Tuesday, June 29

Observation du jour

The Divine (by whatever name you choose) has a pointed and puckish sense of humour.

That is all.

Monday, June 28

Notice to those who stop by these parts

I will be on personal hiatus until Monday or so next week. As such, I can't promise updates until around that time.


With freedom comes responsibility

We're working our way through Galatians in the Epistle readings. This weekend, the verses which stood out are Gal. 5:13-15.

You were indeed called to be free, brothers and sisters. Don't turn this freedom into an excuse for your corrupt nature to express itself. Rather, serve each other through love. All of Moses' Teachings are summarized in a single statement, "Love your neighbor as you love yourself." But if you criticize and attack each other, be careful that you don't destroy each other.

It gives one pause to consider if some folk have actually read the Bible.

Sunday, June 27

Wolves at the door....

A friend of mine introduced me to this phrase years ago to describe when the those negative inner voices start to whisper in your ear. Whether it be self-doubt, self-pity, that righeous indignation or other things, they all are destructive and negative things which, if listened to, can undermine a person and contribute to an abandonment of hope.

The wolves were at my door last night, howling up a storm and working towards convincing me that my desires and hopes were useless, that the relationship is over and other sorts of similar things were in the works and, no matter what I do, that's how it's going to be.

About 2/3 of the way through this whole ordeal, a thought came to my mind from somewhere very different. Isn't all of this your doing? I mean...isn't this all about what you can't do and what you can't fix and such? Isn't the whole point of relinquishing control of the situation supposed to give the Big Man room to do His thing?

And that's the moment of truth. God wasn't a part of the discussion. Once I realised that and considered how the Divine fits into the situation, those negative voices became no less vocal, but they faded into the background. The more I considered about it, the more my mind settled. I could still hear those compaints and natterings, but they were of less and less importance as I meditated on the idea that I should make room for God to take His hand at things.

Friday, June 25

Reflections on Stereotypes

The gospel reading last weekend had Jesus asking who people say he is. This has been rolling about in my head this week, who others say we are and the impact thereof. This is most identifiable in the shorthand of stereotypes. Stereotypes have credibility and legs because there is a grain of truth to them, but like soundbites and most political discourse, the actuality of the situation is far more complex and nuanced than a word or two can symbolize. As such, stereotypes are caricatures, rather than people. We all deal with stereotypes and we all have them. Yet, stereotypes do great harm to us in several ways.

The first is that they give us incorrect and dangerous assumptions about others around us. Attempting to engage me in a conversation about sport will be short and useless because I defy the male stereotype of holding interest in or knowledge about the topic. Likewise, although I am gay, I have no interest in the stereotypical caricatures of the gay lifestyle (though I must confess a fondness for 1950's musicals).

Secondly, and more damaging, is what stereotypes do to our self-image. If I am a guy and I don't follow sport, does that make me a 'bad man'? To be a self-respecting gay man, do I HAVE to be prone to emotional outbursts and adore Judy Garland? If I don't, what does that say about myself? Can you be a good catholic without feeling guilty all the time? Should I feel guilty about not feeling guilty? On a more subtle and subversive level, what about your friends and/or associates? Are there things which you do/don't do or say/don't say because of how they perceive you? What about God? Does your perceptions of His expectations change how you externally portray yourself, or do they change how you actually are?

So....rephrasing His question, look in the mirror and honestly ask yourself, "Who do people say that I am? Who does God say who I am? Who do you say that I am?"

A thought about leadership

Given the previous post talking about the failure of leadership in the RC Church and the present discussion in the ECC about how we wish our leadership to be constituted, I thought this concise quote is appropriate.

"Leadership is responsibility, not privilege;
action, not position;
guidance, not knowledge;
and outcome, not disposition."
- Dante Shepherd

Thursday, June 24

Forgive them Father...

In the latest in the slow-rolling crisis of clerical abuse within the RC Church, the palace of His Grace, Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard, as well as the home of his predecessor, His Eminence, Godfried Cardinal Danneels, have been sealed and searched for documents and other materials related to claims of sexual abuse. Both Archbishop Leonard, who replaced Cardinal Danneels as primate of the Church in Belgium last January, and Cardinal Danneels are reported to be fully cooperating with law enforcement officials.

Last month, members of the Franciscan Brothers of the White Cross, headquartered in Cordoba, were charged after anonymous letters accusing some of the brotherhood with abuse had surfaced. This announcement came on the heels of His Holiness' sudden reversal in this ongoing imbroglio. On his way to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, the pontiff said, "Today we see in a truly terrifying way that the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from outside enemies, but is born of sin within the Church."

