Friday, June 29, 2007
So.... two great saints and one incredible gadget. On the same day.... Coincidence? Nope. I think this is an opportunity for some serious imagining-ation.
So let's just imagine that these two pillars of the Church had the chance to spread the gospel with the help of the infamous iPhone....
I think St. Peter, bold, often impetuous and quick-tempered, might have picked it up with his callous fisherman fingers and.... dropped it into the sea. End of story.
St. Paul? Here's a different story. Passionate, highly educated, leader of the pack of the Pharisees in his day, slightly neurotic perhaps? He would have LOVED this device. He'd have bookmarked all of the best biblical websites, downloaded stunning maps of the Mediterranean region for his mission trips, and have pie charts on the religious make up of the population of those various pagan communities well before he ever got there! You know it's true!
Now... just when you think this blog is a little goofy, scandalous, anachronistic?... consider this sweet line from Pope Paul VI's letter on technology. That's right, written in 1963 to boot!
“Man’s genius has with God’s help produced marvelous technical inventions from creation, especially in our times. The Church, our mother, is particularly interested in those which directly touch man’s spirit and which have opened up new avenues of easy communication of all kinds of news, of ideas and orientations.”
- Pope Paul VI, Inter Mirifica
And try this one on for size, from Pope John Paul II:
The Internet causes billions of images to appear on millions of computer monitors around the planet. From this galaxy of sight and sound will the face of Christ emerge and the voice of Christ be heard? For it is only when his face is seen and his voice heard that the world will know the glad tidings of our redemption. This is the purpose of evangelization. And this is what will make the Internet a genuinely human space, for if there is no room for Christ, there is no room for man.
- Message for the 36th World Communications Day
The task of Catholics today is not to fear or run from the amazing developments in technology that surround us, but to see them as tools, gifts even, that we can use to spread the Gospel, our faith in Jesus, and the vision we have and hope for of a true civilization of love. Just take a cruise through the Internet, and do a search for Catholic blogs and you will find at least 2,330,000 of them!! Look up Catholic websites on Google and fall down mumbling this astounding digitary figure: 2,250,000!
Now, trust me. As sweet as the iPhone is (or the Blackberry ;), you can't beat the face to face encounter and the power of the quiet witness of faith, in the diner, the grocery store, on the train or the bus, at the movies or the Sunday Mass sign of peace. The rest are just tools, the person before you is the temple where God truly dwells.
"Today it takes no great stretch of the imagination to envisage the earth as an interconnected globe humming with electronic transmissions - a chattering planet nestled in the provident silence of space. The ethical question is whether this is contributing to authentic human development and helping individuals and peoples to be true to their transcendent destiny."
- Archbishop John Foley, former head of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications:
Thursday, June 28, 2007
So the gang is getting ready for today's adventures now, after a nice sleep in and a big honkin' breakfast. Yesterday was a blast at Hershey Park, despite the torrents of rain and lightning that occasionally blew in. The new Boardwalk water park they have is INCREDIBLE! and a perfect thing to do when it's 124 degrees outside. OK, one more pic before we sign off....
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
I will never forget February 28, 1998. That's the day I got in my old Chevy Eurosport wagon with the sweet rims and starting driving, without a clue as to where I was going...
I had just spent 4 years in the seminary; steeped in the Church's rich liturgy, intoxicated by the beauty of prayer, captivated by the teachings of the Catholic Church, discovering brothers in the spirit I never knew I had, from Allentown to Peoria, Alabama to Nebraska, and it was a period of the deepest peace for my restless spirit. I had just earned a Bachelor's degree in Philosophy, and was at the half way point, still a couple years from ordination, when suddenly the bells of peace stopped peeling, and the certainty of seminary life dissipated like incense at evening prayer.
I had always believed that I was in the right place at the right time; that God had surely led me to this place of discernment, and that like Peter on the mountaintop I could say it was truly "good for me to be here." But the end of the seminary, the goal of ordination, was always a little foggy for me. "No worries," I thought to myself (and shared with my spiritual director); "God will lead me then as He is now and always has." And this was affirmed. Isn't it supposed to be like that after all, a daily walk, a day by day as the song goes? We pray every day, "give us this day our daily bread"? But this way is actually harder than it sounds, especially for our culture today, so consumed with having financial security, stability, insurance, overdraft protection! et cetera! The daily bread prayer says don't worry about tomorrow, tomorrow has troubles of it's own (see Matthew 6:26).
