Thursday, December 5

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

I realise I have been silent for a long time, but I feel compelled to comment upon the passing of one of the finest human beings to trod this earth in many years.  After 95 years and a path which has gone from prison to presidential palace, Dr. Nelson Mandela will walk a bit further to another set of gates, these being pearly.

Over all the years, Mandela showed us a better, kinder and more Christ-like way in which the world could be made.  A world based on mutual respect, investment in our youth and meaningful dialogue.  It is in our hands now to carry the work on that he began.

"There is no passion in playing small, in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living."
 - Nelson Mandela

Thursday, August 1

Faith, Bambi-style

When you see God, you will.....
For those of you who do not know, I work near the center of a large town (approximately 100,000) with a state university.  Earlier this week, I went outside for a break and, looking across the 4-lane street, I observed a full-grown doe in the front yard area of another business carefully browsing on the shrubbery in the cool shade of a tree.  Looking about, there were cars and some pedestrians going by, but nobody seemed to notice this pastoral scene played out in the middle of town.  I briefly acknowledged her, to which I got a quick gaze and ear-twitch, then the hind returned to her late-afternoon snack.  Later, as I was leaving for the day, I looked over to see that our forest friend had decided to bed down under the tree, both unobserved and unconcerned.

This whole interplay makes me think of the Divine and Faith.  If Faith is our reaction to an encounter with the Divine (a working definition which encompasses Trueblood, Aquinas and Lonergan), it requires a few things which I believe explains some people and their lack of Faith.  There is a good body of evidence (and a lot of common wisdom) which says that when things are suitably outside of our expectations, humans have the tendency to edit it out of what we perceive unless it is specifically highlighted for us.  Thus, someone in a pink elephant costume can walk down the street and at least half the passers-by would not 'see' the pachyderm unless at least one person in the crowd has a suitably large and demonstrative reaction.

Where is God in this?   She's right there, nibbling on the leaves within arms reach.  Didn't you see Him?

Wednesday, July 24

A tree and its fruit.

I have many friends and colleagues who have made much of the words and actions of HH Francis, sounding at times like fangirls and royal watchers with their kawaii squees of joy at every morsel of news.  I am not one who is prone to gush and I can honestly say I have never been really a fanboy.

Do not get me wrong.

What I have seen and heard regarding both the words and deeds of Pope Francis point to him being a man of real compassion and dedication to both God and Church who is putting forth great effort towards righting the institutional wrongs which have crept into the Vatican.  Where I part ways with my above-mentioned friends is that they are all a-twitter because the head of a religion is following the tenets of the faith.

 To me, it is expected.

You lead by example.

It is what the Master did and it is what all good leaders do.  That Pope Francis is doing so means, in my mind, that he has read, understood and feels the message of faith.  That others have not and do not.....well, I recall something about a tree and its fruit.

Monday, July 8

A song stuck in my head....and heart

"Even though the day be laden
 and my task dreary
 and my strength small
 a song keeps singing in my heart....

 For I know I am Thine
 I am part of Thee
 Thou art kin to me
 and all my times, all my times are in Thy hands."

 - Hebredian prayer, courtesy of the Celtic Daily Prayer book.

Tuesday, May 21

The shortcomings of science, theology and rational thought

As some of you may know, I am presently working on my Doctorate of Ministries.  My present coursework has had a strong emphasis on theology (specifically 20th century theologians like Chardin, Kung, Lonergan and their ilk) and has been exceptionally thought provoking.  One of the most profound things which has come from this study and reflection is a simple observation as to the inadequacy of it all.

Theology is "the systematic and rational study of concepts of God and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary." (, SN: Theology)  The key words here are 'rational'  and 'learned'.  It is a study of the mind.  While this is all well and good (and I mean is good and fruitful), it has a fundamental flaw, which is in dealing with the primary source - God.