It seems to becoming more apparent as things unravel that it is not, as our own local prelate, Archbishop Chaput (and others) have strongly asserted, a few 'bad apples' nor the 'liberal secular media' or even homosexuals. Rather, there has been a systemic failure of the apostolicity to act in the interest of the presbyterate and the laity. Due to the direct, hierarchical manner of the RC structure, ultimate responsibility lies with the Servant of the Servants of Christ (both current and previous), though the culture which exists at those rarefied levels seems pervasive enough to call all those in 'senior leadership' into question.

Whether this is an indicant of a more general disconnect between the prelates and the people is a matter of discussion, but the failure is clear. Failure to recognize the situation. Failure to acknowledge the errors made. Failure of contrition. Failure of restitution. Failure of forgiveness. Without these things, reconciliation within the RC Church is impossible and the damage done to the apostolic church will remain and most likely fester.

His Holiness has taken the first steps (no doubt against the counsel of his inner circle) and for that he should be commended. These things were not done in a day nor shall they be undone in a day, but if Benedict's actions follow his words (I hope which I strongly have), then the process of reconciliation will begin. To the priests, brothers, sisters and parishioners who worship within the RC community, I would urge and commend you all to keep faith in our Lord and Divine Providence who has not nor shall not fail us.

Kyrie Eleison

Christe Eleison

Kyrie Eleison

Monday, June 21

The delicate balance of tradition

Tradition can be considered social glue. It is the inherited and transferred words and actions which most commonly work to define a social group. These things can be modes of dress or patterns of behaviour, certain phrases or exchanges of words, specific celebrations or methods of celebrating or even who is considered acceptable or not within the group. These traditions work to define us and shape who we are as a community. With all this good, however, there are some caveats.

The first would be that for a tradition to remain valid and useful, the community must recall the reason for the tradition. To perform certain actions or say things in a specific manner without understanding the underlying reason deprives the meaning from the act as well as allowing for incorrect/detrimental meanings to arise. One example which comes to mind is something you will see westerners do in oriental restaurants, the 'ritual' of rubbing one's chopsticks together.

Today, most who believe in some reason at all will tell you that it is ostensibly to get rid of splinters in the chopsticks (which, in fact, it causes more splinters than it removes). Indeed, the Japanese find it quite insulting to rub your chopsticks together. The custom was brought to the US by soldiers stationed in Japan right after WW2 who saw the locals doing it. The Japanese were rubbing their chopsticks together in emulation of Charlie Chaplin (who was, at the time, immensely popular there) who rubbed his knife and fork together in anticipation of a meal.

This brings me to the second caveat, which is that a tradition must be relevant to the people it serves. The Nicene creed was developed specifically to answer, in a point-by-point form, the variety of heterodoxies which were competing with the Church as it existed in the 4th century. Today, even those who know about the Arians, Docetists, Donatists, Ebionites, Macedonians, Marcionists and the rest would find it difficult to find relevancy in a creed developed to thwart ghosts from over 1500 years past.

Do the basic beliefs behind these heterodoxies remain to this day? Oh most assuredly, but the old names for these ideas have no power today and all too often the creed is not used to defend against them. As such, the creed does not hold the relevance it once did.

Please note that I am not suggesting that all tradition is without value or that change should be embraced for the sake of change. Despite the fact that liturgical dress has, by and large, resisted change for hundreds of years and the original purpose of many of the individual parts is no longer relevant, it's value as a distinctive 'uniform' has value and relevance to this day. What I am driving at is that each community should (probably generationally) examine the customs and traditions that they hold for relevance and understanding.

Put differently, if we are to use words and deeds to signify our community, they should have meaning and relevance to us, lest they become hollow deeds and empty words.

Sunday, June 20

It's the simple, little things.....

An idea which has been bouncing about in my head for a while.

1 John 4:8 + 1 Corinthians 13 = interesting reading.

God is Love...ergo....

"If I speak in the languages of men and of angels, but have not God, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not God, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not God, I gain nothing.

God is patient, God is kind. He does not envy, She does not boast, He is not proud. She is not rude, He is not self-seeking, She is not easily angered, He keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. She always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

God never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears."

ecumenical, you say....

Today is Father's Day. It is also the local commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall Riots (which, yes I know, actually took place on June 27) which are marked by the annual PrideFest celebration and parade. The epistle reading for today is from Galatians 3 which runs as follows:
Brothers and sisters: Through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise.
Consider, if you will, the implications of Paul's words. Every morning, a pious jew would wake and pray "Thank God I am not a gentile. Thank God I am not a slave. Thank God I am not a woman." Paul is saying that none of that matters. Our heritage, our social status and our gender (or gender bias) matters naught in the eyes of God. What matters is our faith in the meaning of Christ's sacrifice and in His promise.

