Worth Revisiting: Whose we Are

“What I think is more important than what others think..The more you trust my love the less you care about their (opinions). Remember, Eli said, you are special because I made you. And I don’t make mistakes.” You are Special, Max Lucado

As you reread these words again for a moment pause, and ask yourself if you could hear these words said by anyone who would you want for that to be? Truth is, from our very birth we have been created to seek affirmation and approval. The difficulty is that we choose, far too often, to seek it from all the wrong places. Am I smart, talented, pretty or successful? What is it that others see, and is that what truly makes me special?

In and of themselves these qualities are worthy to be appreciated, and yet they will never be the sole measure of our worth. For as we all know beauty fades, success wanes, and talents can come and go in an instant. Even the praise received by family, friends, and peers can quite easily be matched by criticism given time and circumstance. This is true too for quite the opposite. Some of the most creative minds in history have lived unnoticed quiet lives before their discovery. Prompting the world to ask , where on earth have they been?

So back to our original question, who and what are we living for?

As the youngest of three, with an incredibly beautiful sister and a successful brother ahead of me, I had decided to work on being the “smart one”. This was motivation for me to consistently aspire for the highest grade, receive recognition in the community, and be admitted to one of the top undergraduate schools in the nation. Pushing myself in this way for so long, there came the recognition that this was an endless pursuit that had not only taken a toll on me, but was no longer fulfilling. If it ever really was in the first place. There was so much more in life that lay unexplored including who I was at my core and had been created to be in this world.

While my faith had always played a substantial role in my life, somehow I had compartmentalized my interior and exterior life. Rather than approaching God to see who he wished for me to be, I was instead coming to God asking him to validate or not who others saw me to be. In doing so, I was not living like I was loved but in fear of the next critical word and anticipation of the next word of praise.  This has been, for me, a lifetime of reaffirming self discovery with God leading the way.

“You are special because I made you. And I don’t make mistakes.”

And still, what time and experience have revealed is the profound need for these words to permeate deep within the soul of every one of us in our lifetime. Yet, in order to do so we must keep our eyes and trust on him. It entails spending time with our Creator, and allowing him to remind us who and whose we are. The more often we do this, the less we care what others think whether good or bad in nature. We were created with and for an extraordinary purpose- the continual revelation of which has been, for me, an unimaginable source of true and lasting happiness.

Reflect:

Do I rely too much on the opinions or affirmation of others for an assessment of my self worth? How often do I seek God’s evaluation and affirmation in my life? 

Challenge:

Spend 15 minutes today in silence, free of distractions allowing God to remind you of your purpose and value.

Peace,

Signature

Link up with other Catholic Bloggers or see what they are revisiting this week!

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Worth Revisiting: The Present

The following guest post comes from an Advent Taize service led by my close friend and colleague from Loyola Chicago, Paula Kowalkowski.
Readings: Deuteronomy 30:15-20
                    Luke 1:26-38

The idea for this reflection came to me right after the 4th of July – lots of hot and
humid days – highs in the 90’s. Just a bit different from what we are experiencing
now…..
When an idea comes – grab it, I think.
The word PRESENT came to me as I walked along the residential streets of my
Chicago neighborhood on that summer morning.
The word PRESENT comes from the Latin praesentia – being at hand/being
present. In more modern words, being mindful, being attentive to what is.
It’s an invitation to be present to what is. And what is? We are together in this
season of Advent standing – and sitting – in the presence of our Creator God. We
are in this space at St. Thomas Becket Parish – giving praise, giving thanks, asking
our God to be with us in all things. Things we understand and things we may be
questioning. This is what is. This is being present.

In our Gospel reading, we heard that on that day – so long ago – in Mary’s life, she
was present. If Mary had not been attentive to what was happening – she may
have missed the Angel – she may have missed the message. Mary heard and
listened and responded. Mary did not understand fully what she was being
called to – yet she trusted and we are called to do the same.
— Mary and Martha – Jesus said that Mary chose the greater part/portion.

The word present – means gift, as well.
And oh, what a gift God has given to us – as we wait for this gift once again in this
holy season. This great present of God – as human being, the gift of Jesus – who
was and is and forever more will be – our greatest example of what it is to be a
fully alive human being.

