Monday, December 30, 2013


    As a new year begins, we thank God for Pope Francis and for the hope he brings as he calls the church to respond more lovingly and effectively to Jesus' deep concern for the poor and outcast.  And may we also hope for a church that will become a more vibrantly effective People of God, a church in which all the baptized are listened to and respected, and which extends its loving care to the whole of our societies and cultures.

    When we say that God gave us Pope Francis and God leads the church, we speak the truth.  More precisely, we say that the church has effectively responded to God, who is ever present within all of us, prompting us to respond to him/her in a lovingly creative, healing and world-transforming way.  

   The history of the church clearly shows that we have not always responded to God as God intended.  Given the challenges the church faces, e.g., the still not fully resolved sex abuse tragedy, the questions of gay marriage, marriage after divorce, the rights of women, religious freedom in our American democracy, etc., our harmful responses can still occur.  

   Throughout the world, people are suffering.  Waiting is not an option.  In the coming year, in whatever way we can, may we be ever more sensitive to the Spirit's presence and intentions, and may we respond to the Spirit ever more positively and effectively. 

All blessings of peace and love,


Monday, December 23, 2013


   This Christmas, Pope Francis has brought Catholics--and indeed, the whole world--closer to the truth of the real Jesus who came into the world to bring us the Good News that we could live more luminously human lives with him and one another, now and forever.  As Jesus did, Francis is stressing that the heart of the Good News is our caring for the poor, the hungry, the sick and outcast.

   May all that we do at Christmas and throughout the year be a true and effective expression of Jesus' deep, caring love for all the world, but especially for his needy loved ones.

   Personally, I want to thank all of you for being part of our blog community. May what I write and what you read and share with others bring us closer to Christ, and in Christ, closer together in caring love for one another and for the world.


Thursday, December 19, 2013


   On December 5th, the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA  honored me at a "Leadership Event," for my 50 years' effort to keep Vatican II alive and bring the Catholic church into the 21st century.

   The audience included Penn students and faculty, along with the Penn Newman Center ministry, where I ministered from 1965 to 1970; three deacons from St. Charles Seminary, where I was a faculty member; and a three-person panel:  a Rabbi, the Protestant University President, and a Jesuit priest who had been President of Catholic University in Washington, DC.

   Dr. John DiIulio, Fox Professor, was the host.  After introducing me, he showed 17 minutes of an 80 minute video that Fox produced of me.  You can get a look at me by going to  In the upper left hand corner of the page that comes up, click on History and look for the video titled: Lessons in Leadership--and Life  -- Anthony T. Massimini.

   The evening ended with a wonderful dinner.

   I share this honor with you because, during the evening, I quipped that the best definition of a leader I ever heard is that a leader is "someone who has followers."  So I share the leadership honor with you who read this blog.  


Monday, December 9, 2013


   Pope Francis' recent Exhortation has certainly caught the attention of many people, both in and out of the Catholic church, and both positive and negative.  Here is my view of the document.

   The document is about evangelization, i.e., about spreading the good news of Jesus Christ to the whole world.  In the past, impelled by the Reformation, evangelization focused on converting non-Catholics to our faith.  We did this mostly by telling non-Catholics that they were wrong and should convert or "come back" to Catholicism.  Vatican II tried to change this approach by stressing ecumenism.  But the ecumenical movement, after starting out very well, has faded.

   Francis now introduces his way of evangelization:

1.  His key word is, "Joy!"  First and foremost, let us Catholics rejoice that Jesus was born, that he rose from the dead and that his Spirit is now with us and within us and the entire world--making us and the entire world sacred and dignified in a new, resurrected way.  In Christ's Spirit, Francis says, we meet people--all people--on the sacred ground of our common, luminous human dignity.

2.  We base our relationships with all people on our personal experience of God and on our personal relationship with God.  We first discern God within ourselves and all others.  Our first view of others therefore is not physical, political, economic, academic, scientific, artistic, etc., but spiritual.  In every relationship, we are meeting with and relating to a person or persons who are children of God and images of God.

3.  The God whom we worship is not an abstract God, or a God distant from us, e.g., "up in heaven."  Our God became one of us and shared our humanity with us here on earth (while remaining God).  In living with us on earth, in the flesh, our God shared and shares in our politics, economics, academics, science, arts, etc., calling and empowering us to get involved in them in order to move them forward toward fulfillment and wholeness in love.  In the process, we use our best prudential judgment as we espouse the various views and use the various methods available to move them forward toward wholeness in love.

4.  True to the mind and heart of Jesus, Francis focused his exhortation on alleviating the distress of the poor.  Particularly, he focused on the economic policy called, "trickle-down economics," and pointed out the obvious fact that, as we know in the United States, it has not worked.  I say, "obvious fact," because in the last three decades or so, the gap between the rich and the poor in the United States has grown to a very destructive degree.  To deny this fact is to deny reality.  This situation is clearly spiritual; in fact, it is a spiritual emergency.  If Francis did not pay attention to it, he would be derelict in his responsibility.

5.  For our part, therefore, the joyful message of Christ that we have to give to the world heavily presses us to get actively engaged in making our political-economic structure better so that it does not foster the sinful inequality that it now does.

    The response to Francis' exhortation has been met with joyful approval from some Catholics, anemic approval from many American bishops and some other Catholics, and viciously insulting attacks from the far right wing of American politics.  How do we account for this?

