alone openly question if is a religion at all boggles the mind.  I cannot recall ever reading, even in the most intolerant language of the 'bad old days', where the 'muhammodans' (or, for that matter, protestants, catholics or jews) didn't follow a religion.  That they're following the wrong religion, doing X or failing to do Y (which, we all know, is an anathema), or somehow disrespect the [insert name of Divine you follow here]...sure, they all say that, but never that it isn't a religion at all.

So, yeah.  I'm sitting here reading this, shaking my head slowly and looking like a goldfish, mouth agape, due to the sheer incredulity of it all.  Even assuming that those 'god-fearin murikans' are right (which I don't) and Islam is an enemy of Christianity and/or the United States (which I don't believe it is)...

"But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that."

 Damned hippies.

Wednesday, September 29

Lessons from Saints - St. Michael the Archangel

Today is the Feast of Saint Michael (which, under the new ways, includes Gabriel and Raphael).  Of the three Archangels mentioned in Scripture, Michael is the most prominent.  Hie identified himself to Joshua as the general of the army of the Lord and Michael is considered to be the protector of the Church.  This is affirmed in the story of the miracle of Chonae, when pagans attempted to destroy a church by diverting the river Lycas, only to have Michael intercede and split the rocks in twain, carving out a new channel and saving the sanctuary.

During the Middle Ages, the feast of Saint Michael, aka Michaelmas, was the annual day of reckoning, of settling accounts between merchants.  On this day, a celebration would be had, thanking God for his benefice in the past year and asking Him for continued benefice in the year to come.  This ties into the story which I wish to mention and relates directly to the lesson.

Jude references an ancient judaic story, wherein Michael comes to blows with the Devil over the body of Moses, for the Great Deceiver wishes to give the people of Israel a hero to worship instead of YHWH.  Triumphing at the last, Michael has Satan at his mercy whereupon the Devil says 'So, then, you shall judge me and throw me into the pit?'  And Michael replies that it is only God who may judge.

Only God may judge.  If the greatest of the angels, the general of the army of God cannot judge the very incarnation of evil, how can we dare look at another and say that they are found wanting?

Tuesday, September 28

Nunc aspicio, nunc scio, semper credo

It's all so simple.

The scales fall like coins from my eyes and I rise from my slumber of study to have the truth rise and greet me like the dawn.

The forms of things are not the things.  The names are not what is, only a pale shadow. 

Indeed, dear Anglic Doctor, it is all straw.

All the erudition is of effect only when it does not distract, all the pages are of profit only when they enrich our soul and the world.

We are all part of the Sacred which we forget and make mundane.
We are all part of Creation which we forget and make our enemy. 
We are all the children of God which we forget and sin.
We are all the body of Christ which we forget and divide.

We shall glorify you, oh great Divine,
       and not forget your place in our lives.
We shall love you, oh Maker of All,
       and love all your creation and all your children.
We shall honour you, oh God our Father,
       and remember that we are your children.
We shall give you praise, oh blessed Lord
      and know that we are all an instrument of your peace.

Thanks be to you, oh gracious and wonderous Lord,
      all glory and honour be to you.
May all the creatures of creation praise and magnify your name,
      especially this little blind one who does now see.

Aspicio, Scio, Credo

Gloria In Excelsis Deo

Monday, September 27

Gloria in Excelsis Deo

Glory to God in the highest
and peace to all people on earth.
Lord God, heavenly King, Almighty God and Father,
we worship you, we give you thanks,
we praise you for your glory.
Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father,
Lord God, Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world:
have mercy on us;
You are seated at the right hand of the Father:
receive our prayer.
For you alone are the Holy One,
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High,
Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Thanks and praise to you, almighty Lord.

Sunday, September 26

Stop me if you've heard this....

"This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness."   -Dalai Lama

Preach it, brother.

Custom, Heritage and Tradition - words have meaning

We had a discussion on Wednesday at church about Tradition and what that word means in relation to being Catholic. The discussion, like all of the Chatauqua talks, was fruitful and respectful...but. The 'but' was niggling in the back of my head for a good part of the week and it came to the fore today at mass when our priest mentioned 'it is our custom and tradition at Light of Christ....".


Custom isn't tradition. The distinction is both subtle and important.

A custom is a practice which is performed frequently enough in a specific manner that it becomes ritualized. In short and brief, it is a fixed method of action which is objective and sociologically ingrained. Perhaps the least problematic and most obvious example in liturgy is something which happens every mass. "The Lord be with you" "and also with you". You don't hesitate, there's no profound theological basis for the forms of the exchange and it never varies. It's just the way 'its done'.