Jesus, the Christ – who is given to us every time we receive him in the Eucharist –
HIS REAL PRESENCE.

God’s ongoing gift of Godself to us and to the world. This
Jesus – this great gift given to us – is life – is truth – is the way and is hope!
The writer of Deuteronomy reminds us that God has put before us life and death
– blessings and curses. And what are we called to do? Choose life! The
abundant life which God provides for us – as we follow and trust God’s
commands and will for us in God’s time, not ours.

I wish you a blessed Advent and joy-filled, abundant Christmas.

Paula

Paula Kowalkowski
Music Director at St. Thomas Becket in Chicago, Illinois ; MA Loyola Chicago

Worth Revisiting: Asceticism as Spiritual Discipline

 :

Is there a case  to be made for the continuing relevance of the “monastic-generated” tradition of asceticism (“spiritual training or exercise”) in Christianity beyond monastery walls to all members of the churches, particularly when it is understood comprehensively as “spiritual discipline(s)” and not narrowly as “a life of exceeding self-denial” ?

When considered amidst the everyday realities of life, I happen to believe that the practices of asceticism or spiritual disciplines take on a particular relevance for our time. While most of us perhaps are not disposed to a total life of self denial, there is immense merit in seeking order, centeredness, and being open to God’s presence in our lives. In a world that often strives, or so it seems, to ascribe the attributes of beauty, intelligence, position, and wealth, or lack thereof -what a gift it is for our souls to discover who we really are! That is to shed all opinions and titles other than how God might call us, “Elizabeth, child of God”. In this way, we are both humbled in all of our preconceived notions of self, and yet raised to see how wonderful it is to be made in the image of God!
It is here that we recognize the importance of prayer, for this is how we come to be familiar with the voice of our Abba, and to know that whatever the world perceives of us that each of us have been divinely special, and loved dearly. God’s opinion, and concerns then can be seen more clearly and put in the right order as first and centermost in our lives. I believe, therefore that this practice of asceticism, of prayer, perhaps helps us to understand how to go about and truly practice the other disciplines. It is true, that place of prayer is important because, at least initially, it must be one that encourages us to limit some of the outside distractions of life. For me, I find that daily mass or morning reflection provides this time for me to center myself in God. Oh, how often I have found myself actually rushing in the mornings to find that time with God, and heard myself let out a visible sigh of thankfulness!
As for fasting, and abstinence they too are important when we consider the “why” or the purpose for this practice in our own lives. Too often, I believe that we as a church could do a better job at teaching and emphasizing the deeper intentions. Without this, the “Rice Bowl” or almsgiving box simply becomes a collection device during Lent for all the times we break our renewed intention to God. On the contrary, I believe it is important to ask ourselves each time, why am I fasting or abstaining? Is it to be in solidarity and to understand if for but a day what others in poverty feel every day? Or is it for an intention that I hold in my heart and desire for God to know its importance in my life and request for help?
This brings us to the immense value of works of love, mercy and justice when they are sourced in Christ, and practiced in community. This is not to say that other faiths cannot and have not practiced similar works of mercy. Rather, as a Christian community they are essential, in changing our perspective from that of the world to recognizing Christ in others, and actually in being Christ in the world. These athletic exercises or practices are our warm-up so to speak for the real thing- that is for the kingdom of God. How can we say, “Put me in Coach!” if we haven’t shown up for practice?

 What do you think?  Is asceticism still relevant in our time?  Why?  Why not?

Peace,

Signature

Worth Revisiting: 1st Things First

 :

“To believe in Jesus’ divinity today is to make him and what he stands for your God” Albert Nolan

It is to understand Christ as the supreme power in your life, your source of meaning and strength. This approach moves away from a very metaphysical discussion of Jesus regarding the full divinity and humanity found in early church theology to a very practical understanding on the priority we place on Jesus in our own lives and an emphasis is on the lived reality of Christian discipleship. If Jesus is to truly be understood as divine, then there should be a corresponding commitment that places the message of Jesus and his mission toward fulfilling the kingdom of God first in their lives. Indeed it is the very definition of praxis which involves both critical reflection and also concrete steps or choices to the belief.