1.  The Catholics who approve of the document are those, in my view, who see that Francis is expressing the mind and heart of Jesus himself.  Jesus disapproved of the rich in his society, not because they were rich, but because they were using their wealth to oppress the poor.  His society suffered from the "structures of inequality" just as our society does today.

2.  Some American bishops are somewhat embarrassed by Francis' instruction not to spend so much time and energy pressing the doctrines of abortion, gay marriage and contraception.  He didn't say they should change these doctrines, but that they should expand their approach and embrace the entire Gospel message of Christ, with special emphasis on the excluded poor.  But our bishops are appointees of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, both of whom, while clearly expressing the same insight as Francis' into political-economic structures,  stressed doctrinal rigidity preached within the church's centralized power structure.  Jesus was opposed to both rigidity and the power structure of his theocratic society.  So today's bishops need to do some prayerful discerning.

3.  Some Catholics are angry because Francis did not include the things they are interested in, e.g., clearing up the sex abuse tragedy, and giving true spiritual power to the laity.  True, these are essential challenges.  As a first step, Francis just created a commission to study anew how to handle the sex abuse tragedy.  And he is working on the basic problem of reforming the Curia--which is the closest thing I know to a truly immovable object.  So let's be fair; Francis' burden is extremely heavy.  For now, let's let Francis operate on his own time-line and not on ours.

4.  Reasonable disagreement with Francis is certainly acceptable.  But the vicious, insulting personal attacks on Francis coming from the far right of American politics deserve the harshest rebuttal.  This is a disgraceful outburst coming from people who are wedded to a destructive, self-serving ideology that favors the rich against the poor, and who are therefore stung by Francis' true discernment of Christ and the Gospel.  
     Also, some of these people are maliciously lying about what Francis said.  For example they are saying that Francis attacked capitalism and is a communist, when the truth is that he is rightly criticizing the misuse of capitalism that results in creating hopeless poor people.  Even worse, these critics are frightening and angering uninformed people to the point where such people agree with them, to their own serious harm, both economic and spiritual.  What is truly frightening is that these attackers are flourishing in some parts of our society.  It is our responsibility to counter these attacks with the truth of what Francis is saying, and with the truth of our faith.


Saturday, November 9, 2013


   A recent article noted that up until about 300 years ago, all arguments, i.e., discussions and philosophical inquires, about the existence of God were carried out by people who believed in God.  In the past three centuries or so, people, especially scientists, who do not believe in God or anything supernatural, have joined in the argument.

   As I pointed out in my June 10th post of this year, the modern argument with scientific unbelievers should not even be happening.  Science, by definition, studies the universe in terms of what can be quantitatively demonstrated and proven.  Scientific understanding and statistics, for example, can prove that the earth is spinning and can know the rate of spin, but scientists cannot prove that non-measurable things such as honesty, love, trust, compassion, art appreciation, etc., exist.  At best they can report on the bodily, psychological and cultural changes that take place when we experience these wonders of life.  But, for example, spouses who love each other and their children know that there is infinitely more to their love than their bodily changes, psychology and culture.  The same is true of our belief in God.  Our faith, while not in any way contradicting science or reason, goes infinitely beyond the natural limits of science and reason.

   Our best example of going beyond science and reason while not contradicting them is Jesus himself.  After he died, his followers underwent an astounding experience.  They changed from being reasonably (scientifically?) frightened and disheartened, and ready to give up any attempt to continue what Jesus had taught them, to being a beyond-science-and-reason, exultant, confident people ready to die proclaiming the good news of Jesus the Christ to the whole world.  We  believers ascribe this change to the work of the Spirit, and commemorate this world-changing event as Pentecost.  But scientists, using science alone, don't--and can't--know what we're talking about.  The Pentecost experience is forever beyond natural, scientific understanding.  So we have to explain Pentecost in a way that could possibly make the experience plausible to today's unbelievers.  

   After Jesus' horrific crucifixion and the discovery of the empty tomb, his followers began recalling how he lived.  While he was alive, they saw him as one of them, an exceptional young man, an itinerant preacher, telling them about the wonders of the Kingdom of God that was alive within them. (Mk. 17:21).  The expression, "Kingdom of God," reminded them of the historic kingdom of David and made them think of a renewed prominence of the Hebrew people and religion.  But as they thought back, they realized that Jesus was going far beyond mere history and politics--far beyond an ordinary human life and ordinary human restrictions, to present them and us with citizenship in an eternal life within us, that is creatively, healingly and lovingly energizing us and leading us to ever greater self-transformation in love.

   More astoundingly, he told them and us to be perfect as his Father was perfect (Mt. 5:48), and to sin no more. (Jn. 8:11).  Yet he knew that we are imperfect and are all sinners.  Every saint has loudly proclaimed him/herself to be a sinner, and pope Francis recently identified himself as a sinner.  Further, Jesus fed the hungry and cured the sick, and told us to do the same, (Mt. 25:31-46,) and told us  that the poor are blessed and that we are to be pure of heart, merciful, peacemakers, and that we are to accept the suffering that would come from following such an astounding life (Mt. 5:3ff), which includes our loving our enemies (Mt. 5:41-48), detaching ourselves from love of our wealth and possessions lest we identify ourselves by the things we have instead of who we truly are (Mt. 19:16:30).  When his disciples were astonished by what he was teaching, he spoke to every doubting scientist and philosopher and indeed, to every doubter who would ever live, "For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible."   

