So today I find it ironic that I have begun, once again, to struggle with my faith. I see some fellow Bloggers in the same state, experiencing a dryness in their prayer life. For me, I have never had a problem with “prayer”, I always seem to be able to find meditation a welcome practice. I think it becomes the center of the practice I become at odds with. I have long ago eliminated my need to explore other forms of Christianity, I have no desire to be protestant in any iteration, or belong to a more progressive Unity fellowship or that type of practice, I have moved on from them. For me it is Catholic or nothing, well perhaps Catholic or Buddhist. But I have been down this path before too. I have begun reading a book I found, The Unexpected Way, On Converting from Buddhism to Catholicism, By Paul Williams. I am hoping that gives me the insight I need to stay the course. Ok with that tho, I do need to look more deeply, I think, and try to really understand what makes me restless. I do know all I need I can find in the Church, but sometimes I wish maybe it seemed more relevant. The readings each Sunday seem in a language I can’t identify with for a message that I have to work too hard to make relevant to my life. Jesus had to leave and he left us the comforter, the Holy Spirit. Again I am drawn to trying to understand who the Holy Spirit really is, is it energy that we know exists that animates us and is us and is all around us? Or something more? Is our practice an out dated mode of expression that isn’t helping today? I do believe in God, nothing comes from nothing, there had to be something, a creator, the logos, the word that became everything. I do believe the church may have migrated from its original Jesus path as it grew too big to manage and as men’s ambition wanted to mold it to fit a particular political goal. I do think certain doctrines that may have been a part of the original teaching of Christ that have been abandoned – reincarnation for example – explains so much and so much less is left to the ill-defined “mystery”. We know there are certain orthodox Jewish sects that believe in reincarnation, so could Jesus have been one of them? I don’t want my heroes to be ancient saints and sages who were generally wildly misogynous and by our standards today a bit insane – beating themselves and denying themselves to discipline the flesh. I want peace, I want to practice peace, I want the peace the Jesus offered. I don’t want to feel fear that if I don’t follow the Church’s teaching something bad could happen, the worst being I would go to “hell”. And Pope Francis, help me understand, if Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, why do you say that freedom of speech doesn’t give anyone the right to insult others faith? Doesn’t that imply other faith traditions are just as valid? Is it really that we are trying to limit God, to confine him to our definitions when perhaps, he has designed traditions to meet all cultures, developed multiple ways to find God and be reunited with him (or her?)? And the worst thing of all, what if God himself is orchestrating my confusion, just as he orchestrated the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart against Moses and his people. What if God orchestrates my wandering and to what end, where do I go from here.
In trying to understand how we possibly move from the situation we find ourselves in with Islamic terrorists, I am drawn to the words of Thich Nhat Hanh and Jesus. The solutions would not satisfy any urges for revenge that linger, but nor does revenge restore peace. I think the only recourse to ending the violence is protracted, but at the same time the only solution is understanding.
From Going Home, Jesus and Buddha as Brothers, Thich Nhat Hanh:
“..the Buddha should help Jesus restore himself completely. Jesus should also help the Buddha restore himself completely because Jesus and the Buddha are not merely concepts, the are around us alive.”
I would venture to add Mohammed to that group as well.
And from an Interview with Thich Nhat Hanh:
All violence is injustice. The fire of hatred and violence cannot be extinguished by adding more hatred and violence to the fire. The only antidote to violence is compassion. And what is compassion made of? It is made of understanding. When there is no understanding, how can we feel compassion, how can we begin to relieve the great suffering that is there? So understanding is the very real foundation upon which we build our compassion.
How do we gain the understanding and insight to guide us through such incredibly challenging moments that we now face in America? To understand, we must find paths of communication so that we can listen to those who desperately are calling out for our understanding — because such an act of violence is a desperate call for attention and for help.
How can we listen in a calm and clear way so that we don’t immediately kill the chance for understanding to develop? As a nation we need to look into this: how to create the situations for deep listening to occur so that our response to the situation may arise out of our calm and clear mind. Clarity is a great offering that we can make at this time.
There are people who want one thing only: revenge. In the Buddhist scriptures, the Buddha said that by using hatred to answer hatred, there would only be an escalation of hatred. But if we use compassion to embrace those who have harmed us, it will greatly defuse the bomb in our hearts and in theirs.
And from Jesus:
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Matthew 5:43-48
MAY THE BATTERED DOORS TO PEACE BE SOMEHOW OPENED.
We also pray for Thich Nhat Hanh’s recovery.
