Tuesday, August 31

Not dead yet

For those who may have noticed, my normal daily posts have stopped. This is due to our busy season hitting and I can't say when I'll have the time to start again. I hope it's soon as I miss this. I miss a lot of things right now. Yeah. If you have the inclination, call Animal Control. There seem to be a lot of canids wandering around my door as of late. KTKSBYE

Monday, August 23

Quote of the day

Compare your griefs to another mans and they will seem less.
- Spanish proverb

Friday, August 20

Lessons from Saints - St. Samuel the Prophet

Today is the feast of Samuel the Prophet. Of all the Old Testament figures, Samuel holds a very special resonance for me. When he was a young man, Samuel heard the Voice of God and answered "Speak, for Your servant is listening." By doing so, he began a life of unique service. My own experience occurred when I was an early teen, not terribly different from Samuel. Though I have, at some times in my life, not heard the Divine, it is not because She was not speaking, but that I wasn't listening to Him. I understand now the mistakes I have made, but the Voice is still there. If we listen carefully, humbly and with devotion, one can still hear It.

Speak, oh Lord, for Your servant is listening.

Thursday, August 19

Chautauqua : Enter the Conversation

Despite my best attempts to the contrary, I appear to be unable to not weigh in on the firestorm du jour which is "threatening to destroy all of western civilization if we don't do something nownownow". As the 'du jour' suggests, the problem changes from day to day and week to week. What seems to be constant, however, is the lack of coherent information, respectful dialogue and a recognition that we can have differences of opinion without any side being 'less than'.

I mention this here, as opposed to in my GP blog, because there is a spiritual and practical element to this. If we believe that, free from the chains of hierarchical doctrinal dictates, we are to follow the directives of our own conscience, then it is our duty as reasoning beings to inform ourselves as thoroughly as practicable so that an informed decision is made. I've been pounding on that rock for a while, but between recent media events and the education committee last night, things just snapped into focus.

What I am looking at trying here is a variation of a 19th century tradition, the Chautauqua. Originating in New York on the banks of Lake Chautauqua, it was a type of retreat, where people would hear speakers and discuss matters of importance at length in an atmosphere of respect and deference. During its heyday, the Chautauqua was a valuable transmitter of culture and information to rural people throughout the country.

For the 21st century, I'm envisioning evening sessions as opposed to weekenders but more frequently (twice a month vs. annually). Each night would be dedicated to a single topic (probably chosen by the chautauqua audience of the previous meeting) with a speaker or two in front to provide information and perhaps experiential data, followed by a discussion session. The target audience would be both the parish and the wider community, with a strong emphasis on encouraging those who feel they have minority opinions or feel that they are voiceless to attend.

That's what I have so far. Thoughts, rants and raves are all welcome.

Wednesday, August 18


Time and again, the comparison of the Church and the laity to shepherds and sheep has been made. Today's OT reading is no exception, but the message is far less warm and fuzzy than usual.

Ezekiel 34 has the Lord calling out the leaders of the church, saying that they've abandoned their charges for their own comfort and ease, and He's not happy about that.

“Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, you abandoned my flock and left them to be attacked by every wild animal. And though you were my shepherds, you didn’t search for my sheep when they were lost. You took care of yourselves and left the sheep to starve.

Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord. This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I now consider these shepherds my enemies, and I will hold them responsible for what has happened to my flock. I will take away their right to feed the flock, and I will stop them from feeding themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths; the sheep will no longer be their prey." (Ez. 34:7-10)

At the risk of flagellating the expired equine (or would it be ovine?), let us cast an eye to the behaviour and words, both recent and more distant, of the Christian churches in general and the church leaders in particular.

Do they treat people with respect and love, or as marks to be fleeced?

Do they work to uplift and console the faithful or are they more interested in arguing amongst themselves while the flock hungers for spiritual food?

Do they work to guide the people through a spiritual journey in the world today or do they abandon the lambs to wolves of the world, decrying the evil of the wilderness from the comfort of their campfires?

Indeed, how are who wield the crosier today unlike the priests whom Yahweh commanded Ezekiel to prophesy against?

"Do you love me? Feed my sheep" How hard can that really be?

Monday, August 16

Lessons from Saints - Roch

Today is the feast of saint Roch.