    Now Jesus clearly knew that we would fall short of what he was teaching.  So to prove that he was not preaching scientific or philosophical nonsense, or any kind of human nonsense, he astoundingly promised to forgive us and pick us up every time we fell--absolutely every time without exception (Mt. 18:22).

   And as the sadness of Jesus' death began to wear off,  Jesus' followers began to see him with new eyes--not with the eyes of fear and doubt, and not with the eyes of merely human science or philosophy or psychology, but with the eyes of the soul.  And in their spiritual discernment, they saw Jesus for who he really was, not only a preacher of astounding things but a man who actually lived all the astounding things that he taught and that his followers thought were impossible.  And they then joyfully set out to do astounding things themselves.

   So if today's scientists, philosophers, psychologists and others tell us that our faith is impossible, as I said in my June 10th post, we should not argue with them.  Instead, we should show them that we are doing astounding things in our own lives, and respectfully and lovingly invite them to join us.     


Thursday, November 7, 2013


   Forty Thousand Page Views!  Thanks to you, this blog has reached another milestone.  

   We are a world-wide community from 75 countries!  And I would like to hear from you.  I especially would like to receive suggestions on what to write about--what interests you in your progress toward a fuller and deeper life in the Spirit of Christ.  And I will welcome any questions you might have.

    You can comment at the end of any post or page, or you can contact me directly at

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Again, thank you for "tuning in."

Tony Massimini


Saturday, November 2, 2013


   The four canonical (accepted) Gospels (and Acts) were written between 70 and 100 
A. D. and truly express our faith, but within the ancient world view.  For example, they are written in the context of a flat world.  Jesus is depicted as "coming down" from heaven and of "ascending" to heaven.  As a result, many Christians today still imagine that heaven is a place "up above" earth, and far away from us "down here."

    Since the Gospels were written, our understanding of Jesus the man, and of Jesus the Messiah-Christ, has evolved 2000 years, along with our understanding of ourselves and the world.  Thanks to modern Biblical studies we can better understand Jesus' culture and psychology, e.g., how he saw and understood himself and his mission.  We can now more closely connect the divine Christ to the human Jesus and thereby bring our faith more effectively and lovingly "down to earth" and into our everyday lives.  

   And thanks to our evolution in the power of Christ's indwelling Spirit, today we can do even greater things than Jesus himself did! (Jn. 14:12).  In the power of our Christ-given, 21st century grace, we can take better, even worldwide, care of the poor, the hungry, and the sick--if we want to.  And we can be more effective agents for peace--if we want to.

   Today, very dramatically and importantly, we can now give our faith new energy, clarity and movement by expressing and living it in terms of evolution.  I would go so far as to say that it is imperative that we make our faith understandable, plausible and acceptable to today's and tomorrow's generations by expressing it in terms of evolution.  In sum, we must create a fifth Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ According to Evolution.

   Cosmologist/mystic Brian Swimme persuasively writes and lectures about the beauty and wonder of our faith when expressed in terms of evolution.  Also, in the, "An Evolution Story" page of this blog, I offer a basic outline of our faith and spirituality in terms of evolution.  And in the page, "The Spiritually Mature Person," I show how our spirituality is alive and in motion as we are called and empowered to evolve by transcending ourselves toward a fuller and more creative, healing and world-transforming, loving relationship with others, nature and God.

   Thanks to evolution, our theology has also evolved.  Before Vatican II, much of our official church theology was based on Aristotle's notion that our human nature is static and unchanging.  In such a mindset, unchanging tradition reigned supreme.  Cardinal Avery Dulles is reported to have once quipped that given the church's obsession with unchanging tradition, it's a wonder we have the second, third and fourth Gospels, since they are different from Mark's (which was the first Gospel written).

   Modern science has shown us that the natural state of things is that they are in motion until stopped, and not still until moved.  This means that our understanding and expression of our human nature can evolve and change, and it has evolved and changed.  Such evolution has resulted in a change in some of our moral judgments.  For example, as our understanding of our human nature evolved, we awoke to the injustice and horror of slavery.  Further, our evolving understanding in science and reason led us to see that the truth of our faith required that we change our teaching on religious liberty, on democracy, freedom of the press, and the separation of the institutions of the state and the church.  

   The commission that studied contraception issued a majority report based on an evolved understanding of married love.  Pope Paul VI's rejection of the commission's conclusion was followed by deep upheaval in the church and the walking away of many Catholics.  Our evolving understanding of sexual orientation is giving us new insights into this vitally important matter. And we are looking more deeply into the morality of war and capital punishment.

   The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a static, once-and-for-all-done matter but an ever-evolving expression of the living truth, beauty, wonder and inexhaustibly overflowing love of God for us and the world.  It's time to move the living Gospel forward and bring it into the 21st century.



Wednesday, October 16, 2013


   In 1983, a study found our educational system so dysfunctional that it declared us, "a nation at risk."  Today, when we look at our self-inflicted political, economic and cultural dysfunction, we can once again make that same judgment about our country.

   Our political, economic and social dysfunction is a mark of our nation's spiritual dysfunction.  Our spirituality is not some ideal abstraction; rather, it animates the everyday, concrete situations of our everyday lives.  Jesus told us specifically, e.g., to love all our neighbors and even our enemies (including our political "enemies,") and to show active, effective compassion to those who are poor, hungry, injured, ill or outcast.

   Nature tells us the same thing.  As I describe in the page, "An Evolution Story," the universe is an interconnected web of unity.  Here on earth, energy particles seek one another and join together to bring ever new seasons and ever new life into being.  Cosmologist-mystic Brian Swimme calls the built-in, mutual attraction of energy particles, "cosmic allurement," that, e.g., forms atoms, molecules, cells and elements, and expresses itself all the way from gravity to human love.

   Swimme calls the natural, active harmony, "synergy," i.e., the attracting energy that creates mutually enhancing relationships.  For example, soil, air and water work together to keep the earth ecologically alive and healthy.  Animals congregate in pairs, groups and herds.  People form families, friendships, communities and nations to nurture, protect and advance culture and civilization.  The Spiritual Disciplines can be said to describe synergy e.g., as order, peace, service to others, hope, joy of life, and love.

   In sum, both creation and Jesus unite science and spirituality into one beautiful, living whole.  So it should be difficult for discerning people to miss so basic and important a point.  Yet today, both our natural ecology and our human relationships are threatened by the dysfunction of human activity.  We are not only a nation at risk but a world at risk.

   For the spiritually mature, synergy in the form of love becomes the pattern and goal of our political, economic and cultural relationships.  As Teilhard de Chardin said, "Love is the affinity which links and draws together the elements of the world...   Love, in fact, is the agent of universal synthesis."  Together with our political, economic and educational leaders, we are called and responsible to "build the earth."  Again, as de Chardin said, "Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire." That fire is the fire of the spirituality to which we are called and empowered.


Saturday, October 5, 2013


   Pope Francis is working to replace the church's old, imperial structure with Vatican II's vision of the global People of God.  In the process, he is calling Catholics to focus on Jesus-like, compassionate discernment of real, everyday people, living in today's real, everyday world.  He is thus calling for us to grow in contemporary spiritual maturity.  (Cf. "Experiencing God Today," in this blog.)  His call could not be more timely.  With our government partially closed down, we especially need to hear what Francis is saying.

   A significant minority of our fellow citizens are holding the country hostage because their obsessive vision of an America that no longer exists is leading them to false discernment and harmful political action.  In a recent poll, a group of them said they want a country in which everyone is white and middle class, goes to the same school and to a Christian church, swims in the same swimming poor, and holds the same political views.  They fear that they have lost "their country" and want it back.  Actually, they have lost sight of the fact that America is not a country based on one ethnic identity and religion but a country based on the idea of freedom for people of all ethnic backgrounds and religions, working together for the common good.  Today we could add, "with a preferential option for the poor, sick, vulnerable and outcast."

   This minority's inability to see beyond themselves and live as spiritual adults has caused them to create a "bubble of fear," from within which they are denying the reality of today's America.  Dangerously, their fear has devolved into an ideology of anger and hatred, and they have elected people to Congress who are inflicting their anger and hate-driven fear upon the entire country.  To complete the debacle, some TV and radio personalities are making good livings by feeding the fear, anger and hatred of this minority.

   The absence of reason and humanity caused by this fear and hatred is exemplified by such incidents as a Congressman, who voted to close down the government, publicly berating a guard for keeping visitors out of a closed national monument, and a senator refusing to consider if the 800,000 federal employees he is responsible for putting out of work will receive back pay.  Commentators laughingly say that these examples are nothing more than "pranks" and "politics as usual."  Our spirituality, which was won for us on the Cross, is not that anemic; it is deep, blood red.  These "pranks" contradict our human dignity and the Spirit of Truth, and are expressions of hell.

   The Spiritual Disciplines, such as respect and service to others have gotten lost, along with trust, hope, joy of life, peace, justice and order.  Thus, America teeters on the edge of a political, economic and social collapse that is the mark of a deep spiritual collapse.

   Sadly, the minority's condition is self-afflicted.  They create and attend failed schools and failed churches, resulting in failed citizenship and a failed sub-culture.  As a result, they appear to be beyond helping themselves.  They need a strong influx of spiritual maturity from true discerning, prophetically active, compassionate, spiritual adults.  Vatican II's vision of the church requires that our spirituality "go public."  And we should note here that compassion does not exclude maturely expressed anger against injustice.

   Where are these spiritual adults to be found?  Can we look to our parishes for them?  Can we look to disenchanted Catholics?  To our non-Catholic friends?  To ourselves?  The Spirit of Christ is present and willing.  In the darkness of failed discernment, spiritual chaos looms before us.  Where do we go from here.....?? 

Saturday, September 21, 2013


   By the title of this post I don't mean that we should look to whoever will be the pope after Francis.  I mean that we should follow Francis' example.  Francis is clearly looking beyond himself to the teachings of the church--more precisely to the teachings of Vatican II, and more gloriously, to being a true expression of Jesus Christ.  He is therefore doing two very important, indeed vital, things:

   1.  He is saying that the teachings of the church, especially those of the council, and Jesus himself, are the guiding stars of all Catholics, including the popes.
   2.  He is imitating Jesus, who did not preach himself per se but constantly pointed beyond himself to the loving presence of God on earth, in all people, especially in the poor, sick, outcast, and wounded.

   Vatican II taught that all of us represent the presence of Christ in the world, and it showed us the discerning way and compassionate approach to become spiritually mature expressions of Christ.  As Jesus lived in his everyday world, we are empowered in his grace to live in our everyday world in a way that could elevate it and where necessary correct it, and thus help make it more luminously human--even into eternity.  Francis is opening the world anew to a contemporary, Christ-filled, luminous humanity.  And a humanly/spiritually hungry world is paying attention.

   Two important conclusions follow:  
     1.  While we look to Francis for the spiritual leadership that is truly, plausibly and excitingly Catholic in a contemporary way, we must imitate him and look beyond him to Christ himself, to the fullness of our Catholic faith, and to our own spiritual maturity and actions in and for today's world.
           As a corollary to this conclusion, we must not fall into the trap of politicizing what Francis is doing.  His approach is neither liberal nor conservative.  It is a genuine, Gospel approach, and must be accepted and appreciated in Gospel terms.

      2.  We must be spiritually mature enough to look beyond all popes.  Jesus did not choose Peter to be a Superstar, or a top-down monarch, or the church.  Jesus chose Peter to gather up all the faithful expressions of himself within the world-wide People of God and give these expressions clarity and authority.  Francis is showing signs of being a true Peter.

    It is important to note that while the Spirit is always present within the church, popes bring their personalities and their personal views and histories to the papacy.  John Paul II brought to the papacy his strong personality and his personal history of subjection under Nazism and Communism.  That trauma colored his papacy, making him a strong leader who rightfully preached freedom and justice to the world, but who centralized church power by keeping  the bishops loyal to himself while disregarding the theologians and the everyday faith of the people, thus obstructing the free flow of the Spirit within the church.  

   Benedict XVI brought to the papacy his personal distrust and even fear of the world, a rigid focus on doctrine in a smaller, more orthodox church, and his personal attempt to restore medieval Christianity to the 21st century, even while presenting a very insightful critique of modern capitalism.  Francis' personal history and his Jesuit history make him more pastoral and more open to the teachings of the church and Vatican II.  But even with the Spirit present, Francis could be a happy accident.

   While we certainly accept the true leadership of whoever stands in the place of Peter, we should rely primarily on our Catholic faith tradition in all its spiritual richness, and on our own personal dignity, male and female, as expressions of Christ, in the service of the world.  While we thank God for Francis, we look beyond him and thank God even more for our own faith and for our own vocation and responsibility as spiritually adult members of the world-wide People of God.  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


   In a recent article in "America" magazine, a writer noted that the fundamental threat to Catholic colleges and universities is the erosion of the value-added dimension of their Catholicity, manifested in commitment to Gospel values, liturgy, prayer, theology, social justice/service learning and fidelity to church teaching.  I typed value-added dimension in bold type because I believe that this itself is the threat to Catholic higher learning.

   I recently asked a group of students from a Catholic university what made their university Catholic.  I received blank stares.  Later, I asked a graduate of a Catholic university, where I had taught Theology late in the 1960's, "Were you taught that you are an expression of Christ in and for today's society?"  Again, I was met with a blank stare.  Then the student said that he had received a secular education,with theology and Mass added if he was interested.  So much for the value-added dimension of his Catholic education.

   Long ago, when I taught at that student's university, the Catholic students came from Catholic neighborhoods and a strong parish culture in which they were immersed.  They therefore easily accepted the "value-added" dimension of their education.  Today's Catholic students come from depleted parishes and our hyper-individualized, economically driven culture that hides God's presence deep within its fast-moving, shallow activism.  Our Catholic universities must go far beyond just a value-added dimension.  They must become centers of deep Catholic formation.

   I believe that Catholic colleges and universities should see education as an academic incarnation of the universal/global Christ.  They should be centers of a true and deep Catholic formation that prepares their Catholic students to live discerning, prophetic lives as contemporary expressions of Christ in a world where God is present in the streets, among the poor, sick, vulnerable and outcast, and in our politics, economics, sciences, arts, etc.

   In specially designed seminars, Catholic students (and others who may be interested) should be taught to discern and relate to the Mystery of the divine presence that shines within every subject and activity in their curriculum.  For example, they would be taught that every subject shows them a way to be human.  People do math, science, history, art, etc.  And since God is present in the students, as in all people, every subject shows the students a way, not only of being human but of becoming luminously human expressions of Christ.  And they should be taught to imbue their careers and lives with the spiritual disciplines, e.g., order, trust, peace, hope, joy of life, respect for labor, and loving and compassionate service to others, without imposing our religion on anyone.

   Catholic colleges and universities should ritualize contemporary ways to discern and express the presence and intentions of God in today's society and culture, so that the students can prayerfully, and even contemplatively, be inspired to actively work to fulfill Jesus' prayer (and the church's mission) that God's kingdom may come "down here" on earth as it is in heaven.

    In sum, I believe that with serious spiritual effort, our Catholic colleges and universities can change their Catholic students' and graduates' blank stares into the discerning and prophetic outlook of youth fully expecting to transcend their present self and grow into ever more luminously human expressions of Christ in and for the world they will live in and influence.



Wednesday, August 28, 2013


   Fifty years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his momentous, "I Have a Dream," speech.  His theme was freedom.  The genius of his speech was that he was talking about freedom, not just for his own African American people but for all Americans, and indeed for all peoples around the world.

   He saw deeply, down to the soul of every individual person, every community and every nation.  He saw that injustice against one person or one community or one nation is injustice against all.  He saw that until everyone enjoys the freedom and opportunity to grow and evolve beyond their present self to an ever new self in new freedom and opportunity, then no one enjoys any real freedom.

   His speech is famous, remembered and commemorated because he was not just talking about politics, economics and social justice, he was speaking about people--about their deepest longing and deepest meaning.  And he was speaking about God and God's loving will for all people.  In sum, he was speaking spirituality.

   Dr. King's spirituality gave him the insight and courage to go deep into the question of injustice, to go where it was dangerous to go, to go where--and only where--true justice and true freedom live.  And in going deep, he stirred the imagination, intentions and commitment of countless Americans who have worked and are working for the common good of all our people, for opportunity for decent jobs with living wages, for health care for all, for good schools, safe neighborhoods and good government.

   But he also stirred the fears, anger and even hatred of shallow people.  One of these shallow people assassinated him; the rest have obstructed his dream.  And today, the obstruction has reached frightening proportions.  The divisions and injustices that mark our culture, energized as they are by fear, anger and hatred, are being carried out within a new and bitter context, that of conscious lying about simple facts, e.g., we must have voter ID because voter fraud exists even though it has not been experienced, to cold indifference by those who maximize profits to the detriment of their employees and the environment, those who prey on the fears, anger and hatred of the shallow for their own careers and profit, and those who cannot see a transcendent social unity that we should be striving to attain. 

   Our spirituality moves us to see deeply--all the way to the presence of God in ourselves and in all peoples and institutions in today's world--and to respond to God at the deepest human level, where we can reach out in justice, to give everyone their due respect and dignity; in peace, to help others become who they are in the sight of God; and in compassion and charity, to help others even at a cost to ourselves.  Dr. King's dream should be our dream.  The responsibility to help his dream come fully true is definitely ours because in the end, Dr. King's dream is God's dream for all of us. 


Monday, August 26, 2013


   One of the major problems with fully activating our faith today is that so many of us imagine God as living "in heaven" up above the sky.  One reason is that the writers of the Bible used the word, "heaven," to mean the sky, and they imagined God as living above the sky.  And the New Testament speaks of Jesus "ascending" into heaven.  The result is that we can easily imagine God and eternity as "up there," distant from us.

   It is time that we brought God and eternity down to earth.  God has been with and within the universe since the moment of creation.  And where God is present, eternity is present.  So here and now, we are living in both space/time and eternity.

   Another problem is that we imagine God as a Being, and this causes us to imagine God as someone like us.  We are always in one particular place and not another, and even though we say that God is everywhere, we can easily imagine God as being in one particular place and not another.  We must erase this image from our mind.

   Our new image of God is that of an All-pervading, Creative, Healing, World-transforming, Loving Presence.  God is present in the computer or ipad you're using to read this blog.  Look at people.  God is present in all of them.  Look at nature.  God is present in all of it.  Everything and everyone are luminous with God's presence.

   Some people mistakenly say that what I'm describing is pantheism, that I'm saying that everything is God.  No.  I'm saying that God is present in everything and everyone.  As St. Augustine said, God is closer to us that we are to ourselves.  We are "saturated" with God.  So, for example, when we pray, we don't have to "reach out" to God; we simply have to relax and open ourselves to God who is already present within us and the world.  God is the vital Presence within us who already knows our innermost thoughts and desires, and who speaks to us in a whisper.

   We discern and experience God within our direct, space/time experiences, for example, when we gaze at a baby, or a sunset, when we feel thanksgiving or gratitude, or when we are conscious of our desire to grow beyond our present self to a more open, mature and complete self, e.g., in our education, marriage, career, personal qualities, etc.  Our desire to keep knowing and maturing as persons knows no limits; it goes all the way to eternity, which is already within us, calling to us.  So when we die, we do not begin our eternal life.  We end our space/time life and start to live only in eternity.

   Our new way of imaging God will help us live our faith more actively and prophetically.  Very especially,  we can get more knowledgeably and energetically engaged in doing in our terms and time what Jesus did in his terms and time, i.e., working for the common good, e.g., in education, business, politics, economics, etc., with a preferential option for the sick, poor, vulnerable and outcast.  The more justice and charity we create here in space/time, the greater glory we are giving God in eternity.


Thursday, August 15, 2013


   The first "Galileo moment" came when science showed us that the earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around.  The spiritual impact of this discovery caused us to adjust our view of ourselves.  We are not proudly at the center of the universe but more humbly, we are on a small planet in a small solar system.

   The second "Galileo moment" has come from our discovery of evolution.  Evolution has brought our faith very much "down to earth" and made it vibrantly alive and ever open to maturing.  We now see in a contemporary way that our creative, healing and world-building relationship with God has been evolving from the moment we were created.  And when we  spiritually evolved to the point where we could receive God-with-us, Jesus was born.

   Our new "Galileo moment" shows us that Jesus came first and foremost to fulfill God's eternal, overflowing love for us.  At the appropriate spiritual moment of evolution, Jesus came to share our human life with us and to elevate our space/time lives here on earth to a new level of eternal possibilities.  In a new, spiritual "Big Bang," Jesus elevated us so we could transcend our "old self" and evolve from the lowly, primitive "Don't's" of the Commandments to the lofty heights of the Beatitudes.

   Secondly, Jesus was crucified because of our sins--and not because of anything at all like God's anger or need for revenge.  In the Gospels we read that John the Baptist preached repentance and fiery judgment.  But when he sent his followers to ask Jesus if Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus surprised and disappointed them with the compassion-filled response that the blind regained their sight, the lame walked, lepers were healed and the deaf heard. (Lk. 7:19-22).

