Worth Revisiting: Will They Know Us By Our Love?

Over the last few weeks since Pope Francis’ departure, there has been a noticeable divisiveness within the world of Catholic social media. From Ross Douthat’s letter of critique of Pope Francis in the New York Times, to the response of theologians, priests, and Douthat again- we see firsthand a visible polarization. Yet, disagreement and dialogue in and of itself should not be disturbing. For, as Cardinal Dolan has so aptly noted of the most recent synod, “[for] Francis, and those who know better tell me so, that this is part of Ignatian spirituality: a mess, confusion, questions are a good thing.” [1] What is personally disconcerting, however, is the manner in which our discourse is taking place.  Repeatedly, I am seeing a promulgation of an article, or op-ed piece posted on social media in which the dialogue takes on a very ugly, often misinformed and even discriminatory tone having left the realm of discussion altogether.  Quick to respond, we find ourselves at the ready to wage war or nod our heads in agreement when we do not even have a full grasp of the situation.  This is neither productive nor enlightening, which is as I understand it is the goal of honest dialogue. Accordingly, if I might suggest, that we remember in both our virtual and face-to-face conversations the importance of:

Prayer

Before we tweet, post, share or comment let us take a moment to pray. For, if we consider the medium of new media as a tool for evangelization, then I believe, we must address the witness that we are so ready to make accessible to others.  Our online presence then should make our witness to Christ clearer, and the message conveyed expressive of the mercy, love and compassion of our Lord.  Yet, for those times we fail, we are reminded that we are also a “church in constant need of forgiveness” who, through the “sacrifice and self giving” of one another in community, finds strength and freedom from sin.[2]

For those times when I seek to be less than compassionate in responding…Lord help me to see you in others.

Openness

Christianity began in encountering Jesus in community and is a product of dialogue and translation embracing cultural, linguistic and religious differences.[3] For, through St. Paul’s experience we are clearly made aware of the pastoral needs of the community, and the necessary translation in witnessing to the Gentile community. While there needs to be a clear idea of what it is we believe in our expression of Christianity, without error,[4]  this need not encumber dialogue. This past week Fr. Rob Ketchum observed that “we [Christians] are sometimes more aware of what we are against and of what we fear than of what we are for and what we love”. [5]   Fear does not engender strength, or a convincing witness and does not exemplify love. As Pope Francis so eloquently remarked, “unless we train ministers capable of warming people’s hearts, of walking with them in the night, of dialoguing with their hopes and disappointments, of mending their brokenness, what hope can we have for our present and future journey”?[5]

Listening

True listening requires a humility and sincerity to respect one another-to accept change even our own. Few among us embrace change easily and for this reason we tend to romanticize the past.  Yet, if we look back historically, we can readily identify that change and disagreement are nothing new for us as a people of faith. There has been a natural, although sometimes painful, working out of our faith through the many complicated issues that have arisen over time.  Our tradition serves as guide and witness to a wealth of experience expectantly working towards conversion and transformation of the heart and situation to the mission of Christ. If the dialogical engagement is real and substantial then there is always the beautiful possibility that all involved will grow.

When we encounter a position that is different from our own, are we truly seeking to meet it with love or with pride?

While some may view this as naiveté,  I truly believe, that there can be a fruitful sharing and transformation in evangelization when there is openness, humility, and prayerful consideration of one another. This isn’t something to be feared, but as Christians our conversion of heart and mind is to be constant turning and transformation to the Holy Spirit at work in our lives and in the world. Therefore, we ask ourselves, have we as a community grown from our interactions and dialogue with humanity at large? Are we engaging, and responsive to the Holy Spirit at work in the world? This I believe is truly “an ideal which [we] can identify and to which [we] can commit [our]selves with enthusiasm and lasting zeal”.[6]

