Experiencing God Today

   We experience God within ourselves and in today's society and culture.

Within Ourselves:  No one experiences God directly, but indirectly.  We experience God in terms of ourselves, others and the world/universe.  Concerning ourselves, this means we have to get to know ourselves as deeply and truthfully as we can.  Our true self is not our shallow ego that pushes us, e.g., to "look good," to "be No. 1," or to be the first to have the latest gadget, etc.  We see and find our true self in our ever evolving journey toward becoming genuinely fulfilled as the person we truly are.  It is to evolve daily, together with others and the world, toward wholeness-in-love.  

  We are everyday mystics.  To be a mystic is to see what is hidden.  Our faith opens us to look into ourselves, others and the world/universe and to "see" God, Christ within ourselves, others and the world--i.e., to see what is hidden from atheists and agnostics. 
    If we look deeply into ourselves, we will see our gifts, talents, possibilities and opportunities, and we will feel a desire to fulfill them.  Even more deeply, we will feel ourselves being called into the future from the future,, i.e., we are being called to transcend our present self and move forward in our lives. We are being called, invited, to go deeply into ourselves where our core energy is, where God waits for us in the pregnant silence of our of who we are and who we can become.  And in the creative, healing and self-and world-transforming love of God, we are being called to  grow and evolve into our fullest self--to move more lovingly and effectively toward wholeness-in-love. 

   It is precisely within our gifts and talents, possibilities and opportunities, and within our deep desire to respond to the call to become our fullest and truest self, that we experience the presence and intentions of God within ourselves.  

   In particular, we experience God's presence and intentions within ourselves according to:

1. Our Age:  For example, children experience God in terms of their parents.  Adolescents, in their desire to find their individuality and personality.  Young adults, in their search and dreams for a career and life-path.  Adults, in their concern for work/profession/civic engagement, and marriage.  Seniors, in the wisdom of life-experience.

2.  Our Gender:  Males and females have their unique way of experiencing themselves, the world, and God.  Both male and female experiences must be equally respected.

3.  Our Race:  For example, Hispanics, African-Americans, Whites, Asian-Americans, Native Americans, and all others, experience God in their own way.  These culturally colored experiences reflect the different aspects of the one, rich human experience.  All must be equally respected.

4.  Our Personal History:  Every life is a journey.  The spiritual journey for each one of us is unique.  We respect everyone's uniqueness as we walk our spiritual journeys together toward wholeness-in-love.

5.  Our Personality Type:  For example, the extrovert, the introvert, the leader, the follower, the caretaker, etc. express different ways of experiencing and expressing the presence and intentions of God.

6.  Our Culture:  We experience God e.g., in our family and social life, education, politics, economics, science, arts, entertainment, etc.  In the mid-20th century, agnostic philosopher, Martin Heidegger noted that if God exists, he is known by his absence.  This sad fact is even more poignant today.  Today's hyper-individualized, fast-moving, changing, noisy, shallow greed corrupted culture can drown out our experience of God.  We are daily challenged to find the place of quiet within ourselves, the "still point of the turning world," (T. S. Eliot) where we can see how to respond to God's presence and intentions by fulfilling our true selves in today's society and culture.

                           The Sensus Fidei and Sensus Fidelium

   In my Vatican II page, I began to describe a way to understand the sense of the faith that we enjoy as baptized members of the People of God.  Take the example of a child.  Imagine a child as being made of energy, and then imagine that energy as light. 

  Imagine a child that is made of light.  Now imagine that there is an even brighter Light shining within the child, entirely filling the child from head to toe.  And finally, imagine that at every point where the greater Light is touching the child, that touch is immaculate.  Now we have a picture of a child in whom God is present.  The Light that is filling the child is the Light of Infinite, Eternal Love.    

