Tuesday, May 31

Reconciliation and the last few weeks

So, a world of things have occurred in the past three days.  Some pretty crummy and some pretty awesome.  The upshot is this:

I believe I understand what Dad was on about. For us to be reconciled, I needed to purge all of the ill I was carrying.  For both of us to live in the present, we must both discard the past.

Well, that was done this weekend with results that are beyond anything I could have hoped for.  What was is in the past and, for good or ill, shall stay there.  Our relationship is different, but it is honest and stronger than I can recall in years.

Though we shall not be partners going forward, at base he remains my closest friend and a person who I thought was gone from my life forever.

Thanks be to God for second chances.

Friday, May 27

Ongoing conversations with Dad

As most of my gentle readers may know, I've been going through some trouble recently and things have been 'exciting'.  Not surprisingly, there have been ongoing conversations with Dad though much of it has seemed to be one-way.  I say seemed because all too often we, as prayerful people in distress, are too busy talking to the Divine that we don't listen.  *whistles innocently*

The major thrust of my prayers in regards to this issue has been that I wish to be made whole again, that I wish to heal.  I've been talking to a lot of people, looking for some advice and counsel and getting a spectrum of opinion that ranges from the angry to the sublime.  Then, last night, after another of these discussions, I finally ran out of words.

That's when I heard The Voice.  "To be whole, you need to be empty."

The hurtful, painful and destructive elements are like a splinter in the old wound.  To heal properly, that wound has to be cleaned out and if it hasn't and the splinter remains, then the wound festers and will do naught but cause more issue.  The longer the wound is left to fester, the worse the trouble gets.  Unless the vessel is first emptied of the poison and cleaned, then the taint remains even if it is refilled with the purest of water.

One thing I have noted about the healings that Christ performed - they are never one-sided.  Whether it is the lepers or the blind men or the bleeding woman, Christ did not unilaterally cure them.  In every episode, there was a demonstration of faith by the sick that they wanted, needed, the healing power of the Divine and it was by that demonstration that they were made whole. 

It appears I have an appointment with the Great Physician.  Sometimes, the medicine tastes bitter, but He's got a great bedside manner, generous office hours and there's never a deductible.

Thursday, May 26

From the Daily Rembrancer

“Let a man examine himself.” 1 Cor 11 : 28

THIS is necessary, that we may know upon what we are resting; and whether we are growing or declining. Let us examine this morning upon what foundation we are building for eternal life, and from what does our hope arise? What is the source of our satisfaction, pleasure, and peace? What do we possess to prove the reality of our religion? Have we been quickened by the Holy Spirit? Is Christ our life, and is He living in us? Are we enlightened to see sin, in its nature, character, and actings? Have we living faith which receives Christ, believes His word, and lives to Him? Have we a good hope through grace? Is the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost? Do we love God because He first loved us, and walk with Him in peace and holiness? Have we the earnest and witness of the Spirit in our hearts? Are we conflicting with sin, and praying to be delivered from it, as from a tyrant, a plague, the most fearful evil? Let us examine carefully, deliberately, prayerfully; taking God's word for our rule and guide. Let us prove our own work, so shall we have rejoicing in ourselves alone, and not in others.

Searcher of hearts! oh, search me still;
The secrets of my soul reveal;
My fears remove: let me appear
To God and my own conscience clear:
Each evidence of grace impart,
And deeply sanctify my heart!

Wednesday, May 25

Of wolves and sheep

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; " (Ps. 23:4)

It is so very easy to feel alone in the darkness, so isolated and forgotten.  The tasks of the day can seem so pointless and the things which appear to matter to daunting and unassailable.  The wolves howl all around in the inky black and the Shepherd is nowhere in sight.

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you." (John 14:18-20)

The Light of the World is within us and we are with Him as She is in us.  These things are self-evident to those who look.

What Christ never promised is that it would be easy.

Tuesday, May 24


I can only speak to my own experience, but one thing which happens from time to time is that 'Life' gives me an exam, a test to see if I have, in fact, learned the lessons which have been given to me.

I must speak to the proctor, for this past week has been finals and nobody contacted me prior so that I may revise properly.  Bugger!  More exciting, real-world exams like this are not 2-3 hour affairs, but ongoing practicums of indeterminate length where 'C' is never the right answer.

"3. Your partner of over 6 years broke things off with you some months ago.  They have returned, and wish to be 'just friends', knowing that there remains unrequited love on your part. Using the Great Commandment in the equation, derive a solution which is respectful to both you and them.  Show all work in thought, word and deed."

This is why Religious Studies and Maths should not be mixed.  What's 7 times 70 again?

