Saturday, June 02, 2007

Gone again!

I will be leaving tomorrow, June third, for a vacation and won't really return until the fifteenth. I make a brief pass through next Sunday for a mass for the good people of Sts. Peter and Paul in Gilbert Iowa before starting three days of priests' convocation. I will do my best to update my blog but don't count on much until I get back. Then you'll all be blown away at how exciting and fresh my ideas will be!

That in all things God may be praised.

Spirit of Wisdom, wisdom of Father and Son

Who would you say is a truly wise person? Stephen Hawking? Probably most of us would agree that Stephen Hawking is truly wise. Despite his tremendous physical limitations, he is a world-renowned theoretical physicist complete with a type of radiation named after him that comes from black holes, as well as other scientific contributions. Of course, I’ve never met Stephen Hawking before so I don’t know that first hand. And, especially in this academic community, we know that there are people who intelligent who may not be very wise. There are, after all, different kinds of knowledge out there. Some people are incredibly book smart but not very street smart or vice versa. Someone may be very good with managing money but have no knowledge of how to take care of cars and property. And there’s always that academic that could wax on poetically about any subject you could ever want to know about but is such a jerk that you don’t even want to talk to him. I imagine we all have our strengths and weaknesses when it comes to knowledge and the appropriation thereof. And, I may even go so far as to say that we all believe that our knowledge plays a very important part, if not the most important part, in making this world run smoothly and that, if more people just cared about the knowledge that we care about, the world would be a better place.

One of the traits that characterized the renaissance that, I fear, has been lost today was a sense of continuity in knowledge. In other words, if something was true for theology then it necessarily must be true for natural science. And, if something was true for sociology, then it must be true for law and theology and political science. And so forth. All too often, in contemporary civilization, either points of disagreemtn are seen as irreconcilable and, therefore, points of multiple truth or divergent sides of a chess match in which people must choose as to which competing truth they will believe. Either you are pro-evolution or pro-creation and never the twain shall meet. This view is not only myopic and unsatisfactory but it gives into a kind of hopelessness that politicians thrive on.

On this Trinity Sunday, the church attempts an answer to this conundrum of conflicting comprehensions. Last week, we spent some time talking about the Holy Spirit and the personal gifts She gives to individuals. Today we reflect on the gifts that She gives to all of creation, to believers, and to the church. I refer to the Holy Spirit in the feminine today because of the first reading from Proverbs which images wisdom as a woman. She was God’s first creation before anything else and, in the chapter previous to the one we heard, provided the Lord with a blueprint for the earth. It is the Holy Spirit who is begotten, or “possessed” to use the biblical image, by God and is portrayed as wisdom dancing before God to his delight. While this is probably a little too anthropomorphic for modern sensibilities, it speaks about the nature of the relationship of Father and Spirit that pre-exists the creation of human beings and exists as the basis of wisdom.

The Spirit is operative in the lives of believers because, according to the second reading, we who have faith have been given peace through Christ. This wisdom can seem to contradict the wisdom of the world in what it prizes. The world will tell us to look for what is comfortable and easy and the wisdom of the Spirit will tell you to find the peace of Christ amidst the trials and troubles of this world. We find our hope in Christ Jesus and the peace that he offers to us in the chaos of his death and resurrection. The wisdom given to the believer is faith regardless of the wisdom of the world that seems to stress comfort, safety, and security above all else. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not giving into the very multitude of truths that I’m positing do not exist inasmuch as acknowledging that, we who have been given faith and have appropriated that faith into our lives, are going to have certain expectations placed upon us in this life. This is not denying the continuity of wisdom inasmuch as acknowledging a multiplicity of ways that the Spirit expects us to respond to that wisdom.

As we hear in the gospel, all wisdom comes from God through Christ by the Holy Spirit. The wisdom that we receive was why Christ came into this world; to impart his wisdom to us, and to give glory to God through his wisdom. The Spirit, the giver of wisdom, will guide the church and enlighten the disciples to a fuller understanding of Christ, therefore giving glory to Christ. Thus, all wisdom comes, not from us, but from the Holy Spirit.

This demands a certain kind of humility, therefore, for all people and especially for the intellectual community. We cannot look at wisdom as something that we have to the exclusion of others. True wisdom has been given to us to use to the glory of God. If we are honestly discovering truths, we are learning more about God and God’s creation. It should put us into a greater relationship with the human community, not a lesser one, and call us into greater service of one another. I mean, after all, one of the most shocking things that we have learned in the last 2000 years is that God, who is one, is in a relationship of persons within the unity of himself. If even God, in this unity, is in a relationship of persons, we must see wisdom, the gift of the Spirit, as forcing us into relationship with one another.

Friday, June 01, 2007

lectio continua finale

So, after two comments, some email suggestions, and some thoughts on my own here is the final list.