   To complete the picture, imagine the entire world made of light, within which a brighter Light of Love is shining.  Stretch your imagination to include the entire universe.  And then stretch to see that the Light that is God not only fills the entire universe but extends infinitely beyond the universe.
   Let yourself feel some awe and wonder at God's intimate, loving presence within every person and even the smallest thing that exists, along with God's intimate presence within the stars and galaxies and all that exists.  
   As we live in our finite world, with its limitations and temptations, the light that we are can dim somewhat, but it never goes out.  And it can always be restored to brightness.  God never abandons us and we never become totally corrupt.  The light within us is always there to illuminate our way and call us back. 

   This is one way of seeing what our faith gives us.  This way of seeing is the basis for our sense of the faith.  It is the start of our ability to "see" God, and to know, understand, interpret and apply God's revelation and intentions for us, in our everyday lives.

   Now let's get back to the child.  Let's consider ourselves as adults who are responsible to form and nourish the child.  As adults, we already know ways to form and nourish children.  As people of faith, we will check to see that the ways we form and nourish the child are in full accord with the intentions of God who is dwelling within the child.  God's presence within the child is not some "nice thing" that the child can do without.  It is not the "icing on the cake" that we can remove and still have the cake.  God's presence is the essential and necessary basis for the child's very existence and the child's life, growth and fulfillment.    

   Shining within the child, the Light that is God is calling the child to his/her greatest and richest fulfillment, as an image of Eternal, Infinite Love.  In today's evolutionary world, we say that God, who is in eternity, i.e., not/space-not/time, is present within the child now, and is also calling the child from within the child's future.  As adults, we are able to "hear" God's call to the child and ensure that the child responds as fully as possible, and thereby becomes as fully as possible who God has called the child to become.  

   Through knowledge and experience we know a great deal about how to raise a child.  Our sense of the faith, which is our intuitive instinct concerning God's existence, presence, truth and intentions, enlightens and strengthens our knowledge and experience, so we can raise the child as successfully as possible.  We will, for example, see that the child is properly nourished and cared for; that he/she goes to school and studies well.  In general, we will see to it that the child lives in an environment that is ordered, peaceful, just, safe,hopeful,  joyful, and loving. We will take special care to nourish the child's sense of awe and wonder, because these are beautiful emotions to feel toward the world and indeed, the entire universe, and they are the basic emotions that we feel toward God.  Every individual decision we make for the child will be the best decision we can make in line with our faith enlightened knowledge and experience.  

   Now we can switch the example to ourselves and become that child. 
   Let's pay attention for a moment to the way many of us were raised in the faith.  If you're old enough and lived in a big city, you will remember growing up on a "Catholic island."  For younger readers, please put up with us for a moment.  

   Just about everybody on the "island" was of the same ethnic background.  Discipline and compliance were in the very air we breathed.  Adults were watching everywhere, so if we got into trouble, our mothers knew about it before we got home.  The church took care of almost all our needs:  Catholic school, Mass and the other sacraments, sports activities, dances and other social events, dating the boy or girl down the street, etc.  Adults left the "island" to go to work, and then came back in the evening.   

   After World War II, many veterans took advantage of the GI Bill, went to college and started on upwardly mobile careers.  Catholics began moving off the island and into the greater population.  The social bonds that kept much of the faith alive disappeared as Catholics now lived among people of various ethnic backgrounds and religions--and of no religion--neighbors whom they liked and respected.  

   Their sense of the faith moved into a "dark night." Old spiritual customs and consolations died.  The new experiences should have been the raw material for a new, more individualized sense of the faith that necessitated a deeper understanding of what it meant to be part of a spiritual community that was not socially/physically present on an everyday basis.  Now or faith presented itself in a different, less established way, e.g., in our work, our politics, our schools, our regard for women's rights, for world peace, etc.  And many of us began getting spiritually lost in this new world. 

    In sum, Vatican II became necessary.  We had to learn anew how to recognize and practice our faith in a world that was new and different. But the council was never effectively implemented. Catholics were not spiritually educated and formed to successfully handle the new social/individual/spiritual challenges they faced.  Their sense of the faith couldn't keep up with their new experiences.  Slowly, many Catholics began to realize that they were spiritually very much on their own. Despite what many Catholic said, Vatican II did not cause the confusion, Vatican II opened a way for us to clear up the confusion and live ever more mature spiritual lives in our new world.

