Saturday, November 23, 2013

Reflections on an Atheist's Prayer

As a person of faith, it can be frustrating to intellectually engage  with atheists as their attitude is often smarmy, zealous, intolerantly proselytizing anti-religion.   So it was a pleasure to come across a post by "The Irish Atheist", who had converted his horror of the war in Syria to compose "An Atheist's Prayer".  

In reproducing this creedal cri-de-couer, a bit of the phrasing has been modified to make it more universal-- I hope that does not cause disfellowship.

I will not advocate war, because I will not support killing others to bring peace.
I will respect the government I helped elect, even when I do not agree with their decisions. I will always remember that I speak with both my voice and my vote.
I will take the time to educate myself on what is happening in the world around me. I will remember that if I’m going to speak on a subject, it’s my duty to speak intelligently.
I will sincerely thank a veteran for his or her service.
I will do something today that makes me uncomfortable. I will light a candle in a cathedral, hold hands with a Muslim as they pray. I will step into a synagogue and listen. And I will savour the knowledge that I did so because it was my choice and my freedom to, not because it was required.
I will debate my intellectual opponents with respect, without personal attacks, because the freedom to engage in the exchange of ideas deserves the highest respect.
I will buy a book on a subject I know nothing about.
I will treat strangers with kindness. Every act of kindness will be my prayer.
I will tell someone that I love them, not just assume they know. I will tell them as soon as possible.
I will not forget a troubled region when it falls from the headlines. And if I encounter an opportunity to help someone from a war-torn nation, I will take it. 
I will continue to pray the Atheist’s Prayer, the prayer of action and deeds.
These are admirable ambitions which reflect "the better angels" of our nature. Alas, we often fall short of our ideals.  Catholics understand "original sin" as a sin nature which tempts us to choose temporal, selfish  pursuits which fall short of the person we ought to be. 

As much as I am impressed by the Irish Atheists intentions, I suspect that the "Atheists Prayer" could lapse like most New Year's resolutions or become platitudinous prayer instead of being one of action and deeds. 

Making the world a better place also involves forgiveness.  That is not an ordinary human impulse as to err is human, to forgive is divine. And to accept efforts of redemption. This is where I fear "The Atheist Prayer" falls short.  It gives aspirational affirmative action but does not allow for inevitable imperfection. 

Praying to God can be caricatured  as sending out a supernatural wish list.  Perhaps that is how puerile prayers are perceived by non-theists.  But more mature prayer involves meditation, contemplation and a radical openness to action looking beyond oneself.  It is said that prayer does not change God, but that good prayer changes you. 

Ignatian Spirituality centers on an Examen, which is a quick prayer that includes: 

  • Presence (acknowledgement of things more than oneself); 
  • Gratitude for the good things each day; 
  • Review of experiencing God's presence
  • Sorrow where one's shortcomings are acknowledged and forgiven; and
  • Grace- Discerning how you feel

Jesuits will take a 30 day silent retreat based upon this methodology so that they may embody the charism of contemplation in action. 

While I may differ with The Irish Atheist on theological and ecclestiastical issues, I appreciate his impetus as expressed in "The Atheist's Prayer" as well as his respect for others' beliefs.  The world would be a better place if more heeded the action items of his creed.  

Dwight D. Eisenhower on Atheism

Friday, November 22, 2013

Pregnant Thought

This thought provoking bumper sticker brought to mind Abby Johnson's metanoia, where she went from being an Executive Director of a Texas Planned Parenthood Clinic to a earnest anti-abortion advocate.

So many sympathetic to a "Pro-Choice" position claim that a baby only attains personhood upon being born. Yet I've never heard anyone ask an enceinte how is her fetus.   