1. Rule of Benedict (my spiritual father)
2. Apostolic Fathers (St. Ignatius, St. Justin Martyr, St. Iraneus, St. Clement, St. Cyprian)
3. The Apostolic Tradition of Hypolotus
4. The Prophets/Sabbath by Abraham Joshual Heschel
5. Documents of Vatican II
6. One of the many documents of John Paul II
7. Summa Theoligica by St. Thomas Aquinas

Now I just have to remember each day to find three minutes and do this. It's the snail method of reading them.

The "profesionalization" of priesthood

On retreat, I had the opportunity to reflect on the ramifications of having priests who are thought of as a professional. There are obvious positives but there are also negatives. In the wake of the priesthood sexual abuse crisis, it probably seems to make sense to be more professional. To talk about "boundaries" and the importance of privacy.

But, there have been movements to make the church look more like IBM than Jesus Christ and that concerns me. Christ didn't tell us that we only need to take up our cross during office hours. In fact, in the gospel of Mark, it becomes clear that those times that he most wants a break are the times that he doesn't get one. And, he calls his disciples to not want to take breaks but to pour out one's life for one's friend.

Boundaries are safe and, for some, they are incredibly important things. But, they can also shield us from being "Father" or "Sister" and turn our celibacy into the bachelorhood. I think we need to look into our history before we move too quickly on this.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


I got these from a friend several months ago and I just found them again. They cracked me up. Anyone know who deserves credit?

lectio continua

My spiritual Director during my retreat, Fr. Adam Ryan, told me about a Benedictine tradtion known as lectio continua, of which a person has several things that he reads small sections for the rest of his life. He divided it up in two different ways.

S 7 (or scripture seven) which I intend on doing exactly the way he does it.
1 Torah/Pentateuch
2. Historical writings
3. Wisdom writings
4. Prophets
5. Gospels
6. Pauline writings
7. Non-Pauline, non Gospel New Testament writings

A 8 (or Adam eight)
1. Rule of Benedict
2. Life of Anthony
3. Sayings of Desert Fathers
4. Philokalia
5. Apostolic Fathers
6. Térèse of Lisieux
7. Thomas Merton
8. Something else he couldn't remember

I don't think I'll use his eight. I've come up with the D7...but here's where I need your help...
1. Rule of Benedict (my spiritual father)
2. letters of Ignatius of Antioch
3. The Apostolic Tradition of Hypolotus
4. The Prophets/Sabbath by Abraham Joshual Heschel
5. Documents of Vatican II
6. One of the many documents of John Paul II
7. ?????

I NEED YOUR HELP!!! I can't think of a seventh reading and you cannot end on six. Six is the number of incompleteness! It is the number after five and before seven. It's a passing note. It would be like ending a symphony on the fourth in a chord...the world and my prayer needs resolution. So, either email me and offer a suggestion or leave it in the comments section below. I'll announce the winner this Friday so your time is limited!

Pope visits "bad parents"?

If I am right (and I've been wrong before), Pope Benedict agreed to visit two parents who routinely locked their kids in their Portuguese hotel while they went out to party at night. I think I'm correctly connecting this story with an earlier one that I read, but I can't find the original one. I heard that they left their four year old in charge of her two two year old siblings for thirteen days in a row. And that they were surprised whey they came back and she was abducted. If I'm wrong on this, let me know and I'll pull this post. But, if I'm right, while I feel nothing but sadness for little Madeleine McCann, I can't help but think that her parents' sort of had it coming. It was just a question of time.

I hope the Pope uses his time to not only tell them that he will pray for them but to gently scold them for being so lax in protecting their kids. I'm sure there are cultural differences but I can't imagine a culture where a four year old can really take care of two two year old kids for any length of time. A four year old can't take of herself. How can she deal with two crying babies?

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Spirit's gifts

I preached this weekend about how the Spirit is connected with Ascension. After the Ascension of the Lord in Luke last weekend the Apostles were sent by our Lord to the upper room to wait. Today, they are sent out. This is the life of the church, like lungs. We gather (breathe in) and scatter (are sent out) all in the name of Jesus. The Spirit does both. But, the Spirit doesn't just scatter us with nothing. He gives each of us individual gifts just as he has given the church specific general gifts. Our responsibility is to discern what gifts we have been given and then use them to build up the body of Christ.

I was fortunate in my little country parish to be able to use an image in a stained glass window of the Holy Spirit as a dove descending. I told them that that image was put there to remind us each time that we gather (inhale) that the Spirit is what gives us gifts, helps us understand how to use them and sends us forth.

Now I have a complete day to finish reading Pope Benedict's Jesus of Nazareth last two chapters. What an incredible book. This is a man of profound trust that the church hasn't been misled constantly. He offers us hope that the Spirit is really leading us and won't lead us astray.