Archive | June 2014

Reflections on Mary as His mother

“In their weakness they will be strong”, something I think Jesus would say of women of His time. It was a time of deep oppression of women and a time when Jesus started the movement toward recognizing and valuing women and their contributions to society and their role in His Church. I try and think what it must have been like for Mary, His mother, from a mother’s point of view. I have never had a great devotion to Mary, I am not sure why, even though two of my kids were born on Marian feast days – one on Our Lady of Guadalupe and another on Our Lady of Mount Carmel. I was in France a couple of summers ago and became quite enamored by Our Lady of Pontmain too, her smile and the smiling baby Jesus just captivated me, but I have not yet cultivated a deep devotion to her.

I was thinking tho, what must it have been like to be the mother of Jesus, not even the mother of God, I don’t think anyone could comprehend that, but just the mother of Jesus the man and what he did and went though. Did he confide in her? Did he cry in frustration when he was overwhelmed, did he seek solace in her embrace? I sat trying to imagine what it must have been like, watching people crowd around him, listening to what he was saying, trying to understand why he was her son. I am sure at first she doubted, maybe thought he was a bit crazy, maybe was embarrassed, my God what was he saying? And then at some point, she had to realize something was so different about this man, her son, and still he was her son. Time went on, the crowds swelled, the things she must have witnessed and then I am sure she worried. Was he getting too much attention? Was he safe anymore? Then to know he wasn’t safe and to watch him at the last supper – she had to have been there – and listen to his words. And to know her son would die. She must have wanted to throw herself in front of Him as any mother would, and beg, “Tear my flesh in His place”. I know that is what she wanted to do. “Take me instead, I know he says it is his mission, but I can’t bear to watch, take me. He could do so much more if He were alive, take me instead.” She couldn’t have fully understood his intention as her heart broke.

So He died and was resurrected and she saw Him and still she couldn’t fully understand the miracle that occurred was her son and even who her son was truly.  And then maybe she did. Did she replay the events in His life every day she continued living? Did her heart break wanting to hold Him again and did she yearn to see Him? Did she feel His pain everyday she lived on? Her heart was united with His sacred heart and and her heart lay broken.

And now she is with Him and she cries out to us, “the waters of baptism are being wasted, please bring others to my Son”, and maybe she thinks, don’t let His life be in vain.

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Throwing down the guantlet

I can’t believe it has been 10 days since I last posted – life seems to always get in the way. That actually brings me to a new thought, how do we fully incorporate our spiritual life into our daily life? Yesterday, on the way home from a business trip with seemingly unending travel, I had the opportunity to at least make good use of the delays and listen to some of the YouTube videos posted by Father Robert Barron. I do love listening to Father Bob, his approach is intellectual without being pedantic, I think, and yet at the same time he manages to reach in at more of a spiritual level in addition to being an academic. For me, reading his lectures or listening to his videos grounds me when I am wavering (when I am open to it) and he seems to address all the things – or at least acknowledge them – that I have had concerns about within the Church or with Catholicism in general.

That being said, yesterday in one of the videos that spoke to me, he discussed Jesus and his “kingship” – a word probably repugnant to most Americans, me included. I bristled a bit, but then kept listening. I have often thought about how one incorporates their spirituality into their daily life and gives God priority – it’s hard!  So I continued to listen to Father Bob and what he said was a bit surprising and certainly thought provoking. When we, in the 21st century, hear words like “kingship”, “king”, “lord” they are difficult to identify with, we can give them a cursory nod as they glance over a few of our brain cells, we may even pause a moment to consider their actual meanings, but they in themselves are so far removed from our speak that we can’t fully consider them relevant or applicable. In Barron’s video he stated that Jesus wants to dominate us..wow..that is pretty strong and more relevant and the way he said it even struck me although I doubt it was fully intentional. He said Jesus wants to dom-in-ate us – with emphasis. Jesus wants to dominate every aspect of our lives as King (capital “K”) and not be compartmentalized. I suppose not just be of interest to us Sunday mornings, at prayer times or when it is convenient, that He wants all of us all the time.

I sighed as I pondered still not fully aware of what “actionable” path I could pursue…curiously still caught is my business mind which is actually partly the point. Then I just stopped and said ok, I gave you my heart, Jesus and if you want all of me you can have me, but I want to know the difference. I threw down the gauntlet to Him. I don’t think it is necessarily up to me what happens if I give myself over to Jesus as King and let Him dominate my life. I am hoping I don’t have to take more responsibility than just my offer of myself fully and completely to Him.

My mind turned to John of the Cross, so I started reading his works again…I don’t have answers I can point to yet, maybe I will never will be able to fully recognize the impact of this exchange. I’ll try tho.