Conversely, tradition is a subjective interpretation of ideas, events and beliefs which are transmitted, principally orally or by practice, from generation to generation. Note, then, that tradition is subjective in nature and it is both conserved and transformed by each succeeding generation. In our church, the gesture of genuflecting towards the altar before you sit in the pews would be a tradition. Some folks do this, some don't. Ask those who do and they'll tell you that's how they were taught. Ask those who don't and some will say it's not how THEY were taught and some will give a reason why they don't do it even though they were taught that way.

Heritage....heritage is a different animal all together.  Heritage is our inheritance, whether it be religious, racial, ethnic, cultural or national.  It is the combined thought, wisdom, tradition and custom of hundreds (possibly thousands) of generations. It is this which traces a line from the here and now into the misty past and creates a bond to all those who come before.  Heritage can be accepted or denied, but it is almost totally fixed.  I say almost because our generation is creating the heritage of the future, adding our own small contribution to the collective just as each generation did before.  In liturgy, the signal representation of heritage is the Eucharist, or Communion if you are Protestant.  In both forms, we celebrate and commemorate the act that all Christians have done in memory of our Lord.  By doing so, we re-affirm the faith of untold billions of the course of thousands of years and add our voices to the choir.

The Roman church (and it's progenitor, the Orthodox church) have taken the general term tradition and made it a technical term, Tradition.  In the Roman church, that Sacred Tradition is, using the above definitions, the heritage of the Christian faith, but interpreted as the Magisterium sees fit (just as Sacred Scripture is to be only interpreted as the Magisterium sees fit).  As an aside, I should note that I find great irony in the fact that an institution which dates to Vatican I sees fit to speak with the authority of the whole of Apostolic Succession and tell the laity how it has always been.

And...this is where things get dicey.

A lot of what people think of as Tradition is, in fact, tradition or custom.  The use of Latin, altar rails, or 'by mouth' aren't linked to the Apostolic Era, but are traditions which developed over time for a variety of reasons which may or may not still have validity today.  Sacred Heart of Jesus?  A tradition.  The rosary?  A custom.  Mariology as it is practiced in the Roman church?  A tradition.  What needs to be noted here is that I am not questioning the value or purpose of these things.  Let me say again.  I am not questioning the value or purpose of these traditions or customs.  Rather, I am saying that these things are not the apostolic heritage passed down to us from ancient times, they are not Sacred Tradition.  They are traditions and customs which, depending on the catholic community in which you participate, may have more or less importance.  

If a community wishes to change their customs, then the community decides to change them.  If a community wishes to alter traditions, then the community teaches their successive generations different traditions.  Heritage, as I said, can only be embraced or denied, it can't be twisted to serve the agenda du jour.  A authoritative body cannot arbitrarily ret-con history (despite what some political parties may believe), they cannot flip a switch and force a people to change what has meaning to them as a tie to previous generations or what they have always done.  To attempt to do so is to invite the whirlwind.  Welcome to Vatican 2.

So, how does a hierarchical structure affect a change in custom or tradition?  Education and gradual change.  Explain why it was done the old way, why it was valid then and is no longer applicable and how the changes to the customs and traditions are applicable while holding to the spirit of the old.  After that, gradually (over a number of years) implement the changes.  All of these things are very important.  Validation of what was is important because it shows respect for the past and an explanation of what was held important. Why the transition is needed is a question which must be answered for reasons of continuity as well as recognition of the validity of the needs of the people.  Explanation of of the new is vital, for it informs and allows for acceptance of the importance of the new.  Gradual implementation is needed to acclimate folks to changes.  Will everyone be all sweetness and light about it?  Of course not.  But they will understand.

hmm...this isn't where I started at all, but it's a lot better than what I had thought originally.  Thanks Dad!  :)

Friday, September 24

reflection on the journey

There are times when things just snap into focus, when you look around and realise where you look back and see how you've gotten here and how strange a journey it's been.

When I was growing up, my church was the primary font of theology and pastoral wisdom.  I was 'lucky' in that I went to a private, protestant school who taught some rather different things from what my church taught.  This gave me the first inkling that there wasn't just 'one, right way'.  That the word 'truth' shouldn't be capitalized.

I've done a lot of walking between those days so long ago and today.  Some things have changed and some things haven't. 

I am more willing to accept living without certainty than I have ever been and more willing to say 'I was wrong'.  To me, those are all matters relating to letting go...of releasing control. 

I am more willing to recognise that other people who hold radically different views from my own are just as right, holy and earnest in their attempts to understand and live within the Divine as my own paltry endeavours.

