Wednesday, May 30

Lessons from the saints - Jeanne d'Arc

Today is the feast of Jeanne d'Arc.  Two years ago (wow, has it been two years?) I wrote about her here, but I wish to point out a different and somewhat unrecognized aspect to the tale.

This revolves around who Jeanne was.  Not what she did or saw/heard or any of that, but who she was.  She was a peasant and a female who was martyred before her 20th birthday.  In short, she was a nobody, noone of importance, a nothing who may not even have been worthy of a gravestone.

Yet it is precisely this nobody who God chose to have visited. 

It is precisely this noone who was chosen to do the impossible for God and country.

It is precisely this nothing who listened, followed and changed the course of history.

It is something I noticed when searching for images about the Maid of Orleans.  Apart from the 'burning' images, she is almost always wearing armour, often with a sword in hand.  The latter is at variance with the accounts, as she stated specifically that she did not wish to harm anyone.  It is hard to find an image of her as the 12 year old shepherdess.  But that is who she, at her core, was. 

The point I see is to reiterate St. Francis: "If God can work through me, He can work through anybody",  whether it be a merchant's son or a teenaged girl. What made them is not where they came from or who they were born, but that they listened when the Voice called and answered it.

May we do the same.

Tuesday, May 29

Indra, Sa'adi and pandas

Last night, I had the chance to talk with a certain young man.  He recently was rescued (the only term which fits) from Nowhere, Midwest, where his strict Christian family was literally kicking him to the curb because he is (yes, you guessed it) gay. 

He is adjusting to life in BigGayCity, Colorado, but is having some identity issues *feigns shock* and the new friends may not be the most conducive to his finding that.  I mean, moving out of the house is hard enough for anyone.  Being evicted by your parents, driven to another state and dumped into a house-commune of a half-dozen gay men is....challenging.  Toss in a touch of Asperger's, a mind which tends to question and a truly gentle soul and one can imagine how uncertain things are for him right now.

We spoke at length about some spiritual things without being specific.  One of the outcomes of the conversation (other than a pointed need for more conversation) was talking about Indra's Net and that, as we are all part of nature created by the Divine, and that nature (as it was originally designed) is complex, interconnected and perfect, we are all created in the same way.

This afternoon, I ran across a poem which captures so much of what I am feeling and seeing.
The children of Adam are limbs of one body
Having been created of one essence.
When the calamity of time afflicts one limb
The other limbs cannot remain at rest.
If you have no sympathy for the troubles of others
You are not worthy to be called by the name of "man."
                               - Bani Adam, Sa'adi

For this uncertain and well-intentioned soul, I would ask for prayers of loving reassurance and guidance as he navigates in uncharted waters.

Also?  For that young man I mentioned at the first.

flocks of sheeple

"I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd." (Jn. 10:14-16)

The historical/critical reading of this passage is that Christ is speaking about the gentiles and that He is going to gather them along with the jews (aka, the Chosen People of God(tm) ) into a single group.

Reading this passage in the 21st century, it rings differently in my ears as represented in the above photo. 

In our day and age, the 'Chosen People of God(tm)' are those who call themselves Christians -  aging, heterosexual, entitled and insular folk who, at best, have a vague belief that they should help others (which is normally handled by writing a check to some organization and let them get their hands dirty) and rarely, if ever, actually see anything outside of themselves or their very tight-nit circle.

In the foreground, you have the 'other sheep', the homeless, the young, those who are gay.  They have nothing - no home, money, no job, no future, no societal support. They are the sheep who are lost.  Not lost in that they have strayed from God, but lost in that they are not in the fold...the 'Chosen People of God'.  The hired hands in their stoles and miters do not recognize them as part of the flock and drive them away.  They huddle in the darkness, shunned by the Levite and the Priest as they lay waiting for death.

Yet, these other sheep were created in the image and likeness of God, just like the 'CPoG'. To look into their faces is to see Christ, no less than it is to see Christ in a saint or priest. 

We are all equal in the eyes of our Father, for we are all children of God.

Wednesday, May 23


Is She here?
Where is God? 

Where does Her pathos lie? 

In whom do you see His image?

Where is Christ and where would you find him?

Or is He here?
Where is the fullness of the commandment to love your neighbour seen?