 

Give me your heart and I will care for it tenderly

How do you experience the oneness of God in a world of plurality? All at once I feel like I have had a glimpse – a flash into that oneness, the wholeness, the completeness that is God, but only the briefest glimpse and then it is gone. If we all had a glimpse, perhaps at the same time – in a world where time is actually a construct of plurality is it possible to experience the oneness?  Would that be a glimpse of the unity that Teilhard often spoke of culminating in the omega point? And is that unity the true beauty and truth? Is Christ’s beauty represented by the humanity in his divinity? And is it the unity perhaps that von Balthasar spoke of as the intersection of humanity, divinity and radiance?

I think the mutuality of giving and receiving is required to experience beauty. Christ offers the beauty of his radiance, but we have to be willing to recognize, to receive that beauty and to be transformed by it. He presents himself resplendently and the act of receiving is not then a passive one. It is an active participation in the acceptance of beauty and its impact on our souls. In von Balthasar’s theology of beauty he speaks of the aesthetic arrest which stops us initially – the beauty  – the capture, as we are enamored of the beauty and it resultant possession of us and then our release with changed hearts. 

Give me your heart and I will care for it tenderly, Christ resonates from the lonely tabernacle. It is in the mutuality that it is given and received. The unity is accomplished through the giving and receiving just as in beauty – it is first presented and must be acknowledged and then accepted otherwise the unity of the action is incomplete and no union occurs. I think it can be even more…he tells us to give him our hearts and he will care for them tenderly, but for a true exchange, perhaps we should ask him the same – give me your heart Jesus and I will care for it tenderly, maybe therein lies true recognition of his beauty. 

 

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In Teilhard, Catholicism Makes Sense

He doubted. He plumbed the depths trolling all the way to the bottom and concluded that there is no other way but the Church despite her flaws. We are on a journey, a process of evolution or involution with her. Once met and more clearly understood, he defined the layers of not only spiritual development, but its union with the development of matter – one unable to fully exist without the other. And yet he fully acknowledges, ” …the Pope and all the assembled Bishops are powerless to tell us exactly all that there is in Christ. Christ (His life, knowledge of Him) has been a part of the deposit of the whole Church (priests and laity) for all ages.” But he doesn’t deny the role of the Church:

“…the more I become aware of certain failures on the part of the Church to adapt herself, of a loss of vitality, the more I recognize how incompetent I am and how ill-qualified to take upon myself to give a definitive appreciation of her in general or, of you prefer the word, her axial character. The Church represents so powerful a channeling of what constitutes the moral and sublimating life blood of souls, a conduit so deep into the whole of man’s past – in spite of certain accidental and ephemeral lapses from generosity, she has so marked a degree of faculty of encouraging human nature to develop itself fully and harmoniously, that I would feel guilty of disloyalty to Life if I tried to free myself from so organic a current as the Church provides.” (On My Attitude to the Official Church)

He goes on to say further:

“Everything in that current is not of my taste, but everything has a certain flexibility and I can see nothing outside it that sorts better with tendencies and hopes I feel.”

And for others on the quest:

“As for other, those who already possess the dominating intuition of the Universal, I am convinced that we can not do more useful work for the Kingdom of God than by encouraging and confirming them in their vision.”

Teilhard saw the Church as a stabilizing force through the centuries, but not so rigid that she didn’t allow for flexibility or growth. She is there actually as a foundational support for the unity that will be required of matter and spirit not only individually, but as a world.

The comfort this brings me that the root of my faith can feel free to grow deep and strong anchored in a foundation that although certainly not perfect, is perhaps perfect in its strength and stability. Dogma may be able to be embraced as the pillar of the foundation defining its structure, but not necessarily its core or perhaps current as Teilhard may put it. The Church is a vehicle for unity without which we can never fully evolve.

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The Indwelling

In order to take possession of me, my God, you who are so much more remote in your immensity and so much deeper in the intimacy of your indwelling than all things else, you take to yourself and unite together the immensity of the world and the intimate depths of my being.  

~ Teilhard de Chardin, Hymn of the Universe

Father all around me, Son standing next to me, Holy Spirit inside of me and yet it took me this long to recognize you. Your persistence ever present unceasingly causing the longing I feel to know you. You are there when I wake, you are there when I go to sleep you are there when I stop my busy-ness for one moment and take that moment to hear and acknowledge your polite persistence. And yet the generosity of your giving knows no limit, my unfaithfulness deserves no requite, but you are boundless in your giving. My heart finally split open with the recognition of your endless presence results not in my giving – even in my willingness to give you my heart – but you who split my heart make small your own and place it in mine tenderly, reduced to a priceless token to carry with me always. I feel my heart glow with the gift contained therein and do offer my promise of faith and my prayer for grace – your grace – to be able to keep this promise.

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Kiss of the Cross

The origin of faith is a burning desire set a blaze by the source of which at first you don’t know. Droplets of truth start to satisfy the endless burning, a delicate balance held by the fire that would be doused by too much water and the fire that could easily consume and burn out. I want to see with the inner vision of the mystics, what was (is) their communion like?