Encounters with the Divine, which are the core of faith, are essentially experiential and a-rational.  It is not that they (and their fruits, Faith) are unfounded or  lack reason, but rather they are entirely beyond the capacity for systematic, logical examination.  At base, they are matters of the heart, not of the mind.  This shortcoming is not a new phenomenon or startling revelation.  It is what the Angelic Doctor was referring to when he wrote "To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible."

A systematic, rational and learned approach to an inquiry of study has great value, to be sure, but to describe love as a set of biochemical receptor changes or compassion in statistical trend analysis misses the entire point.  Such things defy reason, analysis or explanation.  As Balzac said more succinctly, "We love because we love."

Wednesday, May 8

Fear on tap

I was listening to the radio on the way home from work and there was an interesting story about a research study that used descriptive word syntax to analyze print media in a time period to track the collective conscience of the society of the time.  For instance, during the 1920's, on the heels of winning the 'War to End All Wars' and in a time of economic prosperity, words which describe happiness or joy were at their peak.  Twenty years later, on the eve of WW2 and over a decade into the Great Depression, descriptors of sadness were at their highest point.

  I find this sort of big data mining fascinating as it permits us to unwind both observer and analyst bias and tap into a broader and, theoretically, more accurate picture of the sensus populi.  I mention this here because the study shows that five of the six descriptors (anger, disgust. fear, joy, sadness and surprize) have been steadily declining since the 1980's with  fear being on the rise.  I believe that most folks know this in their lizard-brain, intuitively understanding that 'the world today' is awash in anxiety, filled with fear and  ridden with restlessness,.  Indeed, each mass we pray to be protected from "all needless anxiety", yet 'modern culture' is saturated with it.  There is fear on tap and we are drenched in dread and dripping with distress.  Why?

Is there uncertainty in the world?  Of course....but there has always been.  Crops failure has been replaced by climate change, random acts of violence supplants attacks by wild animals, AIDS, SARS and bird flu stand in the stead for plague and terrorism is the appelation of the day for Vikings.  Still, fear of tyranny, of war, of loss, the unknown and the future are no less with us today than they were two millenia ago.  What has changed, then?

One factor is our news sources.  In short, The Media is a corporate entity which lives or dies by quarterly profit and trepidation upticks the take. Another factor is the use of fear to herd the sheeple into thinking, speaking and acting 'your' way (for what ever constitutes 'your'). Compound that with instant communication, 'social media' and fear flies on fleeting wings whilst reason plods as tired oxen.

Given these things, what can be done to stem this tide of terror and abate the avalanche of anxiety?  The first is to ratchet down the rhetoric that is the firehose of media-based foreboding.  In short and brief, disconnect from the media which motivates.  That isn't easy, but it is important.  Also, it means that you need to do more than just that.  To remove only will not be enough.  One must also fill the void, but with what?

Love.  For love drives out fear and perfect love (which, of course, is the Divine) will perfectly drive out fear.

Just sayin.

Tuesday, March 5

What's all this religion then then?

“You can believe all the right things and still be a jerk. You can believe all the right things and still be miserable, still be in bondage, or still be untransformed. So, the emphasis upon belief is, I think, modern and mistaken. It’s also very divisive – once people start thinking that being a Christian is about believing the right things, then anybody’s list of what the ‘right things’ are becomes a kind of litmus test as to who’s really a good Christian and who’s not. Being a Christian is really about one’s relationship with God. And that relationship with God can go along with many different belief systems.” Marcus Borg, Living the Questions 2.0 (emphasis mine)

I believe that Dr. Borg has it at least half right, though I would expand it a bit. The spiritual aspect of being a follower of The Way is our relationship with the Divine. There is a horizontal, relational aspect with each other in community as well, which is what I refer to as religious. That said, it is very much not about any shibboleths of creed, a certain way of honouring or worshipping the Divine, a particular eccleisal structure or what you read on the holy day of your choice. If you follow God (by whatever name you call that rose), then your relationship with the Divine is what matters. That relationship is what will shape how you relate to the rest of Her Creation, including others in community.

Monday, February 25

And now for something completely silly.....

