Monday, June 29, 2009

Peter versus Mary

Does the Church believe that men are better than women? Why can't women be priests? When is the Vatican going to break free of this outdated patriarchal system of "government" and get with the times?

Hmmm. On this feast day of Sts. Peter and Paul, the rocks on which the Church was built, I wonder if in certain circles, these questions aren't stirred up again with new ardor.

The mystics tell us that there are two dimensions to life, two movements of the heart, two approaches to reality and spirituality. They are as big and as cosmic as Earth and Sky, Sun and Moon, Masculine and Feminine. They are the Petrine Way and the Marian Way.

Many of us tend to plod along in our faith journey following the Petrine Way; named after St. Peter, impetuous, lovable, "open mouth insert foot" Peter. It is active, leaps ahead, goes, grabs, speaks with passion and is a very productive way, no doubt. Generally speaking, it has masculine characteristics. To get closer to God, I'm going to "do" this or that.... get involved in a group, knock on doors, do the stations every day, read the entire Bible in a year, etc. It springs forth from us, from our initiative.
There's nothing wrong with it. It's the active branch of the Active/Contemplative paradigm that makes up the Christian Way of life. In the Martha and Mary gospel story, this is Martha.

But it is not the only way to live in the Spirit that God has poured into our hearts. In fact, the primordial way, the first way, the fundamental posture for those who thirst for the Holy Spirit is the Marian Way, modelled after Mary, the Mother of Jesus. This in fact, is the "better part" that Martha's sister chose, and Jesus said it shall not be taken from her. This Way is receptive, it waits, receives, is still. It listens to Words and contemplates the Word. By no means, incidentally, is it to be confused with passivity. This is (paradoxically) an active listening, and eager expectation that the Gift of God should be done unto me, should be given unto me! This Way leads to our being filled with God.

Mother Teresa knew this well. She said only the heart that is empty can be filled. The receptive heart is empty of agendas, aggressive opining, over analyzing. It is essentially feminine. And the saints and mystics say that in relation to God we are all of us feminine...

Guys, this is NOT an affront to our manhood. It simply means that God is Creator, we are creature. It means God (Who is neither male or female) is essentially "masculine" - He initiates, He gives, He impregnates, and we respond, we receive, we are filled with the seed of His Divine Life.
So who's "better" - man or woman? Well, no answer really. Both are creatures equal in dignity, called to respond, receive, conceive the Divine Life. But at the same time, Peter's shining moments did come to him when he was essentially "receptive" - when he stopped talking and started taking in what God was saying to him.
Jesus said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
It seems clear that in that moment, Peter "looked up" - he opened his mind and heart and received that Word from the Father. This was Peter's Marian moment. Perhaps this is why Pope John Paul II called Mary the icon of all humanity, and called for a rediscovery of the "feminine genius" in our times.... our overly productive, aggressively masculine times. Why he called woman God's masterpiece.
Just some thoughts to shed light on more questions. We need both ways, but the foundation lies in the feminine. Let's ponder this one some more today. Am I first a receiver of God's gifts? Or do always make the first move, on my own, from my own strength, my own agenda?
"Only those who have learned to remain with Jesus, are ready to be sent by Him to evangelize."
- Pope John Paul II

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Keep On Keepin' On

I think we can all relate to this. What a comfort to see the others who've "failed" somewhere along the line too, only to get back in there and fight! Endurance, persistence, and perhaps a little stubbornness can make all the difference in the world. This also reminds of the line from Neil Diamond's "Done Too Soon." (I know, I know... you never realized how much we can get out of Neil D. huh?) He lists a vast array of people from throughout history and connects them all with this moving verse.... And each one there Has one thing shared: They have sweated beneath the same sun, Looked up in wonder at the same moon, And wept when it was all done For bein' done too soon, For bein' done too soon....
Let's take a look today at the faces around us and beside us, family, friends; at the faces plastered on billboards and magazines and on the silver screen if we catch a movie this weekend. Are we any different on the inside? Are we not all seeking the same things in the end? Did we not all begin the same way, fumble, falter, feel at some point alone, abandoned, rejected, amazed, dazed, captured and captivated by this Journey called Life? We have more in common than we think. We are called to be one; one amazing, holy, and happy communion of persons! The only thing that can separate this is sin. The only thing that can keep us from finding ourselves is the refusal to give ourselves as a gift to each other!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mission El Salvador