I have become more emotional and filled with passion, not just for a single cause but rather for nearly everything and everyone.  I think that these are part of a growing recognition of  the Net of Jewels, not just on an intellectual level but on a heart-level.

I am full of faith and entirely without faith, depending on your definition of the word.  If faith is a belief in things unproven, as many of the Fundies will define it, then I am without faith for  I know, not believe.  If, on the other hand, one considers faith to be confidence or trust in someone/thing else, then I have an abundance of faith.

My personal Credo is as valid and important to me as it was years ago when I came upon it through meditation and prayer.  To hear from other faiths (which I had not had contact with) that I 'reinvented the wheel' is heartening, as it is an example of parallel and convergent evolution.

I am still sure, perhaps now moreso than before, that Dad's got something planned and that I am to do more.  Whether that is a specific call to the presbyterate or the diaconate...well, when She let's me know, I'll pass it along.  There's a lot more road ahead, but the more I walk down this road, I realise that there are others who are going my way and the conversations as we walk are most heartening.

Thanks to all and thanks be to God

Thursday, September 23

Dogs, Gays, Geese and Reasonability

I realise that this is the third post in a row about 'teh gay', but something which has been rattling around in the back of my head just popped.  Please bear with me on this.

There is a dog.  She's a good girl, to be sure, and she knows full well that I shan't tolerate any of the pets doing their business in the house.  But, if I don't walk her as I used to or otherwise allow her to go outside, then there's not much choice now is there?  I mean, theoretically she could hold her water for the whole time, but...yah.  Of course, the cat has the same prohibition against crapping everywhere, but she has a litter-box that I provide.  So, if I keep to that regimen of not walking the dog but she must not do it indoors, then who's at fault when there's a mess?  The well meaning dog or me?

There is a gay boy. He's a good Catholic, to be sure, and he knows full well that the Church shan't tolerate anyone having sex outside of marriage.  But, if the Church won't condone same-sex marriage like it used to or otherwise allow any sexual release, then there's not much choice now, is there?  I mean, theoretically he could be chaste, but...yah.  Of course, his straight brother has the same prohibition against extra-marital sex, but he has marriage that the Church provides.  So, if the Church keeps to the regimen of no same-sex marriage but no extra-marital sex, then who is at fault when there's 'a mess'?  The well-meaning gay or the Church?

My point in this isn't to argue for or against the concept that sex is a fundamental bodily function which 'can't be helped'.  Instead, what I'm looking at is a matter of reasonableness.  For Christians, the choices regarding sex are simple: chastity, marriage or some form of sin.  Yes, there are some who can be chaste, but even in orders which call for chastity it has always been a problem, and those orders are voluntary.  For over half of the Christian tradition, same-sex marriage (under various names) have existed and been a valid alternative, but since the Church turned intolerant towards women, Jews and homosexuality in the 14th century, marriage is a straight-only option.  Thus, the only alternative that the Church condones involves harming the relationship between man and God.

In a more general sense, one can make the same argument for the gay boy in a society which says promiscuity is wrong but won't let him get hitched.  Don't prevent him from doing what everyone else can do and then castigate him when he exercises the only other option available....and especially do not castigate those who don't have another option whilst turning a blind eye to those who can get married and yet are promiscuous.

"If you don't eat yer meat, ye can't have any pudding."
"'s Friday.  The Church says I can't have any meat, either." 

The point is that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If we say that the only way to be good is to do [X], then everyone must be given the opportunity to do [X].

Just sayin.

Wednesday, September 22

Refections on the 'T' in GLBT

This continues the reflections which came out of the Pridefest and discussions with Padre F.  Even more than usual, I would actively request comments and thoughts from those of you who come by these posts.

The second issue is problematic and far more sticky, which is the 'T' in LGBT.  Unlike the other letters, Transgender issues are matters of gender identity, not gender orientation.  Please note that I am not referring to those who are transvestites (those who want to societally identify as a gender different from their biology) but rather those who believe, for whatever reason, that they are internally a different gender than their gross biology would indicate.  To put in colloquial parlance, a transgender's electrical work doesn't match the plumbing.

My personal belief is that gender orientation is imbued by the creator and there is nothing 'wrong' or innately sinful with whatever orientation one may have.  Further, I believe that our biology (both gross and subtle, plumbing and electrical) is an innate feature of us as part of creation, given to us by the Divine.  I believe that while we, as finite and fallible creatures with but a dim idea of the universe around us, can make mistakes, the Divine is infinite in knowledge and does not make mistakes.  Thus, while I respect and will defend the rights of those to 'change the plumbing to match the electric' (just as I will defend abortion rights), my personal feelings regarding this causes me a lot of grief.  I'm not sure how to balance this, in honesty, as I recognize that the Trans- community will probably never gain any sort of acceptance or respect without someone being an advocate (which, it seems, the remainder of the Family has been chosen to be) and yet it is a fundamentally different issue than what we're about.