And for that matter, if personhood is only accorded upon birth than why not proudly proclaim one being in favor of killing fetuses rather than   "womens' reproductive health" euphemisms.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sign of Grace

This sign is epitomized in the life of John Newton, an Eighteenth Century Englishman Seaman involved in the slave trade.  Newton gradually experienced spiritual conversion which lead him to become an Anglican clergyman and hymnist.  But 34 years after leaving the slave trade, Newton became a prominent abolitionist, who renounced the wrongs of the the slave trade and buttress the case for passage of MP William Wilberforce Slave Trade Act of 1807.

Newton's resonating legacy is that he composed the hymn "Amazing Grace", a song which was made popular as part of the Second Great Awakening in America during the Nineteenth Century.  The lyrics were a  humble response to the   magnanimity of God's grace despite our sinfulness fused to the tune of a Negro spiritual, which Newton may have heard from the bowels of the slave ship. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

U.S. Catholic Bishops Offer a Special Message on the H.H.S. Mandate

As the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops concluded their semi-annual meeting in Baltimore, the USCCB issued a special message on the H.H.S. Mandate.  The Bishops have been steadfast and vocal in their opposition to having the government force Catholics and other believers to violate their religious precepts in the pursuit of universal coverage. 

During his tenure as President of the USCCB, New York Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan lead the faithful to conduct Fortnight for Freedom in 2012 and 2013 to celebrate, educate and advocate maintaining America's Fundamental Freedom--the First Amendment freedom: the freedom of exercise of religion.

As Cardinal Dolan passed the helm of the USCCB to Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz,  Dolan urged his brother bishops to make the protection of religious liberty around the world a priority as he believes that it is a central social issue of our times. Dolan recalled the words of Pope Blessed John Paul II that we are living in a new age of martyrs.  Dolan stated:

We as bishops, as shepherds of one of the most richly blessed communities of faith on the planet, as pastors who have spoken with enthusiastic unity in defense of our own religious freedom, must become advocates and champions for these Christians whose lives literally hang in the balance, as we dare not allow our laudable battles over religious freedom at home to obscure the actual violence being inflicted on Christians elsewhere.

The USCCB's special message fleshed out this fidelity to religious freedom to practice one's faith in America.

The bishops of this country have just concluded their traditional fall meeting in Baltimore and have spent time on issues important to them and their people: help to those suffering from Typhoon Haiyan; an update on the situation in Haiti; matters of worship and teaching; service to the poor; and comprehensive immigration reform. Among those priorities is the protection of religious freedom, especially as threatened by the HHS mandate.

Pope Francis has reminded us that “In the context of society, there is only one thing which the Church quite clearly demands: the freedom to proclaim the Gospel in its entirety, even when it runs counter to the world, even when it goes against the tide.”

We stand together as pastors charged with proclaiming the Gospel in its entirety. That Gospel calls us to feed the poor, heal the sick, and educate the young, and in so doing witness to our faith in its fullness. Our great ministries of service and our clergy, religious sisters and brothers, and lay faithful, especially those involved in Church apostolates, strive to answer this call every day, and the Constitution and the law protect our freedom to do so.
Yet with its coercive HHS mandate, the government is refusing to uphold its obligation to respect the rights of religious believers. Beginning in March 2012, in United for Religious Freedom, we identified three basic problems with the HHS mandate: it establishes a false architecture of religious liberty that excludes our ministries and so reduces freedom of religion to freedom of worship; it compels our ministries to participate in providing employees with abortifacient drugs and devices, sterilization, and contraception, which violates our deeply-held beliefs; and it compels our faithful people in business to act against our teachings, failing to provide them any exemption at all.
Despite our repeated efforts to work and dialogue toward a solution, those problems remain. Not only does the mandate undermine our ministries’ ability to witness to our faith, which is their core mission, but the penalties it imposes also lay a great burden on those ministries, threatening their very ability to survive and to serve the many who rely on their care.

The current impasse is all the more frustrating because the Catholic Church has long been a leading provider of, and advocate for, accessible, life-affirming health care. We would have preferred to spend these recent past years working toward this shared goal instead of resisting this intrusion into our religious liberty. We have been forced to devote time and resources to a conflict we did not start nor seek.