When I write a post, I normally go poking about the 'net, looking for an image which matches, underlines or otherwise fits the post.  Then there are those which don't fit at all, but strike me as hilarious for one reason or the other.  As my beloved would say, "mirth and reverence".

Where will YOU be when your laxative starts to work?

When on fire with the Spirit, remember! Stop, Drop and Roll!

"Which one of your Eminences ordered the Kung-Pao chicken?"

Where two or three are gathered....

Yesterday, the folks of Colouful Colorado were treated to a reverse-Turnerism, wherein the world was drained of its myriad hues and everything was white and shades of grey.  Driving to mass, there were whiteout conditions most everwhere.  Yet, a dozen or so of us 'committed catholics' (or catholics who should be committed) gathered, sang, prayed and were in communion with each other and the Divine.

Our guiding lenten imagery centers around the Labyrinth and the homily was about how, even though the path may not seem clear to us, if we hold our vision on the Divine above and follow Him, we will be led through the twists and turns till we arrive at the center.  Considering the weather conditions outside, I found it particularly apt.

As masses go, it was the most intimate, with an informality which is not normally seen even in our rather informal community.  And, yes....the Divine was there.

Thanks, Dad.

Lenten Reflection: Judging

Jesus said to his disciples: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” (Lk. 6:36-38)

What else needs to be said?

Saturday, February 23

Lenten reflection: Peter's words

I exhort the presbyters among you, as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed.  Tend the flock of God in your midst, overseeing not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly.  Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is revealed you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (1Pt. 5:1-4)

Looking at the scandals, the cappa magnas, the dictates underscored by excommunications, the untold millions in the Vatican coffers...I find these words in the lectionary today hard to reconcile with the clergy of the church which celebrates the feast of the Chair of St. Peter.

Lenten reading : easy words, hard deeds

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers and sisters only, what is unusual about that? Do not the unbelievers do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt. 5:43-48)

Again, there's no compact in scripture which says that it is easy to do these things; to return kindness for cruelty, love for hate, compassion for prejudice.  Doesn't mean we shouldn't....just an acknowledgement that is can be a difficult task some days.

Wednesday, February 20

Lenten reading :A heart of stone

Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partners of Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end. (Heb. 3:12-14)

In our world today, it is so very easy to harden one's heart, to denigrate our fellow man and, in doing so, disrespect the Divine which is in each and every one of us.  It is a simple matter to argue that they are not like us, that we live in different worlds and that our understanding of Truth is superior to another.

This is the way of a hardened and unbelieving heart, for in denying the truth another sees, we deny the Truth itself.  To argue that there is a 'them' ignores that we are all together, we are all one.  To do anything other than acknowledge the Divine in someone else denies the Divine in everything, including ourselves.  If Christians hold that God is omnipresent, then She lies within me as much as He resides within you.  To believe in the Divine is to uplift one another.  To be good is to see the good in all, both others and oneself.

What makes you itch?

Tuesday, February 19

Further reflection: a more positive approach

After posting, there is something else which needs to be said, lest it be considered that all of my experiences, learning and study have jaded vision such that there is no hope.

Consider the words of the Master:
 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? ....? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? .... You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?' For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."

"So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Mat. 6)

One cannot serve both the Lord of Heaven and the god of earthly riches.  Decide who you love more, and follow them with your whole heart.  If one has chosen to serve the Lord of Heaven, then there is no reason to worry about the 'little things' of this world.  If one has chosen to serve the master of money, then matters of the next world are of no consequence.

Who do you love?  Who do you trust?

The Divine will care for you, if you trust Her.  Follow the Voice and He will deliver you, no matter where the path leads.

Lenten reading :Who do you trust?

Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul!

I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God all my life long.

Do not put your trust in princes,  in mortals, in whom there is no help.

When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish. (Psalm 146:1-4)

Warning: hard truths and ugly words ahead.

There is a lot of noise on the internet with the recent abdication of Benedict XVI and the conclave of cardinals which will meet to choose a new pontiff.  Chalk up my cynicism to being generational, but I don't hold much hope for a group of like-minded senior executives to break with generations of tradition to possibly harm their position in an altruistic attempt to right a sinking ship.

