Pause for Prayer: SATURDAY 4/29
2 hours ago
I reflected on the next generation of Catholic leaders. Most empirical data has pegged this cohort of young priests, religious and lay activists as more "conservative," and there's a good deal of truth to that claim. In general, they're more attracted to traditional modes of devotion and prayer, less resistant to ecclesiastical authority, and less inclined to challenge church teaching and discipline.
Yet, I argued, slapping the label "conservative" on all this is potentially misleading, because it assumes an ideological frame of reference, as if younger Catholics are picking one side or the other in the church's version of the culture wars. My sense is that these young people are not so much reacting to (or against) anything in the church, but rather secular culture. In a nutshell, they're seeking identity and stability in a world that seems to offer neither.
Proof of the point comes when you drill with these young Catholics. You'll find they often hold views on a wide variety of issues -- such as the environment, war and peace, the defense of the poor and of immigrants, and the death penalty -- which don't really fit the ideological stereotype.
These observations are hardly unique to me, of course, but I included them because I wanted to issue a plea to Catholics my age and older.
This new generation seems ideally positioned to address the lamentable tendency in American Catholic life to drive a wedge between the church's pro-life message and its peace-and-justice commitments. More generally, they can help us find the sane middle between two extremes: What George Weigel correctly calls "Catholicism lite," meaning a form of the faith sold out to secularism; and what I've termed "Taliban Catholicism," meaning an angry expression of Catholicism that knows only how to excoriate and condemn. Both are real dangers, and the next generation seems well-equipped to steer a middle course, embracing a robust sense of Catholic identity without carrying a chip on their shoulder.
That's assuming, however, that the best and brightest of today's young Catholics aren't prematurely sucked into the older generation's debates -- either by liberals who fear and resent them, or by conservatives eager to enroll them as foot soldiers in their private crusades.
I also think that, for the Catholic Church in the United States, the need to accommodate Anglican-Catholics is much less pressing than the need to better minister to the millions of Spanish-speaking Catholics. (I go to a lot of Catholic conferences. FYI, it's not a British accent that I'm hearing.)
I have friends who are social workers, and one of the constant struggles I hear from them is that while the work they do is SO important, many of them wonder if they are making any sort of dent in the world. Many scientists have spent their lives looking for cures to some diseases with only limited success, if any. Martin Luther King did not live to see the dream he described at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial fulfilled, a dream of racial reconciliation we are still working out to this day. The list of lost causes goes on.
Which leaves the question... what makes these people continue? Because if we think about it, we all have had—or currently have—times in our lives when we've been faced with lost causes. They might involve some of the issues we just talked about or even just problems in our personal lives that never seem to get better.
The Catholic community in the United States hardly needs to be lectured to about just healthcare. We’ve been energetically into it for centuries. And we bishops have been advocating for universal healthcare for a long, long time.
All we ask is that it be just that -- universal -- meaning that it includes the helpless baby in the womb, the immigrant, and grandma in a hospice, and that it protects a healthcare provider’s right to follow his/her own conscience.
This is what the President says he wants; this is what we bishops say we want.
In this article, the Times speaks of several controversies surrounding the NIH director. It says, “First, there is the God issue. Dr. Collins believes in him. Passionately. And he preaches about his belief in churches and a best-selling book. For some presidential appointees, that might not be a problem, but many scientists view such outspoken religious commitment as a sign of mild dementia.”
You've got to be kidding.
At any rate, apparently Collins didn’t always profess a belief in God. Some years ago, a patient asked him what he believed, and it struck him that this was a question that merited consideration. He explored the question for a period of years and ultimately came to believe in God.
The Times goes on to say, “Critics like the physicist Robert L. Park contend that the moment was nothing but a hormonal rush. That a man with a medical degree and a Ph.D. in chemistry failed to diagnose the problem and instead gave it higher meaning ‘is enough to cause concern,’ said Dr. Park, a professor at the University of Maryland noted for his attacks on ‘voodoo science.’”
Another scientist who was concerned about the possible impact of faith on Dr. Collins’ ability to lead the NIH was Dr. Irving L. Weissman, director of the Stanford Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine. Ultimately some of his fears were allayed when Dr. Collins promised him “not to let faith interfere with scientific judgment”.
The school honored 11 people and agencies for their excellence in doing the day-to-day work of the church, and bestowed a special Gaudium et Spes award on James Martin, S.J., award-winning author of My Life With the Saints (Loyola, 2006).
Father Martin, an associate editor at America magazine and media commentator familiarly dubbed the "Colbert Report chaplain" for his appearance on the popular show, spoke to the value of expressing more liveliness and laughter, or "salt and light," among Catholics today.
"We’ve all met Catholics who seem to think that being religious means being deadly serious," he said. "But of course, when you’re deadly serious, you’re seriously dead."
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|Father James Martin|
Many people lampoon the hell out of hell. It’s a place with limitless chocolate chip cookies, but no milk. For the smoker hell is cartons upon cartons of free Marlboros, but no matches. For the suicide bomber hell might be 72 virgins wearing chastity belts, or for the Hare Krishna it might be a place void of boardwalks and airports. For the wine enthusiast hell would be a wine cellar full of the finest Bordeaux but no corkscrews. You get the idea.
The stark truth is that hell is much more frightening than we’d like to believe and infinitely more unpleasant than any satire, but ironically understanding hell is one of the best ways to understand God’s love for each one of us....
The choice between an eternity with God and an eternity separated from him is ours to make, and it lies in Christ alone – not in our church attendance, nor our community service, nor our charitable contributions, those these are worthy things that the Word encourages. In truth, we all live lives worthy of hell and it is only through our acceptance of Jesus Christ as our redeemer that we are saved from an eternity there.