Peace,

Signature


[1] http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2015/10/15/new-york-cardinal-dolan-sees-light-amid-the-synods-confusion/
[2]Kärkkäinen, Veli-Matti. An Introduction to Ecclesiology: Ecumenical, Historical and Global Perspectives. Downers  Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press: 2002, p. 105
[3] Gaillardetz, Ecclesiology for a Global Church: A People called and Sent.
[4] Pope Paul VI, Dei Verbum,  1965. http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html
[5] Reese, Thomas, “Pope Francis ecclesiology rooted in the Emmaeus story”. National Catholic Reporter. August 2013. http://ncronline.org/news/spirituality/pope-francis-ecclesiology-rooted-emmaus-story
[6] Gleeson, Brian, “Images, Understandings, and Models of the Church in History: An
Update”. Australian E-Journal of Theology, 12. ISSN 1448-6326. 2008

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Worth Revisiting: Walking the Road of Peace

This was written a year ago as the Scotus decision on the redefinition of civil marriage was first issued and with tensions at their peak. Perhaps today we have attained a measure of distance from the issue- to listen better and speak less and to witness through our lives rather than instruct through a sharp tongue.

For as long as I can recall, God has placed deep within me a compelling summons to see and walk the road of peace in the midst of heated disagreements, and to mediate when necessary.  Yet, not a diplomat in a shallow sense, I see the people behind the conflict, and the far reaching consequences of the steps we take today. It is not an easy path, and at times diplomacy entails being disliked by both parties, but the cause of peace and respect for the human person within the human family is worthwhile enough to pursue.

As some may have noticed this past week, I have been noticeably silent as the Scotus decision on the redefinition of civil marriage was proclaimed.  While unwavering in the sanctity of marriage as a sacrament in our faith, I also understand the real need for compassion and active listening. This polarizing issue, which has turned our Facebook profiles rainbow, and overlaid with the Vatican flag for Catholics and non-Catholics alike is a visible expression of the division we have been experiencing as a people of faith.  Many have felt that the need to take this visible stand, and though I understand your need to do so, please consider why I have not.

Most notably, with emotions on the issue at an all time high, a majority of people are responding reactively. Finding ourselves in a position of either defending our beliefs, or asserting alternative ones few seem to be in a position of listening. The immediate consequence that I see is that we begin to alienate whole groups of people by our actions that we choose going forward. I have personally witnessed people selectively removing others that have chosen to bear either flag from their contacts. Where do you go from there, if there is to be true dialogue possible?

I am not arguing for a compromise in values, but instead a time of prayerful discernment in choosing our words and actions. So many things are being spoken from positions of fear, judgment, and righteous indignation without full consideration of their effect. When the dust settles from all of this, we as a people of faith will be truly in want of reconciliation and healing. Given the long breath of our church history, we have been here before as a Church.

Still there may soon come a time when there will be a need to consciously and conscientiously attend to a line drawn by secular intrusions on the practice of the right to religious freedom. That is why this time is so very important. Before we speak, pray. Pray for our shepherds who have been called to lead, that they do so attentive to the teachings of our faith, and pastorally to the people they are to tend to. Pray that everything we do is with the eyes of Christ, and everything we say is spoken with love.

Peace,

Signature

The Sound of Silence

 :

At the mountain of God, Horeb,
Elijah came to a cave, where he took shelter.
But the word of the LORD came to him,
“Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD;
the LORD will be passing by.”
A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains
and crushing rocks before the LORD—
but the LORD was not in the wind.
After the wind there was an earthquake—
but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake there was fire—
but the LORD was not in the fire.
After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.

(1 KGS 19:9A; 11-12)

This reading is certainly one of my favorites from the Old Testament, not because of the thundering noise, or the overwhelming displays of nature but because of a whisper. A small nondescript sound, undetectable on one’s own, but always there over, under and amidst a world of noise and chaos. It’s presence reminds us of small everyday ways that God moves and speaks in our lives. So too is the reminder that if we do not stop to listen, get distracted by the things that vie for our attention , or fail to seek the Lord we very well miss the Almighty altogether.

