Wednesday, August 31

Direct pointing in scripture

Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church addresses the UN
I was watching a video for the RC church presented by my friend Thom as an example of social media done right.  During the video, they flashed several decontextualized verses, but one stood out like a beacon, as if to say "DUUUDE!  Read the rest of this!"  I've been through this before and I know when to listen.  Here's the whole thing in context.
Finally, brethren, be strengthened in the Lord, and in the might of his power. Put you on the armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the deceits of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places. Therefore take unto you the armour of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and to stand in all things perfect. (Eph. 6:10-13)
Note that the emphasis isn't mine, but it was put into my head. So, the question is why?

Oh ineffable Divine, Hagia Sophia, Coyote...what are you trying to say to an open-minded and questioning scholar, a gay man who was made by You this way and a 21st century progressive who believes in equality, justice and transparency?

Really now, Dad, could you spell it out more clearly?  Pillars of fire and booming voices are pretty classic, from what I've read.

Tuesday, August 30

Catholic amnesia

Reading a friends blog, he mentioned something about history and how americans have a short-term memory when it comes to the past.  As an avid amateur historian (recall the only difference between professional and amateur is one gets a check), this got me thinking, which got me writing.

One of the things which initially attracted me to catholicism is the rich history and tradition that is considered of great value.  What a great shock and disappointment it was for me to find out that this image of catholicism is a relic of the past itself.  Today, it seems, the history of the Roman church is what Rome decides it is, just as what the Tradition means is what Rome says it means.  That may have worked in the 19th century....but this is not the 19th century.

As someone who has been quite active in historical research during the past 10+ years, the internet has truly become the revolution that was promised.  With a single set of bookmarks, one can have nearly the entire corpus of major Roman theological thinkers from the Apostolic era to Aquinas to apocryphal writings which were considered legendary until a generation ago. 

All for free and for download to peruse in your bunny-slippers and bathrobe without regard to your standing with the museum curator, the special collections librarian or some theologian or priest trying to divine if you are 'worthy' to read these texts.

What this means is that the catholics (Roman and otherwise) have a truly unique opportunity to recover and (re)discover their heritage, their religious inheritance.  That also means that when there are disagreements with the hierarchy concerning texts, their meaning and importance...well, spirit-led conscience should be your guide (much to the consternation of some who wish to control and restrict).

In the very end, of course, we should be like the knight in the image above, following the Salvic Cup by faith...even when there is no visible support.

P.S. - while you're at it...most catholics should probably ALSO read the scriptures.  No no, really.  It's're allowed and HAVE been allowed for quite a long time.

Wednesday, August 24

Altar-girls 2 (no electric boogaloo)

It appears that there is far more to the restriction of girls as altar servers that I am not grasping. 

I mean, if there are young people who desire to serve God, one would think that is the sort of behaviour one would wish to encourage.

If we are to believe Galatians 3, gender is no bar within the people of God as we are all made one in Christ. 

If we are to apply the Golden Rule, why would anyone wish to exclude another from Christ's table, from participation in mass or in any form of worship?

And what about Christ's own words?
"And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea." (Mat. 18:5-6)
I mean...I realise that pre-V2 RC didn't allow the laity to read the scriptures, but I thought that V2 opened it up, not prevented the clergy from reading them too.

Oy gevalt!

Lessons from the Saints - Bartholomew/Nathanael

Today is the feast of St. Bartholomew, traditionally identified as Nathanael in the gospel of John.  One of the twelve, the story his Calling is what I would like to consider.

Philip found Nathanael and told him, "We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth."

But Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come from Nazareth?"

Philip said to him, "Come and see."

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, "Here is a true child of Israel.  There is no duplicity in him."

Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?"

Jesus answered and said to him, "Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree."

Nathanael answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel."

Jesus answered and said to him, "You believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than this." (Jn. 1:45-50)

What we see here is someone different than Simon Peter (whose calling is just before), who silently follows.  This is a man who has doubts and is skeptical, but is open to the possibility of greatness.  To me, the crux of the verse are those simple words of Philip's, "Come and see".