Faith is not the right word to describe the union of desire and the object of that which is desired or truth of that object. It is much more personal I am finding. It is being faithful as to a spouse, a lover, family or friend. To be able to be relied upon the same as to rely on, to stay the course, to be faithful and dependable to each other. It is a subtle semantic distinction, but being unfaithful is so much more dire than having no or little faith. The realization makes me weep.

 

My hand is in His Sacred Heart

His blood runs down my elbow

and yet, I recognize Him not.

As my hand tightens around His heart,

my unfaithfulness clenched in a fist,

choking Him,

He gives more. 

 

 

The kiss of the Cross renews the face of the earth.

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Wrestling demons

Here I stand, once again, at a precipice, a very deep hole on one hand seems like an inappropriate description, but on the other, quite an apt one. I have been to this place before, I have taken the “dive” before and I have climbed up and out onto the rim more than once. This cavernous opening to me is the Catholic Church. Do I dive into her again and start plumbing her depths, but what will be different this time? All of us who have fallen away and doubted our faith have been here, some managed to walk away, I wonder if they are truly fulfilled or if they have just given up and others, like me, keep going back. I do want to feel her embrace again, I have said it before, like a Mother holding her child. Am I, once again, the prodigal daughter returning home after a gluttonous self-indulged journey, spiritually spent and realizing home wasn’t as bad as I thought, “Mother” was smarter than I thought? Have I wrestled the demons long enough that I can keep them in line this time? I have prayed for strength, for a wall to be drawn so I am not tempted anymore to give service to the shadows that tempt me.   Is this time different? Is the yearning to go home different? I don’t want to go back and then leave again.

I have studied “discernment”, I guess I have studied everything just about – to one degree or another. The study doesn’t help, I know faith is experiential, but experience is so fallible, so subjective. Faith is a choice I guess, backed by grace and I actually hate to say that, it seems like a cop-out. I have to pray for the grace to be faithful…I can, I believe rightly, assume God wants me to be faithful, so it shouldn’t be too hard. I do want to know and believe truth…that’s were the divide begins. I know that truth is, the question becomes, does truth reside in the Church? Greater minds than mine think so, but that doesn’t help my little mind, sadly. What would make me faithful, what would make me choose to be faithful? We have miracles old and new, Eucharistic miracles, sanctioned visions of Mary and hard-headed people like me still can’t stay faithful. History – Apostolic succession – helps a little I guess,  a proven track record, lots to point to, lots of scholarly study, but also lots of twisting to fit personal agendas. History is fraught with that – how can one help but think that Constantine wasn’t just a little influential in picking the books of the Bible back in 325 AD that would help him grow his Empire? or the Medici’s, long feeders of the papacy, had just a little more than holiness in mind? Just two easy examples, so where does the truth come in?

Jesus gave Peter the keys to the kingdom and told him to build His Church, the Church feels a little more Paul like to me than Peter. Or are things going as Jesus wants them to? I think that could be it, the Church is unfolding like a beautiful flower and sometimes flowers get attacked by bugs and molds and other untoward obstacles that impede her perfect blooming. Maybe Christ is alive as the eternal gardener, cleaning up after the people he left in charge, but still hoping they step up and get it right. Maybe he gives us room to grow and to make our way, maybe it takes a lot of fertilizer to grow a perfect flower. But I still want to know what I can do to be more faithful besides waiting and praying and wrestling demons.

Maybe the demons are more clever than I give them credit, it could be they are the sweet talkers that tell me the grass is greener somewhere else.  A good priest once told me that the demons won’t appear as demons because no one would follow them then. I have always resisted the temptation to personalize demons or evil spirits, just as I resisted the temptation to personalize God. I think I have managed to see God with perfect personal attributes more than just energy and if so, I suppose the dark side can be personalized too. It seems so complicated tho…I am not tempted by anything I would consider “evil”, Buddhism is not evil, Hinduism is not evil. I do believe Christ is the one to follow, but through the Catholic Church? The devil is in the Church to be sure, so do I just have to have faith that Jesus has all of this under control?

The Church gives us so many tools, sacramentals, prayers, ceremony, an open door, saints…maybe that is part of it, maybe we have lost a sense of the sacred. And maybe that is a big loss. I remember going into our local seminary, the chapel was beautiful white marble, 500 year old angels greeted you holding holy water. Relics of saints and popes stood as if holding homage to the one they knew was contained there, it was always quiet and well, holy there, you didn’t want to disturb the silence. Maybe we have lost our reverence and in doing so have given up a sense of the sacred that belongs to God, that identifies God and reminds us He is something we are not. Yes, He is present in the world, but hidden or maybe just overlooked. Maybe we need to spend more time at these places, which seem to be disappearing, and regain that particular connection. If Christ was/is pure beauty, pure truth manifested in a corrupt world and remained uncorrupted, maybe we need to go to these places to remember.

“Be still and know that I am God.” I am trying, but I’m not there yet.

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