Saturday, April 30, 2011

Trivia Question # 1

For our last Spirituality Tuesday meeting (until next fall), we asked two of our Priests and one of our Deacons to answer questions from the audience. The questions were written down as the people arrived, placed into a basket, and then picked out at random to be answered by one of the three men. The questions were interesting, varied, and current, and the answers were given in a thoughtful manner, reflecting the teaching and belief within the Church. Prior to the question and answer period, however, they gave the audience some time to complete a trivia quiz, which we all found to be fun (although a bit intimidating).

During the ILM summer break I'm going to present this Catholic trivia quiz one question at a time, and then give the answer and ask a new question in the next post.

Question # 1: Despite petitions by priests to ban this drink given its Muslim origin, "the devils drink" was approved by Pope Clement VII who found it delicious.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa was edited by Brian Kolodiejchuk, and published by Doubleday in 2007. It was not one of the books assigned for the ILM program but was something I read during the summer of 2009. For me it was a little intimidating to read a book about someone that I've admired for so long. Especially because she had asked that all of her letters and notes be destroyed at her death, partly because she didn't want them to be shared with those that might not understand. She didn't want people losing their way because of her personal trails of faith. It was also because she felt that her work should stand on its own. In fact she would argue that it wasn't her work but God's work that she was doing. Therefor God deserved all of the credit and she shouldn't even be mentioned. I recommend this book to anyone interested in Mother Teresa or her work; it was easy to read, and I found it very interesting.

The jacket says, "During her lifelong service to the poorest of the poor, Mother Teresa became an icon of compassion to the people of all religions; her extraordinary contributions to the care of the sick, dying, and thousands of others nobody else was prepared to look after have been recognized and acclaimed throughout the world. This collection of her writings and reflections, almost all of which have never been made public before, sheds light on Mother Teresa's interior life in a way that reveals the depth and intensity of her holiness for the first time.

This book brings together letters she wrote to her spiritual advisors over decades. A moving chronicle of her spiritual journey, including moments, indeed years, of utter desolation. These letters reveal the secrets she shared only with her closest confidants. She emerges as a classic mystic whose inner life burned with the fire of charity and whose heart was tested and purified by an intense trail of faith, true dark night of the soul.
This historic work reveals the inner spiritual life of one of the most beloved and important religious figures in history. Published to coincide with the tenth anniversary of her death, Mother Teresa is an intimate portrait of a woman whose life and work continue to be admired by millions of people."

Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C. Ph.D. was born in Winnipeg, Canada. He met Mother Teresa in 1977 and was associated with her until her death in 1997. He joined the Missionaries of Charity Fathers at the time of their foundation in 1984. Fr. Brian is postulator of the Cause of Beatification and Canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta and director of the Mother Teresa Center.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Christ Our Light

Dying He destroyed our death
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who
believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.
John 3:16

Rising He restored our life
"I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”
John 11:25

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Summer Break

Well that's it! Our last class was last Wednesday, so the students at the Institute for Leadership in Ministry program are on a well-deserved summer break; or at least it feels well deserved. Although this blog is about the ILM program there will be no classes until next September, so I am going to do something different for awhile and although I'm not exactly sure what that will be I have a couple of ideas. For instance I plan to do some posts on the books that I've read for the various classes (and maybe some that I've read "just for fun"); that is if I can remember how to do a book report.

I think I'm doing a better job of condensing each class into one post and accurately presenting the instructors ideas, although sometimes it still feels incomplete. Transcribing my notes to create these posts and sharing what I've learned at the ILM program has been helpful to me as well. It reinforces the information from the lectures and discussions, and occasionally forces me to do internet searches to fill in the details on some handwritten note (or notes) that don't seem complete anymore. You can imagine that the five or six lectures per class haven't provided enough time to adequately cover each subject.

Everyone including the instructors would like to have more class time, although one person's suggestion to run the program year around seemed a little extreme. The program is well organized, the staff is professional (and friendly), and the training is exceptional. Evidently, the ILM program morphs into something slightly different next year, so stand by. I've been told that during the second year there are fewer lectures and more discussions, and if I understand correctly, more writing is required. Yuck!