Born the son of the governor of Montpellier, Roch grew up wanting for nothing. When his parents died suddenly, Roch was but 20. He distributed his fortune among the poor and undertook a pilgrimage to Rome, giving the governorship to his uncle.

On his way, he encountered town after town beset by plague. Roch ministered to them and, by making the sign of the Cross, they were healed. Finally, he himself was stricken by plague and was cast out into the forest by the townsfolk. A dog came to him daily, bringing food and licking his open sores until Roche was cured.

Later, Roch returned to his hometown of Montpellier, where he was imprisoned for spying. For five years, an angel visited him in prison, caring for the man until his death.

May we, like Roch, give freely of ourselves. May we be an instrument of the Divine to heal those afflicted in body or spirit. May we be assured that in our own times of need that, even if the whole world turn against us, our God will heal our own wounds and care for us.


Thursday, August 12

Crying Fowl(er) on Science, aka Don't Blame me, Blame Prickliestpear

Reading through Prickliestpear's blog (oh, there is much of wonderment and pondering there. You should go. I'll wait) I came across his analysis/redaction of James Fowler's stages of faith. It is certainly interesting and thought-provoking reading and spurred me on to poke about some more on such things. As I was puttering about last night before bed, it occurred to me the trouble I've had with a long-standing fight. I shall explain...no, it take too long, I will sum up.

I was interested in seeing a movie which questioned the mainline scientific consensus on an issue. My 'friend', who is a liberal arts major, was derisive because 'science says'. As someone who has been trained for decades in science, I tried to explain that just because 'science says' doesn't mean that it's right. She became unglued. "But the journals are peer-reviewed!"

It came to me last night why that language caused me such problem.

"But the journals are peer-reviewed!"
"But the Pope/Magesterium is infallible!"
"But the Bible is inerrant!"

This is the Synthetic-Conventional stage of faith at it's most pernicious. As opposed to philosophy or religion, science does not permit one to develop to the 'Individuative-Reflective' stage, where ya scrap all the conformist mainstream stuff and 'DIY' it. Why would I discuss Science as if it were a religion? Because no matter if you are a disinterested lay-person or a dedicated career scientist, at least 99.9% of science is taken entirely on faith.

Due to the specificity of science today, most people in the field accept as a matter of faith that research done in other fields is implicitly 100% valid. Even research in your own special field of expertise is rarely questioned and fact-checking, basic research is vanishingly rare. Thus, present research is based upon earlier research which, quite commonly, is based upon even earlier research. That original science was considered valid 50 years ago and that's good enough.

It has gotten so far away from the roots that, in the hard science of physics, you have an entire discipline which has been touted as 'the way' for at least two generations of scientists which has, as of today, been without experimental verification. Yet, an attempt to publish something substantively outside the accepted viewpoint is to label yourself an anaethma to 'real science'.

For those outside the field, the matter is entirely taken as a matter of faith. There are those who educate themselves in the jargon and attempt to understand the basic principles, but there is no reasonable way for them to even ask the right questions, let alone have access to a means to derive any answers, pro or con.

Science is a conformist, faith-based belief system aping as a universalist, proof-based rational discipline Q.E.D.

At least with other faith-based belief systems, there isn't a pretense.

Wednesday, August 11

The message matters

For myself, when I become interested in a topic, I investigate the primary sources. If I hear that, as an example, the government says 'X', I go and read the original release from them. When the latest row erupted about climate change, I read the IPCC report...all 15.9 gazillion pages of eye-glazing minutiae. Further, I am intimately aware that scholarship changes over time. As my grasp of classical latin and greek is tenuous at best, acquiring a translation which incorporated the most accurate and current scholarship was important.

So, it should come as no great shock that, when I decided to investigate Catholicism, I went and corralled a copy of the 'Catholic' Bible. WOW...look at all the extra books. Gee, this text and that verse reads very differently than I learned growing up. Attempting to understand how these differences arose, I went and read about translations and interpretations. That's when I ran across the historical-critical method of scriptural interpretation....and the world exploded in a champagne supernova.

You see, I've been doing serious historical scholarship in the medieval period for years and the historical-critical method is the most logical and reasonable way of understanding primary source documents. Once I saw that there were people out there applying this eminently reasonable method to scripture, it only made sense. This got me thinking recently about the 'lesser' texts - the deuterocanonical and non-canonical texts and have me thinking about what they are saying. Some are substantively at variance with the remainder of scripture not just in the story but also in the underlying meaning (the book of Enoch and the Gospel of Judas, for instance). Others, while having a different story or emphasis, enrich the base message of the scriptures and provide valuable insight and a greater understanding of the people in that place and time (i.e. - the three additions to Daniel and the Gospel of Mary).