   In a very important way, therefore, our recent history clearly shows how important it is for us to develop a clear and effective sense of the faith for ourselves.  We new to take a new, deeper look at ourselves and at today's society and culture, and once again, recognize and appreciate the gifts, talents, possibilities and opportunities that God has given us, and learn how to turn our talents and opportunities into ways to help build a new society and culture that reflects God's loving presence in a contemporary way.  It is in these terms that we can once again experience God within ourselves and the world.  We can contribute our contemporary experiences of God to our church, so that the church can come "up to date," as it teaches our timeless truths in a clear, understandable and acceptable way. 

                                        The Male-Dominant Problem in Experiencing God              
   The subjugation of women in society and in the church, along with predominantly male images of God, have weighed heavily on women's experience of God and their sense of faith.  It all started when the male dominant Hebrews imaged a male God as creating the universe.  A female-imaged God, e.g., would have birthed forth the universe from her womb. The male God created the dominate Adam, and then took the dependent Eve from Adam's rib.  In the Garden of Eden, Eve seduced Adam into eating a piece of fruit.  Eve, the woman, and all women after her, are blamed for the Fall.  In the male-dominant, patriarchal culture,  blaming the man was unthinkable.  Eve became the seducing sinner, and gave that image to all women.   (See the page, An Evolution Story, for a contemporary look at the "Fall.")

   To make matters worse, St. Augustine, troubled by having begotten an illegitimate son, later added that original sin was sexual.  So Eve, the seducing woman, became the seducing, sexual sinner, giving that image to all women.  Eve was offset by the Virgin Mary, the ideal woman.  Women then took on both aspects and developed a self-conflicted, Madonna-Whore image, elevated to the highest expectancy by men, while at the same time disrespected by men.      
   Now, given the evolution of our understanding of humans and human nature, and given the teaching of Vatican II, let's be clear:  women enjoy equal human and baptismal dignity with men.  Women are images of God, in their own way, as clearly and fully as men are in their own way.  The truth from God is that there is neither Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free; there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:28).

   Christianity's loss because of the curse of sexism has been immense.  For example, Professor Karen L. King of Harvard Divinity School lists a series of views that were put forth by early Christian women.  How different would women's experience of God and sense of faith be today, and how different would the church be if these views had been taken to heart:  
   --Jesus was seen primarily as a teacher and mediator, rather than a ruler and judge
   --People can have direct access to God through receiving the Holy Spirit
   --Those who are spiritually advanced freely give their gifts to all, without claim to a fixed, hierarchical ordering of power
   --An ethics of freedom and spiritual development is emphasized over an ethics of order and control
   --Both women and men could exercise leadership on the basis of spiritual achievement apart from gender status and without conformity to established social gender roles
   --Overcoming social injustice and human suffering are seen to be integral to spiritual life.

                                                  Race and Our Sense of our Faith 
   The outline above states that we understand, interpret and apply our sense of the faith, in part at least, according to our race.  An outstanding example of this was the Civil Rights movement led by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the 1960's.  This movement expressed the faith of African Americans as applied to the American experience, and also went beyond the particular needs of African-Americans--as immense as they were!--to include and embrace the needs of every American for freedom, fairness, brother-and-sisterhood, and good will.  Today's expression of African-American Liberation Theology carries on the work of  freedom from racism.  One mark of our faith is that, while it pertains to every individual person and race, it is always universally applicable.

  Hispanic-Americans are expressing their sense of the faith in their own way.  Elizabeth Johnson, in her outstanding book, Quest for the Living God, mentions the Hispanic-inspired God of the Fiesta, i.e., of the beauty and celebration of our experience of God's presence in today's world; and of la lucha, the Hispanics' struggle to engage in today's society.  She also mentions the Hispanic devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, who is an expression not only of Mary, but of the Holy Spirit. 