Put far more bluntly by my father years ago, "Look, our generation knows that we've f****d this world up, most of us don't care and our only hope is to die before the bill comes due."  In my time on this planet, there isn't a single sector, public or private, secular or religious, which hasn't taken taken their turn at this, flagrantly and egregiously, and been caught at it. It appears that part of our mortal, human condition that when given authority and power is invested, especially in an institution, we screw it up.

So, who do you trust?  Not institutions, for certain.  What about people you know?  To a certain extent, as we have enough of a connection with them to know how far NOT to trust them.  And the Divine?  Every time, the Boss comes through.  She never stops loving, He never quits you.

Trust not in the Princes of the Church, Kings of countries or Captains of industry, for they are ALL mortal, ALL fallible.

Trust in God, for He is immortal, She is infallible.

Friday, February 15

You will know a tree by it's fruit

As some may know (or may have guessed), I use two separate lectionaries for my readings, both being linked on the left.  It may seem odd or redundant, but there are good reasons for this as today's readings highlight the differences in theology and outlook.

In the USCCB readings, you have a quote from Psalms 51.
Thus says the Lord GOD:
Cry out full-throated and unsparingly,
lift up your voice like a trumpet blast;
Tell my people their wickedness,
and the house of Jacob their sins.
Compare this to the PCUSA readings, which has Psalms 148.
 Praise the Lord!
     Praise the Lord from the heavens;
          praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;
          praise him, all his host!
Praise him, sun and moon;
          praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
          and you waters above the heavens! 

The OT readings are the same way, with the USCCB passage from Isaiah going on about 'tell my people of their wickedness', vs. the PCUSA passage from Deuteronomy which talks about how God 'will love you, bless you, and multiply you' if you heed his ordinances.

You see what's going on here.  Which view of yourself is healthier?  Which idea of the Divine is more spiritually productive?  Which relationship with God fits more with your understanding of yourself and the Divine?

Thursday, February 14

To fear or not to fear....that is the question.

The readings we had at the evening Ash Wednesday service were well tailored and crafted to give a unified message.  Yes, I get it...we're all 'dust'...which is to say that we ain't squat in the big picture...but that isn't anything new to me.  What caught my eye (ok, ear) was the great propounding of fear.  "Fear the Lord!" was the refrain over and again, yet I am called to ask why?  

Why should I fear the Lord? 

My understanding of the Divine is such that He is neither arbitrary, unkind  nor cruel, but rather She is just, loving and merciful.  Take the 'parent' analogy which is so commonplace when referring to God.  Why, why on Earth would I fear a parent who loves and cares for their children? 

How many times, when God appears to people (and God-as-Christ to his people), does the 'conversation' start with "Don't be afraid."

Why would I fear God if the first commandment of Christ is to love God with all I am?  

How can I love and fear the same person...especially when love casts out fear?

Wednesday, February 13

Ash Wednesday thoughts

As the cold nights of winter slowly give way to the lengthening days of spring, so to the wheel of the liturgical calender turns towards Lent, a time of preparation, prayer and meditation.  For many, Lent is bound up with sacrifice, of giving something up for a month and a half.  For myself, I consider it a time for spiritual spring cleaning.

Now is the time to open the doors of your heart and swing wide the windows of your mind to let the beams of Divine sunlight brighten those dark corners.  Bask in the glow of the Heavenly as it reflects within you and know that you are beloved of God as Her son, His daughter.

Take this time, these weeks ahead, to examine what is in your life that is profitable, good and holy.  Treasure and strengthen those things while looking at ways to rid yourself of the parts of your life which are neither holy, good nor profitable.

May the Son shine warm upon your face.

Monday, February 11

Catholic? What does that mean?

A matter which has been brought up again and again within our circle of churches centers around the middle word in our title - Catholic.  What, precisely, does that mean?  It patently does not mean obedience to Rome, for there are other churches which are most assuredly catholic who are not Roman nor even in communion with Rome.