Again, please allow me to thank everyone who is reading my blog; His blog, I hope, it's not about me, it's about the One who inspires me daily to be the person I am trying to be. I hope that you are learning something too or at least finding it interesting. My desire is to faithfully reflect my belief in Jesus' love for us, my witness of God's grace in my life, and my understanding of the Catholic Church in the world. Thank you for taking this journey with me, and thanks to those who have commented and assisted me with grammar, etc. I really appreciate the help!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Church Before and After Vatican II - Class 2

The conversion of Constantine to Christianity resulted in 1500 years of struggle within the Church. Actually, we don't really know what it was like before, we can only presume, because nothing was written about the Church because she was "The Church". Nevertheless, there were dramatic differences in the Church after Vatican II. The Church went from a static world view to a dynamic world view and from an anti-historical world view to a historical world view. The anti-historical view that dominated between the Council of Trent and Council of Vatican II is one of the reasons that the Catholic Church had such a hard time adapting. The Church also went from a Neo-Scholastic view to an experiential view. Previous to Vatican II the Church worked from given principles and deduced answers and explanations; thus "God created the world therefore evolution couldn't be possible".

The goal of Vatican II also deviated from the earlier councils of decrees (legal documents) to a more pastoral / internalization of Christianity. The primary characteristic of the Council of Trent was reform, whereas the characteristic of Vatican II was renewal. The defensive mode adopted by the Council of Trent continued until Vatican II. When Pope John XXIII announced the council he said, "Let us now look at ourselves", which was truly a gift from God. It's interesting to note that the Pope wasn't the head of all diocese until the beginning of the Franco Prussian War and after WWII the Church was becoming a World Church, no longer dominated by Western European thought. Bishops from throughout the world attended and participated in Vatican II, and these representatives could be divided into two basic groups; the conservatives insisted on never changing, and the liberals were intent on change without end.

After Vatican II, the Church was not prepared for the rush to make the changes visible, and some feel that unintended results now need to be corrected. Restorationists argue that changes were announced although no guidelines were provided, which led to these errors in implementation. The question for a world church is how can we be many and yet be one, not Western-European-Italian-Vatican, and the rhetoric within the Church profoundly changed in answering this question. The Catholic Church is a world church, no longer Western European; it is the worldwide Church of Christ.

As an example; the Orthodox view of the Church is circular with the Bishop (and God) at the center, while the Roman view of the Church is pyramidal, with the Bishop (and God) at the top. Another example is the new liturgy being introduced this fall. It contains earlier translations from Latin that are not well received within the English speaking Church. The German, Italian, and Spanish speaking world have been using this wording in Mass all along, because it more closely matches the original Latin. Participating in Liturgy, by breaking bread, is how we are Church, and it's how we inspire the faithful to become one heart, in Love.

Mary, the Holy Mother of God, has always been seen as nurturing the Church, so why has this developed as a division between Catholics and Protestants? After Trent there was a conscious effort to emphasize those things that were rejected by the Protestants. It's encouraging to note that integrating Mary in the Vatican II documents was well accepted by Protestants. Another issue is that Protestants have lost the value of repetitive prayer, even though most religions have traditions of repetitive prayer. For Protestants, the ability to make meaning in prayer has become the responsibility of the individual. The opposite of repetitive prayer, however, might be thought of as multitasking. Multitasking is difficult, and few of us are capable of breath in, breath out, be silent, be still. Nevertheless, this difference in style between Protestants and Catholics doesn't necessarily indicate a difference in beliefs. Repetitive prayer is beneficial, as is individual prayer.

Where do we go from here? It would be helpful to go back to Vatican II and see what the documents say, since every Bishop from every diocese in the world came together to create these documents. Truly the Holy Spirit was at work at the council, and each of us must be on our knees for guidance in understanding the result of the council. The Church always needs renewal, just as we humans need renewal. The Church is made up of pilgrims on a journey, and it's obvious that not everyone is a saint. Everything does not revolve around the Church; the church revolves around the Kingdom of God. Something we've learned through hospice workers is that God comes to the dying through the people who are present to the dying. That which is good in me is God's Grace, and that which is bad in me is my fault. Sometimes it's important to look not just at the painting but to the light shining on the painting, so it is for the Church, we can't just look at the Church we must look to Christ who is the light of the world.

All models are valid! The model of the Church as Servant to the world didn't exist in the early Church because the early Church expected the eminent return of Jesus. Only after 70 AD and the destruction of the Temple did the Church as Servant become important. The model of the Church as the Body of Christ is very old: Catholics and non-Catholics have to understand that the Liturgy of the Word is important. Sacrament as a model for the Church didn't emerge until post WWII, it sees the Church as a symbol, a visible sacrament that points to some reality beyond itself; that is God. It recognizes that the Holy Spirit "blows in other winds" and that God's Grace is present in other places. This is unlike the medieval idea of Sacrament, in which the sign itself was the thing itself. Today the idea of unity of all things in Christ encourages us to believe that the Church does not equal Kingdom; instead the Church is within the Kingdom.

