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.....??