So, what does all of this mean? If we agree with Paul that scripture is useful to teach, correct and show us how to act in the manner which God desires (I would explicitly add 'inspire' in addition to the last), then one should look at the message being transmitted. Is what is being said, especially on a deeper level, in accordance with the larger corpus of the extant sources. Does it provide additional insight? Then the provenance of the teaching is really of secondary importance, it is the message that matters.

Tuesday, August 10

Don't people read?

So, I'm sitting with some co-workers on break and we're talking about current events, as you do. During the discussion, there is mention of the new healthcare reforms and both say, in their own words, that the people (via the government or otherwise) shouldn't pay to help out others. As one put it, "that's not what our country was founded on."

Now, both of these ladies are well-meaning, god-fearing Christians who strongly agree that the U.S. was (and, mostly, still is) a Christian nation.

There are a raft of sayings by that Nazarene Hippy which would apply here, most of which I've waxed rhapsodic about before. Instead, let's try something different, non-biblical and a bit more current.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
- Emma Lazerus, The New Colossus
You may recognize it. That's the poem on Lady Liberty. Of course, she's not what this country was founded on either. *sighs *

Friday, August 6

Thanks to the Divine

We are the body of Christ.

When we see the oppressed and do not turn away, we are His eyes.

When we listen to the cries of others, we are His ears.

When we do the good work of the church, we are His hands.

When we march for justice, we are His feet.

When we come closer to Abba God through study and prayer, we are His mind.

When we show love and compassion, we are His heart.

We are the body of Christ.


comment: This meditation is an extension of St. Augustine's comments on the Church and came into my mind unbidden this morning. May it enlighten and inspire. Thanks be to Him.

Lessons from Saints - St. Norbert (redux)

I realize I've already written about Norbert, but I came across this quote which, especially considering recent events and conversations, feels especially prescient.

O Priest!
You are not yourself because you are of God.
You are not of yourself because you are the servant and minister of Christ
You are not your own because you are the spouse of the Church.
You are not yourself because you are the mediator between God and man.
You are not from yourself because you are nothing.

What then are you? Nothing and everything.

O Priest! Take care lest what was said to Christ on the cross be said to you: "He saved others, himself he cannot save!"

-Saint Norbert, on the occasion of his ordination to the priesthood.

Wednesday, August 4

money, conscience and responsibility

In both Matthew and Luke, one finds the parable of the Talents. It is common enough that I shan't repeat the entire thing here, but one servant takes what is given them and magnifies it tenfold, another takes what they have been given and multiplies fivefold while the third takes what is given them and buries it. In the end, each are rewarded in proportion to what they have done with the investment. As this is a parable, there is a deeper meaning to be gleaned from the story and we are invited to contemplate on the tale.

As I reflect on this, one thing stands out. Those who took the money and made more from it acted as good stewards, taking ownership of and responsibility for the gift. The one who buried it, did not. To me, the parable reflects the gifts that the Divine gives each of us and strongly instructs each of us to develop those gifts to the best of our ability. It also recognizes that different people have different levels of success in this endeavour, but the important part is to do our best, not for ourselves but for our Master. There are two gifts which the Divine has granted to all of us, the ability to reason and a conscience, which I wish to examine more fully.

There have been a number of recent discussions about rather deep and divisive issues which I have had the honour of being party to. Without naming names or positions, what has rang clear to me is how often and easily the words of well-heeled doctrine doth come trippingly off the tongue. Whether it is 'the Church says', quoting a single verse of scripture out of context or basing their carefully rehearsed defense on an assumption which is conflicts with other parts of their espoused theology, all of these are indications that these people have not personally examined what it is that they are saying, the underlying theology involved, the full implications of their statements and how those beliefs correlate with the facts on the ground.

For instance, saying that women are incapable of ordination ignores the first several hundred years of the church history when women were deacons, priests and even bishops. The statement that Christ didn't ordain women conveniently omits the fact that he didn't ordain any men either. These aren't abstruse and arcane theological concepts requiring decades of specialized study, but rather easily discovered and understood matters of history that even a cursory analysis of primary sources and reputable scholarship would reveal.

