Saturday, December 22, 2012


   I first published this poem in an Advent series I wrote for the National Catholic Reporter. I also included it in my book, The New Dance of Christ--Discovering our Spiritual Self in a New, Evolving World.  (Amazon)  My book describes the creation of the universe in  Biblical/Evolutionary terms, shows why the old "Dance" of Christianity died, and then presents a new vision for a spirituality in and for today's world, in terms, e.g., of women's spirituality, art and poetry, science, and education. 

                                                      A GENESIS CAROL

                 In the beginning was the word, "Become."
                     And the atom became.
                 The atom,
                     Spinning, whirling, whizzing, buzzing,
                     Hissing, sizzling, fizzing, fusing,
                 The snapping, crackling, popping breakfast of the universe.

                 Electron sparks in swirling motion,
                     Shimmering halos of devotion,
                     Circling, circling round their center,
                     Never colliding, never exploding,
                     Never intruding, never imploding,
                 Dancing, dancing; do-si-do and change your orbit,
                     Hear the call and dance the song.
                 Become!  Become!  Become!

                 In the center of the dance, the proton yoke,
                     Egg-stuff of the universe, embryo of life,
                 Atom's Eve, a-move and a-dance to her own special tune:
                     Up quark, down quark, strange quark, charm quark,
                     Muon, one-step; gluon, two-step;
                     Photons.  Neutrons.  Life fantastic!
                 Dance!  Dance!  Dance!
                 Become!  Become!  Become!

                 Deep beneath the throbbing heartbeat of the dance
                     There lives a peace,
                      That glows within the heart of every atom's pure alloy,
                 A virgin, pregnant peace, that in a silent, holy night
                       Transforms the dance into a healing psalm of joy.
                 Become!  Be loved!  Be whole!

                 And in response the universe explodes in cosmic bloom;
                     Stars skip to grand polyphony
                     Through pinwheel galaxies in newborn skies,
                 And holy antiphon abounds from sphere to sphere.

                 While oceans sing and mountains chant
                     Their Gloria's to God on high,
                 Man and woman dance to life:
                     Rising, growing, working, loving,
                     Wedding, birthing, dying, rising,
                 Caroling the universe's song of praise,
                 I am!  I am!  I am!

                 The blessed offspring of Your fertile Word,
                      Crescending proclamation of Your love,                
                 Loud, macrocosmic praise of boundless One,
                     And softly allelu-ing cradle of Your Son.

                                                                                                       Merry Christmas

Saturday, December 15, 2012


   On Christmas Day we celebrate that moment in history when God's creative, healing love overcame our natural, space/time incompleteness, and opened us to eternal completeness and wholeness.

   The space/time universe, by its very nature, is incomplete.  Everything about it has a beginning and an end.  Everything and everyone eventually dies.  Earth was born 4.5 billion years ago and will die a natural death in 5 billion years.  No matter what amazing progress we can make, no matter how much our scientists and philosophers can learn about us and the universe, no matter how much we evolve, no science, no philosophy, no merely human effort can ever overcome our radical space/time incompleteness.

   Christmas gives us a deep and wondrous insight into God's creative, loving intentions for us.  From all eternity, God intended that we would not be restricted to our natural, space/time incompleteness.  What we could never do for ourselves, he would do for us.  And he would do it personally, in the flesh, in the person of Jesus.  Putting himself directly and explicitly on our terms, God took upon himself our incompleteness and opened the way for us to overcome not only our failings and sins, but death itself.  As the Christmas carol says, "Man can live forevermore because of Christmas Day!"

    Because we exacerbated our natural incompleteness by committing sins, Jesus had to endure a horrific crucifixion before he rose, in his humanity and ours, to eternal completeness and life.  We commemorate his sacrifice at another time of the year.  At this time of year we bow in humble gratitude and joy that God has invited us to an "eternal, family Christmas reunion," with him and one another.  So we carol our thanks and praise, embrace one another with the special affection and love that God has shown us, and wish one another a Merry and Blessed Christmas!

Monday, December 10, 2012


   Many years ago, when I was in college, I wrote this ballad, taking the idea from a short movie I had seen.  I offer it to you, my readers, along with my Christmas greetings and my prayer for wonderful blessings for all of you.