(h/t to a certain priest and R.S. teacher)

The 99 Club

Once upon a time, there lived a King who, despite his luxurious lifestyle, was neither happy nor content.
One day, the King came upon a servant who was singing happily while he worked. This fascinated the King; why was he, the Supreme Ruler of the Land, unhappy and gloomy, while a lowly servant had so much joy. The King asked the servant, "Why are you so happy?"

The man replied, "Your Majesty, I am nothing but a servant, but my family and I don't need too much - just a roof over our heads and warm food to fill our tummies."

The king was not satisfied with that reply. Later in the day, he sought the advice of his most trusted advisor. After hearing the King's woes and the servant's story, the advisor said, "Your Majesty, I believe that the servant has not been made part of The 99 Club."

"The 99 Club? And what exactly is that?" the King inquired.
The advisor replied, "Your Majesty, to truly know what The 99 Club is, place 99 Gold coins in a bag and leave it at this servant's doorstep."
When the servant saw the bag, he took it into his house. When he opened the bag, he let out a great shout of joy... So many gold coins!

He began to count them. After several counts, he was at last convinced that there were 99 coins. He wondered, "What could've happened to that last gold coin? Surely, no one would leave 99 coins!"
He looked everywhere he could, but that final coin was elusive. Finally, exhausted, he decided that he was going to have to work harder than ever to earn that gold coin and complete his collection.

From that day, the servant's life was changed. He was overworked, horribly grumpy, and castigated his family for not helping him make that 100th gold coin. He stopped singing while he worked.

Witnessing this drastic transformation, the King was puzzled. When he sought his advisor's help, the advisor said, "Your Majesty, the servant has now officially joined The 99 Club."

He continued, "The 99 Club is a name given to those people who have enough to be happy but are never content, because they're always yearning and striving for that extra 1 telling to themselves: "Let me get that one final thing and then I will be happy for life."

Our present consumerist culture is devoted, it seems, to making us all members in the 99 Club.  It is our duty to work in jobs we don't like to get money we loathe to purchase things we don't need and/or truly want.  All of this, of course, is contrary to the benefice of the Divine which is given freely to us all to enjoy and share.  We are taught to strive, to grasp, to hold onto these illusions rather than being grateful, sharing and enjoying for what is real.

Tuesday, May 17

Without the moon, the finger points to nothing

Without prophesy, there can be no Messiah;
the present must understand the past to see the future.

Without Christ's life, his death would have no meaning;
"God became man so that man might become a god."

Without His teaching, the resurrection would serve no purpose;

Easter is not the end, but the beginning of our journey.

Without seeing the Divine, we are blind to ourselves and others;
the Pancreator is within us and our world.

Without Love, we are alone within ourselves;
the bonds of Love connect us with Her and all of creation.

Without the moon, the finger points to nothing;
religious practice devoid of Divine spirituality is empty.

Monday, May 16

Reformation? Transformation? Conflagration?

On FIRE for Jeebus (funny hat extra)
I've been reading the works of heretics as of late.  In specific, the life and times of three theologians who challenged the Roman Church and who, collectively, changed how western Christians (both Protestant and Roman Catholic) define and understand their faith. The major points of heresy for them include:
  • Challenging the authority of the Roman hierarchy (in especial, that of the pope).
  • Questioning the necessity of celibacy and the abstention from marriage within the priesthood.
  • Challenging the institutional church and it's handling of money and property, in the end accusing it of Simony.
  •  Returning to Scripture, not Vatican mandate, as arbiter of truth within the Church.
  •  Challenging the very necessity or rightness of the clergy as a separate caste or order.
  •  Questioning the nature of the sacrament of Eucharist.
  •  Affirming the doctrine of sola fide (that Salvic Grace is achieved through faith alone).

Whether or not you agree with Drs Wycliffe, Hus and Luther, it is salient to note that many of these questions are showing up again after 500-600 years. The other thing which strikes me is the defense which was made at each of their trials.  Paraphrased, it is this:

"Show me in scripture where I am wrong and I shall gladly recant/repent/apologize." 

The Church never even tried to mount a Scripture-based defense.