As Paul regularly reminds us, Christ's principal teaching (i.e. - the Great Commandment) is blindingly simple in principle. That said, the application of it is so broad and complex that no manual written by mortal hand could account for even a fraction of the scenarios and the 'right' answer to the questions presented. The human capacity for intellectual reason and rational thought is a unique and powerful gift which, when suitably trained and practiced, can produce truly stunning results. That is not to say that reason and intellect are alone sufficient for the task of navigating the complexities of a Christian life. Just as someone without any innate ability can train in a task without any substantive affect, without Spirit-filled conscience, our capacity for wise and correct discernment is fatally limited.

I should say a word about Spirit-filled Conscience. Lest a person believe that, like reasoned intellect, I am purporting that conscience is insufficient to the task without reason or intellect, I say unequivocally and explicitly that the Omnipotent Divine is not limited or constrained to require rational thought to prod us towards the good through the judicious use of conscience. That said, just like training augments and improves natural talent, so too does the regular engagement of the rational mind into matters of Spirit improve the capability, efficacy and ease by which we may access the eternal Sophia for the benefit of ourselves and all Gods Church. The entire idea of the Primacy of Conscience depends on the interaction of a Spirit-filled heart and an informed/engaged mind.

But that primacy of Conscience comes at a cost, just as Free Will carries with it a price. If we are simple creatures, slaves to base desire with the inability to discern for ourselves the difference between right and wrong, then the cost of error is nothing and our conscience would not prick us. As this is manifestly not the case in all instances, we have an obligation to follow that conscience and choose for each of us what is right, fitting and proper based upon the dictates of our heart (as guided by the Spirit). As it is our obligation to do so, it is also our duty as thinking beings with Free Will to educate ourselves on matters which we much decide, lest we unknowingly and unwittingly work against our best interests and the greater interests of our communal brotherhood which is the Word made manifest in our time. To do any less would be to, in one way or another, abdicate our responsibility as stewards to the Almighty who has entrusted these gifts to us.

Like the three servants in the parable, each of us will, at one point or another, be called to account for what we have been given. Will we be the servant who took ownership of their faith and responsibility for their actions, or will we be the servant who was just following orders, head and heart buried in the sand?

Tuesday, August 3

I'm just sayin.....

Just an observation but....

Am I the only one who finds irony in the fact that those who are most vehement about the perceived errors of others are those who have voluntarily removed themselves from the ability of understanding them?

Socially normalized homosexuality

Same sex-marriages

Wedded priests

Anything about women

Just sayin....

A thought experiment: Lefty-loosey and righty-tighty

Consider the following:

We state that all people are created in the image and likeness of God.

It is a well established scientific fact that whether a person is left-handed or right-handed is a combination of genetics, which gives preference, and both upbringing and social pressures which will allow or prevent that person to develop their handedness.

Thus, both left or right-handedness are accurate and valid reflections of the Creator in the creation and neither are inherently defective, despite what many cultural heritages have said.

As the choice of handedness is at least partially determined by genetics (thus in the hands of the Divine) and handedness is an inherent part of our incarnation, the expression of that handedness in one manner or the other is also not inherently defective.

Ergo, those who are left-handed are so due to the will of the Divine who has given them that inclination and to try to force them to switch hands in some way (whether by training them to use the other hand or simply not act upon those inclinations and be like everyone else) is to ask those people to deny an innate part of themselves and how the Divine made them.

None of this is a great revelation or surprise, other than perhaps talking about how you sign your name in theological terms. Well...for those of you who haven't guessed yet, this post is really about sexuality. Replace the words 'left-handed' with 'gay', 'right-handed' with 'straight' and 'handedness' and 'hands' with 'sexual orientation'.

The argument holds just as strongly, as long as you ignore the 'infallible, definite and unchangeable' dogma (which has changed three times in 20 years) of certain magisterial organizations and examine it for yourself, using reason to interpret the facts and letting your conscience be your guide.

Monday, August 2

To everything there is a season......

After long bouts of illnesses for many years, my former brother in law, John Cecil, breathed his last and passed over about an hour ago.

May the Spirit comfort those he left behind, his father James, wife Evelyn, son Jason, and sisters Kris and Naomi in this trying time in their lives.

Kyrie Elieson

Christi Elieson

Kyrie Elieson