                                               A CHRISTMAS BALLAD

Across the moonlit desert sands                     "Hold on!" said the proprietor,
   The mission bells were ringing,                       "I can't do that for you!"
'Twas Christmas eve, and in the night             But then he looked again and said,
   Three happy men were singing.                       "I'll see what I can do."

In coming home from Prairie Town,                 "Maria," said the Mexican,            
  They'd seen the Christmas fair,                         "Have courage dear, and pray."
And luckily, these cowboys three                     Maria smiled, then bowed her head
  Had won some prized there.                              And answered, "Yes, Jose'."

The first one had a cuckoo clock,                    Then back came the proprietor,     
   With features quite bizarre;                               And slowly shook his head.
The second had a kewpie doll,                        "The only place to stay," said he,   
   The third, a green guitar.                                   "Is outside, in the shed."

Between their carols, as they rode,                   "God bless you," said the Mexican.   
   They spoke of the delight                                   And then the lonely pair 
The prizes that they each had won                    Withdrew to find their resting place
   Would bring their folks that night.                       Out in the desert air.

Then, in the sky they saw a star,                        Now by this time, the cowboys three
   It's brightness rose and fell;                                Were nearing the motel;
'Twas the electric emblem                                  Their caroling still rent the air,
   Of the Texas Star Motel.                                     And all was going well.

"Let's stop a while," one cowboy said,                And as they passed the little shed,
   "We've time and home in near.                            That stood down by a hill,
Let's join the travelers at the inn                          They saw a light and turned to look,
   And drink the season's cheer."                             The sight there stopped them still.

The other two, they quick agreed,                       A man was kneeling down in prayer,
   The inn was not too far;                                        A woman knelt close by;
And so each turned his sturdy steed                   And from some hay between the two,
   And started for the star.                                        There came a baby's cry!

Now at the inn the atmosphere                            The cowboys three, they went to see
   Was extra warm and bright,                                    This fascinating sight;
For many people traveling home                          And they remembered vividly
   Had stopped there for the night.                              That other Holy Night,   

The overjoyed proprietor                                      When Wise Men three came bearing gifts
   Was counting each receipt;                                   Across a desert far;   
His inn was full; his wine, well stocked;                And how they found the Holy Child, 
    His happiness, complete.                                      By following a star.

When through the din a quiet knock                     Now they too, wished to give some gift
   Was heard upon the door.                                      To this poor couple's son;
"Too bad," thought the proprietor,                        They wondered what, and then
   "I haven't room for more."                                        They spied the prizes they had won. 
The door came slowly open,                                The first one gave his cuckoo clock, 
   A Mexican stepped in;                                              With features quite bizarre;
Behind him slowly came his wife,                         The second gave his kewpie doll;
   Her face was dark and thin.                                      The third, his green guitar.

"Please, Mister," said the Mexican,                       Across the moonlit desert sands    
   "My wife, she very sick!                                            The mission bells were ringing;
Please give her some warm place to stay,           'Twas Christmas Eve, and in the night
   And get a doctor, quick!"                                           Three happy men were singing.

                                                Merry Christmas

Thursday, November 29, 2012


   Some years ago I visited a rehab facility for people who suffered from severe accidents, especially head wounds.  A nurse took me around to visit the patients, many of whom could hardly lift their heads to see who was there before them.  I spoke to each one of them and offered a prayer and blessing for them.

   After we finished the rounds, the nurse told me she was going to resign the next day.  She said she had trouble coming to work every day because her work had so little success.  The job was simply too depressing for her.  It was Advent time, and the facility was decorated for Christmas.  That made her even more depressed.  "What does Christmas mean for my patients?" she asked sadly.  "Or for me?  I'm not really helping them."

   For a moment I let her sadness touch me.  I told her I understood the great challenge she faced.  Then I disagreed with her.  "You're here every day," I said.  "So you're accustomed to seeing your patients.  I just saw them for the first time, and I saw something that you're not seeing."

   Curious, she asked, "What do you mean?"

   "As we walked into each room and approached each patient," I explained, "I saw that each one of them was sitting there in deep sadness and loneliness.  But then, as each one of them saw you, they lit up and smiled, obviously happy that you had come to see them--to be with them and minister to them."

   My statement startled her into new awareness.  "Well I...  Well, I guess I'm so used to them, I don't notice..."