God's ways are not our ways, His plans are not the blueprints we would have drafted. His timing is perfect, but it seems our watches just can't sync up with that Divine Clock! After 6 months of prayer, more discernment, spiritual direction, and the advice of good friends, I drove away from the seminary into an unknown future. And I remember looking back and saying "I was born there." That's how good God was to me in that place of community, prayer, and study. And I would suggest to any man who feels the pull to a possible vocation to listen and respond. Who knows where God will lead you?
The daily mass readings this week have been spotlighting our man Abraham. There have been boatloads written about this patriarch, the father of faith. I love Abraham. It was in the midst of my clouds and troubles about leaving the seminary that I first understood just how heroic Abraham really was. Providentially, we were studying Genesis and Abraham's story in one of my graduate courses in the late winter of 1998. Here's a guy who had it all: "Abram was very rich in livestock, silver, and gold." He was quite cozy in the town of Ur and was actually ready for retirement by our standards. Then it got a little foggy for Abe....
The LORD said to Abram: “Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.
The seminary had become a home to me, a place of deep peace and comfort. This should have been the first sign. The seminary is a transitional place, a garden where you grow, but where you must also be uprooted and transplanted into the world. Seminary actually means "seed bed." No one remains a seminarian forever. Some leave as priests, fathers for the flock of God; others leave as better formed men of faith who go on to become husbands and fathers of a domestic church, the family.
We can't stay on the mountaintop, and build a permanent tent to hang out in! That was Peter's mistake on the Mount of the Transfiguration. I suppose I wanted that peace too badly, and ended up trying to grasp it when the thought came that I must let it go.
"Go forth... to a land that I will show you."
Wow, the power of those words. The invitation to journey, to leap, to trust completely. I was scared out of my mind in 1998. But looking back, what a ride! What lessons I've learned, and continue to learn as the Father continues to form me. Our past is such a rich treasure house for us to keep as we move into the future!
So where has He lead you, and where will He lead you still? Do you need to know everything? Do you need the map all drawn out and highlighted for you? Or can you just "go forth" and let God guide you? I certainly struggle with this walk of faith, but I've learned to trust Him all the more; to know just when to move and when to sit back and let go of the wheel. And today I am not alone, but another journeys with me!
I have another date that I will never forget. August 9, 2003. That's the day I found my vocation, my peace and my place. To stand beside a woman of faith who is for me a pure gift, a guide and a companion on this journey. As a husband and we pray soon as a father, I hope to walk this road just as Abraham did; in faith and trust and with wild abandon. In the words of Peter Kreeft "There is one and only one possible road to joy: selfless love." That selfless love is the bottom line for all of us. It gives us the power to launch into His love and the plans He has made for us.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
We love our previous owner. She lives out west now. Our Lansdowne domicile was her home (and previously the home of her mother) dating back to the 1920's! When we came on board, there were still rotary phones in here (weighing in at about 53 pounds each). If I wanted to I could have called Commissioner Gordon anytime I wanted to. I think rotary phones are going to come back on the scene. They just have to! Our phones are too small today. They're as thin as a stick of Juicy Fruit! It's like talking into a toothpick.
There was a story in the paper about a teenager who was talking on her cell phone and it slipped right into her ear canal! (Now she just has to think about sending a text message and pow! off it goes). That's cool and everything, but a rotary phone.... ah! there's a phone you can depend on! Big, bold and brassy, you know just where to find it. And it can hold papers down too..... and small children.
Back to the showerhead...
I figured I would go to a store that would house all of my needs in one convenient location. I knew inevitably that other "needs" would surface (we also "needed" a CD/DVD rack thingee, an alarm clock, and a really cool candle with three, that's right THREE wicks). All of these varied items, I knew deep down, could be found at....
