Posts tagged: faith
“At this Grotto, there’s a touch of the transcendent. There’s a whisper of the sacred that reminds us that we’re just not minds and bodies, we’re hearts and immortal souls.
For at her best, this university has the heart of Mary. Meaning this university is us, Jesus and His church, and clings to them both with love, and loyalty and service.
Here at Notre Dame, we want to be not just another Harvard or Oxford, but a Bethlehem, a Nazareth, a Calvary, a Cana. Here our goal is not just a career, but a call. Not just a degree, but discipleship. Not just what we’ve gotten, but what we’re giving; not just the now, but eternity; not just the ‘I,’ but the ‘we’; not just the grades, but the gospel.”
-Cardinal Timothy Dolan, 2013 University of Notre Dame commencement speech
Jesus the Homeless, by Timothy Schmalz
“Mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve, they are the cathedrals where I practice my religion.”
― Anatoli Boukreev
“More than ever I find myself in the hands of God.
This is what I have wanted all my life from my youth.
But now there is a difference;
the initiative is entirely with God.
It is indeed a profound spiritual experience
to know and feel myself
so totally in God’s hands.”
Pedro Arrupe, SJ (November 14, 1907 – February 5, 1991)
(note: For now I am posting thoughts on this topic here as opposed to my professional blog. However being that the organization I founded aims to, “Unleash the human potential for good through leadership, culture, and education ”, and the issue discussed here exposes a serious lack of ethical leadership, a deeply broken organizational culture, any way of moving forward will most certainly involve education, and there certainly not much presence of “good,” I may post revised thoughts on my professional blog at some point in the future. For now I offer a brief and unfiltered reflection on the topic. I would appreciate the thoughts and feedback of anyone who reads this and after doing so feels moved to discuss it, as long as your participation in the discussion is respectful. I share this reflection as a person who prays for the forgiveness of the ways I fail all too often to put my own faith in action and who is deeply thankful for the wonderful role models of faith, hope, and love that have been present in my own life. There is a lot of light out there, but we’ll never really unleash it unless we boldly shine it into the corners in which it is absent.)
Everyone, not just Catholics, people who identify as religious, or those who target hierarchical/bureaucratic systems, butrather everyone should be paying attention what is happening in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which is well described in this strong piece from the National Catholic Reporter’s editorial staff: Editorial: In Los Angeles, a Victory for Truth.
I consider myself an actively practicing Catholic, which has been the case since I joined the Roman Catholic Church in 2006 after years of spiritual seeking. I do not say “I chose to join,” because as I have shared with many over coffee, cocktails, cab rides, through retreat speeches, and in writing over the years, I do not believe I chose this path for myself. I believe that through the work of the Holy Spirit and the loving, faithful witness to Jesus Christ by many, that I recognized and accepted the plan God had for me, and exercised my own free will to act on that recognition of the “tiny, whispering voice.”
While I understand some of what drew me to the practice of the Catholic faith, I am fully aware that I never could have chosen the Catholic Church unless it was true that God is actively working in our midst. I know this because from the first moment I began to learn about the Catholic Church to this very day, I see beliefs, practices, and structures that leave me questioning (at best). I make a lot of my more difficult decisions as a result of making a +/- list, but in the case of the call to Catholicism, that persistent voice, the tug on my soul, trumped any list I attempted to make.
Because of this call that was placed deep in my soul, a call that has never once left, I love the Catholic faith for many reasons stemming from the past, much of the loving action that is taken in the present, and the hope of what the Catholic Church could be in the future.
I believe, as the Catholic Church teaches, that our actions must be guided by an informed conscience, and for that reason I would like to believe that I am always open to discussion of any issue regarding faith and the Catholic Church (Though I sometimes tell people the degree of issue-complexity informs my hourly rate, which is typically payed in cups of coffee…just joking…but not really.). I try not to hide my personal beliefs from anyone, though I do try to be respectful of who I am with and where I am at (‘in the world but not of it’), and, as we all do, I fail daily to fully match my actions to my beliefs.
With that as brief background (some of you may describe it differently), I believe I have an obligation to comment on a tragic situation that will greatly inform the future of the Roman Catholic Church.
Late last week, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which is led by Archbishop Jose Gomez, released over ten thousand pages of documents that describe, in detail, the sexual abuse that occurred for decades within the Archdiocese, and more importantly (you can insert a host of other words here too: shockingly, devastatingly, horrifyingly) document the overt, intricate, and lengthy cover up of these acts by Cardinal Roger Mahony and other representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
There are many important things to consider as we all begin to fully grasp the details of this situation. One of those details, which too many people would prefer be ignored, is that Archbishop Gomez, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and the Roman Catholic Church did not release these documents primarily because it was “the right thing to do.” Instead, only after decades of covering up the worst kind of evil, years of telling us (through legal council) that there was “nothing to see here,” and after spending a sum of money that will almost certainly never fully be accounted for, they reluctantly did the modern day equivalent of leaving a stack of papers on their doorstep in hopes that the wind would blow them away before anyone snagged a look at them. That, thankfully, is not the way things work in today’s twitter-fueled world.