   Many white Americans are struggling to clarify their sense of the faith today.  Sadly, for all too many, fear, prejudice and even hatred are resulting from the rising numbers of non-whites in our society.  Also, white Catholics are having trouble discerning the aspects of our faith that are being continually hidden or drowned out by the noise, shallowness, super-competitiveness, etc., that mark today's culture.  This blog is my way of showing that much of this did not have to happen.  If Vatican II had been fully implemented, Catholics of all races would have clear and effective ways to sense, understand, interpret and apply our faith in today's society.        

   We understand, interpret and apply our faith in accord with our personal life history.  Every life is a journey, and every journey is unique.  This is one important reason why the church should be an open, collaborative church in which every member contributes his or her own life experience. Our individuality should be respected, and when we make our own individual decisions and act in our own way in particular situations, we should be able to have access to personal guidance and encouragement, along with general rules.   

   At present, the church is not set up to provide this kind of interaction among us.  In fact, the horrifically bad treatment of the sex abuse victims shows that the bishops' had a callous disregard for people's personal experience.  And the present conflict between the Vatican and American nuns shows how badly church authorities do not know, understand or appreciate, and therefore are prejudging, the individual discernment and actions of some of our most discerning and prophetic Catholics.

  Guidance and Counsel is one the the Spiritual Disciplines.  We should all have someone with whom we can discuss our personal, spiritual journey.  Ideally, that person would be a person of deep spiritual experience and knowledge, but all of us could use our personal sense of the faith and common sense to engage in richly rewarding conversation.    

  It would be ideal if parishes were set up to provide spiritually mature and knowledgeable people who can guide others in their journeys, and help them become guides themselves.  More generally, for example, parents could discuss, in person and/or through email groups, the sacred meaning of raising children; teachers could discuss how to apply their faith in the classroom without imposing their religion on their students; business people could discuss their views of business ethics, etc. 

   In the absence of an open, collaborative church, we can look to help one another on our spiritual journeys.        

   God does not reveal doctrines and theological formulas to us.  God reveals him/herself to us--his/her life and love.  We in turn assent to God's self-revelation by believing in God and returning our life and love to God.  

   As we grow in our experience of God's self-revelation to us, our understanding grows and we create words, formulas and doctrines that officially express who God is and what God has done for us.  Thus we have formulated the Apostles Creed, and the Nicene Creed that is recited at Mass.  In these creeds, we express the oneness of the faith of the entire People of God, the church.

   Within these Creeds, each of us then understands, interprets and applies the one faith according to our own way of discerning--in common with the discernment of the whole People of God.  This includes our own personality.  Many of us, especially those who are older, will remember that our image of a saint usually came from looking at a holy card.  The artist's depiction often made the saint look like he or she was experiencing some form of ecstasy, or possibly was about to levitate off the ground.  What does a saint, or even a regular holy person, really look and act like?  The right answer of course is that a saint, or a regular holy person looks and acts like us when we are responding to God's self-communication according to our own personality.   

  The only changes that would be required would be to correct anything about our personality that would interfere with our relationship with God and others, e.g., a quickness to anger or criticize, a bad attitude, etc.  These faults actually hide our true self, so getting rid of them will help us live as we truly are and  therefore have life in abundance.  

    Fr. Ormond Rush's book, The Eyes of Faith--The Sense of the Faith and the Church's Reception of Revelation, is an excellent theological course on the sense of the faith.  In it he says that our response to God is so personal that within the one Catholic faith, each of us writes and lives our own catechism.  So we should get to know ourselves as well as possible.  And we should respect our personal dignity as baptized Christians and 21st century expressions of Christ.  We grow and evolve in spirituality and in our resemblance to Christ, not by separating ourselves from ourselves but by making ourselves all that God intends us to be, in the grace of Christ.

  The sense of the faith must be present and alive in today's culture.  Our challenge is to make our culture an expression of Christ, without imposing our religion on anyone.  In a special way, we do this by working to make our culture a clear and effective expression of the Principles of Social Justice and the Spiritual Disciplines.  

   We must avoid two extremes: 1) imposing our religion on our society and culture, and 2) separating our faith altogether from our culture.  The first extreme especially arises when the bishops try to impose their power on our society.  The  second extreme is the danger that I will discuss below.

   In 1994, The National Catholic Reporter printed an article about Briggs & Stratton's closing of one of their plants and moving their production to Mexico, thus putting many long time, American employees out of work.  In the article, the paper mentioned that the executives are Catholics, and it questioned their adherence to Catholic social principles.  

  The closing of the plant could have been a necessary and ethical move.  That's not the story. The story is that in 1996, Briggs & Stratton sued the NCR for 30 million dollars for revealing that the executives are Catholics and for questioning their adherence to Catholic social principles.  Along the way, the company's vice president made this statement, "My religious upbringing has absolutely nothing to do with the basic economic decisions made by the company." 

   Fast forward to today: In this week's edition of "America" magazine, (June, 2012) a chief executive of a corporation is quoted as saying, "I wouldn't know the common good if it bit me."  

   The two statements typify the pressing need for business executives, and people in every part of our society, to take the time and make the effort to find their own sense of the faith, and bring it to life in today's culture. 

  Executives may know the principles of Social Justice, but that knowledge is useless unless they know how to apply the principles and bring them to full life in their business.  It's like saying that they have an idea of who Jesus is, but don't know how to recognize and relate to Jesus in the flesh.  A flesh-less Jesus is not the real Jesus. 

  An abstract understanding of the Principles of Social Justice, and the Spiritual Disciplines that give the principles life, is not social justice in the flesh.  When business executives, along with workers, teachers, health care providers, scientists, artists, et. al. don't know the real, flesh-and-blood Jesus, they give anemic service to others, or no service at all.  Businesses, for example, do not just provide a profitable service for the entire community.  Instead, they turn business on itself so that "business is business," i.e., a way of making profit for the few, to the detriment of the workers, the community, and the environment.   People suffer, and our culture suffers.

   Vatican II's language is a bit clumsy but it's message on this point is clear and strong: 

          They are mistaken who, knowing that we have here no abiding city but seek one which is to come (cf. Heb. 13:14), think that they may therefore shirk their earthly responsibilities.  For they are forgetting that by the faith itself they are more obliged than ever to measure up to these duties, each according to his proper vocation (2 Thess. 3:6-13; Eph. 4:28).  Nor, on the contrary, are they any less wide of the mark who think that religion consists in acts of worship alone and in the discharge of certain moral obligations, and who imagine they can plunge themselves into earthly affairs in such a way as to imply that these are altogether divorced from the religious life. This split between the faith which many profess and their daily lives deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age.

      June 11, 2012
         Mythologist Joseph Campbell once told the story of two policemen in Hawaii who were driving a patrol car along the top of a cliff when they saw a man about to jump off the cliff.  As the driver screeched the car to a halt the other policemen ran out and grabbed the man just as he jumped.  For a long frightening moment, the policeman held on to the man's wrist at peril to his own life, until the other policeman arrived and joined in pulling the man up.

   When people asked the policeman why he held on, especially since he was married and had children, he explained that he never had any thought of letting the man go.  Campbell explained that the policeman's act showed our basic human oneness.  The same oneness shows when a soldier falls on a grenade to save his buddies.    

  We all share in this same oneness; it is built right into us and into the universe itself.  Our individuality and uniqueness arise from it.  As unique as we are, we basically depend on one another. The basic energy of our lives is to love one another.  In the sub-atomic realm, if any particle separates itself from the whole, it loses its meaning and dies.  The same is true for us.  