   I continued.  "Your patients are like the world at this time of the year, waiting in expectation for Christ to come, to bring joy, peace, new life and salvation.  Every day, they live through their own, very personal Advent, and every day you come to them and bring them a Christmas moment of joy and peace.  In a way, that's the most important thing you do for them.  For them, you are Christmas.  You come to them and stay with them for a while, and because of you, they know anew, every day, that they are not alone."

   I wished her well, and left.

   A few weeks later, I returned to the facility for another visit.  To my surprise, the nurse was still there.  She greeted me with a big smile.  "I want to thank you," she said.  "Every day now, I come to work with new joy and a renewed commitment to help my patients as much as I can.  I feel like a new person."

   As we look forward to celebrating the coming of Christ, I pray that all of us will find renewed ways to brings joy and peace to the world. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


   On the occasion of Thanksgiving Day here in America, I wish to say "Thank You!" to all of you who read this blog.  When I started it, I had no idea I would be reaching people in 51 countries!  

    Let us all thank God for the gifts, talents, possibilities and opportunities he is giving us, and let us express our gratitude and appreciation by committing ourselves anew to developing our gifts for the benefit of ever increasing justice, peace, faith, joy and love throughout the world.


Monday, November 5, 2012


   Recently Cardinal George of Chicago was quoted as saying, "I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square."  He attributes this dire outlook to the problems created by aggressive, anti-religious secularism.  A few years ago, the Cardinal was reported to have said to Pope Benedict XVI that the church in America is being besieged by our culture.  So without a doubt, he sees the church under attack by a dangerous enemy, namely, the everyday world in which we live.

   Let's take a look at secularism.  "Secular" means, "of the ages," or more clearly, of space/time.  The space/time world is the everyday world that God created.  It is the world of nature, people, families, communities, nations, education, work and business, religion, science and the arts.  Space/time by its nature is incomplete; the space/time world is and always will be incomplete.  Sadly, the world's incompleteness is exacerbated by sin.  The incomplete, sin-containing world is the world that Jesus came to save, to bring it forgiveness and make it complete, beginning here in space/time and reaching its fulfillment in eternity.

   An essential part of our spiritual life depends on how we view and relate to the everyday, space/time world.  Cardinal George sees it and relates to it as an enemy to be defeated; Vatican II saw it as a world to be related to in open humility and service, a world to be listened to, learned from, and taught, uplifted and corrected on its space/time journey to eternal completion.  Most certainly, sin is our enemy, but the sinful, space/time world it not our enemy.  It is ourselves.

   Certainly there are segments of our culture that militate against religion.  Here we must distinguish between attacks against religion and against faith itself.  They are not the same.  An attack against religion is not necessarily an atheistic attack.  In fact, in could be an attack by believers in defense of their faith.  Sadly, one outstanding example of this is the opposition many Catholics are expressing against the way their leaders are expressing  our religion today.  If Cardinal George's religion is built upon power-oriented control over the world (and the laity), then he will see the world's opposition to him and his religion in a self-aggrandizing, paranoid way.  I wonder if this view is behind his prediction that his successors will die in prison and as martyrs.  I fear that the truth is more likely to be that they too will die in bed, totally disregarded by disheartened Catholics who have simply walking away from those leaders' self-aggrandizing, paranoid kind of religion.

   The disheartened Catholics will have been abandoned by leaders like Cardinal George and his successors, leaders who should have helped them relate openly, humbly and prophetically to the everyday, secular world, to deeply and spiritually understand it, i.e., to read the signs of the times and see God's intentions for it, and therefore work to heal, complete and save the world in the all-loving grace of Christ.   


Wednesday, October 17, 2012


   When God gives himself to each of us in grace, i.e., as he calls us to our life-vocation and opens us to discern what he expects of us in our everyday life, we have Infinity/Eternity flowing into space/time.  Space/time can never completely receive and understanding the fullness of Infinity/Eternity.  Being space/time creatures, we receive God's grace with all the incompleteness and limitations built into us.  Even in eternal heaven, we will forever keep wonderfully growing in our comprehension, appreciation and love of God.

   More particularly we are limited in our reception of and response to God by our personal aspects, e.g., age, gender, personality, language, culture, education, personal experiences and history, etc.  All these can enrich our experience of God and our response to him, but they can also obstruct our relationship with God, if we let them.  So, to fulfill ourselves in all the aspects of who we are, we have to keep ourselves continuously open to receiving and growing in God's grace, which includes our reading the signs of the times to see God's intentions in today's ever changing world, and responding to him ever more fully and effectively.  Our life in Christ is a Way, a continuous movement, like a river, of growing and flourishing in God's living, ever flowing, loving grace.