Not demanding nor cajoling nor even dismissive derision.  "Come and see".  Decide for yourself.   
There is the true Calling.  Come and see.  Decide for yourself what is right.

As we read, of course, Nathanael does come and see and he does decide to follow Jesus.  He believes and that belief shall be rewarded.

I shall leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine how this should apply in our lives today.

Tuesday, August 23

Syncronicity and lillies

I am reading on multiple blogs about the decision to forbid girls to serve as altar boys at the Cathedral of SS. Simon and Jude in Phoenix (something girls have been allowed to do within the Roman Church since 1983). This falls in line with other discussions I've read regarding the exclusion of gays, of women in ordination and of priests who don't 'tow the ideological party line'.

After this, I'm reading about the emphasis on in persona Christi, on the inerrancy of the Church, the importance of 'dressing the part' (both the building and the man) and the vital nature of following all the minutiae of the catechism.

Then, there's the gospel reading:
Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter....

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. But these you should have done, without neglecting the others. Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean.” (Mt. 23:13, 23-26)
 Further commentary would be gilding the lily.

Monday, August 22

All God's creatures

Seems that Francis got to Ireland after all. For my friend Thom.

H/T to Madpriest.

Sunday, August 21

I knew him, Horatio.

I was minding my own business, reading on Colkoch's blog about the whole World Youth Day and what Benny's homilies are about and the thrust of her comments were about the Holy Father's emphasis of Christ's sacrifice to the near total exclusion of the resurrection.  This got me thinking...which got me blogging.  You've been warned.

I swear, this wasn't my idea.

Ever since I was little, it's been all about the sacrifice, pain, suffering and death.  The more I look at it, I think folks have it all wrong.  Don't misunderstand, I recognize the importance of the Passion, but it's like reading Hamlet and saying that the only part that matters is a single soliloquy.  Without context, without the rest, it's pointless.

Christ's ministry was about teaching others how to be like God, how to reunite with the Diving in a deep, personal way that defies structure and hierarchy.  The core of this is to love G-d and to love others.  In brief, to be a self-less, love-filled person who sees the face of the Divine in all they meet. The ultimate expression of that love, the ultimate proof of practicing what you preach, was the Passion.  The climax of the story is the resurrection where Christ returns in glory as fulfillment and proof of God's promise.

Without the resurrection, the Araians would have been right in denying the Divinity of Christ and he would have been not unlike Hilel or Shammai, a great teacher and prophet of the Jewish people who taught the world how to live closer to God, eventually showing by the Passion the depth of his own understanding of the teachings.

Without the Passion, the teachings may have rung hollow, with the Rabbi not wishing to take the final step to do what was needed to show people the bottomless nature of his love. His resurrection would prove his favour with G-d, but it wouldn't be the proof of Salvation which is central to the teachings.

Without the ministry, his death and resurrection would have happened as a footnote to the final destruction of the Jewish temple and the Diaspora.  None would know that the prophesy was fulfilled and the flame of Christianity would never have been sparked.

All of the parts are integral to the overall message, just as all three acts are important to the story arc of Hamlet.

Augustine said, "God became man so that man may become God".  Because God became flesh and dwelt amoung us, we may know how to follow Him back to the Divinity.  Through his ministry, He has taught us the Way. Through the Passion He has shown us the Truth. In his resurrection, He has demonstrated the promise of the Life everlasting.

Friday, August 19

The elephant in the room

Taking the conservative Christian wing of the Republican party at their word (sic), then they are of the opinion that the United States is (or was/should be) a Christian nation.  At the very least, it is a nation founded on (and should return to) Christian Values™.

Assuming that, why would they be against Medicare/Medicaid (tending to the sick and dying), Food stamps (feeding the hungry), Social Security (providing for the elderly), Welfare (helping the poor), a progressive tax structure (giving your cloak when asked) and education programs (tending the lambs of the flock)?  Why would they be for tools of violence if they follow the Prince of Peace?  Why would they be so in bed with the capitalist dream if the love of money is the root of all evil?

Note that I DO believe that the rank-and-file here are god-fearing Christians, not amoral, duplicitous meanies (that appelation I reserve for politicians of most any stripe).