To my eyes, it isn't about acceptance and love of another, but a rejection of self and, indirectly, of the Divine.

I have problems with that.

Reflections on promiscuity

Considering that my current audience is either Family or Friends of the Family, I'm going to unload on an issue that was briefly brought to light at the recent Pridefest which I spoke briefly about here.

I had the opportunity to spend a very wonderful day chatting with Padre F, who is an openly gay priest working with a nearby parish.  Over the course of the day, two unrelated issues were briefly raised which I realize merit far more reflection than have been given mention here or elsewhere within the Family-friendly religious atmosphere.  Considering the difference and importance of each, I intend on splitting the discussion into two separate posts.

The first is the matter of promiscuity and the 'gay lifestyle'.  I have spoken about this in the past, but it is important enough to mention again.  The prevailing societal norm is that the single lifestyle is promiscuous.  This intersects with the gay community principally in that gays aren't legally permitted and are not socially encouraged to marry/form long-term relationships.  That doesn't mean that some of us don't try to buck the trend, but mainstream society is hard to counter and if we, as the voice of conscience-driven members of the Family want to change the discourse, we need to engage this conflation head on.

Tuesday, September 21

Synchronicity in current events and readings

And then there are times when you'd really prefer that the scripture readings didn't ring so strongly with the world around us.

Vatican Bank 'investigated over money-laundering'
BBC - "The head of the Vatican Bank, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, is under investigation as part of a money-laundering inquiry, police sources say. Prosecutors also seized 23m euros ($30m; £19m) from the bank's accounts with another smaller institution. The inquiry was launched after two suspicious transactions were reported to tax police in Rome. The Vatican said it was 'perplexed and astonished', and expressed full confidence in Mr Tedeschi."

Sunday's gospel reading was from Luke 16.
“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (emphasis mine)

*sighs deeply and hangs head*  What can I say?

Synchronicity and reflections on the reading

Today is the feast of Matthew the Evangelist and although I would be inclined to discern some nugget of wisdom from his life, something happened which relates that I would rather mention.

Today's gospel reading concerns itself with the calling of Matthew (not a shock, I'm sure). What caught my eye is the last verse of the reading, where Jesus answers the Pharisees who question his consorting with traitors and sinners.

Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (Mat.9:13)

The scripture which Christ references are the words of YHWH given to Hosea, the whole verse reading as such.
כִּ֛י חֶ֥סֶד חָפַ֖צְתִּי וְלֹא־ זָ֑בַח וְדַ֥עַת אֱלֹהִ֖ים מֵעֹלֹֽות׃

"I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know Me more than I want burnt offerings." (Hosea 6:6)

As I pondered this, my radio station started playing their weekly 30 minutes of Alan Watts.  In his talk, Watts talked about the Zen cultivation of spontaneity, of acting from a state of being rather than a following of structure or rules.  I wonder if that is not, at the core of it, what Christ (and YHWH via Hosea) is on about.  The forms of things, the sacrifices and prohibitions, the burnt offerings and rosaries...they are unimportant.  It is the knowing of the Divine, the being righteous (not acting righteous) which is the central message.

When I studied Tai Chi, you learn certain movements.  These movements are linked together to create a form.  The essence of Tai Chi is to forget the form, which is to say to get to a point where one no longer thinks about what you are doing and just follow the motion.  One stops thinking about breathing, thinking about moving, thinking about thinking.

Just be that child of God that you are.

Monday, September 20

Don't blame me....ok, fine blame me.

New look.

Please to tell me if this is good, bad or indifferent.

I kinda like it, but if things are hard to read or it's distracting, let me know and I'll change it.

No, is good.

Procrustean Theology

An acquaintance (and someone I would like to call friend) has a problem. He is a retrenchment catholic who is struggling with lay chastity. Vatican teaching and Tradition is (at least, for the last 700 years or so) been pretty clear on this, yet these teachings don't fit the facts on the ground. I have offered my own advice, which is to study the scripture, examine the traditions and pray for the Spirit to fill his conscience and guide him on the path that is right for him. I have a suspicion that this sort of advice may rankle him, but it made me think about this and bringing the issue into a larger scope.