Therefore, in considering whether Jesus is God for us today..

perhaps that is exactly how we need to look at it, in each and every day. Some days the answer for us will be a yes, and it is then we realize the meaning and strength he provides for our lives and what is being asked of us as well. A couple of days ago a friend came to my door, quite unexpectedly I note because we were to meet later to have coffee. Yet, her family concern could not wait and I realized very quickly that God was asking me to make her concern, and therein God’s concern, my first priority. After we had spoken, we prayed together, and she left at peace. No matter what else I had planned that day, this was where I was meant to be. Putting Jesus in first place, doesn’t have to be accepting a mission in the Congo, although that is a very beautiful choice. It is saying yes Lord, to these opportunities to discover him through those we encounter.

We also begin to see very clearly the recognition of the grace that we receive when we do put God first in our lives. Especially, when the things of this world that we have placed on that high glass shelf for display comes crashing down upon us. It is so often in those moments that we truly realize that those things which we held dear or prioritized cannot give us the power, meaning, or strength when we need it most. Here, I believe, is when we tend to reevaluate that first place position, and recommit to God: recognizing that he is the only one deserving of that place.

This very compelling argument holds that our understanding of Jesus as divine encompasses the formulated creeds and theological concepts that have been worked out but goes even further.  What we witness in the life of Jesus, and through his choices we first come to know the Divine. Yet, Jesus’ divinity is not limited to a particular time but is actively present and experienced whenever we seek to place him first, and wherever there is an inbreaking of the kingdom of God. Therefore, others are given the opportunity to see the divinity of Jesus in the lives that we lead, and the choices that we make. However, if we make other things our “divine”, then our words are merely that..words and not faith in action or revealing of the divine. In this, I am reminded of one of the most memorable quotes of Karl Rahner that says,

“The number one cause of atheism is Christians. Those who proclaim Him with their mouths and deny Him with their actions is what an unbelieving world finds unbelievable.”  So powerful.

Early on in my involvement in ministry, I was told that you could often tell within a few conversations where people placed their priorities. Although, I still find it difficult to use the word idols, it does appropriately describe placing anything above God. The call to discipleship to me speaks to a commitment that goes beyond a faith of convenience- it is a passion of compassion that seeks to actively work even in small ways to bring hope to those with none, and speak for those who have no voice. It means making family mass a priority, and service a part of our everyday lives. So, if we take this understanding to heart, we do have a need to redirect our hearts, minds, and lives to truly placing God first in our lives.

Reflect:

Can I truly say that I see and trust Christ to be the the supreme power in my life today? What things do I place above God in my daily walk of discipleship?

Peace,

Signature

Worth Revisting: Theology and Spirituality

 :

Sandra Schneiders, defines spirituality as the experience of conscious involvement in the project of life integration through self-transcendence toward the ultimate value one perceives.”  “Religion and Spirituality: Strangers, Rivals, or Partners?” Santa Clara Lectures v.6. no. 2, Feb 6, 2000.

In Schneiders discussion of spirituality, she begins with a very narrow understanding and use of the term in regards to the intensification of an interior prayer life, and communally within a guided retreat setting. As described, it seems limited in its effect where its participants seek to leave the everyday world to experience the Holy Spirit in a contained setting. This level is then expanded somewhat in a second approach to be a transformative experience intended to affect not just one’s prayer life but a lived increase of an everyday life of faith and service. The third approach encompasses both of these but redefines our prior catholic understanding of the body and emotions as something outside the realm of spirituality to include these in lived spirituality. Lastly, we have the broadest approach which also considers how one’s spirituality and life experience can and has impacted the world both politically and socially. Even to reflect that one’s own worldview, and life experience itself is a product of and affected by the historical social contexts of the world around us. In moving concentrically outward in depth of experience of spirituality, we also move from a narrow understanding given to a chosen pious group of believers to that which can be shared by all, and essential in a holistic life in the world.