Do they really believe that those policies are what Christ meant when he said to love your neighbour?
Can they honestly say that they do these things wanting said policies done unto them? 

Just sayin.

Thursday, August 18

FUD for thought

The more I read about current events as of late, the sadder I become.  It is not the media, for I know that they thrive on violence, despair and FUD to line their coffers.  It is not the complex kabuki theatre that is politics in the US, for they are just as culpable and capable as the media to borrow trouble for their own ends.  It isn't the rampant hypocrisy of 'certain churches' with their misplaced nostalgia for Victorian values nor the brazen, rapine behaviour of corporate America nor the economic news which should have me wallowing in shadenfreude like pig in slop. is a deeper thing that connects them all and goes far beyond.

What I see, day in and day out, is a consistent reinforcement of a self-centered approach to reality which is defined by materialism, consumerism and levels of self-absorption which are just stunning.  Time and again it is about 'me' and 'mine', what directly affects me and how I can get/keep/avoid things that are about me.  The corollary is that people in our society don't truly recognize what is going on around them...who is going on around them...and how their actions or non-actions have consequences for other folks.

In short and and brief, we have (individually and collectively) eschewed our mandate as human beings and treat other people as 'Other', not as people. These things are reasonable enough if you are an amoral and soul-less entity solely devoted to the accumulation of material wealth (i.e. a corporation), but when churches, governments and people start acting this way, they are abandoning the core ethic if being human.

What to do?  Where is God in all of this?

Love removes fear, Faith is the antidote of uncertainty and Hope counters destructive doubt.  Our call to do unto others is a near-direct antithesis to the present day, post-structuralist/post-post-modernist capitalist society.

Help me see myself in the Other and them in me;
help me see the Christ within and the Christ in all.

Let my hope be an anchor in the storm-tossed sea;
let my faith be a lamp against the present pall.

Help me reflect your love and mercy;
help me see beyond the present squall.
Here I am, Lord.
Let me be an instrument of your peace;
let me be the change you wish to see in the world;

Monday, August 15

Lessons from the Saints - Assumption of the BVM

This Sunday we celebrated the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (which is, technically, today).

Generally, our parishioners are not great Marians, but are those who feel specific devotion to the B.V.M. and the Assumption (along with the other 21 major feasts dedicated to the B.V.M.) allows for the expression of their faith towards the Christotokos.

The homily on Sunday was of specific interest because it didn't focus on the Assumption itself (which is non-canonical and springs from the 4th century despite being an 'infallible' part of the Deposit of Faith) but rather upon the larger topic of disassociation.  In a nutshell, none of us can be like the Blessed Virgin (or Christ or saint so-and-so) because they are way up there in the celestial clouds, so holy and special, and we're just Joe-pew-warmer who are unworthy and lowly *beats breast as appropriate*.  Bah and also humbug.

What makes the story of Mary (and almost all of the other saints) of great value is that they are us, with faults, flaws, bad days, broken hearts and all the other things which come with being human.  What sets them apart from you and me is that others took notice when God spoke to them and they obeyed.  Let me step through that.

God speaks to us all (though not all hear the Voice) and we have the option (free will, baby) to obey. 

Millions of us do this every day and millions of us answer that Call as our own charisms dictate. 

Those we call saints today are people whose actions were noticed by others and whose lives/deaths have been lifted up as examples for the faithful to follow.

I'll close with the gospel reading from the Vigil of the Assumption (which most folks never hear).
While Jesus was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.”

He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”  (Luke 11:27-28)
Focus on the essentials here.  Listen to the Voice and follow the Calling.  That is what Mary and all of the saints did, what Christ did and what we should all do.

Friday, August 12

Lessons from the Saints - Lawrence

As promised, I am writing about the patron saint of the South (you'll see). 

Lawrence of Rome was an archdeacon who worked for the bishop of Rome, Pope Sixtus II.  When Sixtus and the other six archdeacons were arrested, this left Lawrence as the leader of the church in Rome as well as the steward of the Treasures of the Church (including, by tradition, the Grail). 