Keeping with the example above, we look at chastity. The act of chastity is borne out of the virtue of temperance which, as I mentioned earlier, is a measure of self-control and moderation. If a person takes the 'self-control' to the extreme, then one risks becoming enslaved to that denial as strongly as one would be to the carnal indulgence. This is best evidenced in the practice of asceticism and self-mortification, which I talked about here.

Writ in a larger sense, there are a myriad of strictures, doctrines and rules we are told are inviolate (and in principle they may be), but fall short when they are applied in a 'one-size-fits-all' mentality.

Two quick examples. It is a universally accepted tenet that the taking of a human life is a sin (by whatever definition of that word you wish to use).

If a loved one is in wracking, constant pain due to an incurable disease, should we withhold mercy and let them suffer rather than accede to their own wishes to die or end their misery at the cost of their life?

What about the question of sister Mary Margaret? A pregnant woman enters a hospital and will die if the fetus is not aborted and the fetus is far too young to survive without the mother. Kill one to save one or let both die and have the blood of both on your hands?

Is this saying that one should acknowledge or even embrace a form of moral relativism? Not in the least. Whatever your personal morals and morays may be, one should hold most assiduously to them. My point is that whatever 'doxy' you ascribe to, the praxis requires modification to fit the situation. To expect that the real world application will be inflexible and unchanging is highly unrealistic and leads to a Procrustean theology, where the real people in real life are twisted, mutilated and tortured to fit an iron bed created by others who, fundamentally, care not for the maimed who lie upon it.

Saturday, September 18

Reflection on names and things

I recently watched an interview with Dr. Richard Feynman, a nobel laureate in physics and a truly remarkable man. One of his fundamental formational moments occurred when he was a boy while taking walks in the woods with his father. During these walks, his father would point out different plants and animals and encourage the boy to observe their behaviours. At one point he mentions about a certain bird, where the father rattles off the name of the animal in a dozen different languages and then says "and knowing all of these names, you still know nothing about the bird itself".

I wonder if that isn't a problem we generally have, confusing the name for the thing, the form for the essence. Some faith traditions have a myriad of laws, rules and customs which are ostensibly intended to help the faithful come closer to the Divine. In practice, however, many seem to be so caught up in the forms of things that they become distracted from the essence. Others are adamant in their eschewal of the forms of things to the point that the non-forms becomes a ritual in and of itself, again distracting from the essence.

In eastern meditation, proper breathing techniques are important and by focusing on the breathing, it permits a quieting of the mind. But there is also a danger of becoming fixated on the 'proper' techniques and breathing becomes laboured, rather than natural.

What if, rather than being concerned about what Tradition and Reason and Scripture has to say about any specific thing....what if a person would just breathe. Don't worry about the ontological or christological implications, don't become tied up with what others are saying or doing about things. Don't worry about if it's heterodoxy or heresy, just....

"Follow your nature and accord with the Way,
Saunter along and stop worrying.
When your thoughts are tied you spoil what is genuine."

Believe, do good and don't be a dick. The essence of it.

Friday, September 17

Two worlds and two quotes

This week has been a roller-coaster.

This week, I have read about Billy Lucas and Carl Walker-Hoover and Eric Mohat and Jaheem Herrera - all of these boys bullied and harassed by anti-gay slurs, despite none were gay, to the point of taking their own lives. I have read the hate-filled rhetoric directed at muslims, the venom hurled towards gays and the misplaced invective about secularism by church officials who prove time and again that they are fundamentally out of touch with the world.

All of this sadness and anger is rolling around in my head and I think about what happened this weekend.

This past weekend, our church community sponsored a booth at the Boulder Pridefest. We were one of a dozen or so faith-based groups who had a table at the event, which was not what I was expecting but made for some great conversations, including some boys from the local Hillel group wanting our brochures because "We know some people who would like this". The warm summer air was filled with acceptance, openness and the strains of lesbian folk music. The highlight was a young kid about the age of Carl and Jaheem (11 or so) who, in response to being told about Fr. Mychal Judge being gay said "What difference does that make?"

Which world do we want?

The world where fear of litigation dominates the church or the world where people of other faiths act as advocates of your church?

The world where denigration of the perceived 'Other' drives kids to self-annihilation or the world where being different is embraced as a valued ideal?

Do we want a world where people are powerless and apathetic or a world where we are empowered and responsible?

Do we want a world filled with division, hatred and fear or unity, love and understanding?

The Mahatma enjoined us to "Be the change that you want to see in the world".

Margaret Mead reminds us to “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever does”.

This isn't specifically a matter of faith, but rather a matter of where we, as humans, wish to go.