I had the chance to upload some images from a mission trip to El Salvador from 2001. I can't believe it's been that long. Some of the faces and places I encountered on this trip are still very fresh in my memory. There is nothing like the experience of crossing that bridge, entering into another's existence, and just being with them. The time I spent was very brief, but I will never forget it! Thanks to Maryknoll missioners Tim and Ellen O'Connell and Marybeth Gallagher for their hospitality and for their passionate witness to mission!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sea and Believe

I love the ocean. It helps me believe in things much larger than me. Transcendent things, eternal things; Beauty, Peace, The Oneness. Ultimately... God. Standing before the sea this morning, here in cloudy/sunny Sea Isle City, I had a physical encounter with a spiritual truth. The sea became a channel of grace. And that's the definition of a sacrament, in a very broad sense. I wasn't alone either. Other daily communicants were gathering for this celebration of the sun, rising in benediction over the new day. Does this sound scandalous? Let's recall that the world was God's first church, or Temple, as the Hebrews saw it. In the beginning, we were all priestly in our vocation of praise and worship to the One Who fashioned it all from nothing. We've spent two nights here and are leaving soon. So I had my farewell coffee sitting in the sand, while Rebecca and the wee lad slept. I snapped this picture with the phone, then just stared and listened for a while as the slow, rhythmic beat of the heart of the sea came into me. Ponderings... Who was the first ancient soul to build a craft and seek to cross this watery road to the world's edge? That took some guts. What is it about the lapping up of water on sand, endlessly, that stirs me, invites me, into endless peace? I truly believe we're drawn to the sea because God is still speaking through it; His first sacramental encounter with us. He sings through it's salty symphony, He shines in the sun!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Open Up and Say "Awe"

"Entrances to holiness are everywhere. The possibility of ascent is all the time. Even at unlikely times and through unlikely places."
- Bamidbar Rabba
Our little boy is captivated by absolutely everything. He is nine months old; his little eyes are brand new, his tiny ears are brand new, and his little soul is like a sponge absorbing EVERYTHING.
We watch in amazement as the little nuances of sunlight on a wall capture his attention, or the corners and colors of his toy blocks become like the facets of a diamond in his hands. The other day, he amused himself with a plastic cup for about 15 minutes, turning it over and over again in his fingers, crinkling it, bending it, chewing on it. It was hilarious too watch, and humbling at the same time. Humbling that something so ordinary could capture his attention for so long...
Our little boy is teaching us as parents, with our 30 something eyes and ears and hearts, to see everything as if fresh from the Hands of God. These are the days of living wonder for him... and for us.
Catholics are back in "Ordinary Time," liturgically speaking, but beware... this is just when the most extraordinary things can happen. With the coming of the Holy Spirit, I think we're given the power to see things in their true light, finally.
Our boy is still dripping with the waters of Baptism; he can see. But with the gift of the Spirit, we too can "see." Finally, the veil of mediocrity, of ennui, of agenda, or mere utility (only seeing a thing as a thing for our use) is pulled away. The Spirit is our Divine Physician making a house call, inviting us to open up our mouths and say "awe." To be captivated again. Behold! The world is full of gratuitous beauty! Faces, places, colors, sounds take on all the freshness which they had for us when we were young and the world was new.
Further, we can with the gift of the Holy Spirit go into those places we once feared the most; the inner depths of our own hearts, those locked rooms, those shadowlands that we thought we're unapproachable by anyone, including ourselves, let alone God. Now, He whispers, let's "lower our nets for a catch." And He says, "Fear not," reminding us that we are truly called to be like little children, and that He Who Is Our Father will take us into those places by the Hand.
May God grant us "old heads" the grace to become little again. To rediscover everything, to see every object and every subject, every thing and every person as a gift from the Hands of the Father. From the ordinary and mundane to the extraordinary and sublime...
"To see the miraculous within the ordinary is the mark of highest wisdom." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Academic Meets Evangelist... Dr. Michael Healy's Response to Christopher West

Christopher West: A Von Hildebrandian’s Perspective
"As professor of philosophy at Franciscan University of Steubenville, I have been teaching a course on the nature of love, using Von Hildebrand, Wojtyla, Pieper, and Kierkegaard (among others) for nearly three decades. I have known of Christopher West’s work more indirectly through the decidedly good influences his works have had on my children. However, this past Wednesday, June 3, I got the chance to finally meet Mr. West. It was my privilege to put on a joint presentation with him on purity and sexuality sponsored by the Personalist Project. Nearly two hundred were in attendance, including a great many young people, most I’m sure drawn by the prospect of hearing Christopher—who is a bit more well-known than I...." Read on here at the Personalist Project website...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Two Towers - Boy Wonder Returns!