After the death of Sixtus, the prefect of Rome demanded Lawrence appear before him with the Treasures of the Church in three days.  In response, Lawrence distributed every penny of the church to the poor, lame, blind and indigent.  When he appeared, a crowd of these 'wretched refuse' came with him and he is purported to have said that these people were the treasures of the Church and that the Church was far richer than the Emperor. 

The prefect was....unamused, and this action led to Lawrence's martyrdom by being roasted alive atop a gridiron.  Legend has it that Lawrence told the executioner at one point to 'turn me over, I am done on this side'.

Part of the inspiration that comes from Lawrence comes from his courage and I will admit that at least part of what I draw from the tale is his bon vivant spirit in the face of pain and death.  Given the recent conversations about current economics and societal issues, I would like to highlight the part of the tale which normally gets underplayed.

Lawrence, in the course of a week, goes from being one of seven personal assistants to the bishop of Rome to being the de facto Pope, responsible for safeguarding the wealth of the Church....and having an 'audit' in 3 days.  He hears the Call and steps up to the plate, doing what is hardest but best, knowing his life will be forfeit because of it.  Having decided to do these things, he does them with flair and a happy heart.  There's a lot to that. 

Oh, and why the patron saint of the South?  Barbecue, of course.

Thursday, August 11

Arab Spring and the British Summer

Something about closing barn-doors....
I've been reading a lot about the riots which have erupted in major centres about England these last few days.  The catalytic event was the police slaying of a black father of four who was pulled out of cab and gunned down.  When pressed for reasons, the the police responded by saying that 'he shot first'...with a gun he didn't have.

The youth of Britain have their own response.  They have protested. They have rioted.  They have looted and they have burned.

There are many purported reasons for these actions, from the economic disaster which is the current capitalist system, long-standing prejudices between 'real' Britians and immigrants (read white and everyone else), breakdown of the social order,  power struggles within the scandal-ridden Scotland Yard and even viral consumerism taken to it's absurd conclusion, gansta rap music and the pervasive use of 'new-fangled technology' such as twitter. 
"Look out!  He's got a rhyme!"

I would take a lesson from our arab brothers this spring and say that there is a much deeper problem.

When those who are given power to govern abuse and neglect the governed...

When the rich exploit and suppress the poor...

When colour, creed, sex and even hair colour are things which separate and divide us...

When the old spend the future of the young and then spit in their faces...

This is when mankind sees others as 'less than', when he no longer recognizes the face of God in anyone, let alone everyone.  This is when we, individually and collectively, become inhuman.

That, IMO, is the root causal agent.  We have become so insular and detached that we do not see that BOTH the police AND the rioters are people...let alone that they are the children of God.  Those in power, be it in Damascus, Downing St. or D.C., would do well to recognize that and take whatever steps are needed to engage the 'hooligans' and the 'rabble', lest we all suffer.

P.S. - Sorry about the lack of posting.  Between holiday, some serious cogitation and the busy season starting at work, I have not had the opportunity to post.  I promise I'll put up something about the patron saint of the South soon.

Wednesday, August 3

Lessons from the Saints - Nicodemus

Nicodemus in his Cardinal's garb
(cappa magna not included)
Today is the feast day of St. Nicodemus.  Nicodemus features somewhat prominently in the gospel of John, appearing thrice throughout the gospel story.  What we know for certain is that Nicodemus was a pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin.

Recall that the pharisees were the comparatively 'populist' and more progressive of the two major socio-religious groups in that day (in comparison to the saducees, who were formed from the aristocracy and believed in a more conservative and literal interpretation of things).  The Sanhedrin was the supreme religious body who decided on policy.

Thus, we see that Nicodemus is a moderate to liberal, highly placed member of the establishment who comes to this renegade preacher under cover of darkness to discuss things.  And what does this man with great power and authority say to Jesus?

"Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him." (Jn 3:2b)

This simple statement, the opening salvo in a relatively long and fruitcake-dense discussion, demonstrates that even among his greatest detractors where some who saw and recognized the power and truth in Jesus' message.  Further, it underlines the delicate situation that Nicodemus (and others) were in.