I have personally received the sacrament of Holy Communion, pastoral blessings, and friendly handshakes from both Archbishop Gomez (in both LA and San Antonio) and Cardinal Mahoney. It deeply disturbs me that while celebrating Mass, not only were these men aware of such horrific violations of the dignity of the human person, but they were in fact actively covering them up.
In today’s mainstream discussion of the Christian and particularly the Catholic faith, we often hear about terms and topics like the one I just mentioned (and list here again):
As I reflect on the documents released last week, the atrocities they describe, and the number of people complicit in perpetuating this abuse and covering it up, I see a great absence of any of these modern day battle cries that are used by so many.
Like the editorial staff from the National Catholic Reporter as well as several other writers have already done (and some have been doing for years), it is important that we all confront the brutal reality of not only what happened to our brothers and sisters in Los Angeles and around the world through sexual abuse, but of all violence and injustice that is present in our world, and that we reflect upon our role in alleviating it.
I appreciate the way the NCR editorial ended, by stating that “What matters is the truth,” and by suggesting that as horrific as what has been revealed to us is, that we continue to seek truth as individuals and as a faith community, and that we work to proclaim that truth through our lives and the life of the Church.
And what truth is this?
As a individuals and as a community this is an important opportunity for us to reflect on, and a challenge for us to grow in the way we put these beliefs into action. In doing so, we must continue to keep one foot grounded in history & tradition (even when it hurts to acknowledge it), and have the courage to step forward toward a future of light with the other.
Let us all strive to do so together while praying for healing, forgiveness, and progress.
This morning as part of my Catholic Schools Week devotion, I attended Mass at Christ on the Mountain Catholic Church in Lakewood, Colorado.
One of the most compelling parts of who Jesus is as we encounter him in the Gospels is his habit of retreating. Often before or after important events, we read that Jesus “goes away to a quiet place” to pray, and sometimes we’re told that this quiet place is a mountain. At one point, we read of Jesus weeping for the people in the city below, but we can also rightly picture him frequently looking down from a hill over towns, settlements, and camps…over his friends, his family, and people he didn’t know…praying for them.
This is an intriguing image…Jesus, in the flesh, quietly praying for people who had no idea he was doing so.
This morning when I walked into Christ on the Mountain, there were already about 20 people sitting in the pews. At first I thought I might have gotten confused about what time Mass was to start and arrived late, but as I moved closer I realized that was not the case.
These people had arrived early to an early morning weekday Mass to pray the rosary together. I would imagine that each person had brought their own prayer intentions with them, and all of those intentions were brought to Mary for her intercession through their communal prayer. The people they were praying for likely had no idea that as the sun rose over the mountains that could be seen through the windows behind the altar, these people were literally on their knees praying for them.
Sometimes prayer is a hard thing to grasp, especially for a person like me who really likes data. But seeing these people praying this morning, thinking about times I’d been told people were praying for me, and remembering the prayer book that I write intentions in and pray with every day…maybe that’s all the data I need.
Christ on the Mountain, Pray for Us!
On Tuesday, as part of my Catholic Schools Week devotion, I attended morning Mass at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. Although I’ve always found it strange that Peter and Paul sometimes get thrown in together like this, it’s very special for me when they do. When I joined the Catholic Church I chose St. Peter as my patron, and my school in San Antonio was St. Paul’s. Needless to say, I’ve spent some time in prayer with these two gentlemen over the years.
After entering the parish, I noticed a small section of stained glass on the bottom right hand corner of the partition that separated the entryway from the vestibule.
There are a few funny things about what’s pictured here, and I did allow myself to indulge in a quiet momentary chuckle, but being that the phrase on the glass springs from one of the most powerful stories in the Gospels, I was struck by the profoundly direct way the meaning of this story was communicated by the artist. I love how the message has been simplified for us: Listen. Act.
