Monday, September 21, 2015


   When Pope Francis comes to America this week, he will speak two languages:  Spanish and English.  But more importantly, he will speak the language of Spirituality.  Certainly whatever he says will include dogmatic and moral meaning, but his words, demeanor, humility, and openness to the people, will be expressed in the language of the Spirit.  Just the way Jesus spoke.  For the most part, he will focus on our everyday experience of God, and on God's call to each of us and to the institutions of our society, to be humble, open and caring for the poor, sick, and oppressed--and for the spiritually distressed.

   And he will speak concretely.  Jesus was not some otherworldly figure hovering above the earth; he was a real person of flesh and blood, deeply involved in his society that was oppressed by the pagan Romans and, in the case of the poor, by its own leaders.  So he will speak spiritually by using concrete examples that pertain directly to the values and institutions of our society, especially to the government and to the corporations.  Our religion is an incarnate i.e., "enfleshed" religion, a religion that embraces all the "flesh and blood" of our daily lives and institutions and of the earth itself.  So Francis will speak with an immediacy that will make many Americans and even bishops uncomfortable, and even angry.  

   Archbishop Chaput, Francis' Philadelphia host, has said that many Catholics are "confused" by the way Francis speaks and leads the church.  I believe Chaput was referring to the fact that Francis does not speak directly of the church's authoritative teachings on sexuality, by which we save our souls, as so many Catholics are accustomed to hearing.  Francis' emphasis is on the everyday, "messy" things of this world, like economic justice and care of the earth. One Congressman has said he will not attend the Pope's appearance before Congress because Francis will say things unfavorable to his party.  This man appears to have no idea of spirituality.  He has reduced himself to living in a political bubble that does not know the eternity that gives politics its life and ultimate meaning.  So he understands everything only in political terms.  

   Sadly, Francis will be addressing many Americans who have lost the ability to see the presence of eternity--of the Creative, Healing and World-Transforming Love--that is present within all our country and ourselves, and that gives us the ultimate meaning that animates and nourishes all our worldly meaning.  Francis is a citizen of the "Kingdom of God on Earth," that Jesus prayed to come. Francis' "kingdom" has no borders.  His call for justice and peace, especially for the poor and vulnerable, applies to the entire world.  So his speeches and appeals will be to all Americans, of every color and creed, of every political bent, of every economic level, etc., to be discerning and active  prophets working for justice and peace, not only for our own country, but for all the peoples in the world, and for the earth itself. 

   Let us pray that we not only hear Francis, but that we listen to him, and then work with all people of good will, to fulfill our faith by helping to make our country and the world more luminously alive with justice, peace and love.       

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


  We have traditionally understood our country's motto to mean that America is One country made up of people of Many ancestries, races and religions.  The "glue" that is intended to unify us is our inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  However, if we look at our history honestly,we must admit that the road to fulfilling our ideal of oneness has been filled with many obstacles.  And it is especially obstructed today.

   Despite the fact that many Americans of all colors and creeds are trying hard to live the American dream, our country has fragmented into a Many that is marked by fear, anger, greed and even violence.  Our ability to govern ourselves has particularly suffered.  Existing social programs like health care, social security, help for the poor and unemployed, protection of the vulnerable and outcast, etc., are met with loud and strong resistance from a significant portion of our citizens.  Proposed programs such as creating meaningful jobs, rebuilding our infrastructure, settling our immigration policy fairly and humanely, respecting teachers and workers, etc., are stymied.

   In truth, America won't recover from--can't recover--from our present brokenness if we continue to operate within our present mindset of fearful, self-seeking, angry fragmentation.  We need a mindset of oneness that will make our ideal and the policies and programs that follow from it plausible and workable.  In the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we need a new dream.  In the Spirit of Christ, we need a new influx of discernment of God's creative, loving intentions for America.  

   To help us form the necessary mindset, I suggest we expand our motto to read:

                                          EX UNO, PLURES;  E PLURIBUS UNUM
                            From our Oneness, Many;  From our United Many, One

   In our present distress, we cannot gather our Many into One.  Oneness of Mind and Heart must come first.  For us to be truly one American nation, our various citizens of our various races, religions and sub-cultures can live, grow and flourish only within a fundamental unity--more precisely, within our fundamental oneness.

   Fundamental oneness is not uniformity.  It is not restrictive.  It is creative.  It is built into creation itself, which is the image of the One Creative God.  The fantastic multiplicity and individuality of the universe arose and is evolving from a single, created energy dot that formed itself into one cosmic web of unity.  The earth arose from within the cosmic web of unity.  The natural, divinely created, fundamental web of unity gives all reality it fundamental meaning.

   For example, quarks are different from electrons, which are different from photons.  And yet all are made of the one, same universal energy source, and all are intended to work together within the cosmic web of unity to build one universe, one world and one humanity.  If a quark, electron or photon leaves the web of unity within which it lives and has its meaning, it loses its meaning and begins to die.

   What is true on the sub-atomic scale is true on every level of the universe and on earth.  For example, before we are Black or White or Red or Yellow; before we are American, European, African or Asian; before we are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, etc.; before we are male or female, straight or gay, liberal or conservative, we are human, joined together by flesh and blood in one human family. In this light we can see that today's fear driven, greedy and even violent fragmentation is literally dehumanizing us and plunging us into a hell of meaninglessness and absurdity.

   The philosophy of atheist Jean Paul Sartre helps us understand the depth and meaning of our fragmentation.  He said that we have no oneness or given meaning.  We are all lone individuals with no community and no role to play with others.  (No web of unity.)  Without any given meaning we are free to give ourselves whatever meaning we care to give.  It doesn't matter.  All is absurd.  We must avoid others, especially those we might love or who might love us, because they could give us meaning and thereby steal our freedom to give ourselves meaning.  "Hell is other people."  God can't exist because he would give us total meaning and thereby destroy us totally.  Sartre's philosophy was one of deep pessimism and depression.

   I believe that our society today is marked by what the Existentialists call, "Shipwreck."  Our society is broken into pieces and is laying all scattered about on a stormy seashore.  In a panic, some very frightened shipwrecked Americans see unified meaning as the imposition of Socialism or Communism, or even Sharia Law, by a dictatorial Federal government.  For some, the imperial, panicked answer is to impose their form of Christianity on our country.  

   In the words of T. S. Eliot, we have lost our ability to find "the still point of the turning world," where the "dancing" (of life) is.  And with W. B. Yeats, in his poem, "The Second Coming," some of us look out and hope, "Surely some revelation is at hand."

   Finding the "still point," and the "revelation at hand" depends on our rediscovering the natural and Divine Source of our oneness and the web of unity that our oneness creates.  To begin with, we need new, 21st century prophets, i.e., new, spiritually mature, discerning proclaimers of truth, who will publicly point out the destructiveness of our politicians' self-interests and our corporations' greed.  They will insist that our leaders change their self-serving actions to actions that unify our people in justice, peace, caring service to one another, and healing, life-giving love. When Pope Francis comes to America at the end of this month, he will no doubt speak of the natural and divinely given unity of our human society and with the environment, within our unity with God.  We need "everyday people" to pick up on his message and, in good American "lingo," push it.  

    Again to quote T. S. Eliot, "We shall not cease from exploring and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."  And once again, we will begin to find that from our re-newly discovered Oneness, the way to a new and blessed American "Many."