If your answer bothers you, concerns you, pricks your conscience, consider whom it is you associate yourself with....and why.

Tuesday, May 22

Listening to the Voice...

"Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect." (Romans 12:2)

Recently, there has been a lot of talk and thought about what is church, what it should look like, what defines being 'catholic' and other such matters. I have pondered and thought and discussed and prayed at length over such things.  I finally quieted myself and then heard what had been said all the time.

"Those are external constructs, matters of mind made material and artificial divisions which come from society.

The form of the thing is not the thing.

The form is temporal and shall be transformed, it's essence inviolate and eternal."

I see this now.  I hear you, Dad.
Thank you.

Friday, May 18

Reflections on the Ascension

"Later, n00bs.  LOL"
Yesterday was the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord.  I must admit that I have no small ambivalence regarding this particular feast day.  It is not about the event itself, for I am not questioning that Christ 'ascended' (by which I mean the translation to a 'higher plane of being').  Rather, my questions revolve around what the event means and symbolizes.

Do we consider the account to be factually accurate or is it at least partially allegory?  Other than the first part of Acts, the accounts are rather sparse with the Transfiguration accounts (for instance) having substantively more details.

What is the take-away message here?  Is it that God comes down, does all He can (including giving His own life) and after fulfilling every jewish prophesy about the messiah and having taught them everything he can, God is going home so he can be some form of Divine negotiator with himself?

Alternately, one could say that the spark of the Divine became a fire within a young Nazerene, changing his understanding of the universe and that transformation eventually allowed him to transcend reality as we know it, becoming one with the Divine.

One has a unique deity which becomes mortal long enough to teach, preach, clear his bucket-list of prophesy and have at least the verisimilitude of death, only to come back transformed and then return to himself.  The other has a man who is slowly transcending his own nature through the work of the Divine within us all, showing others how to do the same till he shows that even death is not a barrier. In the end, he ascends to a higher state of being, leaving his teachings behind.

I'm not saying that either path is right.  Perhaps they both are right...or both wrong and there's another way yet.  What I wonder about is which provides us a better understanding of the Divine and how to become closer to Her.  

Tuesday, May 15

Pardon me for being 7, but....

If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it. She sends you flowers every Spring, He sends you a sunrise every morning. Whenever you want to talk, She listens. He can live anywhere in the universe, but She chose your heart.

Face it friend, He is crazy about you!

God didn’t promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow,  sun without rain, but She did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears and light for the way.
(adapted from Dr. Zee's beautiful person poem)

Monday, May 14

Lessons from the Saints - The more you know

History is a unique and maddening field.  In most any other field of study, digging deeper and deeper reveals refinements of the lessons which one has previously learned.  History, though is like an onion, with each layer being distinct, unique and different from those above and below it.  What you learned in grade school has to be relearned at college....and then again in grad school.  I point this out because much of what catholics consider 'religion' is either directly or indirectly tied into history and, bluntly put, what you were told before is probably not true at all and, it most certainly isn't exactly true.

Today is the feast of St. Matthias, who was chosen by lots to be an apostle by the other apostles in the book of Acts. His method of appointment was commented upon by St. Clement of Alexandria:

Not that they became apostles through being chosen for some distinguished peculiarity of nature, since also Judas was chosen along with them. But they were capable of becoming apostles on being chosen by Him who foresees even ultimate issues. Matthias, accordingly, who was not chosen along with them, on showing himself worthy of becoming an apostle, is substituted for Judas.

I find this of substantive interest, as it posits the notion that there are no specific requirements or bars to being even an apostle, if God wills it.When we look at those who the original apostles, the most 'in' of the 'in-crowd' of Christ, none of those who partook of the first Eucharist were baptized.  If you wish to cast your net wider when talking of apostles, you have one rabbi (Paul), a woman (Mary Magdalene) and, of course, Matthias. 

In the Pauline era, a saint was someone, alive or dead, whose virtuous words and deeds inspired and encouraged others.  There wasn't a checklist and number of miracles required...nor a panel or body which decided their holiness.

Then again, this was the era in which clergy were to required to be married (to only one wife) with children, women were permitted to be deacons and the people, not the prelates, decided who was suitable to be a leader. It was the era when being a Christian meant following two rules, not thousands of canons.