   What is true of us as individuals is true of us as the community of faith that we are.  Through our leaders, we are all spiritually empowered and responsible to channel God's flowing, living water of grace into the most effective means of working for the ongoing salvation of the world.  Our leaders, therefore, must keep themselves open to God's living truth, doing nothing to obstruct it.  They must channel God's living water so that it flows within us and from us (cf. Jn. 7:38) to bring ever flowering life to the world in all seasons.

   Unhappily, our leaders are failing in their responsibility.  In many areas they are stopping the truth from flowing.  They have dammed the flow of God's grace, e.g., in the areas of sexuality, women, the freedom of the laity to discern God's intentions and contribute their sense of the faith to the whole church, the work of many of our best theologians, and the forward-looking vision of American nuns.  They have also dammed up insights from today's science, philosophy and psychology--all of which can lead to our ever evolving understanding and appreciation of human nature itself.

   I believe that God is responding to our leaders' self-imposed theological and spiritual stagnation by inspiring many of the laity, theologians and nuns to speak and act prophetically and thereby open the way to new visions of the truth that God wants us to recognize and incorporate into our lives.  For our part, we must intensify our discernment of the gifts, talents, possibilities and opportunities that God is giving us.  And we must gather together with other discerning people.  Together we can test ourselves in the Spirit to ensure, as well as we can, that we are discerning correctly, so we can act in the fullest possible accord with God's truth and intentions.

   To help ourselves we can look deeply inward to see, as openly and truthfully as possible, if our intended actions are alive and flowing with truth, justice, peace, humility, and most of all, with love--all for the building up of ourselves and our society and culture, in the saving grace of Christ.  Thus we will keep God's grace flowing like a river of living water.

Friday, September 28, 2012


   Vatican II says that we participate in Christ's kingly office.  That means that we have the spiritual empowerment and responsibility to correct our society and culture in the saving grace of Christ.  It means that we are in this world in order to work to save it in the grace of   Christ.  It means that we are the 21st century eyes, mind, heart and hands of Christ.

   Just as the universe and world were created incomplete, we were born incomplete.  Jesus died, rose again and returned to heaven so he could send us his Spirit of completeness, in whom we could now achieve completeness and wholeness of life, beginning here in space/time, and fully in eternity.  

   A deeply human prayer has been answered, "Lord, open our eyes, minds and hearts that we may see."  Alive in Christ's Spirit, we can see ourselves and all people and things in terms of both our present incompleteness and destined completeness.  We can see what we and the world were created and destined to be and become, especially in maturity, peace, hope, joy and love.

   We can clearly and effectively "see the signs of the times."  We can see the needs and possibilities of today's people in today's world.  We can see the obstacles that we put in our own way--educationally, socially, politically and economically.  And we can see what is necessary to overcome those obstacles and we can work to overcome them.  Let's go back a moment.  Imagine in the 1930's, if Christians and all people of good will clearly and effectively saw what Hitler was about to inflict upon the world.  And imagine that they exercised their royal responsibility and corrected the Nazi movement before it gained its lethal power.  And imagine that they could have done it non-violently.

   Question:  Do we really believe that the Nazi horror could have been prevented by spiritually discerning, royally acting people?  If we don't believe it, we must sadly accept that we have fallen into the spiritual anemia that many Christians are suffering from today.  So first, we must stir up the grace to imagine what we can truly do.

   In the America of the 1960's, one Christian woman, Rosa Parks, inspired a spiritual revolution with her own, individual royal act of refusing to sit in the back of a bus.  The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the American people to a new vision of equality and respect for all our brothers and sisters.  In the Poland of the 1980's, Lech Walesa helped lead his country to freedom from Communism.  We personally will no doubt act in more modest ways, but that's no problem.  The problem arises only when we don't act in whatever way we can.

   There's a story of a man who carried a sign back and forth in front of the White House every day, all alone, in all kinds of weather.  One day, a policeman asked him, "Why are you doing this?  You're not going to change anybody?"  The man replied, "I'm doing this so that I don't change."  Everyone's road to salvation begins with a single step, possibly alone, preferably with some others.  Where that road ends is up to God.  Our royal responsibility is to take that first step.