Where do we go now? It's time for a renewal of the process of renewal, of not being afraid to take risks or of trusting others; it's learning to trust the Holy Spirit. God does not want us to be flawless, yet despite our flaws we must always place Christ at the center of our lives. It’s time to worry less about our relationship with other churches, and worry more about our relationship with the secular world. One thing unique about our culture is that people no longer leave the commitment of one community to join another community, today people are leaving the commitment of one community and not joining any other community. No culture has run from death like ours in the present day. People no longer see or value their connection to the past, but instead they are abandoning the historical, while at the same time the Church is becoming reconnected with its history. The Church must continue to learn how to renew its future by continuously revisiting its past. We must make the Church welcome and open to everyone.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Stand Up

I was introduced to standing stones during one of my classes. Although we're all fairly familiar with what they are (think Stonehenge) I hadn't considered it beyond that context. Standing stones are found everywhere, including in the United States. Standing Stone State Park, in Tennessee, is the site of a rustic park noted for its scenery, wildflowers, and fossils. It takes its name from an 8 foot rock standing upright which was supposedly used as a boundary line between two separate Indian nations. In the ancient world, the practice of standing up very large stones to commemorate events was fairly common, and it is fairly common in the Bible as well.

In the Old Testament, Jacob set up stone pillars at Bethel in order to remember his powerful dream, in which God reaffirmed his covenant with him (Gen. 28:18—21, 35:14—15). Moses built twelve standing stones at the foot of Mount Sinai, after receiving the Ten Commandments and other laws (Ex. 24:2—4). The Israelites erected standing stones to remember their miraculous crossing of the Jordan River (Josh. 4:2—3, 8—9). Joshua built another standing stone when the covenant was renewed at Shechem (Josh. 24:27).

In the New Testament, Peter builds on the standing stone imagery when he describes believers as "living stones" (1 Peter 2:5). Although this passage goes on to compare believers to stones that are shaped and cut by builders, Peter probably wanted his readers to think of themselves as living standing stones as well. Peter's words challenge us to be living, not silent, standing stones. We can and should testify to the amazing things God has done for us.

Today, although the standing stones at Tel Gezer still look tall and impressive, their meaning is lost. The stones cannot speak for themselves, obviously, and there are no living witnesses to explain what happened there in ancient days. God placed the children of Israel at the crossroads of the world for a reason. He wanted his people to influence their culture, and he wanted them to become living standing stones, a testimony of his love and power to the pagan world. If we faithfully obey God we will be like standing stones, and non-believers will notice that our lives are different; But if we fail to explain why we're different we become ineffective, like the silent stones of Gezer. God still wants his children to stand at the crossroads of life. He wants us to live so publicly that we shape and control the areas of life that impact our world. God has placed each of us in a sphere of influence, and no matter how large or small that influence may be, we can act in a way that shows others "the Lord is God".

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Church Before and After Vatican II - Class 1

The Council of Trent (16th century) is considered to be one of the most important councils of the Church. It enacted pastoral reform to care for people, improved the education of Priests, and reformed the hierarchy the Church. It's precepts continued up until Vatican II, and everything was seen "in the light of Trent". What happened in the 19th century flowed into the 20th and 21st century church.

Ultra Montane means "beyond the mountains", and Pope Pius IX was the first Pope with a worldwide influence. In the time of Pius IX, it would have been impossible to separate political and theological responsibility within the church. He was a Marian Pope who promulgated the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, which helped to re-establish his political power by re-establishing his religious power.

The Syllabus of Errors was a document issued by the Holy See under Pius IX, which was made up of phrases from earlier papal documents and was presented as a list of "condemned propositions". Not intended to be a public document, it was divided into ten sections which condemned as false various statements relating to various topics. Basically, it condemned everything secular, and was met with mixed reception among Catholics and Protestants alike.

Pope Pius IX was the last pope who was also a secular ruler as monarch of the Papal States. As sovereign-ruler of the Papal States, he ruled over 3 million people and conducted diplomatic relations with other states, the most important of which was Italy, which in 1870 ended the independent Papal States and reduced the papacy to a spiritual force. This radically influenced how the Church saw itself and how it related to society.