As the government’s implementation of the mandate against us approaches, we bishops stand united in our resolve to resist this heavy burden and protect our religious freedom. Even as each bishop struggles to address the mandate, together we are striving to develop alternate avenues of response to this difficult situation. We seek to answer the Gospel call to serve our neighbors, meet our obligation to provide our people with just health insurance, protect our religious freedom, and not be coerced to violate our consciences. We remain grateful for the unity we share in this endeavor with Americans of all other faiths, and even with those of no faith at all. It is our hope that our ministries and lay faithful will be able to continue providing insurance in a manner consistent with the faith of our Church. We will continue our efforts in Congress and especially with the promising initiatives in the courts to protect the religious freedom that ensures our ability to fulfill the Gospel by serving the common good.

This resolve is particularly providential on this feast of the patroness of immigrants, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini. She was a brave woman who brought the full vigor of her deep religious faith to the service of the sick, the poor, children, the elderly, and the immigrant. We count on her intercession, as united we obey the command of Jesus to serve the least of our brothers and sisters.
It seems incredible that the USCCB needs to again issue such a pronouncement, but useful idiots arguing for Obamacare are still convicted that Catholics just want to push their beliefs on non-Catholics, rather than protection that unalienable right.

Good Grief- Choosing to Understand a PC World Is Confusing

Friday, November 8, 2013

Savage Love and Dangerous Ideas

Dan Savage has written  Savage Love, a syndicated sex-advice column since 1991.  Savage has parlayed his alternatively oriented amorous advice into becoming an international sought after "sexpert" who shills on the college circuit telling co-eds how to perform oral sex.  Savage also promotes his "It Gets Better" Project which was positioned as an anti-bullying event to encourage homosexual teens coming out.  But when speaking to some students during the "It Gets Better" campaign, Savage launched into an anti-Christian rant and then berates the hundred offended teenagers as "pansy-asses" for walking out on his profane philippic attack on their faith.

Savage was invited to appear on Australian television during a Festival of Dangerous Ideas  with Peter Hitchens  to debate marriage, Christianity and sex.  When Savage fielded a question from the studio audience on what dangerous idea would best help the world if it were implemented, the Savage sexpert blurted out Population Control...there's too many goddamn people in the world."  And that wasn't all of his dangerous idea.

Savage seems to thrive on controversy so his outrageous answer should not be conflated to speak for the entire homosexual community or even pro-abortion advocates.  But Savage's "Modest Proposal" tips the hand as to the direction of progressive thought when mores are unmoored from valuing each human life and Judeo-Christian values.   This callous sort of Liberal Fascism was predicted by George Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) and Aldous Huxley in Brave New World (1931) but the normalcy bias insists "It Can't Happen Here".

Considering the uncritical promotion of Savage sorts of celebrities and a continued concentration of power, such blowhard bile might not be so readily dismissed as poppycock. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Pope Francis on Confession

Pope Francis Rio WYD Confession

Skittish Chicago-land School Censors Christ Costume

Marshon Sanders in Jesus costume  (via Facebook)

Marshon Sanders, a 17 year old senior at Highland Park High School in Chicago's northern suburbs, took part in the school's tradition of wearing costumes on Halloween.   But Sanders was removed from class after two teachers complained that Marshon was dressed like Jesus Christ.

After being dismissed from class, school administrators deemed his costume as being potentially offensive and violating the dress code policy that no costume should "be offensive or perpetuate a stereotype of someone's culture, gender, sexual orientation, heritage or religion."  At first, Marshon was told to remove his large pectoral cross.  Later, Sanders was instructed that in order to return to class, he needed to remove his white robe, red sash, cross and head scarf. 

Highland Park High's Director of Communications Melinda Vajdic stated that the costume could be interepreted as poking fun or perpetuating a "religious stereotype".   Vajdic further pontificated, "Costumes trivialize. I’m sure that wasn’t his intent, but we want to maintain a culture of mutual respect.”  But surely this same condescending standard should have applied to students costumed as Mormons, Moses and priests. 