Friday, September 14, 2012


                                                 (Vision to Reality, continued)

   As 21st century Catholics we prayerfully imagine, think, intend and act in both space/time and eternity.  Vatican II opened our eyes anew to this wondrous truth.  In the 1960's the church was stuck in time and place with its medieval, European-centered, monarchical view of itself and its teachings, and was thereby blinded to the whole world and to eternity.

   By aggiornamento (coming up to date) the council reopened our eyes and our way, not only to the whole, present world but to an unlimited future, and to eternity.  For example, we were again able to see that in an ever-evolving world, God within us was calling to us, not only from throughout today's world but also from and into the future.  We saw that our theological and spiritual Tradition is alive and evolving, and open to new ways of being understood and lived.

   By ressourcement (going back to the sources) Vatican II became truly "radical," i.e., it went back to the roots, to Scripture and the Church Fathers, and injected our faith with renewed insight and energy.  We looked at Jesus and the church with new, evolved eyes, minds and hearts, and saw in a freshly living way the space/time man who is eternal God.  

   And we saw ourselves as expressions of Jesus in this new way.  Putting aggiornamento and ressourcement together, Jesus becomes our contemporary paradigm or model for seeing everything and everyone anew, in terms of 21st century, space/time, whole-world insight with eternal meaning.  In the ever new Christ, we here and now are living a 21st century version of both space/time and eternity.

   The great enemy of our living, evolving, 21st century, space/time/eternal vision and life is the deadly restriction of Fundamentalism in all its forms.  I describe Fundamentalism as "nothing-but-ism."  Fundamentalism reduces reality and truth to nothing but what fundamentalists say they are.  Here are some examples.  In them, we see the spiritual challenges we face in making our 21st century, world-wide Catholic faith real and effective:  

     1.  We have today's church leaders who refuse to open the church to the sensus fidelium, i.e., to the prayerful discernment of the laity, religious and theologians.  To them, the truth is nothing but what they alone say it is.  Their denial of spiritual openness and of the influx of eternity into the whole church has resulted in the theological stagnation and spiritual anemia from which the church is now suffering.

      2.  There are Christians and Muslims who say that the truth is nothing but what they say it is.  Each says that the other religion is of Satan.  Vatican II saw salvation open to all people of consistent good will and love.  The automatic denial of spiritual openness and good will in others leads directly to the uprisings and killings we are now witnessing.   

     3.  Atheists deny the validity of all religion.  Many wrongly identify religion, which is the organized expressions of faith, with faith itself, not realizing how religions can distort faith.  Also, many of today's prominent atheists restrict Christianity to fundamentalism.  I personally have never heard an atheist seriously comment on Vatican II Catholicism.

     4.  Some fundamentalists deny the validity of science.

     5.  Some scientists say that the truth is nothing but what science can discover.  They don't see, for example, that all scientific methods of arriving at conclusions about the truth rely on Philosophy.  And they don't see that the human mind (reason) and heart can so easily and beautifully take scientific insights into eternity and sing that the heavens proclaim the glory of God.  They also don't appreciate poetry.  
     Theologian Hans Kung says that today's scientists need to take theologians seriously, and today's theologians need to take scientists seriously.  (See the EVOLUTION STORY page of this blog.)
     6.  There are materialists who say that humans are nothing but electrically powered, soulless, material bodies, and that the mind is nothing but the brain in action.  They thus deny the reality of the non-material (spiritual) mind and soul, and deny our immortality.

     7.  There are political leaders who say that politics is nothing but winning elections.  Some business and economic leaders say business and economics are nothing but making a profit.  All lock their fields up within themselves, e.g., politics is politics, business is business, and blind themselves to the greater reality of the common good with a preferential option for the poor, sick, vulnerable and outcast.

   With open and joyful minds and hearts, and prophetically fighting against all unnatural restrictions to the fullness of our space/time/eternal humanity and world, 21st century Catholics sing anew with poet William Blake,

                                  To see the world in a grain of sand,
                                  And a heaven in a wild flower.
                                  Holy infinity in the palm of your hand,
                                  And eternity in an hour.

                                  A robin redbreast in a cage
                                  Puts all Heaven in a rage...