Thursday, September 16

Liturgy, tradition and identity

Reading about the upcoming American Sarum council which is taking place in New York this January as well as Haligweorc's excellent discussion about liturgy and the implications of changing same seems to dovetail nicely with a discussion I had with one of our ministers about a recent kerfluffle in our own community.

See, we have three different priests, each with their own rather different theological viewpoint. Each priest gets 'a turn at the wheel' and one of them, led by conscience, significantly changed the words that are used during Eucharist from what is written in the Sacramentary.

I pay attention to such things, so I noted the differences right then and there. To my ears, it was 'odd' but nothing terribly outside what I would argue is the big tent of our faith. A few people, on the other hand, went straight round the twist, talking about unilateral priestly privilege and emphasizing the necessity of keeping to the liturgy as written.

In a general sense, as Haligweorc points out, liturgy is an expression of theology and if there are intentional, mindful changes to liturgy, they are outgrowths of an underlying theological break from the past.

Now, public liturgy is not only a singular expression of personal belief but also a formula of ritual which is agreed upon by the entire community (whether consciously or otherwise) that expresses the intrinsic theological underpinnings of the entire church. Further, it is arguably the most tangible and concrete font of our traditions. Therefore, the comfort and regularity of liturgy, even apart from theological considerations, is not to be disturbed or altered without great forethought, discernment and consultation.


Where is the line between regularity and inertia, between comfort and lethargy? How does one find a balance between the old traditions of hundreds of years ago and altering the liturgy to fill the needs of the people here and now? How does one hold onto that enshrining of liturgy if your faith community holds Primacy of Conscience as one of their key values? All of this is amplified if your faith community is a schismatic group which is in the formational stages of creating it's own identity.

Wednesday, September 15

Addendum to the earlier post

For all of us...including Billy.

1 candle is light enough when all is darkness

Billy Lucas had been the target of bullying at school for years because he was 'different'. He fought it for years, but nothing changed His peers considered it common knowledge, but did nothing. The teachers and school administrators saw nothing wrong and did nothing. Unable to handle the abuse any further, Billy took matters into his own hands last Thursday. His parents found the body the next day. Billy was 15.

For as long as I can remember, I have been like Billy - 'different', the outsider, alone, the 'other'. Even today, there are many times where I feel excluded and shunned due to who I am and how God has made me. There are thousands, tens of thousands of us who grew up like Billy, who live in a world like his. What strikes me is this:

His society, the students and teachers and administrators, saw what was happening and did nothing. They turned their backs on him when help was needed. They, by omission, have his blood on their hands. If only one person had spoken up, one person stood up for what is right...then perhaps the story would have ended differently.

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves;
ensure justice for those being crushed.
Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless,
and see that they get justice.” (Proverbs 31:8-9)

For Billy, may he find the infinite mercy and forgiveness of our Lord.
For his parents, may they find the comfort and solace of our Lord's compassion.
For the community, may their consciences be pricked
For those of us like Billy, may they know that we are NOT alone.
For all of us, let us be a voice for the voiceless.

For this, I pray.

Tuesday, September 14

Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross

As today is the Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross, it may be of use and value to discuss the traditions surrounding the symbol which has become the emblem of our faith, the Cross.

Traditions are, in many ways, the defining characteristic of any organization. Perhaps the most recognizable and enduring tradition of our faith is the display or wearing of what has become the symbol of Christianity - the cross. Of course, which kind of cross is used is a defining tradition in and of itself.

The two major divisions come down to whether or not the corpus is present. For catholic christians (Roman, Orthodox, Anglican and others) and Lutherans, the cross with corpus, known more commonly as the crucifix, is venerated. For protestants (excepting the Lutherans), the cross is 'empty' or without a corpus. From there there are many specific variations depending on the sect, but I want to stay with the crucifix and the cross.

From the 4th century through the 13th century, one finds crosses being 'empty', adorned with various decorations as well as those with a corpus. Of interest, those which have a human form on the cross most frequently had two forms. On one side was a man with arms outstretched, representing the Christ crucified. On the other, the arms are raised in the position known as 'orans', meaning 'in prayer', representing the living or resurrected Christ. In all cases, the figures are integral to the cross, being enameled, cast or painted, and the image of Christ is depicted as a serene and gentle figure, clothed in robes and seemingly at peace with his fate as the Lamb of God on the one side and Shepherd of the flock on the other.

We see this 'double image' in personal crucifixes (those which would have been worn by people, as seen below) as well as altar and processional crosses. As time goes on, the general level of ornamentation increases to the entire cross until around the beginning of the 13th century, when the face of the crucifix showing the resurrected Christ is less emphasized, with more ornamentation being found associated with the Christ crucified.