“After all, what is your personal identity? It is what you really are, your real self. None of us is what he thinks he is, or what other people think he is, still less what his passport says he is… And it is fortunate for most of us that we are mistaken. We do not generally know what is good for us. That is because, in St. Bernard’s language, our true personality has been concealed under the ‘disguise’ of a false self, the ego, whom we tend to worship in place of God.” —Thomas Merton, The Waters of Siloe
I’ve been thinking about this some, I guess enough that I changed my blog name from my anonymous, Molma Indigo, in an attempt to, I guess be honest, with myself and anyone who finds their way to my posts. I think I initially hid out of fear; what if people didn’t like what I wrote? What if I get bored and just stop? And most importantly, what if people I actually know find out I write a blog on religious topics, about my Catholic identity? So I decided not to hide who I am, to stop compartmentalizing my life, and to be who God intended me to be – well at least partly. So that’s my story, but I think there is more.
The religious extremists are suffering from an identity problem too, I think. They are suffering from delusions that their prophet should be avenged by death and in some twisted way that will be pleasing to God. They seem to believe that Western immorality is somehow more egregious than using little girls as sex slaves and that the reward of 72 vestal virgins in heaven is… moral. But I think there is still more.
I think they are afraid. I think social media and access to information has shined such a stark light on what they are not, that they are striking back out of fear of what they don’t know, and against the only thing that seems worth fighting for in their lives – their faith.
So two questions arise, first, do we have the same passion for our God? I was afraid to let people know how “religious” I was, let alone face down death for my faith.
Secondly, I don’t believe war and life for a life is going to solve this age-old dispute – remember the Crusades were also waged against the Muslims….
So maybe we let the war people wage what they will and we do what Christ instructed us to do – love our enemies, pray for them, let them see who our God really is, really a God of Love and let Him change their hearts and solve this age-old problem. Prayer is the only thing that is going to solve this in the long run and permanently. Let us find our true identity in Christ and stop worshipping our ego in place of our God.
Our Lady of Pontmain, Pray for Us.
We also pray for those who lost their lives and we pray for those who mourn them.
And lastly, we pray for the converted hearts of our enemies. Let them see our Jesus for who He is, not a prophet like Mohammed, not a holy man like the Buddha, but the Son of God.
Great article on Merton and true conversion. Excerpt below:
Like any believer, Merton wrestled with the concept of true Christianity throughout his life. In March of 1959, after ruminating about monastic obedience, he wondered about real and personal values, under the pretense of love, before asking, “When will we ever become Christians?” After a scintillating conversation with [friend] Robert Lax and [publisher] Robert Giroux when they visited in May of that year, Merton decided he must face the disturbing fact that he was “not really a monk and a Christian. . . .” even though he believed monastic existence was the life of a real Christian.
Photo from Article:
My life of faith has been one of winding paths, twists and turns, dips and valleys like a vine looking for something to cling to. Sometimes I think we just need to be still, very still and listen for His voice. I have learned what a priority this needs to be. The further we get from the light – His light – the harder it is for us to see it and find our way back, He shows us the footsteps on the unseen path. Union of all unions – that is what it is meant to be as we climb higher and higher in our spiritual lives. The waters of Baptism are being wasted, Mother Mary cries for our return. We need to make God and our own spirituality a priority now. I think we have lost the sense of what Baptism is, the sense of taking off our old clothes – our old selves and emerging new and changed. We are charged, I think, with showing the world the difference our Baptism means. We may have lost our way, wandered deep into the woods of life and been attacked by the spirits of deadends who can only blink and still draw people to them. They cannot lead, they hold us back and distract us from growing and are the weeds Jesus spoke of that choke out true life. We are cleansed so we are made ready, worthy of Him. What does God want of us? To rejoin Him in the land of perfected peace, but in order to do that we have to be ready, do the training while on earth. If we are prepared, if we honor what Christ has taught us and follow the path, rather than the hell on earth we sometimes create, we have it easier in the here and now and it assures us we pass and we continue on in eternity. I am not sure I know what eternity is, but I would prefer to be prepared for it than not. The problems we manifest by not seeing with His eyes and loving Him first and each other may be just a foretaste of what awaits us if we don’t follow His way. Loving each other was at the heart of Jesus’ teaching and also a gift of the spirit. If we are open to receiving this gift, I believe, it will fill us with love.
He has told us He is the truth the life and the WAY. We can reunite with Him who created us! We need to be spiritually reawakened and touched by the Holy Spirit…if we think God is a living God, we can’t treat him as if he were dead! How we are to begin I am not totally sure. Maybe by not beginning with what we think we are expected to do, but by realizing what God has already done. Maybe we begin by accepting the gift of God’s love with gratitude. Maybe with gratitude we will see His hands wet with clay at the moment of our creation.