Thursday, September 6, 2012


   VISION TO REALITY, (continued)

   The 21st century Catholic is a spiritually mature, whole person (1) who looks for the whole picture and lives and acts in the whole world.  Vatican II changed the church from a European-based church that focused on devotions, novenas, Benediction, etc., to a world-wide church that focuses on prayerfully discerned, prophetic activity in the everyday world.  In sum, the "in-house," devotional faith has given way to a faith of active social justice that is intended to change hearts and transform the world in the grace of Christ.

   Today's Catholics, therefore, must have a wholistic world view.  It is necessary to, "act locally, think globally," in order to infuse today's social, economic, political and environmental activities with the wholeness of humanity and grace that they desperately need.  The butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon does influence the weather in Chicago tomorrow.  Giving food to a hungry person, or paying a just wage, or just taxes, sends waves of grace far beyond that single activity.

   Of course, we realize that we don't live in a Utopia.  Giving twenty dollars to a beggar is wonderful, but it does not in itself solve the problem of poverty.  Yet, some Catholics believe that personal and private charity can relieve the burden of poverty from society without the government getting involved.  They don't know, for example, that Catholic Charities receives over 50% of its budget from the government.  

   Unhappily, a prominent fellow-Catholic is presenting an economic policy for America that appears to show this restricted world-view.  Vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan says, for example, that the job of issuing food stamps to the poor should be taken from the federal government and given to the states, and that seniors should pay a larger part of their health insurance.  In general, he would want all people to ultimately take care of themselves.  That sounds fine in the abstract.  But does it work in practice?

   My point is not partisan but spiritual.  Ryan justifies his policy by saying that it is in accord with the principles of Catholic social justice, particularly the principle of Subsidiarity.  Subsidiarity says that economic concerns should be taken care of at the lowest capable level of society--all the way down to the individual and family.  But there is another principle that is just as important as Subsidiarity.  That principle is Solidarity.

   Solidarity says that there must be a realistic way for the entire society to be taken care of before the levels of responsibility are determined.  In sum, Solidarity proclaims the basic principle that, "we're all in this together."  We are our brother's and sister's keeper.  Therefore, before the states are given the responsibility of issuing food stamps to the poor, they have to be economically able to do so.  Before seniors are forced to pay an added cost for Medicare, they have to be able to do so.  In both cases, this very well may not be so.  Ryan's plan may be able to balance the budget some years in the future, as he says, but in the meantime, will people go hungry and will many seniors be forced to have less health care?  If that happens it will contradict the principles of Catholic Social Justice and therefore be spiritually unacceptable.

   Given today's hyper-individualism in almost every sphere of human activity, being a wholistic, 21st century Catholic is a difficult challenge.  We should not try to do it alone.  Moving from our vision to reality calls upon us to prayerfully join together with others, to share insights and difficulties, and to encourage one another to keep global and to keep going.  The group can even be a "virtual" one, as in this blog.  We must walk our way in the Spirit of Christ, not alone but as the 21st century, globally united People of God.

(1)  See THE SPIRITUALLY MATURE PERSON, page on this blog.


Sunday, August 26, 2012


   Unhappily, the vision of the 21st century Catholic on the, "A 21st CENTURY VISION" page of this blog, shows us more what should be than what will soon be.  The way forward will be hard and long.  To begin with, we have to be clear away three important negatives.

   We can call our vision, "Love One Another." (Jn. 13:34).  Our Catholic faith is our way of living in Christ, who is our Way, our Truth and our Life. (Jn. 14:6).  Vatican II's Constitution on the Church begins with the Latin words,  Lumen gentium.  The council purposely proclaims that Christ (not the church) is the light of the world.  The difference is very important.  We belong first and foremost to God in the Spirit of Christ; secondly to the church.

   Therefore, in obedience to God in the Spirit of Christ, we will not relate to the church on the following terms:

1.  Organizational Corruption
   We will not relate to the church's corrupt, power structure.  Further, as we see in the case of Msgr. William Lynn of Philadelphia, who is in prison for obeying the corrupt power system, the corrupt power structure is now also criminal.

2.  Theological Stagnation 
    We will not give blind obedience to church leaders, or to anyone. 
    We refuse to accept the medieval, exclusively abstract way of understanding the truth, along with the stubborn refusal to respect contemporary ways to uncover ever-evolving facets of the truth, including the spiritually valid, everyday experiences and discernment of the laity.  
   We reject the moral/spiritual prison into which church leaders have locked themselves by refusing to admit that they were ever wrong in the past or could be wrong now and in the future.