Consider our transgressions as debt that we owe to our Creator. Christ paid this debt in full at Calvary so that when we die, God sees us as sinless and blameless and we are welcome in his kingdom forever. Our debt is gone.
But if we reject Christ and his ultimate act of sacrificial love, then we’ve made the choice to spend eternity in hell separated from God, our sins and unbelief the anchor to our doom.
Notwithstanding Pope Benedict XVI's personal endorsement of eucharistic adoration and the sporadic restoration of the practice in the archdiocese of Boston and elsewhere, it is difficult to speak favorably about the devotion today.
Now that most Catholics are literate and even well-educated, the Mass is in the language of the people (i.e, the vernacular), and its rituals are relatively easy to understand and follow, there is little or no need for extraneous eucharistic devotions. The Mass itself provides all that a Catholic needs sacramentally and spiritually.
Eucharistic adoration, perpetual or not, is a doctrinal, theological, and spiritual step backward, not forward.
Janis Joplin's only #1 hit was "Me and Bobby McGee," Kris Kristofferson's bluesy ballad of romantic love. Kristofferson was Joplin's "lover," but how much good did that do her? Hey, but maybe "Feelin' good is good enough for me."
The Doors' 1967 super hit was "Light My Fire," about the hottest sort of love, baby. Which didn't do a lot of good for Jim Morrison, now, did it?
Is it any surprise that the biggest, longest-lasting hit of the 1960s was "(Can't Get No) Satisfaction"? Well, not really, no.
Somehow, I end up at 1st Corinthians 13, which must be the Biblical text used most often in weddings since the 1960s. "The greatest of these is love?” Sure thing. But does anyone ever give a thought at any of those profoundly romantic moments about the two cardinal virtues that come first?
"I can't POSSIBLY live without....
B) a Job"
“Am I still a Christian?” he asks in his new book. It is a question posed over the years by others, including some unhappy officials in the Vatican. But the question, he writes, is also “one I have felt in my own mind and heart.”
“Has my dialogue with Buddhism made me a Buddhist Christian?” he writes. “Or a Christian Buddhist? Am I a Christian who has understood his own identity more deeply with the help of Buddhism? Or have I become a Buddhist who still retains a stock of Christian leftovers.”
The struggles Mr. Knitter is writing about are not the familiar ones about sexual ethics, the role of women or the failures of church leaders.
His focus here is on what he calls “the big stuff”: What does it really mean for Christians to profess belief in an almighty “God the Father” personally active in the world, or in Jesus, “his only-begotten Son” who saved humanity through his death and bodily resurrection, or in eternal life, heaven and hell?
However much he tried, Mr. Knitter found that certain longstanding Christian formulations of faith “just didn’t make sense”: God as a person separate from creation and intervening in it as an external agent; individualized life after death for all and eternal punishment for some; Jesus as God’s “only Son” and the only savior of humankind; prayers that ask God to favor some people over others.
Mr. Knitter’s response, based on his long interaction with Buddhist teachers, was to “pass over” to Buddhism’s approach to each of these problems and then “pass back” to Christian tradition to see if he could retrieve or re-imagine aspects of it with this “Buddhist flashlight.”
He was not asserting, as some people have, that religions like Christianity and Buddhism are merely superficially different expressions of one underlying faith.
I am writing to you from Pannur in South India where there have been terrible floods. Many people here have lost their homes and are living by the roadsie without any shelter, food or clean water. The main help that is reaching the people is coming from the church here and we really need support from the church in England. I have set up a website to let people know what is going on the address is :
Please have a look at it and get in touch, it would be great to hear from you.
We have also set up a Facbook group: SOS Pannur in Floods.
Some months ago I had a conversation with a lady who was experiencing considerable distress and who was adding to her problems by expressing total frustration with her tears. I don't know if she will see this. I came across it in a beautiful book by Fr. Edward Hays; a book on prayer which includes the following in a chapter called The Prayer of Tears.
"Our Eyes are not only the windows of the soul and organs of enjoyment, they are also the instruments of joy and sorrow. While we feel deeply, the pain of departure, or the intense experience of other emotions, these are not easily shown. Our eyes are sacraments for these beautiful and deeply felt feelings. Even our tears become a way for us to "pray all ways."
"Tears and laughter are universal languages, for they are understood by people of every nation. Crying is part of our basic birth equipment and so is a gift from God. While it's embarrassing, it is also an honest and an incarnational or bodily prayer that reaches the ear and heart of God."
The Prayer of Tears
Lord, Beloved God
since all communion with You is prayer, may even my tears be
psalms of petition and canticles of praise to You.
This is a prayer that You value greatly: the prayer of my tears;
it is a prayer that you always hear, for, You are a compassionate and kind God.
And, Lord, I know you understand - that when I am overcome by
tears - unable to speak or form a prayer - that these very tears voice volumes of verses.
All truly great prayer - rises from deep inside and springs spontaneously to the surface.
It would then seem - that from among the many beautiful prayers,
the scared songs and canticles of praise, my tears my be the best worship of all.
Help me not to be ashamed of them; show me how I can let go of control and
let this prayer of my heart, my tears, flow naturally and freely to You
my Blessed Lord and Divine Lover. In times of joy and sorrow, blessed be my tears,
the Holy prayer of my heart. Amen.
These are thoughts for reflection.
"The heart is the happiest when it beats for others."
"You can accomplish more in one hour with God than one lifetime without Him."
"Jesus is a friend who walks in when the world has walked out."
With love in Christ,
Father Paul J. Henry