For the majority of my life, I would say that I have understood spirituality primarily within the second approach. Growing up I had been given a wonderful role model of spirituality in my grandmother, whose prayer and faith life radiated not just within her own life but in all those who journeyed with her. Like her, I have desired and seek to live my faith both in prayer and within the entirety of my everyday experience. Therefore, when I attended the Cursillo retreat several years ago, it wasn’t novel- but first of all a re-commitment to give all aspects of my life to God and seek greater discernment in my path of discipleship.

It is in this discernment journey that I have begun to understand the tie of spirituality to that of the body and emotions. How can I better impart the gift of being a woman, wife, mother, and friend in the realities of life and share fruitfully the gift of love wholly? In my studies at Loyola, I recognize this approach to a lived spirituality calling me to broaden my horizons again from the microcosm of my immediate community to that of the world at large. As a hopeful “awakener” of the faith, I understand that the questions of those I encounter are ones that have the potential to allow each to find meaning and purpose in their lives and in the world.

Yet what is the dialogical relationship between spirituality and theology, and how do they impact one another? 

Very broadly, spirituality and theology appear as seekers in trying to understand the mystery of and our relationship with the Other, and in a perfect dialogical relationship can add support, understanding and indeed life to the journey. Visually, I see this as one’s left hand and right hand, which are both needed together in prayer, supporting the other in receiving communion (i.e. the Eucharist), and in reaching out and serving as communion to others. While one can perform these actions one-handed, or allowing one hand to dominate, it is in the partnership that one can embrace the fullness of the opportunity set before us. Thus, we look to the unique contributions that both spirituality and theology can provide to understand the breadth of the human experience and relationship with God.

According to Schneiders, Christian spirituality is both a lived awareness and experience of seeking God, which involves our whole self but goes beyond our finite selves, and which is enabled by the Holy Spirit. [1] This is compatible with how I also understand spirituality as a conscious commitment to seek God in all things that is dependent on the Holy Spirit for guidance and strength. Likewise, I would agree that although Christian spirituality is a personal experience, it also involves a community of believers.[2] This is clearly visible in the experience of the disciples and early church but is also true in the contemporary experience of spirituality.

Yet, today we can benefit from centuries of faith understandings to fully appreciate our own experience of spirituality. This is where theology can inform, inspire, “criticize”, and “challenge”[3] this lifetime journey by providing a degree of structure, points of reflection, and others’ experiences for the believer to consider. Without a backdrop or context in which to place one’s experience, how could one interpret the similarity or uniqueness of it at all?  Conversely, theology without adequate spirituality provides theoretical truths and boundaries, but lacks the witness to the Spirit continually at work in the unique experience of the individual. The role of theology should therefore be to guide and not “control” the field or “subordinate” experience of spirituality.[4] Rather, in partnering with spirituality, theology is enlivened, dynamic and transformative reflecting also the contemporary lived experience of its believers.

Peace,

Signature


[1] Schneiders, p. 266. “Theology and Spirituality: Strangers, Rivals and Partners”. Horizons. 1986
[2] Schneiders, p. 266. “Theology and Spirituality: Strangers, Rivals and Partners”. Horizons. 1986
[3] Schneiders, pgs. 270-271. “Theology and Spirituality: Strangers, Rivals and Partners”. Horizons. 1986
[4] Schneiders, p. 273. “Theology and Spirituality: Strangers, Rivals and Partners”

Asceticism as Spiritual Discipline

 :

Is there a case  to be made for the continuing relevance of the “monastic-generated” tradition of asceticism (“spiritual training or exercise”) in Christianity beyond monastery walls to all members of the churches, particularly when it is understood comprehensively as “spiritual discipline(s)” and not narrowly as “a life of exceeding self-denial” ?