Now here's why I'm blogging about this seemingly mundane experience (mind you, in lieu of this week's Mission Moment, there are NO mundane experiences. See below): from the moment I entered "BED, BATH, AND BEYOND!!" I was greeted and affirmed as a human person. It was down right overwhelming! I'm not referring here to the usual "Have a nice day" that dribbles out of the corner of a cashier's face because THEY WILL BE FIRED IF THEY DON'T SAY IT. I'm talking about, in the midst of this ME ME ME generation, a sincere and selfless concern for.... me..... came flowing out of every employee's soul at
From around every corner of the store, happy and aproned employees were looking me straight in the eye and asking me if I needed anything, if I found everything OK... did I want to sit down and just talk about my needs today. It was amazing. It was refreshing! I was proud to be a consumer! I was no longer a cog in the wheel, just a tiny piece of the puzzle that is the American economy. I was a PERSON! At last!
Maybe that's why they call it Bed, Bath, and... Beyond?
Even as I closed off the purchases with the cashier, I was affronted by extreme measures of kindness:
"Do you have any coupons?"
"Well, no.... I left 'em at home."
"No problem, you can always bring in your receipt later with the coupon and get the refund."
Whaaaaa!!!!! That was so ..... nice.
So just to let you know, dear readers, there is still a place where basic human kindness is practiced. Heck, it flourishes! And in this place you can also pick up a sweet Oxygenics® Five-Star Resort Spa Chrome Fixed Shower Head!
That thing kicks like karate!
This week's Mission Moment:
Holy is the dish and drain, the soap and sink, and the cup and plate and the warm wool socks, and the cold white tile, showerheads and good dry towels and frying eggs sound like psalms, with bits of salt measured in my palm. It’s all a part of a sacrament, as holy as a day is spent...
- Carrie Newcomer
Friday, June 22, 2007
"Ya see that movie, "Blah Blah: Revenge of the Whatever?" "Yeah, we saw it. It was pretty good."
But deep down we thought it stunk. We know Hollywood could do better. Heck, WE could do better! How can we take our kids to stuff like this?
Enter "Evan Almighty"....
Tagged as "a comedy of biblical proportions", I got to see a private screening last night, along with about 300 of my closest friends from all over the tri-state area. Now to be honest, I was ready for cheese. I saw the trailers. I thought the insta-beard thing was weird, and the animals crawling from behind every bush was just a wee bit.... outlandish. I figured this was just another attempt of Hollywood's newly formed Christian Department to toss a bone to believers. "Heck, that Passion of the Christ movie brought them out of the woodwork! Who knew?"
But in the first 5 minutes, I found myself smiling.... impressed.... even delighted. I guess I came in with a pretty arrogant attitude! Granted, we have good reason to be suspect. Most of these films are so generic, so wimpy (going back to George Burns with Oh God I, II, and wasn't there a III? and Bruce Almighty); they're hardly biblical. They're like cream of wheat, or oatmeal. None of the spice of the gospel. And in these films about God showing up as an old man in the 21st century, there never seems to be a real acknowledgement of the fact that He already came, and that God now does in fact have a face: it's Jesus.
So that being said, if you put that aside and meet this film, Evan Almighty where it is.... in the midst of a secular society, grown fat and sluggish with materialist philosophy and capitalism, then it does have a few gems to treasure and timeless truths that ring loud and clear. Here are a few thoughts of mine (please feel free to share your own):
Morgan Freeman is a better God than George Burns, I have to admit. He's just so smooth. And he has a host of great one liners in this film.
(As Evan drives to work, God appears in the backseat of the car and Evan screams at the top of his lungs. Morgan Freeman says "Let it out, son. It's the beginning of wisdom.")
There are powerful lessons about stewardship, self-sacrifice, family love and the place of work sprinkled throughout the movie. Evan learns much as he is literally stripped of an unhealthy preoccupation with himself, and his obsession with being neat. He eventually does choose, albeit almost too reluctantly, to do what God asks of him, even at the risk of losing his job and the affection and understanding of his wife and three sons. He also learns the key to life: a right relationship with God. In their first meeting, Evan asks the Stranger Morgan Freeman, "Do I know you?" and the answer comes "Not as well as I'd like you too." (NICE!)
One of my favorite scenes takes place (OK, spoiler) in a diner between God and Evan's wife. She's despondent and feels like Evan has become unreachable. When a Mysterious Waiter appears, He draws out her sorrow and offers some powerful insights to help her. "When a person asks God for patience," He says to her, "should God just give them patience, or opportunities to become more patient?" "If a person asks for courage, should God just give them courage, or opportunities for them to be courageous?" That's good stuff....