Before Marshon went back to class, the student contacted his mother.  Angela Frison urged her son to wear a costume that was uplifting and approved of his choice.  Some might say that Frison's son was doing All Hallow's Eve right.   Marshon chose the figure who was most important to him.  When Ms. Frison asked the school dean what was so offensive about Marshon's costume, she was not given a direct answer.  Frison thought that those teachers who were offended might have been due to the notion of a black Jesus.

After the ad hoc Parent-Teacher meeting, the school seems to have changed its tune with the prospect of bad publicity. The administrators reconsidered and ruled that Marshon was not being offensive and gave permission to wear his outfit but the chagrined teen declined.  The school later put out a press release in the afternoon confirming that Marshon had been told that he could wear the costume. 

Nearly 40 years ago, the show Good Times, set in the projects in Chicago (implicitly Cabrini-Green), created controversy over a depiction of a black Jesus.  It would be a pity if Norman Lear's polemical plot still holds sway in enlightened north shore of  Chicago-land.

Actor James Amos playing James Evans, Sr. in Good Times (1974)

While race might be the case, a concurrent stream of influence is a fanatical secular political correctness which aims intensely upon Christianity .  There are so many stories of public schools bowing at the altar of political correctness and harboring an acute sense of Christophobia. Consider cases where children are sanctioned against reading the Bible during lunch.  Or valedictory speeches that must be censored so as not to mention Jesus.  So it is not surprising that teachers would be skittish about a positive portrayal of Christ in the schools, even on Halloween.

For Halloween costumes, the Priests and Mormons get-ups certainly could have satirical or salacious connotations, but depicting the Messiah might have been too positive of a Christian costume.  And such a positive Christian influence, even coming from a student would not be kosher, so to speak, when trumpeting multi-cuturalism that is non-judgmental, except for traditional Judeo-Christian mores.

h/t:  Christian Post
         Chicago Sun Times 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Pope Francis' Spontaneous Homily for the Feast of All Saints

Pope Francis  at the Verano Cemetery, Rome, Italy  

Pope Francis visited Verano Cemetery on the Feast of All Saints, which was the first papal visit in over twenty years.  The Pontiff abandoned his prepared remarks and spoke spontaneously:

At this moment before sunset, we are gathered in this cemetery to think about our future and all those who are no more, those who have gone before us in life and are in Lord. The vision we heard in today's first reading is so beautiful.

We can expect full love. Those who have gone before us in the Lord are there and proclaim that they were saved not by their deeds, but by the Lord. 'Salvation comes from our God and from the Lamb.  He is the One who saves us, like a father, by bringing us to the other shore at the end of our life.

An elder asked, 'Who are these?  These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb'  We can only enter Heaven through the blood of the Lamb. It is the blood of Christ that justified us.  If today, we remember our departed brothers and sisters, it is because they were cleansed by the blood of Christ.  He is our hope. He never disappoints.

John told his disciples, 'See what love the Father has bestowed on us … we are God's children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed.' That is, 'we shall be like him'. That is our hope.

Today on the feast of All Saints, before the day of All Souls, we need to think about hope, the hope that accompanies us in life . . . . Early Christians represented hope as an anchor, as if hope was anchored in God's life, on the other shore. To have our life anchored where our dearly departed, Jesus Christ, and God are brings the hope that does not disappoint.

Hope is the yeast that widens the soul even in difficult times, hope, the soul go on. Today is a day of hope. Our brothers and sisters are in God's presence. We too shall be there if we walk along Jesus' road . . . .  Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure'. Hope purifies; it lightens us; it makes it go faster.

As sun starts to set today, let each of us think of our own sunset. Am I looking at it with hope? . . . Where is my heart anchored? If it is anchored on the shore, hope cannot disappoint because Jesus does not disappoint.

h/t: La Stampa

St. Francis de Sales on Faith

St. Francis De Sales