When considered amidst the everyday realities of life, I happen to believe that the practices of asceticism or spiritual disciplines take on a particular relevance for our time. While most of us perhaps are not disposed to a total life of self denial, there is immense merit in seeking order, centeredness, and being open to God’s presence in our lives. In a world that often strives, or so it seems, to ascribe the attributes of beauty, intelligence, position, and wealth, or lack thereof -what a gift it is for our souls to discover who we really are! That is to shed all opinions and titles other than how God might call us, “Elizabeth, child of God”. In this way, we are both humbled in all of our preconceived notions of self, and yet raised to see how wonderful it is to be made in the image of God!
It is here that we recognize the importance of prayer, for this is how we come to be familiar with the voice of our Abba, and to know that whatever the world perceives of us that each of us have been divinely special, and loved dearly. God’s opinion, and concerns then can be seen more clearly and put in the right order as first and centermost in our lives. I believe, therefore that this practice of asceticism, of prayer, perhaps helps us to understand how to go about and truly practice the other disciplines. It is true, that place of prayer is important because, at least initially, it must be one that encourages us to limit some of the outside distractions of life. For me, I find that daily mass or morning reflection provides this time for me to center myself in God. Oh, how often I have found myself actually rushing in the mornings to find that time with God, and heard myself let out a visible sigh of thankfulness!
As for fasting, and abstinence they too are important when we consider the “why” or the purpose for this practice in our own lives. Too often, I believe that we as a church could do a better job at teaching and emphasizing the deeper intentions. Without this, the “Rice Bowl” or almsgiving box simply becomes a collection device during Lent for all the times we break our renewed intention to God. On the contrary, I believe it is important to ask ourselves each time, why am I fasting or abstaining? Is it to be in solidarity and to understand if for but a day what others in poverty feel every day? Or is it for an intention that I hold in my heart and desire for God to know its importance in my life and request for help?
This brings us to the immense value of works of love, mercy and justice when they are sourced in Christ, and practiced in community. This is not to say that other faiths cannot and have not practiced similar works of mercy. Rather, as a Christian community they are essential, in changing our perspective from that of the world to recognizing Christ in others, and actually in being Christ in the world. These athletic exercises or practices are our warm-up so to speak for the real thing- that is for the kingdom of God. How can we say, “Put me in Coach!” if we haven’t shown up for practice?

 What do you think?  Is asceticism still relevant in our time?  Why?  Why not?

Peace,

Signature

1st Things First.

 :

“To believe in Jesus’ divinity today is to make him and what he stands for your God” Albert Nolan

It is to understand Christ as the supreme power in your life, your source of meaning and strength. This approach moves away from a very metaphysical discussion of Jesus regarding the full divinity and humanity found in early church theology to a very practical understanding on the priority we place on Jesus in our own lives and an emphasis is on the lived reality of Christian discipleship. If Jesus is to truly be understood as divine, then there should be a corresponding commitment that places the message of Jesus and his mission toward fulfilling the kingdom of God first in their lives. Indeed it is the very definition of praxis which involves both critical reflection and also concrete steps or choices to the belief.

Therefore, in considering whether Jesus is God for us today..

perhaps that is exactly how we need to look at it, in each and every day. Some days the answer for us will be a yes, and it is then we realize the meaning and strength he provides for our lives and what is being asked of us as well. A couple of days ago a friend came to my door, quite unexpectedly I note because we were to meet later to have coffee. Yet, her family concern could not wait and I realized very quickly that God was asking me to make her concern, and therein God’s concern, my first priority. After we had spoken, we prayed together, and she left at peace. No matter what else I had planned that day, this was where I was meant to be. Putting Jesus in first place, doesn’t have to be accepting a mission in the Congo, although that is a very beautiful choice. It is saying yes Lord, to these opportunities to discover him through those we encounter.

We also begin to see very clearly the recognition of the grace that we receive when we do put God first in our lives. Especially, when the things of this world that we have placed on that high glass shelf for display comes crashing down upon us. It is so often in those moments that we truly realize that those things which we held dear or prioritized cannot give us the power, meaning, or strength when we need it most. Here, I believe, is when we tend to reevaluate that first place position, and recommit to God: recognizing that he is the only one deserving of that place.