Image may contain: 1 person, tree, grass, plant, outdoor and natureYesterday, I opted to bring my lunch outside to simply sit and share a few uninterrupted moments with the Lord. Like Elijah, I felt the cool breeze, and the sun on my face. I heard the birds and the children at play in the schoolyard. And, while all of this was quite beautiful and pleasing, it wasn’t where I had discovered God.Responding to an inner prompting, I closed my eyes..I quieted the sounds around me till all I could hear was silence.

Yet, this wasn’t the first time I had done so. Many years ago I had been given my 1st penance as a new convert, to go and spend some quiet time alone with God for one week. An unusual penance you say? True, I had been all ready to say a Hail Mary or an Our Father and move on along with my walk as a disciple. However, my very spiritually astute confessor recognized that surrounded by midterms, the law school exam and wedding planning what I was missing. That behind my words and sins of impatience and pride..was a need for silence.

Seemingly nothing, silence is not an absence of anything but a overwhelming abundance of a peaceful state of being. A stillness of body and soul, at rest with one’s self and the world. Unable to be at peace with one’s self or others, then an appreciation of silence will forever evade. For, silence demands a responsiveness and reciprocity to shed restlessness and concerns to simply receive what is there. This is why so many contemplative saints speak of an intimacy with God,because they had been ready to hear and respond to the whisper in their hearts.

If I may encourage,albeit challenge you- take time today to spend alone with God. It need not be a lengthy unbearable stay but a time set aside just to be open and present. What you may receive in doing so is beyond measure.

Peace,

Signature

Worth Revisiting:Joy Stealer or Faith Grower?

Perspective they say is everything, and when we choose to look at situations with new eyes, better yet God’s eyes, we are given a real invitation to grow in faith..

Currently, in our society where individualism and our own happiness has been regarded as utmost priority there is great emphasis placed on that which makes us momentarily feel good.  We are quick  to avoid the situations that disturb our inner peace, upset out schedule and call us out of our comfort zone. Even in our relationships we grumble, resist and distance ourselves from those that are most difficult to deal with.

I pause here for an honest confession… I have chosen the path of feeling annoyed and complaining lately. Faced with a seemingly unchanging resistance from others to my own desire to be joyful,  I had decided it best to create some distance. A mini retreat of sorts, I recognized that I needed a break in order to get a bit of perspective. In taking this opportunity to go out into the “wilderness”  to spend some alone time in prayer, to reflect on what  is being asked of me I now have a better understanding of what Christ desires.

First, I realize that I cannot remain on permanent retreat from all that I feel attempts to steal my joy. Obvious exemptions would be situations that are physically or mentally abusive. Yet, what I am talking about are difficult people, or particularly trying situations that continually test my patience and call for regular forgiveness.

Case in point:

1.The “one way or no way” attitude: The phone rings and I notice the caller id. As the conversation ensues I am struck by the familiarity of the questions and topics of discussion.  Can we ever go deeper? No, not if it remains a one sided barrage of questions where there is only one answer desired. No, not if there isn’t active listening, appreciation of the other person, and a desire to have true dialogue. So, I listen and leave the discussion wondering why I spent my time in this way.

2. The “blinking red light”: Here is the person that is constantly in hot water. If the issue doesn’t involve them directly they feel it necessary to stir the waters that potentially create a tempest situation. Oh, did you have plans today? Well, this is far more important and if you weren’t concerned before..you should be by now.  So, I listen, offer advice, help where I can, and spend the day praying that they find peace.

Selfishly at times I have asked God, “Why have you placed these rocks in my path, why am I being asked to deal with stubbornness and anxiety?”

His answer, “Elizabeth because you have yet to learn the incredible lessons of love and forgiveness that I have been so desperately seeking to instill in you! Do you honestly think that you are without fault, malleable, secure in my loving plan and accepting of all that I am calling you to be?”

“No, Father… I have much to learn. Yet, I am desperately trying to understand though. Isn’t that good?”