Put into more modern terms, there is neither gay nor straight, Roman Catholic nor ECC, married nor divorced, Church of England nor Episcopal church. We are all one in Christ Jesus. And if we belong to Christ, then we are beloved of God and are invited to the table of God to receive his mercy and blessing.

As you read this, reflect on the recent happenings, both within your own church, other faith communities and in the world at large. Is that spirit of equality there? Does the faith system you hold put into practice the idea that we are all children of God? If it is variance, then how can we, individually and collectively, help to change this?

Friday, June 18

An apology

Things have been incredibly busy at work and I've been without the contemplative spirit to give things proper thought this past week. Following the Voice Within shall return next week.

Saturday, June 12

Sensus Fidelium

This evening after mass, we had a pot-luck and discussion about what is going on within the ECC and the upcoming Synod. Our little church has grown over the past seven or so years to include some 30 parishes stretching across the US from New York to California, far more than a single individual can minister as a whole. As such, there is discussion about dividing the different portions of the country up into separate areas with a regional head to minister to the congregations within these said areas.

For our own area, the churches within the Rocky Mountain area have decided to form a regional council to deal with matters of inter-church and intra-regional matters. Others have decided that they desire a single person to deal with things in a full time capacity - in short, a bishop. The office of the bishop, at a regional level, seems a reasonable and logical thing and our structure encourages that type of autonomous determination of self-governance. Where things become tricky is that bishops have additional duties which reflect upon the whole of the church. That is where a lot of the discussion came to this evening.

Areas such as liturgical change and policy for the whole of the ECC are within the domain of the Episcopal council (a council of one, at present) and there was widespread concern over the idea that other, more conservative, bishops may impose their ideas in these regards to our church. For myself, though I doubt that any sort of thing might occur in the near to mid-term, that our parish was founded specifically due to the appointment of a conservative RC arch-bishop who unilaterally acted against the RC parish due to it's being "too liberal" in theology and practice is enough to give credence for the concerns of our the folks in our little group today. We've survived that sort of nonsense before and we don't want to have to go through it again.

By the end of the evening, there were a list of questions and concerns which our nine representatives have to go to the Synod in St. Louis. It was a very heartening and quintessentially democratic, American experience. Amusingly enough, it is precisely the sort of thing which the RC church was so adamant about quashing in the 19th-20th centuries. Edumacated people (including wimmen-folk) directly questioning authority and expressing viewpoints which may threaten their perceived authority.

Perhaps the one thing that struck me the most throughout this whole discussion was the level of civility and passion. Even the stones could tell that those who were there had exceptionally deep and abiding love for the parish community and held very strong and passionate convictions. That said, everyone's voice was heard, listened to and considered, no matter if it was the old-timers who have been there since the first mass or folks who have joined the parish just a few months ago.

Wednesday, June 9

Don't blame me, blame Doorman-Priest

When talking with active and attentive church-goers, it doesn't take long to hear about the divisions within multiple faiths which are tearing us apart. Whether it's the Anglican/CoE/Episcopal church, the Lutherans, the Catholics or any number of other faiths (both Christian and non), the whole thing seems to be unraveling before our eyes. And then there is the far-too-common smugness of sect (X) who knows that they have the monopoly on the Truth and are Right when all of the other sects are wrong.

“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus….There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:23-29).

I'm sorry, Paul..I don't think I heard you right. How can you say that women are equal to men? Next you'll be saying that gays are ok...or divorced people or the poor or Women clergy or or or....

Certainly not those "wackos" who believe in (X)? They're hateful and spiteful and barely believe. How are we supposed to know who is good enough to be here if we let anyone into OUR Church?

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” (Luke 6:36-38)

Oy, there's that hippy again, goin on about free love. Doesn't he understand we're trying to run a church here? Hrm...yah.

Tuesday, June 8

Now you're in trouble

You see...I've been thinking.

If you're not frightened yet, that's probably because you're not as familiar enough with me. Perhaps I should explain. Last evening, I spent a wonderful dinner and conversation with our parish priest, a man of great enthusiasm, intellect and subtlety. Like a zen master, he will toss a pebble into the pond of your mind and sit back, waiting for the ripples to spread. Amoung our discussions yesterday, we talked about the lack of any sort of formal catechism in the ECC and how it is, in a very real way, an impossible task to create such a document.

The 'E' in ECC stands for Ecumenical, but it might as well stand for Eclectic. In our own parish, we run the gamut from conservatives who would easily rejoin the RC Church if it weren't for their personal beef with Rome (be it divorce, contraception or the disposition of priests, to name a few) to recovering hippies who see no natural division between Eastern philosophy and Western Christianity. But, without a written manifesto of beliefs which we all can agree upon, how are we to know what to believe?