3.  Spiritual Anemia
   We will not relate to any church leader who does not respect our equal baptismal dignity, e.g., as expressed in our personal vocations and in our valid sense of the faith.  
   We decry the absence of effective, adult spiritual formation and prophetic inspiration.  
   We reject the attacks on serious theologians.
   We reject a liturgy that does not inspire us to pray and worship in the full beauty and meaning of our own language.

   We will give assent of our intellect and will to the teachings of church leaders when these teachings are clearly shown to be the teachings of the whole church.  For this to be true, these teachings will have to include the ever-evolving sense of the faith of the entire church, e.g., they will have to include respect for the laity's valid spiritual experiences and discernment, the contributions of leading theologians, and a humble, listening dialogue with today's world.  
   Finally, these teachings will then have to be explained to us in terms that make sense in the conditions of today's world.
   Realistically then, being a 21st century Catholic means living, discerning, prophetic lives, for the most part, alone or in small groups.  In further posts, we will discuss ways to move forward toward realizing the vision.     

   Further Readings:  Click RESPONSIBLE FAITH in the right hand column of this blog.  Then scroll down to the bottom of that page and click, "Blog."  You will find Dr. Don Fausel's excellent article, "Obedience to Authority and Loyal Dissent."  

   Click the SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES page on this blog and go to No. 9, "Obedience."

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


   Today, I start a new page, A 21st Century Vision, in which I present a vision of the 21st century Catholic.   

    I invite you to read the vision, meditate on it, and comment on it.  In future posts I will discuss how to move the vision toward realization.  

   And as we pass 12,000 views, now from 44 countries!, thank you for your interest!



Friday, August 10, 2012


   "Think lay."  That's the advice that David J. O'Brien gives us in this week's issue of "America" magazine.  I agree.  The primary mission of the church is to work to save the world in the grace of Christ.  Our Catholic mission starts and ends in our everyday lives in today's society and culture.  We take our everyday lives to the church building to learn about our faith and to offer ourselves and the world to God along with the bread and wine.  And we take Christ from the church building into our society and culture, to uplift and correct them in Christ's grace.  So, as O'Brien says, "Think about the church as it is on a Wednesday morning at 10 rather than on a Sunday morning at 9."

   Today, thinking lay sadly includes not having credible spiritual leadership from the hierarchy in many important moral matters.  But that doesn't have to stop us.  We still have sufficient spiritual knowledge and empowerment to fullfil God's intentions.

   By the power of our baptism and confirmation, and for many, by the sacrament of marriage, we have the ability to discern, to "see" who God wants us and the world to be and become.  We do this first by prayerfully, in fact, contemplatively, looking at our age, sex, culture, personality, talents and opportunities.  These are the factors that make up our personal vocations.  In these ways, we live out our Catholic faith.

   For example, an extrovert will help make the world more luminously human in the grace of Christ, differently from an introvert.  A young person will show Christ's saving grace to the world differently from an old person; a man from a woman; a Latino from an African-American; a German from a Brazilian from a Russian or Japanese or Chinese.  

   Our job is to make God visible and plausible in a society that is generally letting us down in three important ways:  many of our schools are generally failing to teach us how to be truly human; many of our governments are failing to lead us to true social justice; and many of our churches are failing to show us the way to spiritual maturity in today's terms.  So, let's review our spiritual challenge by beginning with the basics.

   The basics start with the fact that we are the image of the One-Triune God.

   As the image of the One God, we are on a journey to complete oneness, e.g., in physical health, educational, social and civic health--in general: toward fulfilling our integrity as humans made luminous by Christ's grace.  Our oneness includes others, the earth and God.

   As the image of God our Creator, we are creative.  We are empowered to creatively put the various "pieces" of our life together, e.g., in school, we put our education together into a living, evolving whole that shows the best human values of knowledge and understanding.  Likewise, we creatively built our marriages, families, communities and nations.  Look, for example, at how much creativity and collaboration NASA put into its new probe on Mars.  We are called to use such creativity and collaboration in the everyday world.