In the second chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus famously turns water into wine at a wedding feast in Cana (doesn’t calling it “the” wedding feast kind of make you feel bad for all the other people that got married in Cana?) that Mary, Jesus, and the boys. When we read these passages of scripture or hear the story conveyed, we often remember that this is Jesus’ first miracle, which is a pretty huge deal. Plus, I mean turning water (and we’re not talking Fiji here) in wine (nor are we talking Two/Three Buck Chuck…not that there’s anything wrong with Chuck)…that’s a pretty cool trick man. But one of the elements of the story that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle is the fact that Jesus initially tells his mother (paraphrasing here), “No, I don’t want to!” He probably didn’t stomp his feet and throw a complete temper tantrum, but in different ways we see similar moments play out between parent and child all the time. Even now as an adult, I can’t say that I always listen well to my own mother the first time around (even though I probably always should). From JC though (you know…Son of God, Savior of the World, Prince of Peace, etc., etc.) this outburst is a little surprising.
I don’t know about you, but whenever I meditate on this story, I picture the look that Mary probably gave Jesus when he doesn’t respond to her, let’s call it an invitation, to help the wedding party keep rolling by somehow getting/making more wine.
I think it was probably more than a little stern.
By this time in Jesus’ life Mary had probably realized that indeed her child was a unique spiritual being, as she had been told he would be), and she may have already accepted the fact that she was likely to lose Jesus to itinerant preaching very soon. Yet I would be surprised if she had fully grasped that Jesus had the necessary power to literally change water into wine. I mean, that’s crazy.
But then he did it.
Well, I’m sure that’s something theologians with formal training discuss in arenas other than tumblr, but my bet would be that it had something to do with the look Mary was probably giving him as she told the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Sometimes in life we need someone who believes in us when we’re not so sure of ourselves.
Ok…we need that all the time.
Jesus isn’t really sure that keeping the bottles poppin’ is how he should be applying the authority to perform miracles that he’s been given, especially for the first time in public. He was probably thinking he should work some super awesome miracle of healing in front of a huge crowd of people or something. But Mary doesn’t let his uncertainty prevent him from creating a deeply positive impact on the world around him. In that moment, did turning water into wine really transform the world at large? Probably not, but it certainly affected all of those celebrating love and friendship and community and joy and all of life’s beauty at that wedding feast in Cana. I bet it definitely made his friends’ (who would become the first people to spread the good news to the world) eyes bulge out in wonder. And I bet those people at the wedding were still talking about it the next morning. And lest we forget, we’re still talking about it today.
So I guess Mary was right to put her beloved son on the spot like that.
So what is God telling you to do? Don’t worry about the big things, the long term things. Yes, we need to discern those things too. But we’re being called to act now. What is God calling you to do right now? Listen. Hear whatever it is He tells you. If you’re not hearing it, take a few moments to offer up Merton’s famous prayer.
But then once you hear that still, small voice…Act. Do it.
Because as Mary showed Jesus, and Zach de la Rocha sings:
“There’s no better place than here. There’s no better time than now.”St. Peter, pray for us! St. Paul, Pray for us!
This week is “Catholic Schools Week,” a moment each year where we celebrate the contributions of Catholic education in our own lives and the impact it has on our communities, nation, and world.
My life had been deeply impacted by Catholic education. Both my undergraduate and graduate degrees are from Catholic institutions; I discovered faith on the campus of a Catholic college; I taught in two beautiful (and very different) Catholic schools, and have worked with numerous others; I developed relationships through involvement with Catholic education that will last a lifetime.
This week, to celebrate Catholic Schools Week, I am going to daily Mass at a different parish each morning and praying for the intercession of the parish’s patron on behalf of all Catholic schools. I am also seeking to note one special observation from the experience of daily Mass at each parish. I think doing so will help me, and possibly others, see the value of both being present to the moment and of a committed daily spiritual devotion.
This morning I attended morning Mass at St. Jude’s Catholic Church in Lakewood, Colorado. The Mass was held in the large main church area (as opposed to a side chapel), and I was surprised to see more than 50 people in attendance (of course they were scattered throughout the entire hall, and even with my quickly salting pepper, I had by far the least whitened hair there).
I worked my way to the fourth row of pews just right of the center aisle, and sat just to the left of a gentleman who I would guess to be in his late 80’s. He was kneeling silently in prayer, and from one pew behind I knelt and joined him in doing so, slowly thinking about the different petitions written in my prayer book which I held in my hands. A few moments later, an older woman sat down next to him. I could see by the way she looked at him, the closeness with which she sat, that she was his wife, and I could see through the gentleness in her eyes as she watched him pray that she knew time was catching up to him. So much can be learned from these quiet glances.
Just before the priest entered and Mass began, the man slowly leaned back into the pew and lifted the kneeler to it’s resting position. He reached his left hand for her right, and lifted it to his mouth, gently kissing it. He then leaned over and whispered into her ear, just loud enough for me, the person sitting in the pew behind them, to overhear. “Thank you. Thank you just for being you.”
They held hands throughout the entire 33 minute Mass. And it was beautiful.
St. Jude, pray for us!
St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!
(Today is the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas)