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.