All in all, Evan Almighty is a happy film with plenty of laughs and good lessons for the whole family. It's family, in fact, that ends up being the real treasure here; a treasure that the Baxters almost lost and then found again. The overall message was clear; we ourselves should be faithful, side by side, two by two as it were, loving each other in the simplest of ways; performing Acts of Random Kindness for God and others is how we too can build our own ARK, gather others in, and therefore with Him, change the world.
For a more scrutinizing and in depth review of the film, read Steven D. Greydanus' article here.
Let the earth bless the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever. Mountains and hills, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever. Everything growing from the earth, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever. You springs, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever. Seas and rivers, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever. You dolphins and all water creatures, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever. All you birds of the air, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever. All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever. You sons of men, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.
- Daniel 3:74-82
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Here's a glimpse of the Canadian Rockies from the top of Mt. Whistler!
Hope to have a web album posted by the weekend.
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
- - Bilbo Baggins, Lord of the Rings
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
We've had an amazing time up here in the Great White North. Friday and Saturday we spent in Edmonton, Alberta, at the National Symposium for COLF, the Catholic Organization for Life and Family here in Canada. (Check out the work of COLF for the New Evangelization here: www.colf.ca). There was a good turnout; wonderful people, young and old, men and women, from across the provinces, and even some from the States. Teens and teachers, married and religious, bishops and priests, and the curious as well. Enthusiasm for the Theology of the Body is strong here, and those who heard the late Pope John Paul II's reflections on marriage, sexuality, and the meaning of life were genuinely inspired! We got a good dose of "northern hospitality" and the talk I gave on Friday seemed to be well received!
On Saturday we made our way west to the Canadian Rockies. Jasper National Park was a treasure for the eyes and we found ourselves totally awestruck by the grandeur of the mountains and the brilliant lakes and rivers. Incredible! Can't wait to get back and post some pics!
+ staying at a little log chalet on the banks of the Athabasca River, in the heart of the mountains
+ the wild beast devouring or being devoured and screeching that woke Rebecca up at 2am, as I slept soundly... doh!
+ the sound and fury of the mountain waters rushing over cold stones
+ the color of the lakes and streams here is insane! Rebecca said it was "lac beauvert" (beautiful green).
+ watching black bears (from a distance!) dart across route 93
+ climbing the winding road on the way to Maligne Lake, as Bighorn Sheep grazed along the rocky slopes of the roadside, about 4 feet from our car
+ eating real buffalo... man, that was tasty
+ taking a tram (little red car suspended ridiculously high on thin wires over jagged rocks) up to the top of Mt. Whistler, high above the treeline
+ finding that little church on Sunday and singing the same songs I grew up with 3000 miles away
+ the Icefields Highway that slid through the biggest mountains we've ever seen for hours and hours.... and hours!
So ends a great journey and a wonderful experience of the North! Oh Canada, we'll be back I'm sure!
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless handheld
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
I was asked not long ago to share what I thought might be the three most powerful thoughts to come from a study of Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body (a series of biblical reflections written by the late Pope John Paul II, called "one of the boldest reconfigurations of Catholic theology in centuries." It addresses some of the most fundamental and important questions of human existence!)
Well, here are the three things that continually fill me with wonder and awe, and are daily becoming the tripod on which I stand to view God, Life and Everything in Between...
1. The body is holy.
2. Marriage is an appetizer.
3. God is a Lover.
1. The body is holy.
So many of us grow up being conditioned to think that are bodies are somehow dirty, our desires always sinful, and sex is a guilty pleasure (even among the married!) We seem to forget that it was God Himself Who gave us our bodies! In the beginning, He declared them to be "very good," and the first commandment He gave us was not a "Thou Shalt NOT" but a life-affirming, joyful, and ecstatic exclamation to "Be fruitful and multiply!"
So our bodies are holy, aka unique, set apart, different and wholly one with our souls. Not pieces of luggage our souls are wrapped in until death do us part. Our bodies are destined to share in the glory (or the horror) that is to come. The body is "a unique composite - a unity of spirit and matter, soul and body, fashioned in the image of God and destined to live forever."
They/we are made for a communion, of which marriage is just a little glimmer! It's the sad consequence of sin that has caused a rift in the body/soul harmony. Everyone today, in a hundred different ways, is trying to figure out how to restore the balance.