This very compelling argument holds that our understanding of Jesus as divine encompasses the formulated creeds and theological concepts that have been worked out but goes even further.  What we witness in the life of Jesus, and through his choices we first come to know the Divine. Yet, Jesus’ divinity is not limited to a particular time but is actively present and experienced whenever we seek to place him first, and wherever there is an inbreaking of the kingdom of God. Therefore, others are given the opportunity to see the divinity of Jesus in the lives that we lead, and the choices that we make. However, if we make other things our “divine”, then our words are merely that..words and not faith in action or revealing of the divine. In this, I am reminded of one of the most memorable quotes of Karl Rahner that says,

“The number one cause of atheism is Christians. Those who proclaim Him with their mouths and deny Him with their actions is what an unbelieving world finds unbelievable.”  So powerful.

Early on in my involvement in ministry, I was told that you could often tell within a few conversations where people placed their priorities. Although, I still find it difficult to use the word idols, it does appropriately describe placing anything above God. The call to discipleship to me speaks to a commitment that goes beyond a faith of convenience- it is a passion of compassion that seeks to actively work even in small ways to bring hope to those with none, and speak for those who have no voice. It means making family mass a priority, and service a part of our everyday lives. So, if we take this understanding to heart, we do have a need to redirect our hearts, minds, and lives to truly placing God first in our lives.

Reflect:

Can I truly say that I see and trust Christ to be the the supreme power in my life today? What things do I place above God in my daily walk of discipleship?

Peace,

Signature

Through the Lens: Theology & Sprituality

 :

Sandra Schneiders, defines spirituality as the experience of conscious involvement in the project of life integration through self-transcendence toward the ultimate value one perceives.”  “Religion and Spirituality: Strangers, Rivals, or Partners?” Santa Clara Lectures v.6. no. 2, Feb 6, 2000.

In Schneiders discussion of spirituality, she begins with a very narrow understanding and use of the term in regards to the intensification of an interior prayer life, and communally within a guided retreat setting. As described, it seems limited in its effect where its participants seek to leave the everyday world to experience the Holy Spirit in a contained setting. This level is then expanded somewhat in a second approach to be a transformative experience intended to affect not just one’s prayer life but a lived increase of an everyday life of faith and service. The third approach encompasses both of these but redefines our prior catholic understanding of the body and emotions as something outside the realm of spirituality to include these in lived spirituality. Lastly, we have the broadest approach which also considers how one’s spirituality and life experience can and has impacted the world both politically and socially. Even to reflect that one’s own worldview, and life experience itself is a product of and affected by the historical social contexts of the world around us. In moving concentrically outward in depth of experience of spirituality, we also move from a narrow understanding given to a chosen pious group of believers to that which can be shared by all, and essential in a holistic life in the world.

For the majority of my life, I would say that I have understood spirituality primarily within the second approach. Growing up I had been given a wonderful role model of spirituality in my grandmother, whose prayer and faith life radiated not just within her own life but in all those who journeyed with her. Like her, I have desired and seek to live my faith both in prayer and within the entirety of my everyday experience. Therefore, when I attended the Cursillo retreat several years ago, it wasn’t novel- but first of all a re-commitment to give all aspects of my life to God and seek greater discernment in my path of discipleship.

It is in this discernment journey that I have begun to understand the tie of spirituality to that of the body and emotions. How can I better impart the gift of being a woman, wife, mother, and friend in the realities of life and share fruitfully the gift of love wholly? In my studies at Loyola, I recognize this approach to a lived spirituality calling me to broaden my horizons again from the microcosm of my immediate community to that of the world at large. As a hopeful “awakener” of the faith, I understand that the questions of those I encounter are ones that have the potential to allow each to find meaning and purpose in their lives and in the world.

Yet what is the dialogical relationship between spirituality and theology, and how do they impact one another? 

Very broadly, spirituality and theology appear as seekers in trying to understand the mystery of and our relationship with the Other, and in a perfect dialogical relationship can add support, understanding and indeed life to the journey. Visually, I see this as one’s left hand and right hand, which are both needed together in prayer, supporting the other in receiving communion (i.e. the Eucharist), and in reaching out and serving as communion to others. While one can perform these actions one-handed, or allowing one hand to dominate, it is in the partnership that one can embrace the fullness of the opportunity set before us. Thus, we look to the unique contributions that both spirituality and theology can provide to understand the breadth of the human experience and relationship with God.