This all makes me think.  Time and again, the call for reform comes from the scholars.  We are seeing that today, in Germany and elsewhere.  Perhaps a simple cold-warrior like Karol would not see the significance of this, but the present Pontiff is a theologian himself.  A great deal of the longevity and health of an institution such as the catholic church (of any stripe) is linked to the capability for internal discussion,dissension and dialogue, especially amongst scholars.  When the call has been heeded, there is substantive and lasting reform (i.e.- Clunaic reforms)  Whenever this has been actively curtailed, the Body of Christ is injured...both literally and figuratively.  I would pray that there are wise and attentive students of history who point to this and have us learn from the lessons of the past

Thursday, May 12

Charity and Justice

I have been reading a number of blogs recently wherein there has been discussions about charity and justice.  The more I reflect on these posts, the more I realise that the modern christian community...well...as Inigo Montoya put it, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Charity, in the christian sense, is not about "something given to a person or persons in need."   That is the general definition in the dictionary, but it is only the crudest of external signs of charity in the same way that "the exercise of authority in vindication of right by assigning reward or punishment" is only the crudest of externalities related to Justice. 

Let us look at the tradition and teachings of the past 2000 years.  Justice is one of the four external virtues (along with Prudence, Temperance and Fortitude).  As St. Augustine puts it,
So we may express the definition thus:
that Temperance is love keeping itself entire and incorrupt for God;
Fortitude is love bearing everything readily for the sake of God;
Justice is love serving God only, and therefore ruling well all else, as subject to man;
Prudence is love making a right distinction between what helps it towards God and what might hinder it. (Against the Manichaeians, I,15)
 Seems it's all about the love for Augustine.  As well it should be, as love is the greatest of all virtues (1 Cor. 13:13).

Aquinas discusses Justice and Charity at some length (Summa, I-II, 80-86).  Justice concerns itself with relations with one another, whereas charity is about our relationship with the Divine.  Justice is an external, moral virtue in contrast to an internal, theological virtue.

My point here is that justice is treating others as they ought to be treated, to love your neighbour as yourself. Charity concerns the friendship which unites the human being to God, to love God with all your being.  In all things, love is underlined.  Love/ἀγάπη/caritas...all the same. "Deus caritas est". God is love.

Love God, love your neighbour.  The rest is commentary.

Tuesday, May 10

reflections on simony and the reading

One of the conversations I had recently was upon the need to revise and expand the lectionary we use.  I find the Canadian CCB lectionary we use to be superior in some ways to the USCCB (generally nicer, less violent and much better health care), but there are some significant problems with both.  Anyways, the USCCB lectionary this week has a set of readings from Acts 8.  What is distinctly missing is the encounter with Simon Magus.  That this tale is missing from the post-V2 lectionary I find of particular interest.

In brief, Simon Magus was a convert who truly believed.  At that point, Philip had baptized them, but the Holy Spirit had not filled them. John and Peter came to Samaria and, by laying on hands, filled the believers with the Holy Spirit.  Simon Magus wanted this power and offered the Apostles money for this authority.

The dictionary says that Simony is "the buying or selling of sacred things".  The RC church has an even broader definition:
While this definition only speaks of purchase and sale, any exchange of spiritual for temporal things is simoniacal. Nor is the giving of the temporal as the price of the spiritual required for the existence of simony; according to a proposition condemned by Innocent XI (Denzinger-Bannwart, no. 1195) it suffices that the determining motive of the action of one party be the obtaining of compensation from the other. (catholic encyclopedia, SN: Simony)
The article goes on to define the material side of simony being in three kinds - receipt of material reward of some kind (munus a manu), receipt of oral or written support (munus a lingua), and receipt of homage or subservience (munus ab obsequio) while the spiritual side of simony is "whatever is conducive to the eternal welfare of the soul".  Examples include the sacraments, sacramentals and physical objects of devotion (relics, rosaries, etc.)

Upon close reflection, it has occurred to me that this is a far more problematic and institutional sin than is initially apparent.  Consider the following examples.

In exchange for the favour of the children being allowed baptism or confirmation in the Church, a person remains in an unwanted and loveless marriage.

In exchange for the privilege of communion, a homosexual denies their innate nature as God has made them and/or denies that gift from God which is sexuality.

In exchange for the boon of reconciliation, a parishioner votes as their bishop or priest directs them.

In exchange for the promise of extreme unction, an aged pensioner gives 'generously' to the local parish.

Note that I am not arguing the merits or defects of the behaviours.  If conscience calls a person to remain married or give generously or remain celibate, there is nothing wrong with that.  If, on the other hand, one does so in exchange for the promise of a spiritual boon (or, put differently, the withholding of said boon if the actions are not performed), then that is wrong - both for the clergy who engage in such spiritual sales and the laity who are complicit in the simony. 

There's a lot more here and there is a lot of ranting and hollering which will only change people's blood pressure.  At the end of it is this : we are charged by Scripture and instructed by Tradition to listen to the Spirit within and follow our conscience.  Do so, confident that the Divine will see that your intent is pure and your actions are holy.  Against that, no priest or prelate can hold a person's soul hostage.