How times change.

Thursday, May 10

personal note - a better soul than I goes home

Today I woke up and went about my morning routine, but something was wrong.  My old girl, Sara, wasn't there.  She was by the front door, looking sad and refusing to get up.  We went to the vet and, long story short, it was decided that the best course of action was to not do surgery, but to let her cross over. 

A southern gentleman has a unique and special bond with his dog, and Sara and I were no exception.  Sara helped me get through my divorce, was always there for me and was a wonderful companion.  She shall be greatly missed.

Wednesday, May 9

Who loves ya, baby?

Reading all that is going on in the news the past few days, I come back to the words of the Master.

"He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”" (Jn. 14:23)

"And He said to him, “ ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets." (Mt. 22:37-40)

"No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks." (Lk. 6:43-45)

Tuesday, May 8


This follows up on my earlier post.

Observing recent events that are unfolding in the RC church is deeply saddening to me.  Yes, the events themselves are heartbreaking, because these are real people with real lives who have been really broken by the hierarchy.  What I find more saddening is the underlying premises which appear to be driving the current prelates.

When a Roman bishop is made, they swear fealty to the Pope and the hierarchy (a word which means 'rule of a high priest').  Note, the promises and oaths aren't with God or the people, but to the Church. 

The red of a Cardinal's robes is to signify that they are willing to shed their own blood in defense of the Church.  Not God, not the faithful, but the Church.

Knowing this, the recent actions (or inactions) of various members of the episcopacy is much more understandable, but it is even more saddening and regrettable. 

Christ said that no man may serve two masters.  It is apparent that the church hierarchy knows this and has chosen whom they wish to serve. 

Wednesday, May 2

reading of the day

I read current events about my brothers and sisters in the other catholic faiths and try not to comment overmuch.  That said, the onslaught of priests being silenced, nuns under 'reform', loyalty oaths and laity quietly bemoaning the status quo sits in interesting juxtaposition with today's reading.

"Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God." (John 12:42-43)

Recall that, in context, the 'rulers' are the jewish leaders (Sanhedrin, Rabbis and the ilk).

The first Eucharist was celebrated by a layman and shared with a dozen unbaptized sinners. 

The Body of Christ predates the prelates of Rome, Constantinople or Lambeth.

I am not saying that church (of whatever faith) isn't without value, but never forget who you work for.

Just sayin.

More from Athanasius

"The Lord did not come to make a display. He came to heal and to teach suffering men. For one who wanted to make a display the thing would have been just to appear and dazzle the beholders.

But for Him Who came to heal and to teach the way was not merely to dwell here, but to put Himself at the disposal of those who needed Him, and to be manifested according as they could bear it, not vitiating the value of the Divine appearing by exceeding their capacity to receive it." (On the Incarnation, ch. 7, 43)

Lessons from the saints: Athanasius the Great

Today is the feast of Athanasius the Great, Patriarch of Alexandria, doctor of the church and one of the greek fathers.  Athanasius is known for his work against the Arians, his key role in the formation of the Nicene creed and defense of Trinitarianism.  St. Gregory Nazianzus referred to him as a 'pillar of Orthodoxy'.

In "On the Incarnation", Athanasius wrote the following about the nature of our relationship with G-d and Christ.
As, then, he who desires to see God Who by nature is invisible and not to be beheld, may yet perceive and know Him through His works, so too let him who does not see Christ with his understanding at least consider Him in His bodily works and test whether they be of man or God.
If they be of man, then let him scoff; but if they be of God, let him not mock at things which are no fit subject for scorn, but rather let him recognize the fact and marvel that things divine have been revealed to us by such humble means, that through death deathlessness has been made known to us, and through the Incarnation of the Word the Mind whence all things proceed has been declared, and its Agent and Ordainer, the Word of God Himself.
He, indeed, assumed humanity that we might become God. He manifested Himself by means of a body in order that we might perceive the Mind of the unseen Father. He endured shame from men that we might inherit immortality. (Ch. 8, 53)
May we, too, see the invisible Divine in the visible world.
May we know the Father through the Son.
May we follow the G-d-made-man more closely, that we may become as G-d.