Yes, but you cannot get comfortable with where you are- because I am asking so much more of you. Each of my children has a purpose and a journey. Sometimes this journey leads others to learn from you and other times their purpose is to challenge you to grow.

I have choices in how I encounter others. If my life isn’t rooted in love, patience, and forgiveness, how are others to truly  know Christ through me?  Moreover, our lives are meant to be proof of God’s deep call to a new life, faith that though times get difficult there is hope that our loving Father is working all for good.  This inbreaking of the Kingdom of God isn’t merely an inner journey or a futuristic promise of heaven…but it begins with me today.

Peace,

Signature

Will They Know Us By Our Love?

Over the last few weeks since Pope Francis’ departure, there has been a noticeable divisiveness within the world of Catholic social media. From Ross Douthat’s letter of critique of Pope Francis in the New York Times, to the response of theologians, priests, and Douthat again- we see firsthand a visible polarization. Yet, disagreement and dialogue in and of itself should not be disturbing. For, as Cardinal Dolan has so aptly noted of the most recent synod, “[for] Francis, and those who know better tell me so, that this is part of Ignatian spirituality: a mess, confusion, questions are a good thing.” [1] What is personally disconcerting, however, is the manner in which our discourse is taking place.  Repeatedly, I am seeing a promulgation of an article, or op-ed piece posted on social media in which the dialogue takes on a very ugly, often misinformed and even discriminatory tone having left the realm of discussion altogether.  Quick to respond, we find ourselves at the ready to wage war or nod our heads in agreement when we do not even have a full grasp of the situation.  This is neither productive nor enlightening, which is as I understand it is the goal of honest dialogue. Accordingly, if I might suggest, that we remember in both our virtual and face-to-face conversations the importance of:

Prayer

Before we tweet, post, share or comment let us take a moment to pray. For, if we consider the medium of new media as a tool for evangelization, then I believe, we must address the witness that we are so ready to make accessible to others.  Our online presence then should make our witness to Christ clearer, and the message conveyed expressive of the mercy, love and compassion of our Lord.  Yet, for those times we fail, we are reminded that we are also a “church in constant need of forgiveness” who, through the “sacrifice and self giving” of one another in community, finds strength and freedom from sin.[2]

For those times when I seek to be less than compassionate in responding…Lord help me to see you in others.

Openness

Christianity began in encountering Jesus in community and is a product of dialogue and translation embracing cultural, linguistic and religious differences.[3] For, through St. Paul’s experience we are clearly made aware of the pastoral needs of the community, and the necessary translation in witnessing to the Gentile community. While there needs to be a clear idea of what it is we believe in our expression of Christianity, without error,[4]  this need not encumber dialogue. This past week Fr. Rob Ketchum observed that “we [Christians] are sometimes more aware of what we are against and of what we fear than of what we are for and what we love”. [5]   Fear does not engender strength, or a convincing witness and does not exemplify love. As Pope Francis so eloquently remarked, “unless we train ministers capable of warming people’s hearts, of walking with them in the night, of dialoguing with their hopes and disappointments, of mending their brokenness, what hope can we have for our present and future journey”?[5]

Listening

True listening requires a humility and sincerity to respect one another-to accept change even our own. Few among us embrace change easily and for this reason we tend to romanticize the past.  Yet, if we look back historically, we can readily identify that change and disagreement are nothing new for us as a people of faith. There has been a natural, although sometimes painful, working out of our faith through the many complicated issues that have arisen over time.  Our tradition serves as guide and witness to a wealth of experience expectantly working towards conversion and transformation of the heart and situation to the mission of Christ. If the dialogical engagement is real and substantial then there is always the beautiful possibility that all involved will grow.

When we encounter a position that is different from our own, are we truly seeking to meet it with love or with pride?