   In joyful response to Jesus' work and prayers, evolution helps us focus our attention on bringing God's loving, compassionate kingdom "on earth as it is in heaven."  In the grace of Christ we live in our time and culture as Jesus lived in his time and culture, i.e., blessing the poor by doing all we can to help them get food, jobs, housing, education, etc.; healing the sick, blind and lame, by helping them get the best possible health care; getting our leaders to work as effectively as possible for peace; ensuring justice by getting our business people to make a fair profit while creating jobs that enable employees to live decent lives; and "being in charge of the earth" by caring for the environment. 

   Christ living within us makes us and the world sacred expressions of himself.  Evolution shows us that our work as expressions of Christ is to move the world forward toward its sacred fulfillment, to help creation evolve by making the world more luminously human in the love of Christ.  The works that we call "social justice and peacemaking" are not a ministry for us but our primary ministry.

   Unfortunately, church authorities pay too much attention to defending church doctrines--often as a way of maintaining their authority and power--and not enough attention to mobilizing Catholics to do the everyday, down-to-earth work of moving the world forward and elevating it in the grace of Christ.  Inattention to our primary ministry in and for today's world, and to a liturgy that ritualizes it, is an important reason why so many of us have grown disaffected from the church.

   By his own example, Jesus shows us--and especially today's young people--that the ever evolving beauty and challenge of living in Christ is to get as deeply and effectively engaged in our society and culture as he was.  The new, evolutionary "Galileo moment" awaits and challenges all of us.

Sunday, July 28, 2013


   Recently, a fellow theologian and I named a few of today's American prophets.  They included Jim Wallis of "Sojourners," TV's John Stewart and Stephen Colbert, and Senator Elizabeth Warren.  You can certainly think of others.

   Wallis fights Biblically on behalf of the poor, Stewart and Colbert use comedy and satire to point out the anti-spiritual behavior of our politicians and bankers, and Senator Warren is fighting for truth and justice in our capitalistic economy.  All four provide plenty of room for us to be 21st century prophetic expressions of Christ in our own way.  Our "audience" may not be as big as theirs but that doesn't matter.  We are called as prophets to engage in spiritual politics and economics with everyone me meet, every store or business we buy from, and everyone we vote for.

   Practicing spiritual politics and economics means elevating, humanizing, healing, and correcting today's society and culture in the way Jesus engaged in his society and culture.  And Jesus' way does not rule out getting angry in the face of injustice and self-serving distortions of our system.  Jesus did not shy away from getting angry when it was necessary.  The 23rd chapter of Matthew quotes Jesus' powerful prophetic engagement with the scribes and Pharisees, members of the powerful elite of his society. Among other things, Jesus calls them hypocrites and whitewashed tombs filled with dead men's bones.  And he upset the rich of his time by declaring to the oppressed poor that the Kingdom of God is theirs.

   Today we look at the behavior of our politicians and business people to see if they are responsibly using our capitalistic system to provide justice, peace, and prosperity for the entire population, with special emphasis on the poor, sick, vulnerable, and outcast.  Working for the common good within our political/economic system is a graced endeavor.  It is not communism.

   As Catholic citizens we have the spiritual right and responsibility to rise up in protest when our politicians and bankers favor the "powerful elite" instead of working for the whole country, and when legislators use their private religious views to obstruct such things as gay marriage and health care for all.  If they cannot legislate for the whole community, and if they cannot use caring reason and our American concept of freedom to justify their votes, then they shouldn't vote.  And we should rise up in protest against business and banking practices that maximize profits for the elite few and leave so many Americans unable to find jobs or unable to find jobs that provide sustainable incomes.

   Spiritual politics and economics also means criticizing our bishops when they try to impose their own religious, "powerful elite" views of morality on our American legal system.  They are commissioned by Christ not to impose but to attract and persuade our society and culture to rise up to a more luminously human way of living.  And they should include the faith discernment of the theologians and laity in making their moral judgments.  They can then use our faith to help all Americans elevate and clarify contemporary reasoning.  We believe that faith elevates and clarifies all human reason, so that clear, elevated, caring reason, and not anyone's religion, can and should be the basis for our country's laws.

   Most of us will not find the necessary spiritual formation for spiritual politics and economics in our parishes.  This sad fact makes our parishes another place for us to be prophetic.  In the meantime we can gather like-minded people together to study and to prayerfully help form ourselves into Christ-like prophets who can activate the spiritual politics and economics that God is calling us to today.  People are suffering.  Waiting is not an option.  



Tuesday, July 2, 2013


   To paraphrase St. Paul, "We live, no longer we, but Christ lives in us."  (Gal. 2:20)  This magnificent and challenging truth calls and empowers us to see as Christ would see and to act as Christ would act, here and now, throughout the world.

    The Spirit of Christ living within us is actually God:  Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  "Christ" means the loving union of God and creation, the union of God and ourselves.  In the case of Jesus, God and Jesus were one person.  In our case, we are our own person and God lives within us.  So we are not Christ himself but expressions of Christ.

   After Jesus rose from the dead, he appeared to his followers.  They saw him, spoke with him, touched him and ate with him.  Then he physically removed himself from the world. The Bible says he "ascended" into heaven. (Acts 1:9-11).  That's because at that time, people thought the world was flat and God lived in heaven up above the world.  Today we would say something like, "Jesus removed himself from space/time."
   Then Jesus sent us his Spirit.  In doing so, he elevated our lives to a new, evolutionary level.  He did not send us his limited, human, 1st century, male, Palestinian spirit; he sent us his unlimited, divine, global Spirit.  As a result, he could not be restricted to one area or one time period or one culture or one gender.  Instead, he could live in all areas, all times and cultures, and in all people, both male and female.  All are valid expressions of Christ in their own way.