Our bodies are temples, really. I think we sometimes consider them to more like parish youth centers, or maybe modestly carpeted church basements. But they are TEMPLES! Something beautiful, something theological is expressed in and through our bodies! What is it?
2. Marriage is an appetizer.
The truth is we are made for COMMUNION. And we must become a gift for others in order for this communion to happen. It happens in a spiritual way primarily, but marriage here below gives it the physical sign for us to see, and for many of us, to experience.
Man is meant to become a total gift for woman and woman is meant to receive this gift from man, and then... life comes from the union of the two. This giving and receiving is the great dance, the spousal meaning of our bodies proclaims it. It points to the fact that in the end there will be the final realization of God's plan for humanity and the universe. And that is.... (tadah!)
1. That we sit on clouds and strum harps?
2. We fan God on His Throne with palm branches saying "Yeah God!" ?
No... the final realization is the Wedding Feast of Heaven, when we at last come to see that God wants, not simply for us to follow the rules, be good, clean up our acts.... but above all God wants to MARRY US! Draw us into the Great Embrace of His Triune Love, a love that has ceaselessly been swirling about in the Love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! So marriage here below echoes that hope, gives us a glimmer of the love to come, and offers us even now that mysterious equation found in families: 1 + 1 = 1
One gives to another in love and makes another.... 1 + 1 = 1 and 1 = 3, a family. You've got three persons in one family. Sound familiar? The very mystery of Who God Is is stamped right in our bodies as male and female! We're so much more than biology.... we're biology that speaks a theology, a word about God!
3. God is a Lover.
This word that marriage speaks about God is that He is above all a Lover. Are we ready for this? Even though it is in fact love we all long for, did we ever think that God was the source of this Love? His is more than a Father's love, or a Grandfather's. His is the beginning and end of Love. Look at the saints and mystics..... their prayer became rapture, their hearts were wooed by the Divine. Pope John Paul II said "Prayer can progress as a genuine dialogue of love, to the point of rendering the person wholly possessed by the Divine Beloved, vibrating at the Spirit's touch, resting filially on the Father's heart. This is the lived experience of Christ's promise..." (Novo Millennio Ineunte 33)
WOOHOOOOO!!!! If these truths don't lead your heart to cry out for God and the deepest meaning of your own life, then I don't know what can. So let's trade in any false loves, any counterfeits we've bought into.... and we'll cry out these ancient prayers from the Psalms:
"As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God. My being thirsts for God, the living God. When can I go and see the face of God?" (Psalm 42)
"My soul yearns and pines for the courts of the LORD. My heart and flesh cry out for the living God." (Psalm 84)
Monday, June 11, 2007
Tuesday's Radio Show - The Crusades Revisited: A Cause for Shame or Fame? What's a Catholic to Think?
"The crusades are quite possibly the most misunderstood event in European history. Ask a random American about them and you are likely to see a face wrinkle in disgust, or just the blank stare that is usually evoked by events older than six weeks. After all, weren't the crusaders just a bunch of religious nuts carrying fire and sword to the land of the Prince of Peace?"
- Thomas Madden
Hmmm.... or is there more to this piece of history than meets the eye? This week I'll be interviewing Thomas F. Madden, associate professor and chair of the Department of History at Saint Louis University on the timely topic of the Crusades, a controversial era in history that is getting more and more focus in these days with the War on Terror and radical Islamist groups calling for jihad.
Madden is the author of numerous works, including A Concise History of the Crusades, and co-author, with Donald Queller, of The Fourth Crusade: The Conquest of Constantinople. Visit his website at www.thomasmadden.org
To call into the show with your thoughts or questions.... in the Philadelphia region: 610-527-2906 or outside the Philadelphia region, call toll free: 888-343-2484
Date: Tuesday, June 12
Time: 5pm to 6pm EST @ 800 AM
or live via www.catholicinternetradio.com
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Click for Part Two
"For without the Creator the creature would disappear....
When God is forgotten... the creature itself grows unintelligible."