While some may view this as naiveté,  I truly believe, that there can be a fruitful sharing and transformation in evangelization when there is openness, humility, and prayerful consideration of one another. This isn’t something to be feared, but as Christians our conversion of heart and mind is to be constant turning and transformation to the Holy Spirit at work in our lives and in the world. Therefore, we ask ourselves, have we as a community grown from our interactions and dialogue with humanity at large? Are we engaging, and responsive to the Holy Spirit at work in the world? This I believe is truly “an ideal which [we] can identify and to which [we] can commit [our]selves with enthusiasm and lasting zeal”.[6]

Peace,

Signature


[1] http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2015/10/15/new-york-cardinal-dolan-sees-light-amid-the-synods-confusion/
[2]Kärkkäinen, Veli-Matti. An Introduction to Ecclesiology: Ecumenical, Historical and Global Perspectives. Downers  Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press: 2002, p. 105
[3] Gaillardetz, Ecclesiology for a Global Church: A People called and Sent.
[4] Pope Paul VI, Dei Verbum,  1965. http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html
[5] Reese, Thomas, “Pope Francis ecclesiology rooted in the Emmaeus story”. National Catholic Reporter. August 2013. http://ncronline.org/news/spirituality/pope-francis-ecclesiology-rooted-emmaus-story
[6] Gleeson, Brian, “Images, Understandings, and Models of the Church in History: An
Update”. Australian E-Journal of Theology, 12. ISSN 1448-6326. 2008

An Engaging Faith: 11/2-11/6

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 The Fransciscan Heart Of Thomas Merton by Fr. Dan Horan, O.F.M(Ave Maria Press) , Trusting God with St. Terese by Connie Rossini 
Drawing runs 10/19-10/25 Click to enter..

How important are contemplation and dialogue in our daily lives?

Jordan Denari  with Interfaith Dialogue and Islamophobia,  Dan Horan, O.F.M joins us with The Fransciscan Heart Of Thomas Merton, Connie Rossini with The Contemplative Family, An Encore of The Ignatian Solidarity Network(ISN)

And Karee Santos to discuss closing thoughts on the Synod of Bishops On The Family 2015.

Monday: Jordan Denari, is a writer, speaker, and Research Fellow for the Bridge Initiative, a project of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University. A voice on interfaith issues, Jordan writes about Islam, Christianity, the Middle East, and Islamophobia. Jordan has published articles in TIME, America, Commonweal, Sojourners, Huffington Post, On Faith, Busted Halo, and other outlets.


Tuesday: Fr. Dan Horan, O.F.M
is a Franciscan friar of Holy Name Province (New York) and is currently a Ph.D. student in systematic theology at Boston College. Fr. Dan has previously taught at Siena College and St. Bonaventure University and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the International Thomas Merton Society. The author of many scholarly and popular articles, Fr. Dan received a 2011 Catholic Press Association first-place award for his writing on spirituality. He is the author of several books, including Dating God: Live and Love in the Way of St. Francis, Francis of Assisi and the Future of Faith: Exploring Franciscan Spirituality and Theology in the Modern World, and The Franciscan Heart of Thomas Merton. In addition to his column in America, Fr. Dan is a regular contributor to Give Us This Day, The Huffington Post and blogs at DatingGod.org. 

Wednesday: Connie RossiniConnie Rossini gives whole families practical help to grow in holiness. She is the author of Trusting God with St. Therese, A Spiritual Growth Plan for Your Choleric Child, and the free ebook Five Lessons from the Carmelite Saints That Will Change Your Life. She writes a spirituality column for The Prairie Catholic of the Diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota, and blogs at Contemplative Homeschool. She is also a columnist for SpiritualDirection.com. Her posts have appeared on Catholic Lane and elsewhere. She administers the Catholic Spirituality Blogs Network and owns the Google+ Community Indie Catholic Authors. Connie and her husband Dan have four young sons.

Thursday: The Ignatian Solidarity Network(ISN): a national social justice education and advocacy network inspired by the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola will be discussing the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice to be held November 7-9 in Washington D.C. ISN was founded in 2004 and is a lay-led 501(c)3 organization working in partnership with Jesuit universities, high schools, and parishes, along with many other Catholic institutions and social justice partners. Executive Director, Chris Kerr and intern Grace Donnelly will be joining us to share their passion for social justice at work in our communities today.