Between 1870 and 1920 very little theology was being done in the Catholic Church because Catholics believed they already had the answers. During this time Catholic scholars would begin with an eternal truth and then search for texts to support that truth. Nevertheless how theology was being done was beginning to change, and various authors were writing books that expanded theological study. In the early 1900s Pope Pius X declared Modernism to be a heresy. The primary criticism of Modernism was that it prohibited the use of experience in theology. Another idea that had led to misunderstanding was Neo-Scholasticism, which suggested that "priori eternal truths" could be applied to any study or belief.

Odo Casel was a Monk who spent the greater part of his monastic life as a Chaplain to a community of Benedictine nuns. Yet from this obscure monk issued what Cardinal Ratzinger called, "perhaps the most fruitful theological idea of our century". Casel is credited with giving the strongest impulse of anyone to the sacramental theology of the 20th century, when he said, "When you participate in the breaking of the bread you participate in the death and resurrection of Christ". Although a common understanding today, it was shocking at the time.

Prior to the Second Vatican Council (1962 - 1965) theological and biblical studies of the Catholic Church had begun to sway away from the Neo-Scholasticism and biblical literalism that the reaction to Modernism had enforced. This shift could be seen in theologians who looked to integrate modern human experience with church principles based on Jesus Christ. Other theologians promoted an accurate understanding of scripture and the early Church Fathers as a source of renewal. Theology is within us because it begins with the experience of grace.

The # 1 change of the 20th century was in understanding the real meaning of history. In the West we see time as linear; we believe that God speaks to man within and through history. However, before Vatican II there was an idea that the Church was above man's time line, and not affected by time. It described itself as "the perfect society". After WWI Bible scholars began to re-evaluate this understanding and came to realize that the Church (and theology) was in fact integral to the experience of history itself. The experience of WWI forced theology to change, and the # 1 change was a realization that theology had always been historical in nature. We began to understand that you can't just look at the world around you; you must look at the lens through which you see the world.

In the 16th century the Church was defensive, and by the 19th and 20th centuries the Church was radically reformed. When the Church Fathers gathered for Vatican II they had been reading the books of authors such as Karl Rahner, Schillebechx, and Semmelroth, and others such as Emile Mersch, Yves Congar, and Heuri de Labac. With this dramatic shift in background, Vatican II was presented with a radically different perspective. It reversed the earlier misunderstandings and changed everything. Three of the areas that changed were: 1) Biblical scholarship, 2) Fathers of the Church, and 3) Liturgy.

Before Vatican II true Biblical scholarship was being led by Protestants, and after Vatican II Catholics quickly caught up. They also rediscovered the Fathers of the Church, and pastoral renewal of the Liturgy improved with lay involvement and participation. After Vatican II, tradition was no longer seen in the light of Trent; Trent was now seen in the light of Tradition, and Tradition itself was no longer seen as unchangeable.

Before Vatican II, Pope Pius XII published an encyclical titled "Mystic Corporis Christi" (On the Mystical Body of Christ) which began, "The doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Church, was first taught us by the Redeemer Himself". Although rejected at the time, after Vatican II the Church no longer described itself as the perfect society, but now identified itself as the Body of Christ.

It only took 500 years to write a document on the nature of Christ, and it took another 1500 years to write a document on the nature of the Church.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Man Remembered

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. believed in a nation of freedom and justice for all, and encouraged all citizens to live up to the purpose and potential of America by applying the principles of nonviolence to make this country a better place to live. He was a vital figure of the modern era and a pivotal figure in the Civil Rights Movement. His lectures and dialogues stirred the concern and sparked the conscience of a generation. His charismatic leadership inspired men and women, young and old, in this nation and around the world. While Dr. King preached about justice, empowerment, love and peace, in the final months of his life, his attention was turned to fighting poverty.

Dr. King was shot while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee and died on April 4, 1968. His sermon, from the day before was titled “I’ve Been To the Mountaintop”, which included these words; “Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop and I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will, and He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight, that we as a people will get to the Promised Land. And I’m happy tonight; I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

The movements and marches led by Dr. King brought significant changes in the fabric of American life through his courage and selfless devotion, which gave direction to thirteen years of civil rights activities. His concept of “somebodiness,” which symbolized the celebration of human worth and the conquest of subjugation, gave black and poor people hope and a sense of dignity. His philosophy of nonviolent direct action, and his strategies for rational and non-destructive social change, galvanized the conscience of this nation and reordered its priorities. His wisdom, his words, his actions, his commitment, and his dream for a new way of life are forever intertwined with the American experience; and for that, we are forever grateful.