- Gaudium et Spes, Vatican II
It can get pretty dark when we stay inside our own heads and try to figure out why we're here and where we came from. These questions that we humans have, this seeking out the truth of our origins, it has to be a seeking that is beyond us, above us, bigger than just us. As cozy as it is sometimes to just stay inside, we have to go outside, beyond ourselves to see how Life came about, and where it's headed. And we have to go heedless of the consequences, for truth is the goal and there's no time to stay stuck in our own fabrications.
These questions are scary, beautiful, wonderful, and often disturbing. Inside every question is a quest.... an adventure that we are made to embark upon. This is the road that goes on and on, like the road Bilbo Baggins sang about at the beginning of his great adventure. (Isn't this so much more exciting than that stinkin' television!) We should treasure this question about Who God Is, and look at it closely. When we find Him, we find ourselves.
The question is not without an answer. And the answer is beyond our wildest dreams! It doesn't lie in some primordial pool (although we may have resided there at some point). The answer lies above us, for the Spirit in the beginning hovered over those primordial waters (see Genesis 1). For the animals, the answers, in a certain sense, stay stuck in the pool. That's why they don't stargaze. We received a divine infusion at a key moment in our history, and so we do stargaze, ponder, wonder and contemplate.
Now if we have the humility to simply "look up" (aka ponder, wonder, contemplate) then we can gain some serious headway into the answer to the deepest question about Who God Is. When we want to see something and it lies in the shadows, turning on the light is the logical move to make. So to understand ourselves better, wouldn't it make sense to step into the Light of the Creator?
And Who is it then that comes into focus when we lift up our heads to see? Here we need the help of Revelation to see the full picture. Creation and the human person can teach us much about the objective nature of God, what He is like.... but only God can tell us Who He really is; that's the subjective part. We can know there is a Great Power, a Towering Intellect, a Force behind all things, but what is God like on the inside? God only knows..... and so do those to whom He wishes to reveal Himself! And He has done this. WHOA! God has pulled back the veil! That's the meaning of the Latin word revelare!
So here it is.... and I love how subdued the Catechism of the Catholic Church can be. I would have tossed loads of superlatives, exclamation points, etc. But Mother Church almost whispers this Truth in hushed and reverent tones, like a mother to a child on the morning of his birthday. The fuse is lit in our study and our prayer and our searching, but the explosion of joy can only happen when our faith fans the spark and feeds the flame.
The Church reveals to us that, "God Himself is an eternal exchange of Love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and He has destined us to share in that exchange."
Whoa.... not an old man with a beard, a blind force, a tyrant with thunderbolts, a teacher with a red marking pen or a distant Impersonal Power?
Nope. And we know in our hearts that these are obstructions to the Truth we are made for.
God Himself is an eternal exchange of Love...
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit...
and He has destined us...
to share in that exchange.
I'm stopping here. The seed is laid down in the soil of the soul. When we truly hear what is revealed in this quotation, the time for words ceases.
The heart so shrouded in darkness finally breaks out of the earth and opens at last to the glory of the Son.
For this we were made.
(This is a follow up on last Thursday's post "The Building No One Built")
According to St. Augustine, the two greatest questions we can ask our whole lives long and never get to the bottom of are these:
1. Who am I?
2. God, Who are You?
Now because each of these questions is about a person and not a thing, each question is like a bottomless well or an infinite sky. So to answer the first question, "Who am I?", we have to come to terms with the fact that we can never fully answer it. Hmm.... are we OK with this?
See, we can't spread a person's parts out on the floor and say, "Oh, I get it!" (Besides, that would be nasty. Wordsworth comes to mind "We murder to dissect.") We can take apart a thing, like a lawn mower or a vacuum and spread it out and say "OK, I see how it works." But we can't do this with persons. The animating principle that makes he or she animated is just that.... anemos from the greek for wind, breath, spirit. Spirit is intangible; can't bruise it, can't lose it, slice it or dice it. Spirit is that which is outside the bonds of space and time. We've got this stuff inside us! It's us! It's YOU! Do you even know yourself yet? That's the human journey.
Getting to the heart of "Who am I?" involves getting beyond pure materialism. We're in a different realm now than we were when we looked at the material universe and saw intricate elements of design. Now we're in the realm of persons, you and me; funky composites of mud and spirit, part atom and part angel, in a certain sense. That's us! Pope John Paul II said we're "a unique composite - a unity of spirit and matter, soul and body, fashioned in the image of God and destined to live forever." Now that's cool....