There they were, the 'progressives' in a cut-throat battle with the 'conservatives' for the direction of the judaic faith under the thumb of Roman 'oppression' (oppression meaning acceptance of other gods) with the monastic ascetics (Essenes) and those who would purify Zion of infidels (the Zealots, who want to reenact the Maccabean rebellion) as minor players.  Then comes this rebel preacher from the sticks who seems to speak with an authority which none have seen in hundreds of years.  He has a syncretic approach to Judaism which is both familiar and yet very different from the current beliefs.  To openly accept him would invite political (and personal) disaster, yet the signs are obvious to any who see that the messenger is from YHWH.

So, it comes to some hard questions.
Do the prelates respect centuries of tradition and preserve the church?
Do they heed their conscience and abandon the church they know?
Do they attempt to straddle the two and affect change within the church?

Nicodemus attempts the last, using his position to deflect the pharisees from arresting Jesus (Jn. 7) and then, after the crucifixion, he personally purchases the materials for burial and performs the Taharah of Christ's body (Jn. 19).  History shows, however, that the Zealots 'win' the political struggle and incite a revolt which causes the destruction of the nation of Israel.

Examining the present situation in the RC community and the wholesale abandonment of Tradition, Ecclesiasties comes to mind, "We don't remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now." (Eccl. 1:11)

So, what is to be learned from Nicodemus?  Perhaps to be more generous in understanding the prelates and their position?  Perhaps to be sensitive to personal conscience and it's function within our experience?  Perhaps to refocus our attention to Tradition so we do not repeat the mistakes of the past?  I will leave the answer as an exercise for the reader.

Tuesday, August 2

Walking in faith

Today's reading is from Matthew, wherein Christ sends the disciples ahead and then returns to them by walking across the Sea of Galilee.  Not surprisingly, the disciples are scared witless.

At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”

He said, “Come.”

Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.  But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him,
and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

There are a few things here.  The first is Simon wanting proof that Christ is who he says he is by performing yet another miracle, but specifically one for him.  The second is that the miracle DID happen, Peter DID walk on the water, until his faith wavered.  Thirdly, as soon as Peter cried out for salvation, Christ was there.

I could wax prosaic about parallels between this parable and the present (insert denomination here) church.  Instead, I think it is more instructive to examine ourselves personally and think about the presence (or absence) of miracles.

Throughout the gospels, there is a pattern to Christ's miracles when they interact with man (i.e.- when Christ isn't showing power over nature).  The mortal is shown to be in need, the mortal (whether by external exhortations or internal prodding) has faith in Christ, demonstrates that faith in some way (normally Christ tells them to do something) and the miracle occurs.  This is particularly of interest in this reading as we see that the miracle waxes and wanes with Peter's faith.

I mention all of this because I was raised in a tradition which believes that the Age of Miracles is over and that the Age of Reason, with it's emphasis on the rationality of the Divine Watchmaker and the logical and munificent bargain that is salvation.  At the risk of having chicken and eggs here, it makes me wonder.

If a person does not have faith in miracles, then it follows that one would not see them when they happen.
If a person does not have faith in salvation, then it follows that they would not receive it.
If a person does not have faith in the Divine, then they would (at least in this world) not know Her benefice.

As I have mentioned previously,  Faith is trust without limits.

Trust in God, know His benefice.
Trust in salvation and receive it.
Trust in the existence of miracles, and you will see and experience them.

So, follow Christ and walk in faith on the water.

Monday, August 1

An update

For those of you (and you know who you are) who have been wondering about my reticence as of late, it is explained by the word to the left.  Yes, I have been on holiday...and a proper holiday, that is.  No visiting my parental units or 'his family', but I had a friend from back east come out and visit.

The time off was brilliant and I worked hard to fully clear my calendar so we could go and do whatever without interruptions.  This brought into crystal focus how much I have taken on in the last year.  There's choir and SCA and the RPG stuff and church committee this and church committee that. 

It also gave me the opportunity to chat at length with an intelligent and spiritual but strongly areligious person.  Folks like this are my intellectual whetstone, for reasonable discourse with a logical and open-minded individual who is all-too-willing to play devil's advocate is precisely the sort of grist I need to further hone my beliefs.  I have some thoughts, but I'm gonna let those bubble around in my head for a bit.  It's been a long week and a half.

Peace to all