Thus, one must look deeper and consider a more profound question - what does membership in any denomination mean?

Does the identity hang upon ritual and rite?  Upon the words that we say and how we say them?

What about the trappings and physical tokens of our faith? Is a priest any less efficacious in a T-shirt and jeans than in a cope and chausible?

Is it, instead, about the congregation and the communion which they share?  As parishes change in size, demographics and needs, does that mean that the denomination should change?

Whither theology and doctrinal belief? Are they the defining characteristics for a denomination?  What of when said official doctrines conflict with the experiences, shared or unique, of the people the church?

So long, and thanks for all the fish

As has been reported widely, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has tendered his resignation, effective 28 February, at which time the College of Cardinals will choose a new pope.  Though not unprecedented, it is the first abdication by a Roman pope since Gregory XII resigned in 1415 because of the Papal Schism and is only the 5th in the history of the Roman church.

In the last year or so, I have noted with some compassion that the Pontiff appeared to be less leading the Church than being led by the church machine (not unlike the waning years of his predecessor, John Paul II).  Considering his closeness to the former pontiff, I cannot help but believe that this trend has gone unnoticed by His Holiness either.  Though I remain adamant in my disagreement with His Holiness in regards to much of his theology and doctrinal applications, my respect for him as a person, an academician and a man of God who has done what he has believed is best has not diminished.

 I chose the title of this post as a reference to the dolphins in Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. It is their farewell note as they abandon their home right before it is destroyed in the name of 'progress'.  Considering the scandals at the Vatican Bank, the slow-moving train wreck that is the clerical paedophilia and cover-up, increasing irrelevance of the church as a moral authority, the rapidly decline of the church in numbers on both sides of the altar (to mention but a few), perhaps Dr. Ratzinger has realised that the time to make an exit is now before the entire edifice crumbles and something new, different and alien to the present generation replaces it.

One of the perks when retiring as CEO of a corporation is that you have a hand in the process of finding a replacement.  Given the Pontiff's address, I would expect that his replacement will be younger, more media and tech-savvy.  Considering his own personal understanding of Church, as well as the culture of the Vatican, I would also expect that the next pope will be as bound to tradition, hierarchy and generally conservative as the current one.

Meanwhile, the machinery of the Vatican continues to chug along, oblivious (or actively denying) the Vogon Destructor fleet in orbit around it.

Wednesday, January 30

Advice and counsel requested

Recently, there has been some lively discussion within our little Communion of churches regarding the requirements and pre-requisites for ordination to the priesthood.  At one point, I recall seeing a captioned image of some young priests which said (effectively) that none of their education and standard preparation will do any good at getting them ready to be a priest.  Though it would rankle a good deal of well-meaning folk, this isn't nearly as shocking as it sounds.  Getting degrees, no matter how good the education, rarely prepares you for the real-world application of that vocation, whether it is mending bodies, healing minds or salving souls.

So, I'm asking.

What can prepare someone for this vocation?

More importantly, how can someone prepare to be a good priest?

What qualites, skills and abilities constitute a good (that is to say, effectual) priest?

For those who have experience in this endeavour, let me put it differently.

What has served you in good stead whilst carrying out your duties as a pastor/priest/minister?

If you could pass on a nugget of wisdom to an aspiring priest, what would that be?

Inquiring hearts want to know.

P.S. - If, in responding, you would prefer confidentiality, please email me privately.

Tuesday, January 8


I realise that it has been a long time, a very long time, since I have penned any substantive material to this blog.  I am certain that there is some glib excuse or quippy rejoinder, but the unvarnished truth of the matter is simple.

I have met my match.

Verily, dear readers (and I know all three of you), I have come face to face with the most disturbing and frightening of things - a person who is, in every way possible of measuring, at least my equal if not my better.  Indeed, a veritable mirror image of my own self, yet with barely enough difference to make such a doppleganger distinguishable.

Given such a formidable and singular personage, I said the only thing reasonable.

"Be my companion throughout time."

Fortunately, she said yes.