The early church (and by early, I mean within the first 200 years or so) went through similar times, with disparate churches having wildly differing ideas as to the nature of the Good News, vastly divergent cultural and philosophical backgrounds and only oral retellings of the gospel message to guide them. And then there's this yahoo named Paul, who tried to get them all on the same page. Reading the Pauline letters you can hear a voice, hoarse from yelling, coming through the translations "Christianity - you're doing it wrong!" That thought process seems to carry down through the history of the Church (and it includes nearly every faith). There is always some errant, mortal man standing in authority hollering at us "You're doing it wrong!".

But, are we? Isn't the Holy Spirit supposed to give us internal guidance on what is right and what is wrong? Do we really need someone standing on a dais with a reproving look and wagging finger when they can never truly know the contents of our hearts? The power of Orthodoxy is strong, but the word itself 'orthodox' and it's evil twin 'heterodox' are "right/correct-belief" and "other-belief", as if there is but a single Path. If all of us are different by nature and different by nurture, why should our beliefs be one-size-fits-all? If each of us is different and we are all reflections of the Creator, then the Creator must be accessible by multiple avenues. In short, the cannot be a single Orthodox.

Each of us, in our own manner, believe. Each of us, as we can, tries to do good and eschew evil. The how of it, both in believing and in doing, is our between us and the Divine.

"work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for Her good pleasure." (Philippians 2:12-13)

We are to rely upon our own study and meditations to forge our own relationship, rather than be dependent upon someone else to tell us how to live or worship. Mayhap that is the key. The parishioners don't work for the parish nor a prelate nor pope. The church-goers don't need the Church. They work for Her good pleasure and work with each other to encourage and build up, to comfort and to help others - in short, to feed the sheep.

All the other stuff is distraction and dross.

Monday, June 7

Lessons from Saints - Norbert

Norbert was an 11th century noble who lived in what is now Germany. His father was a count and related to the Imperial line and the House of Lorraine. He was a member of the court of Emperor Henry V, and lived a life of ease and pleasure. Norbert became a canon as a career move, seeing the benefits of the ecclesiastical life but did not wish to enter the restrictive orders of the priesthood.

One day, as he was riding, a terrible thunderstorm blew up and a stroke of lightning spooked his horse, throwing the courtier to the ground and knocking him unconscious. When he came to, his first thoughts were "Lord, what would you have me do?" In response Norbert heard in his heart, "Turn from evil and do good. Seek peace and pursue it."

He returned to his birthplace of Xanten and promptly took the orders, becoming a priest. He gave his wealth and possessions away, adopted a rather extreme ascetic lifestyle and petitioned the Pope to become an itinerant preacher. He founded abbeys and reformed others. In time, he was made a bishop and, eventually, an archbishop.

Norbert had it all - wealth, power and a life of ease in a time when many lived a life of privation. Not only was he part of the system, but Norbert had an inside track to becoming one of the very rich and influential. Then, he had a moment when a choice for a different life was given to him - a chance to trade in his temporal wealth for that of spiritual treasures. Norbert gave up everything to follow Christ. He listened to the Voice Within and followed it, even when it meant turning his back on everything which he had worked for and was told was of value.

Thursday, June 3

Even in darkness, there is light.

The last few days I have not been posting as regularly as usual. Some of that is work-related, but a good deal of it is that I have been doing a lot of contemplation and prayer. My relationship with one of my partners has ended and the other is on very rough ground. I have been with both of them for approximately five years now and, in the course of a month, I have gone from the brink of forging a permanent relationship between us all to losing them both. The two people I care most about in the world are no longer with me. I can only hope that I will be able to repair my relationship with one of them.

A good part of my mind wants to rush about, scream and shout, do something to make things better. I have not listened to that, knowing that it would do no good, but I should acknowledge it nonetheless. I have been trying hard to still my mind and listen for That Voice, with mixed success. It is a funny and ironic thing to read your old posts and their words help you. I will say one thing which has come out through this whole issue.

I have faith in the Divine, in His plan and my part in it. That has never wavered and provides me with solace in the days and nights alone. I have hope towards the future, knowing that the Plan is for my benefit even if I do not understand or know it. I have love for all those involved, including myself. I must believe and wait upon the Lord.


Tuesday, June 1

Memorial day prayer

Oh Lord, in memory of those who have fallen fighting injustice and tyranny, both in and out of uniform, grant us:

the wisdom to discern Your will
the courage to trust in your infinite benefice and
the strength to do what we know is right

as you have done for those who have come before us.