From the 14th century to the Protestant Reformation, crucifixes with the resurrected Christ fade from view entirely, the 'reverse side' having general ornamentation to images of saints, religious figures or iconography of interest or to the patron/owner of the cross. The imagery of the crucified Christ also changes. The corpus becomes a three dimensional figure hanging from the cross, stripped to a loincloth, wounds bleeding and body wracked with pain, suffering and grief.

As part of the general rejection of 'all things catholic' and embrace of austerity, the Protestant faiths (Luther excepted), removed the corpus from the crucifix and chose to adopt a less ornate, 'new' symbol of faith.

I realize that there are a number of various arguments on both sides as to what the cross, both empty or with corpus, means and how important each one is with various theological reasons given, but as someone who has been on both sides of the argument, I believe it is prescient to recall that it is the image of a humiliated, half-naked, dying Christ, which the Protestants removed from the crucifix.

I was raised with the empty cross which symbolizes to me that Christ has Risen, but it doesn't capture the suffering endured for us. The standard crucifix of the catholic faith I have converted to, on the other hand, emphasizes the great sacrifice that Christ suffered for all our sakes, but leaves Him there, dead or dying. Both, to me, are lacking.

The old crucifix, however, has Christ crucified on one side and risen in glory on the other. That...that feels much more complete. Without the human suffering and death, the divine resurrection means nothing and without the divine resurrection, His death was for naught.

Monday, September 13


To follow up and expand on my earlier post about the 'gay church' in Soho, there are a pair of polls just put out by ITV and BBC which which highlight in large letters what the two parishioners interviewed in the small vid from the first post. Good Terence over at Queering the Church has the rundown on those polls (which I won't repeat here), but the bottom line is this:

The Sensus Fidelium is substantively at variance to the Sensus Magesterium in a wide scope of issues.

In an organization where senior leadership is accountable, those leaders would be replaced or otherwise 'corrected'. That's not how things work in many religions in general and with the RC faith in specific.

Primacy of Conscience dictates that when a Spirit-filled conscience is at variance with organizational doctrine (even at odds with the Papacy and the whole of the Magisterium), one must follow one's conscience. This is the marrow of Father Ratzinger's statement in relation to Vatican 2 back in 1967. Now that Ratzinger is in the position to make organizational doctrine, he has reversed his opinion on the matter. I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to discern if this change in opinion is driven by belief or by less altruistic motives.

If Primacy of Conscience directs a single person to a conclusion, then it is a single person. However, if Primacy of Conscience directs a substantive minority (possibly even a majority) of the faithful to the same conclusions, independently and autocephalically, then it is well and truly the sense of the faithful. As evidenced, it is not a single person but rather thousands upon thousands (arguably millions) who are reading and praying and inviting the Spirit to inform their conscience and that Spirit-filled conscience is at variance with Vatican doctrine. Further, if one accepts St. Augustine's reading of scripture then it is the faithful who are the Body of Christ, not any one church or group of churches.

Thus, the Body of Christ is at variance with the doctrine of Rome...or, more accurately, Rome is doctrinally out of communion with the Body of Christ.

So, the question is.... what does one do when the leadership and those who are led are in violent disagreement? What should the Body of Christ do when a part of it causes the whole body to stumble? Mark 9:42-50 is crystal clear on the matter.

Kyrie Elieson

Christe Elieson

Kyrie Elieson

Friday, September 10

Lessons from Saints - St. Mychal Judge

Father Mychal Judge knew from the age of 6 that he wanted to become a friar and join the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor. After seminary and ordination into the priesthood, he joined the order. Stories of his life are filled with unmitigated compassion and generosity.

For the last nine years of his life, Mychal Judge was the chaplain to the New York Fire Department and would go where they went, giving rites and dispensing care to those who needed it most. Such dedication to the firemen led Mychal into the burning Trade Center towers on 11 September 2001.

When the south tower came crashing down, he was inside, giving rites to the dying. His body was the first to be brought out and identified, making Mychal Judge officially the first victim of 9/11.

After his death, at least four miracles have been directly attributed to prayer to him or the presence of his clothing (2nd class relic) in the room when the incurable illness was instantly cured.

Due to politics and Vatican sentiment, attempts to start an investigation into canonization has been quashed, but the point of saints is that they are people who inspire and serve as a tangible link between the material and the Divine. As such, Mychal Judge is a 21st century American saint.

Mychal Judge. Martyr for Christ, Healer of the sick, Defender of the defenseless, Lover of the forsaken, may your exemplar of boundless love and compassion inspire us on this every day.