According to Schneiders, Christian spirituality is both a lived awareness and experience of seeking God, which involves our whole self but goes beyond our finite selves, and which is enabled by the Holy Spirit. [1] This is compatible with how I also understand spirituality as a conscious commitment to seek God in all things that is dependent on the Holy Spirit for guidance and strength. Likewise, I would agree that although Christian spirituality is a personal experience, it also involves a community of believers.[2] This is clearly visible in the experience of the disciples and early church but is also true in the contemporary experience of spirituality.

Yet, today we can benefit from centuries of faith understandings to fully appreciate our own experience of spirituality. This is where theology can inform, inspire, “criticize”, and “challenge”[3] this lifetime journey by providing a degree of structure, points of reflection, and others’ experiences for the believer to consider. Without a backdrop or context in which to place one’s experience, how could one interpret the similarity or uniqueness of it at all?  Conversely, theology without adequate spirituality provides theoretical truths and boundaries, but lacks the witness to the Spirit continually at work in the unique experience of the individual. The role of theology should therefore be to guide and not “control” the field or “subordinate” experience of spirituality.[4] Rather, in partnering with spirituality, theology is enlivened, dynamic and transformative reflecting also the contemporary lived experience of its believers.

Peace,

Signature


[1] Schneiders, p. 266. “Theology and Spirituality: Strangers, Rivals and Partners”. Horizons. 1986
[2] Schneiders, p. 266. “Theology and Spirituality: Strangers, Rivals and Partners”. Horizons. 1986
[3] Schneiders, pgs. 270-271. “Theology and Spirituality: Strangers, Rivals and Partners”. Horizons. 1986
[4] Schneiders, p. 273. “Theology and Spirituality: Strangers, Rivals and Partners”

Worth Revisiting:The Case for Asceticism

Today humanity has  “enjoyed such an abundance of wealth, resources and economic power, and yet a huge proportion of the worlds citizens are still tormented by hunger and poverty, while countless numbers suffer from total illiteracy. Never before has man had so keen an understanding of freedom, yet at the same time new forms of social and psychological slavery make their appearance. Although the world of today has a very vivid awareness of its unity and of how one man depends on another in needful solidarity, it is most grievously torn into opposing camps by conflicting forces. (Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes)

This begs the question, could there be a modern role for the practice of the spiritual discipline of asceticism found through fasting, prayer, spiritual direction, almsgiving, corporal and spiritual works of mercy in our lives today?

To this I would answer yes, most definitely!  The traditional practices of asceticism are relevant for our time, especially when taken out of a monastic framework and considered within the broader context of our everyday life. While most of us perhaps are not disposed to a total life of self denial, there is immense merit in seeking order, centeredness, and being open to God’s presence in our lives. In a world that often strives, or so it seems, to ascribe the attributes of beauty, intelligence, position, and wealth, or lack thereof -what a gift it is for our souls to discover who we really are! That is to shed all opinions and titles other than how God might call us as his own beloved children. In this way, we are both humbled in all of our preconceived notions of self, and yet raised to see how wonderful it is to be made in the image of God!

It is here that we recognize the importance of prayer, for this is how we come to be familiar with the voice of our Abba, and to know that whatever the world perceives of us that each of us have been divinely special, and loved dearly. God’s opinion, and concerns then can be seen more clearly and put in the right order as first and centermost in our lives. I believe, therefore that this practice of asceticism, of prayer, perhaps helps us to understand how to go about and truly practice the other disciplines. It is true, that the place of prayer is important because, at least initially, it must be one that encourages us to limit some of the outside distractions of life. I find that daily mass or morning reflection provides this time for me to center myself in God. Oh, how often I have found myself actually rushing in the mornings to find that time with God, and heard myself let out an audible sigh of thankfulness! Taking time to experience a retreat even further allows for the opportunity to tune out the noise and discover a way to live a more conscious spiritual life.

As for fasting, and abstinence they too are important when we consider the “why” or the purpose for this practice in our own lives. Too often, I believe that we as a church could do a better job at teaching and emphasizing the deeper intentions. Without this, the “Rice Bowl” or almsgiving box simply becomes a collection device during Lent for all the times we break our renewed intention to God. On the contrary, I believe it is important to ask ourselves each time,

Why am I fasting or abstaining? Is it to be in solidarity and to understand if for but a day what others in poverty feel every day? Or is it for an intention that I hold in my heart and desire for God to know its importance in my life and request for help?