In our quest to really know the world and ourselves, we must get beyond the stuff and up into the personal realm. If we don't ascend, then we've got only half the story. What allows us to even know this truth in the first place is our spirit, our invisible and indivisible soul, empowered with gifts that send us into a quantum leap above the rest of the natural world we're born into.
This accounts for the lack of inquisitive, hoofed mammals in the Borders bookstore, and chickens reading poetry in coffee shops. Animals are not interested in a deeper meaning to life. They feel quite at home here, because this here is their home. But it's not the end for us, ultimately; at least not now and not until the phrase "new heavens and a new earth" comes to be.... This too is coolness...
A SEEMING DIGRESSION.... STAY WITH ME!
I just had the tune from the Greatest American Hero pop into my head.... "Believe it or not I'm walking on air, never thought I could feel so freeheeeeheeee! Flying away on a wing and a prayer.... who could it beeeeeee.... believe it or not it's just meeeeeeee...."
Believe it or not, that was relevant. Our freedom is one of our greatest gifts. So to the question "Who am I?" comes part of the answer; I am free.
Of all the creatures in the universe, it is we alone who are truly free. All else is bound by instinct, and although we humans are most certainly instinctual, we always have the power of our will to rise above those instincts. We can give up our lives for loved ones, and even total strangers. We can will to love, sacrifice, and serve, even when our feelings say "yuck" or "heck no!" We can be heroes!
We can engage in choices that dramatically alter the course of our life and the lives of others. We are self-aware, self-reflective. We can choose between good and evil. Wow. Now this gift comes at a high price. It's priceless actually.
Because this freedom that enables us to become heroes can also lead to our becoming devils.
So.... Who am I?
1. A rational animal, categorically higher that anything else that lives and moves and has its being here below; that proof is in our poetry and our prayer and our power to ponder.
2. A free agent, with one foot on earth and one foot in eternity; masterminds that have the power to dominate, manipulate and pontificate over this world (in the good sense of each of those words). What a task.
3. But we are all the while and always created beings.... and this is the key to a peaceful and grounded and realistic self-knowledge. It's the key to understanding "Who am I?"
Gaudium et Spes (a spiritual karate chop of a document from VII) said it so well, "For without the Creator the creature would disappear.... When God is forgotten, however, the creature itself grows unintelligible."
So... tomorrow.... the question remains: "God, Who are You?"
It can get pretty dark when we stay inside our own heads and try to figure things out. We'll understand ourselves much better when we step into His Light.
Monday, June 04, 2007
My guests this week are Tom Allen, Executive Producer and Director of Champions of Faith, and Mike Piazza, designated hitter for the Oakland Athletics and future hall of famer.
"The Champions of Faith: Baseball Edition on DVD is a groundbreaking film that showcases the intersection of sports and faith in Major League Baseball by profiling many of the most accomplished and devout figures in the game both on and off the field. Major League baseball champions Mike Piazza, David Eckstein, Jeff Suppan, Mike Sweeney, Jack McKeon and Rich Donnelly lead an All-Star line-up in this moving and uplifting sports special that tells the story of faith in baseball like no other film ever made."
Mike's impressive bio can be found at the link below. (He was born in Norristown, PA and grew up in Phoenixville, PA. A local hero!)
To call into the show with your thoughts or questions.... in the Philadelphia region: 610-527-2906 or outside the Philadelphia region, call toll free: 888-343-2484
Date: Tuesday, June 5
Time: 5pm to 6pm ET (2pm to 3pm PT)
Please visit the official "Champions of Faith" website at www.ChampionsofFaith.com
Priest and 3 Deacons Slain in Mosul
MOSUL, Iraq, JUNE 3, 2007 (Zenit.org).- A Chaldean priest and three deacons were shot and killed after Sunday Mass in front of the Church of the Holy Spirit in Mosul.
AsiaNews.it identified the priest as Father Ragheed Ganni, 34, the pastor of Holy Spirit, located in the Nur district of the northern Iraqi city.
Sources told AsiaNews that the bodies lay abandoned on the street today because no one dared to go and recover them, given the tension of the situation.
The news agency reported that attempts on Father Ragheed's life have been made before, and that the Church of the Holy Spirit had been attacked and bombed in previous years, and again a few months ago.
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