The humanity of Christ : Sniper Jesus edition

The image to the right is courtesy of my newest follower, myclericalerrors. His blog is both amusing and thought-provoking. Welcome.

Seeing this image made me chuckle, but it also brought back the thoughts about the humanity of Christ. We say that Jesus was human like us in every way but sin. As I have mentioned before, the word we translate as 'sin' also translates as 'err' and literally comes across as ' missing the mark'.

'Sniper Jesus' never missed the mark.

Now, I've done a lot of shooting in my day and I'm actually a pretty fair sniper. To be good, you need to take into account environmental factors, know how to overcome your own fleshly frailties and cultivate patience and a calm mind, focused on the target and free from distractions.

Sounds like pretty decent instructions on life, when you think about it. Focus on the goal, be aware of the situation around you, be patient and take your best shot.

Thursday, September 9

The grave(l) matter of Retrenchment

BBC News had an interesting piece in their run-up to Papal-palooza 2010 (linked here). It appears that there is at least one catholic church in England that is performing 'gay masses'. Looking at the vid, the liturgy seems to be the Tridentine form with latin and the altar turned about and the folks in the pews could be from any parish.

The official name is an 'all comers' mass, but it is well known as a mass for homosexuals. Now, I have more than a bit of a twitch with the idea of 'leper masses' (cause you wouldn't want the good catholics catching teh gay, of course) whether de jure or de facto. Still, that's not what really got me. It was the comments, both in the vid from the parishioners as well as the quote from the arch-bishop.

"The simple fact is that catholics across the world do not believe and do not follow church teaching, well not church teaching, Vatican teaching on any number of sexual teachings."

and, more tellingly,

"is it important to you (if the Pope approves of the mass)?"
"No, because my faith is more important to me than what the Pope might think."

and finally,
"Anybody who is trying to cast a judgement on the people who come forward for communion really ought to hold their tongue.” - Archbishop Nichols

An acknowledgment of wide-spread de facto open disobedience to Vatican doctrine? Splitting the hair of 'church doctrine' vs. 'Vatican doctrine'? Faith being more important than hierarchical approval? An open table and specifically saying that one should not judge worthiness to accept God's Grace through the sacrament?!

Those are the seeds of dissent which bore the fruit of the church which I belong to today, one which is catholic, but not Roman.

It sounds like the same torrent which started at the 21st Ecumenical Council in Rome and inundated the US (and is going on in Australia as we speak) is being starting to be felt in the UK.

As a certain ambassador once said, "The avalanche has already started. It is too late for the pebbles to vote."

Someone should tell the lumps in the Magisterium.

Wednesday, September 8

Je pense plus trop, te pense plus trop, nous pensons tout que trop.

Whenever I would become absorbed in a deep problem and over-analyze it to where I was mentally walking in circles, a very good friend of mine would smile and kindly say "tu pense plus trop" - You think too much.

There's been a good deal of theological heavy lifting that's been going on in my general vicinity as of late, both myself and others online and IRL. Whether it's people asking about the validity of ordination of women or the perennial 'why do bad things happen to "good" people' to questions about the readings (How can God really say we need to 'hate' anyone to be a good disciple?) I can see how folk can get in a tizzy over all of this.

I'm coming to the opinion that we're thinking too much. Believe and do good. What is good? If you're in question about something, sit and listen to the Spirit-filled conscience which is within you. Yes, I can dig up verses which justify all of this, but that kinda defeats the purpose.

Are there things to consider, matters which require interpretation and related concepts? Sure! But it all comes back to "Believe, listen to the Spirit-filled conscience, do good."

At least....that's where I'm at for the moment.

Friday, September 3

Is Free Will Predetermined?

In Colorado, there is a 'new' petition on the ballot which will amend the constitution to change the legal definition of 'person' to start at the moment of 'biological development' (read conception + cloning/stem cells). Now, it's pretty obvious to even the casual observer that this is another end-run attempt to legislate an overturning of Roe v. Wade. I put quotes around 'new' because this was tried two years ago and was soundly defeated. I am mentioning this here because it raises a very important and thorny issue (and no, I'm not talking about abortion, per se).

Are we our brother's keeper? Do we have a moral/ethical obligation to prevent someone else from performing an action which we see as morally repugnant and against the common weal?

Alternately, are we, as people of conscience, required to permit another to follow their conscience even if we find it odious? Are we obligated to allow the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil to flourish and permit people the free will to choose a bite from the apple?

In short, where does our communal responsibility and personal responsibility begin?