It is a privilege to be a servant of God. It is a blessing to be a part of the Church a “phylum of love” as Teilhard de Chardin put it. We are all given talents in this world to serve Him and each other. The Ark of the Covenant – the church – is being opened and renewed right before our eyes, but unless we know Him, we may not be able to see it. We may continue to be blinded by the “glittering of gold” and “shiny things” or things that distract us. We all have a Gethsemane, the world has a Gethsemane and the Church has a Gethsemane it too must pass through. Faith, our faith, gives us the ability to continue to persevere through our lives, but we need to make our faith a priority – the waters of baptism are being wasted. Although we have left our old lives behind and taken on a new life in Baptism, maybe we aren’t showing it to the world. It is a privilege to be a servant of God and to be a part of the Catholic Church. We seek God, because God seeks us more. It is through our work, through our lives, we show Him to the world – I think that is the Law of the Gift as John Paul II put it. It is in showing the world the truth as we know it to be.
God gave us our missions at the Cross. The connection, the intimacy of the Eucharist is that we are NOT consuming his body and blood, we are being consumed by Him, we become His body of Christ, one body IN Christ. We receive communion, it is a gift, God’s gift and relentless attempt to restore the banquet he originally gave us and receive life from Him. What you eat, you become – we become one body – His body. The world consists of developing souls who are assisted by what they perceive in this world. Unfortunately, the world on which we depend is but a “diminished harmonic” as Teilhard would say – we will only be completed in union, strengthened when we are consumed by Christ in the Eucharist.
In the eyes of love, Christ will be revealed. God reveals Himself when we aren’t looking and reveals Himself in truth. The tragedy in Paris left me deeply troubled as it did everyone. In the name of their God the extremists continue to carry out violent acts in the name of truth, but a truth that could not be more false. They are taking, not giving life, they are taking, not giving love, they have lost their way. Fear will not stop them, nor will force to meet their force. Love and mercy is the only way to demonstrate truth, loving the families of those who lost loved ones, praying for those who have died or are victims of violence and praying for those who we perceive as our enemies – on a global level. There Christ will be revealed and it is the only way.
The picture below is of our Lady of Pontmain, in the South of France. Paris was under siege and she appeared and protected the people of Brittany, France from the invading Prussian forces.
Our Lady of Pontmain, Our Lady of Good Hope pray for the people of France and for us all.
Oh, to be Catholic again… to be Catholic again… may seem like an odd thing to say, like faith is decision that can be changed like one changes jobs, as if you pick and choose where and when to practice your “faith”. I guess I am proof you can do that, but I have come to discover it really isn’t a choice at all, it is more a lack of commitment with perhaps a bit of arrogance and ignorance mixed in. I have come to realize that for me, faith has become about experiencing God through the Church’ s teachings.
The Church gives me a headache, she really does. I have argued with her, fought with her, wrestled with her history, wrestled with her priests. I have left her, begged her to take me back, fought with her some more, doubted her, turned my back on her, left her again. I have looked other places, at other churches, at other religions – I have chanted with the Buddhists, reasoned with the Unitarians, practiced the remembrance with the Sufis, stopped just short of being slain in the spirit and rolling on the floor – I just couldn’t bring myself to do it…All looking to fill emptiness in me that I thought the Church, our Church wasn’t doing a good enough job providing for me. I kept looking and couldn’t find anything, so once again, I came back to her, to her open arms, like a mother hugging me, her child, who had run away. It was important for me to realize that the Church is a human organization flawed certainly by the sins of the fathers and honestly, by us. These flaws can be distracting, but if we look beyond them and at our experience of Christ, we can perhaps maintain our faith in Christ and His Church. I am not for a minute suggesting that any of the deepest wounds the Church has made should be over looked or minimized, but as we look to repair that damage – and perhaps Pope Francis represents our best chance at that – our foundation of faith shouldn’t be shaken. It is a goal we can always work towards – I know it was one I have to work hard at still, it is a constant conversion. The Church still gives me a headache, but now it is the headache families give each other. The angst we get when we are short with our spouse or kids, or have an argument with our brother. We still know we are family.
Jesus patiently sits at that well where we go again and again trying to be satisfied, waiting for us to ask Him about the living water that will satisfy us. Sometimes when I am praying, I see myself reaching into the tabernacle, deep into it, and I see a beautiful new world. It is at those times that I think I am seeing with Jesus’ eyes. I think, in my busy, busy life, I forget. Seeing with Jesus’ eyes does take quiet time with no distraction just to be with him, to let Him show me what He sees. He waits for me and for all of us to notice, I think.
“The core of our being is drawn to the quiet depths of each moment where God waits for us with eternal longing. Like stones skipped across the surface of the water, we are kept skimming along the peripheral, one dimensional fringes of life. To sink into the unknown depths of God’s call to union with himself is to lose all the false self knows and cherishes. “
~ James Finley, Merton’s Palace of Nowhere – One of my favorite quotes from a book about one of my favorite Catholics – Thomas Merton.