Friday: Karee Santos, will be joining  us again this time to talk about the Synod of Bishops On The Family 2015.. Karee and husband, Manuel P. Santos, M.D., a psychiatrist, began teaching marriage preparation and enrichment classes in New York City in 2003. Their Catholic marriage advice book The Four Keys to Everlasting Love will be published by Ave Maria Press in 2016. She also blogs at Can We Cana? a community to support Catholic Marriages.

Worth Revisiting: God and the Small Stuff

It’s Worth Revisiting Wednesday! A place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link-up with fellow bloggers! Co-Hosted with Allison Gingras at Reconciled To You.

There are so many things that we can pass on to our children, and this is one of my most treasured lessons learned from both my mother and grandmother. Going to, leaning on and petitioning God for even the little things in life is not a lack of trust, but just the contrary. In asking God for help, we trust that from the tiniest concern to the grandest dilemma, that He can work all things for good.


God and the Small Stuff: It’s No Bother, Really.

It’s Monday morning and I have reluctantly left the warm comfort of my bed to embrace the day and week ahead of me. Why reluctantly? It wasn’t as if I had failed to enjoy the weekend, or conversely had enjoyed it so much as to need the added rest. Yet, whatever the reason I needed help, indeed strength to rise and greet the sunrise as it would soon be greeting me. So, I prayed.

“Father, you are indeed so great as to set the world in motion- help set my feet and spirit in motion too towards what I am to do today. Yes, You have my yes…Spirit lead and strengthen me.”

As morning routines have ensued, and I have found space and time for reflection, I am reminded again of God’s constant and faithful promise to always walk beside us. Growing up, I watched both my mother and grandmother go to God throughout their day with the great and small stuff of life. For my grandmother, this time was spent with daily scripture, and silent prayer. If she didn’t know the answer she knew who did and went straight to the source. My mom, though less attentive to scripture reading, found also great humility in her immense dependence on God. With petition and praise she thanked God for the food on the table, the roof over our head and gift of one another each day. Yet, she likewise would pray for good news to arrive, the sun to shine, the rain to stop, peace to come or the strength to endure the day ahead.

With a beautiful gleam in her eye, I was invited to listen to her retelling of the story of working the family’s fields alongside her brothers and sister. As the sun would beat down relentlessly in the heat of the day, exhausted and worn, they would sing and lift up this prayer for rain.

Oh, Let “there be showers of blessing..
This is the promise of love;
There shall be seasons refreshing,
Sent from the Savior above.

Refrain:
Showers of blessing,
Showers of blessing we need:
Mercy-drops round us are falling,
But for the showers we plead.

—There shall be showers of blessing:
Oh, that today they might fall,
Now as to God we’re confessing,
Now as on Jesus we call!

There shall be showers of blessing,
If we but trust and obey;
There shall be seasons refreshing,
If we let God have His way.

Daniel Whittle 1883 (Ez. 34:26; Psalm 115:12; Gen 32:26)

What a gift God has in store for us if we come to him not only with our heavy burdens but also with our daily cares, questions, and humble petitions of the heart! Yet, repeatedly in ministry I hear the contrasting refrain of

Doesn’t God have more important things to do? I wouldn’t want to bother God with the small things..shouldn’t I save my requests when I really need Him?

To which I joyfully answer,

“No. God has nothing better to do than to sit and converse with You! He can move the mountains, calm the seas, guide ships, rescue the lost, and listen to the smallest of prayers. He is God after all.”

Our Father wants to be our friend all along- not just when we are in dire trouble. Today, let’s invite God into our day, into the little things of life..He’s here waiting for us to bid him near.

Father you come to me whenever I call! I know you smile to see me reach for you. And like a loving dad you hold out your arms to guide, encourage and catch me when I stumble. You know how difficult those first steps can be each day, and though our strength may fail..Yours always remains!

Peace, Signature