   As the image of God, our Savior, we are healers and peacemakers.  Our American culture tends to be a "crisis" culture."  When things go bad, e.g., an auto accident, a tragedy like 9/11, a random mass killing, we pause from our fast-moving lives to take care of one another.  Our spiritual responsibility is to be healers and peacemakers on a daily basis--to make healing and peacemaking an integral part of our everyday lives.

   As the image of God, the Holy Spirit, we are empowered and responsible to transform the world in the power of the Spirit.  We are not called simply to lament the disorder in our daily lives and world; we are called to actively work to correct them, here and now, and an essential part of the work of saving the world.  
   It is not sufficient merely to ask God to transform the world.  God has already given us the spiritual power to do it ourselves in his grace.  So God's answer to such prayers is, "I have placed the job in your hands.  Use the grace and strength I have given you and will keep giving you!"  As Fr. Daniel Berrigan prays, "Dear God, give us mystics with hands!"

   So, "think lay!"  We already know how to creatively work to bring healing, peace and transformation to ourselves and the everyday world of our personal, social and civic contact and influence.  And we have the power from God to do so.  Certainly, we can and must always learn more--from one another, from professional and spiritual guides, from our faith, and even from the hierarchy, when they speak of these things in a way we can accept as part of our sense of the faith.  

   As I say at the top of this blog, "People are suffering.  Waiting is not an option."  


Thursday, August 2, 2012


   For the past half century, bishops and popes have been struggling with the question of how to interpret Vatican II.  One basic question is, "Did the council represent continuity or did it change the church?"  The answer is, both.  Vatican II retained the church's full, living, evolving continuity and identity, while necessarily changing the way the church sees itself, operates and presents itself to the world outside its borders.

   A major stumbling block to many bishops and the pope and Curia is that to them, any change at all means a change of identity.  And they are obliged to protect and maintain the church's identity.  Yet, simply think of a person looking at photos of him/herself over many years.  The same person is always present, while that person has changed in looks, understanding, maturity and activity. Without these changes, the person's life would have been stagnant and regressive.

   Vatican II did not simply offer suggestions.  It started an historic, Spirit-led movement toward a relevant, spiritually effective church, and it represents the highest level of church teaching, fully meant to be implemented.  Many bishops who went home from the council understood the church's Spirit-led evolution and began the new movement.  Cf. the American bishops' 1980's, openly collaborative documents on the Economy and on Peace, the modernizing of religious life, and Liberation Theology.  If the bishops and religious had been able to continue their work, with the corrections that were necessary and without the Vatican's heavy impediments, the church today could very well be a true People of God, with laity, theologians, priests, religious, bishops and pope openly working together to discern the dynamic presence and intentions of God in and for today's society and culture.  The whole church would be prayerfully and confidently testing the Spirit (1 Jn. 4:1)  in today's terms, and prophetically working to uplift and correct today's world in the Spirit of Christ, without imposing our religion on anyone.

   But Pope Paul VI stumbled badly in 1968 when he refused to accept the overwhelming majority report of the birth control commission, which could persuasively be argued to represent the whole church's sense of the faith in this important matter.  John Paul II often spoke eloquently about Vatican II but in reality pulled the church back to its old, regressive ways, influenced by Cardinal Ratzinger.  Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, held and still holds a negative view of the world, which is causing him to hold back on any respectful, positive dialogue with today's world.  The world that Jesus said hates him is not the everyday world of everyday people, that God loved and loves enough to send Jesus to save it, but the corrosive influence that lives within the everyday world and everyday people.

   Benedict is also disregarding his duty to call the hierarchy to true accountability for their cover-up of the priests' sexual abuse and rape of children.  And many bishops, partly in gratitude for the pope's cover up of their cover up, and partly because they enjoy the power of clericalism, are sheepishly cooperating in the church's regression.  In sum, much of the hierarchy, together with the pope, are operating in some important ways as dissident Catholics.  As a result, people are suffering.

   Twenty-first century Catholics, nevertheless, still enjoy the leadership of the Spirit of Christ, who is dwelling within them and the whole world.  (Cf. Vat. II:  The Church in the Modern World, No. 11).  We should be working closely and openly together with the spiritual leadership of our bishops, effectively helping save the world in the grace of Christ.  But in today's church. that's not possible.  Yet, the Spirit compels us to act.  In the posts that follow, I will discuss some ways we can live under the leadership of the Spirit in today's world, even despite our bishops.