Thursday, May 5

Reflections and posting

I would feel remiss to those who are kind enough to stop by and read my fevered scribblings if I did not mention a few things.

As I alluded to in my previous post, more shifting has been taking place, with my viewpoint on the world and on religion/theology significantly changing.  This is partly a return to my revelatory experience of last September, eating straw with Aquinas, as well as further exploration of the finger and the moon.

As I pointed out in a previous post, science is an artificial construct we collectively use to try and understand our experiences in the natural world.  Religion is ALSO an artificial construct we collectively use, with it's aim to decipher and understand our experiences in the spiritual world.  Science and religion are at best only the verisimilitude of those experiences and function as a guide, not a replacement.  Thus, they should never have precedence over the natural and spiritual world.

The trick here is that, although we can speak of the natural world in a non-science framework, we almost always speak of the spiritual world in religious terms, often to the point of denying the existence of that direct experience or even the possibility that anyone could have such experience in this day and age. There are a number of reasons, I am sure, and at least part of it is the danger of the immediate versus the safety of the known.  Rational thought and technical vocabulary are both tools which help people to isolate and distance themselves from the raw, messy and downright unsettling which is the experiential world.  It is much more comfortable to speak of the recitation of the Epiclesis or Words of Institution which causes transubstantiation of the elements than to say "The priest stretched out his hands and said some words, I felt this power surge all round the altar and the bread and wine tasted different and I feel all warm and tingly afterwards."

Anyways, the upshot of all of this is that I very well may be posting less in the near future.  My journey isn't at an end, or even at an ebb.  There is this door in front of me, a whole bunch of incredible things on the other side and I am finding that words are, for the time being, becoming less than useful in this situation.

Wednesday, May 4

Lessons from the Saints - Philip the Apostle

Yesterday was the feast day of Philip the Apostle.  Unlike Peter, James or John, there is precious little canonical guidance concerning the character of this man named among the 12 disciples of Christ.  Further, it is of note that the Philip of the Acts of the Apostles is a different man.

The one episode from the gospel of John is what strikes me as being worthy of note.
Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, “We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.”

“Nazareth!” exclaimed Nathanael. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

“Come and see for yourself,” Philip replied. (John 1:43-46)
Philip does not attempt to rationalize or convince Nathanael.  He does not cajole or berate his friend (whom most consider to be Bartholomew in the Synoptic gospels).  No, he says to come and see for yourself.

Recent events have been pressing me strongly towards a viewpoint of faith that is heart-centered and focused on the experiential spiritual rather than on the rational religious.  The transformative events of my life, the important ones which have given me even the slimmest understanding of the Divine and Her universe, are things which cannot be explained, rationalized or used to convince.  It isn't that they aren't real, potent or present but rather that they defy any description.  Come and see for yourself.  Enter into this mystery with me and experience the awe and wonder of the Divine.

Come and see for yourself.

Monday, May 2

Lessons from the Saints - Athanasius

Today is the feast day of St. Athanasius of Alexandria, one of the earliest and most venerated of the church doctors.  There is much which can be said of his life and his impact upon the Church during his 45 years as pope of Alexandria.  Rather, I would like to reflect on the good doctors words.

The time is now at hand when we enter on a new beginning: the proclamation of the blessed Passover, in which the Lord was sacrificed. We feed as on the food of life, we constantly refresh our souls with his precious blood, as from a fountain. Yet we are always thirsting, burning to be satisfied. But he himself is present for those who thirst and in his goodness invites them to the feast day. Our Savior repeats his words: If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He quenched the thirst not only of those who came to him then. Whenever anyone seeks him he is freely admitted to the presence of the Savior. The grace of the feast is not restricted to one occasion. Its rays of glory never set. It is always at hand to enlighten the mind of those who desire it...God now gives us the joy of salvation that shines out from this feast, as he brings us together to form one assembly, uniting us all in spirit in every place, allowing us to pray together and to offer common thanksgiving, as is our duty on the feast. Such is the wonder of his love: he gathers to this feast those who are far apart, and brings together in unity of faith those who may be physically separated from each other.  (From an Easter letter)

Athanasius makes it clear that anyone who seeks God, who thirsts to drink from that Saving cup and hungers for the Bread of Life should be allowed to come forward and it is through this feast of Thanksgiving (in the greek, εὐχαριστίας Eucharist) that we all are in communion with each other and with God.

In these days where we can become so focused on division and discord within our churches, communities and countries, may St. Athanasius and his words of unity and reminder that we are all welcome in the Body of Christ echo in our ears and resonate in our hearts.

Thanks be to God.