Tuesday, August 28

Don't feed the sheep brains

This week, work has sent me to two co-located conferences which are, ostensibly, about increasing workforce diversity.  I say ostensibly because there is a great deal which has been covered in the first conference that I do no see applying directly to my public sector position, yet I am finding the information to be of value in thinking about the Church and the Good Work which I see myself being called to.  A comment which the first presenter made stuck with me enough to go into my personal notebook.

"We are all zombies - we mindlessly go through the same motions, day after day, with our behaviour, emotions and decisions based solely upon past patterns and external influences."

As soon as I heard this, I thought about my own church. They are good enough people, mind you (no overt brain-eating), but it resonates with his statement.  Week after week, month after month, the same V2 liturgy, the same problems within and outside of the congregation and the same approaches to solutions.  "The Church is greying - let's have Peter, Paul and Mary give a concert to connect with the 'kids'." "We need more education and spiritual growth - We'll hold a one-time Thursday morning study of X, or maybe we could have a few weeknights watching one of those edgy 'Emerging Church' videos."

Even those within the online 'radical reform' community (some of which are kind enough to grace these pages with their thoughts), it seems that the polemic has a 'call and response' feel to it.  Every time I read a story in the news about Cardinal so-and-so or Archbishop this-and-that saying or doing something horrible, I can lay $5 I don't have that my blog reader will be filled with witty and sharp expositions of exactly how unchristian these leaders of the Church are being. 

Now, understand that I am not saying that there isn't some value to these things (if nothing else, it prevents some of my online friends from wearing orange).  What I am saying is that we have all done these things for some time without any altering of the status quo.  If one expects things in our churches to change, if we wish to see our world to change, we must change.

We must have a radical re-envisioning of what church is, what it means and how the faithful celebrate it.  Yes, open table and communion before baptism are small steps.  Changing liturgy times, days and places are others.  At the root of the matter is to see what does and does not address the needs of the 'unchurched' and applying the basic teachings of Christ to these needs.  Do we need to have Eucharist every week? Do we need to have a dedicated service at all?  Do we need to have a dedicated sanctuary?  We don't need to think outside the box - we must throw the box away.  Can we get our respective Leadership to buy into these ideas?  Honestly, I don't know and don't care.  The Boss (not Mr. Springsteen) has told us we are to do so.

Feed my sheep.

...and I'm pretty sure He didn't mean brains.

Tuesday, August 21

Words of wisdom from Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.”

"If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one."

“We cannot do great things on this Earth, only small things with great love.”

"I know God will never give me more than I can handle. I just wish He didn't trust me so much."

"God doesn't require us to succeed; he only requires that you try."

May Holy Wisdom whisper into his ear,
May our brother Christ guide his path,
May our loving Mother hold him in Her arms.

Monday, August 20

Reading of the Day

Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made with human hands; as the prophet says, 'Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Did not my hand make all these things?' (Acts 7:48-50)

In his defense before the high priest, Stephen (in the book of Acts) quotes the prophet Isaiah (Is. 66:1).

When I was a boy, I attended a great (as in large) church with a huge sanctuary.  In it, we always spoke in hushed tones and a joke I make about that is that this is God's house and we need to be quiet because He is sleeping (being very old and all, you know).  Amusing as that may be, it highlights an error.  Oh, sure, God lives in that sanctuary, but She lives in my house, too.  And yours.  And in the fields and forests and ocean depths, too.

As I have wandered down this path, there have certainly been times when I have felt the presence of the Divine in the service, in the building of church.  Much more frequently, however, I have discerned the Divine in a basilica of beech trees and a cathedral of pines.   Like so much of this exploration journey I am on, things which I know to be true by my own experience are later revealed as having been commented on long ago.

"Believe me, you will find more lessons in the woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you what you cannot learn from masters." - St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Lessons from the saints : St. Bernard of Clairvaux

"Believe me, you will find more lessons in the woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you what you cannot learn from masters."

"It is no great thing to be humble when you are brought low; but to be humble when you are praised is a great and rare attainment."

"I know by myself how incomprehensible God is, seeing I cannot comprehend the parts of my own being."

"A pretext is never lacking to him who would break with a friend."

“If you concentrate hard on the state you are in, it would be suprising if you have time for anything else.”

“Neither fear nor self-interest can convert the soul. They may change the appearance, perhaps even the conduct, but never the object of supreme desire... Fear is the motive which constrains the slave; greed binds the selfish man, by which he is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust and enticed (James 1:14). But neither fear nor self-interest is undefiled, nor can they convert the soul. Only charity can convert the soul, freeing it from unworthy motives.”

"We find rest in those we love, and we provide a resting place for those who love us."

“What we love we shall grow to resemble.”

Words from the Mellifluous Doctor upon the occasion of his saint day.

Friday, August 17

Today's Reading and an extra special message

Mother Church, Bride of Christ
So, reading today's daily office has an interesting quote from Ezekiel 16, wherein G-d outlines how He has raised and treated Israel with great love and deference, "'I also swore to you and entered into a covenant with you so that you became Mine,' declares the Lord GOD." (Ex16:4)  Then, He showers her with attention and great gifts, as a groom would a bride.

It is at this point, I get hammered by the cosmological clue-by-four.  The Roman church has called itself the Bride of Christ.  What is the bride's response to G-d?  What follows are His words and the message given to me to pass on.

Decked out in harlot finery
“But you trusted in your beauty and played the harlot because of your fame, and you poured out your harlotries on every passer-by who might be willing. You took some of your clothes, made for yourself high places of various colors and played the harlot on them, which should never come about nor happen.

The idol of gold and silver
You also took your beautiful jewels made of My gold and of My silver, which I had given you, and made for yourself male images that you might play the harlot with them.Then you took your embroidered cloth and covered them, and offered My oil and My incense before them. Also My bread which I gave you, fine flour, oil and honey with which I fed you, you would offer before them for a soothing aroma; so it happened,” declares the Lord GOD."

Moreover, you took your sons and daughters whom you had borne to Me and sacrificed them to idols to be devoured. Were your harlotries so small a matter? You slaughtered My children and offered them up to idols by causing them to pass through the fire." (Ez:16:15-21)

Only a few of the Children of God who have been sacrificed to the idol

The postscript to this is important and telling. G-d describes how this erstwhile bride is worse than Sodom, whom the Lord destroyed for their iniquity, and Samaria, whom the Lord laid low because of their wickedness. It ends as such:

"'You have borne the penalty of your lewdness and abominations,' the LORD declares. For thus says the Lord GOD, 'I will also do with you as you have done, you who have despised the oath by breaking the covenant.'" (Ez. 16:58-59)

Tuesday, August 14

An update.- Failure to Thrive

There are times that, despite the best watering, fertilizing and care, a plant dies on you anyways.  Perhaps the shock of transplantation was too much. Perhaps there was too much care given or the hardening off process was done too quickly.  Perhaps there was an unforseen weakness in the plant material which, despite the best of care, stressed it to the point where it could not cope.

It is easy to replace a plant with another which is nigh identical to the original.  But plants aren't people, each one being unique and special, and when a person fails to thrive, there is a great desperation felt to do anything and everything to save them.

There is a fine line between enablement and empowerment.In one, you provide the tools and the opportunity for someone who may not believe that they have them to make positive changes in their own lives.  In the other, you take those same-said tools to try and fix their lives.  The first is healthy, good and fully in line with Christian charity.  The second is a slow poison which will cripple both people.

That doesn't make this lesson any easier.

Kyrie Eleison
Christe Eleison
Sophia Eleison

For him, for me, for us all