This brings us to the immense value of works of love, mercy and justice when they are sourced in Christ, and practiced in community. This is not to say that other faiths cannot and have not practiced similar works of mercy. Rather, as a Christian community they are essential, in changing our perspective from that of the world to recognizing Christ in others, and actually in being Christ in the world.

These athletic exercises or practices are our warm-up so to speak for the real thing- that is working for the kingdom of God.

How can we say, “Put me in Coach!”  if we haven’t even shown up for practice?

Peace,Signature


¹Definition of asceticism taken from The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company

An Engaging Faith: 9/21-9/25

You are invited to join me this week for An Engaging Faith on Breadbox Media daily at 4pm EST.

Enter To Win a Copy of Love Will Steer Me True  by
Jane and Ellen Knuth (Courtesy Of Loyola Press) , and Conversations with a Guardian Angel by Bob Wicks (Franciscan Media) 
Drawing runs 9/20-9/27 Click to enter..

This week invites us to delve into our own spiritual journeys-

With Jane and Ellen Knuth of Love will Steer Me True,  Robert J. Wicks of Conversations with a Guardian Angel, an Encore of Colette Lafia’s Seeking Surrender, an engaging discussion of theologian Karl Rahner with Paula Kowalkowski

And good friend Tony Agnesi, who is Finding God’s Grace in Everyday Life.


Monday
: Jane and Ellen Knuth,
will be joining us to discuss Love will Steer Me True. Jane has been volunteering at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store in Kalamazoo, Michigan, for the last 15 years. She is also an eighth-grade math teacher. Jane and her husband, Dean, live in Portage, Michigan. Ellen recently returned to the USA after 5 years in Japan. Having already been an English teacher, a singer in a rock band, a dairy princess, a MC, and a newspaper columnist, Ellen now works as a university relations manager for a study and intern abroad company. Settled (for now) in Clinton Twp, MI, she travels extensively, writes occasionally, and sings constantly.

 

Tuesday: Robert J. Wicks has published more than 50 books for professionals and the general public, including Perspective: The Calm Within the Storm and the novel Conversations with a Guardian Angel which we will be discussing on the show. Bob has his doctorate in psychology from Hahnemann Medical College and Hospital and is on the faculty of Loyola University, Maryland. He has received the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the American Counseling Association’s Division on Spirituality, Ethics, and Values and in 2006 was recipient of the first annual Alumni Award for Excellence in Professional Psychology from Widener University.

 

Wednesday: Tony Agnesi, who is Finding God’s Grace in Everyday Life is the Senior Vice President of Rubber City Radio Group, WQMX, WONE, and WAKR in Akron and WNWV in Cleveland and member of Radio and Television Hall of Fame. A relentless storyteller, his Sunday blog and Wednesday podcast have an International audience in over 70 counties and has been translated in over 40 languages. Tony and his wife Diane have two adult sons and are members of the Sacred Heart of Jesus parish in Wadsworth, Ohio.

 Thursday: Loyola classmate, Paula Kowalkowski joins us again to help answer the questions , Who was Karl Rahner (1904-1984)and what does his life’s work mean for us today? Considered one of the most important theologians of the 20th century, Karl Rahner was greatly influential in the workings of the Vatican II Council. Appointed by Pope John XXIII as an advisor to the Council he worked with then Cardinal Ratzinger and Cardinal Koenig on topics of scripture, tradition, and a number of pastoral concerns facing the church in the modern world.

Friday: Colette Lafia, is a San Francisco–based blogger, spiritual director, workshop and retreat facilitator, and part-time school librarian. She is an adjunct faculty member at Mercy Center Burlingame, where she also earned two certificates in spiritual direction. Lafia has a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and English from San Francisco State University and a master of library information science from San Jose State University. She is the author of Comfort and Joy: Simple Ways to Care for Ourselves and Others and Seeking Surrender.