Yes, clearly I DO have too much time on my hands.... I'm a teacher who's off for the summer. What'd ya expect? Enjoy the second installment of the Tower of Binky... the Two Towers! (Coming soon, Return of the Binky!)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Poet Michelangelo

I just stumbled on this moving passage from a poem (yes, he was a poet too) of Michelangelo's. Listen to the strain in his heart's voice as he looks beyond the veil of earthly life to what lies just where the horizon tips. Incredibly moving! The course of my long life hath reached at last, In fragile bark o'er a tempestuous sea, The common harbor, where must rendered be Account of all the actions of the past. The impassioned phantasy, that, vague and vast, Made art an idol and a king to me, Was an illusion, and but vanity Were the desires that lured me and harassed. The dreams of love, that were so sweet of yore, What are they now, when two deaths may be mine, - One sure, and one forecasting its alarms? Painting and sculpture satisfy no more The soul now turning to the Love Divine, That opened, to embrace us, on the cross its arms.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Three is the Magic Number

The following is taken from Pope Benedict's address on this Feast of the Holy Trinity:
Today we contemplate the Most Holy Trinity as it was made know to us by Jesus. He revealed to us that God is love “not in the unity of a single person, but in the Trinity of a single substance” (Preface): the Trinity is Creator and merciful Father; Only Begotten Son, eternal Wisdom incarnate, dead and risen for us; it is finally the Holy Spirit, who moves everything, cosmos and history, toward the final recapitulation. Three Persons who are one God because the Father is love, the Son is love, the Spirit is love. God is love and only love, most pure, infinite and eternal love. The Trinity does not live in a splendid solitude, but is rather inexhaustible font of life that unceasingly gives itself and communicates itself. We can in some way intuit this, whether we observe the macro-universe: our earth, the planets, the stars, the galaxies; or the micro-universe: cells, atoms, elementary particles. The “name” of the Most Holy Trinity is in a certain way impressed upon everything that exists, because everything that exists, down to the least particle, is a being in relation, and thus God-relation shines forth, ultimately creative Love shines forth. All comes from love, tends toward love, and is moved by love, naturally, according to different grades of consciousness and freedom. “O Lord, our Lord, / how wondrous is your name over all the earth!” (Psalm 8:2) -- the Psalmist exclaims. In speaking of the “name” the Bible indicates God himself, his truest identity; an identity that shines forth in the whole of creation, where every being, by the very fact of existing and by the “fabric” of which it is made, refers to a transcendent Principle, to eternal and infinite Life that gives itself, in a word: to Love. “In him,” St. Paul says, on the Areopagus in Athens, “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). The strongest proof that we are made in the image of the Trinity is this: only love makes us happy, because we live in relation, and we live to love and be loved. Using an analogy suggested by biology, we could say the human “genome” is profoundly imprinted with the Trinity, of God-Love.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Beauty as Teacher

This is a word from the late, great Pope John Paul II. I was scrolling through some old drafts for the blog and found it. As the summer begins to dawn upon us, and we plan our getaways, let's give this one some fertile ground in the heart, and keep our eyes open to such graced moments!
"It is evident that nature, things, people, are able to cause astonishment because of their beauty. How is it possible not to see, for example, in a sunset in the mountains, in the immensity of the sea, in the features of a face something that is attractive and, at the same time, compels one to know more profoundly the reality that surrounds us?.... Truth is perceived in the beautiful, which attracts to itself through the unmistakable fascination that springs from great values. Thus feeling and reason find themselves radically united in an appeal addressed to the whole person. Reality, with its beauty, makes one feel the beginning of the fulfillment and seems to whisper to us: 'You will not be unhappy; the desire of your heart will be fulfilled, what is more, it is already being fulfilled."

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Tower of Binky!

Well, what can I say? Give me a half day of school and a free afternoon while Rebecca runs some errands... and you get this piece of cinematic delight! Me and the Boy gettin' silly!

Talking to Your Little Ones About the Big Topic of Sex

A much repeated sentence we hear at our Theology of the Body retreats and courses is "I wish I heard this when I was younger!" ...