   Christ is so global that we Catholics go so far as to say that all people who live in consistent good will and love are expressions of Christ.  That's because, without God's grace, i.e., without Christ's Spirit living within them, they could not live in consistent good will and love.  So today we can look around the world and see Christ being expressed in people of consistent good will and love, in all the various countries and ethnic traditions.  Also, Vatican II taught that the church of Christ extends beyond the borders of the Roman Catholic Church.  People of various faith traditions and even atheists (as Pope Francis recently pointed out) can, in our view, express Christ in their own way and be saved.   

   Our global view does not make us indifferent.  We don't say that all faiths are equal and it doesn't matter what faith tradition a person may, or may not, belong to.  While we respect all legitimate faith traditions, and people of no faith, we still believe that as Catholics we have the fullness of spiritual resources.  This still leaves room for people of other faiths and of no faith to live better spiritual lives than Catholics who do not take advantage of their own spiritual resources.

   The main point is to rejoice that Christ lives in people throughout the world, so we can reach out in peace and love and seek ways to work together to elevate and heal our world together.  The creative, healing, and world-transforming love that we share with all others is the surest sign that Christ lives within us.    


Tuesday, June 18, 2013


   We've all heard the "mantras," "I'm spiritual but not religious," and "I don't have a religion, I have a relationship with God."  Many Christians today are rejecting religion in favor of their own spirituality and faith.  But that presents a problem.  We cannot be spiritual or believe in a vacuum.  A valid Christian spirituality and faith must arise from a Christian faith tradition.  

  Our Christian faith puts us in a relationship with God by making us members of the People of God.  Our faith calls for us to join with others in a communion of love, and moves us to prophetically act, along with others of good will, for the good of others and the world.  In sum, our faith automatically puts us in a religious community.  So it seems to me that many believers are not rejecting religion, but are rejecting bad religion.  Similarly, just because some of our schools are bad, we don't reject education; we reject bad education.  And there's plenty of both to go around these days.

   I also believe that some of today's professed atheists are actually rejecting bad religion.

   Our spiritual seekers do make an important point.  There is a difference between faith, morality and spirituality on one hand, and religion on the other.  
         Our faith can be described as our individual and communal, loving, trusting "belongingness" with God, and includes what we believe.  Our  faith is based in God and centered in Jesus Christ.  
         Our morality can be described as our loving conformity with the Catholic code of conduct.
         Our spirituality arises from our personal relationship with God.  It includes our personal experience of God, along with our discernment of God's presence and intentions, our personal vocation, and our prophetic actions that move us and our society toward the ever conscious fullness of wholeness-in-love.  
         Our religion can be described as the way we organize, teach and present what we believe.  Today's Christian religion runs all the way from the Catholic and Protestant mainstream, to radical fundamentalists who believe that every word of the Bible is literally true, to militants who want to impose their faith on our country, to storefront churches, to those who picket military funerals and harass gays.  Our Catholic religion includes the monarchical authority structure in which it is organized and presented.
   Our Catholic faith is essentially the same today as it was for the first Christians 2000 years ago.  Our Catholic religion, however, has changed drastically.  First century Catholicism (though  it wasn't called that) was very much a "people's religion."  Christians met in their homes for the Eucharistic meal, and they openly discussed and even debated what Christ meant to them.  One of the results was the four Gospels, in which the same faith was organized and written down from four different points of view.  And even before the Gospels were written, St. Paul changed Jesus' Jewish presentation of the faith, e.g., the Kingdom of God, into a presentation (religion) that suited his Gentile audiences, e.g., the Body of Christ.  Later, Christians changed Jesus' agricultural presentation of faith, e.g., mustard seeds, wheat and weeds, vineyards, shepherds and flocks, into a philosophical presentation, e.g., of God as the Supreme Being, and of the soul and body.  The whole idea was to create a religion that was as suitable, relevant and open as possible, so that the people could give the fullest and most meaningful expression to the one, Christian faith.  

   Through the centuries, as our understanding of our one, Catholic faith evolved and was clarified, it was also locked up in an authoritative structure and teachings that were increasingly removed from the people's everyday culture and experience, e.g., democracy, freedom of the press, separation of church and state, etc., and tightly guarded by the church's power elite.  In many ways, the Catholic religion became an obstacle to the one, living Catholic faith.  Vatican II tried to re-open the way to a timely, relevant, world-wide people's expression of our Catholic faith.  The council recognized that there are new, contemporary ways to understand the world and what it means to be human in today's world.  New ways were therefore needed to express our faith, e.g., ways that considered dialoguing with today's world, the role of the laity, and the dignity and role of women.  

   Actually, one way that Vatican II found these "new ways" was by going back and revisiting the old ways of the early "people's church."  The council "opened windows" but the power elite closed them.  And Catholics started to walk away from their increasingly irrelevant religion.  Sadly, many of them are walking very much alone.  Hopefully, they have not also walked away from their faith.

   Pope Francis has stirred some hope that our Catholic religion may once again become officially open to relevant, contemporary expressions of our faith.  If he succeeds in removing the obstructions (against what, at this moment, are heavy odds), we will see a great leap forward in elevating and healing today's church and today's world.  If he fails...well, let's pray that he doesn't fail.