   Our sense of faith is calling to us to realize and appreciate our oneness with all others, and with nature.  And we don't have to experience extreme danger in order to experience our oneness.  Contemplative Thomas Merton once was assigned to go into town with another monk to buy some things for the monastery.  When they arrived at the store, the other monk went inside and Merton stood outside on the sidewalk.  As he watched the people passing by he spontaneously realized that he was totally in love with every one of them.  His monastic contemplation had opened him to putting his oneness with others right up front in his consciousness. 

   Merton gives us the way to "hear" God within us and realize and appreciate our oneness in God and with one another.  Just as it took time and effort for Merton to arrive at his contemplative sensitivity, we must take time and effort in our own way.  Our sense of faith gives us both the content of our faith and the ability to receive God's revelation of that content.  It disposes us to realize our loving oneness with God and all others.  

   If we look deeply into ourselves, we will find there what T. S. Eliot called, "the still point of the turning world," that silent place within ourselves where God speaks in a whisper.  (1 Kings 19:12,13). Notice that Eliot did not say, "the still point in the turning world:, but "of the turning world".  We don't stop the world, or our culture, to hear God within us; we "hear" God while the world is turning, while our culture is running at the full speed it runs at today.  On the PRAYER page, there is a short explanation of Contemplation.  I suggest that you read it and meditate on it.  Clearly, contemplation is not easy in today's noisy, fast-moving, hyper-individualized culture.  Our Congress, for example, seems deaf to God's call to oneness.  But as I noted, God has already disposed us to "hear" him, in ourselves and in today's signs of the times.  Hearing him and responding to him is one of the aspects of our being a spiritually adult, 21st century expression of Christ.       

   Jesus did not come to be with only the Jews in first century Palestine.  Nor only with the Gentiles of the Roman Empire.  He came to be intimately present to the whole world--everyone and everything in it, all the way back to the world's inception and all the way forward until he returns and changes our world into an eternal "new Jerusalem."  In Jesus we have all of humanity and the rest of nature--all the space/time world, united to eternal/infinite divinity.  Jesus not only represents evolving wholeness-in-love; he is evolving wholeness-in-love.

   To be spiritual adults in today's world we have to live in the constant consciousness of evolving wholeness-in-love.  While we certainly pay attention to our own views and needs, we have to be able to see beyond them to the views and needs of all others.  As spiritual adults, we have to see the big picture.  When Bobby Kennedy was a senator, he once said, "I have to constantly decide whether I'm a New York senator or an American senator."  Sometimes he had to vote against New York's particular need in order to satisfy the bigger American need.

   For example, we have a new health care bill that requires people to buy health insurance so that everybody can have health care.  The principle is clearly a Christian one--we are here to help one another.  But today's deeply polarized culture militates against our having a reasonable discussion as to what is the best way to fulfill this principle. Not long ago,  I was addressing a Catholic audience and said, "We're now going to have a Catholic discussion on the best way to provide health care for every American.  Then I laughed and added, "And if anybody gets partisan, you're out of here!"  The discussion never got started.

  Our sense of wholeness arises from our sense of faith.  In faith, we see as God sees--we see all individuals first within the context of their one, human wholeness. Then we see their individuality and uniqueness.  This of course contradicts our culture's way of seeing;  we first see ourselves and our own needs, and then we see others and their needs, if we have time or the disposition.  For example, it is legitimate to ask if the corporate executives who send jobs overseas care about the Americans who have lost their jobs in the process.  Christian wholeness (cf. the social principle of Solidarity) shows us that while the foreign workers also need jobs, American corporations have some responsibility to help find jobs for the Americans who lost their jobs to the foreign workers.  In simple terms, we're all in this together!

   Today's science sees wholeness-in-love in a similar way, although few if any scientists would use that expression.  Take us for example:  our sub-atomic particles are nestled within our atoms.  Our atoms are nestled within our molecules.  Our molecules are nestled within our cells.  Our cells are nestled within our bones and organs.  Our bones and organs are nestled within our body.  Our body is a nestled expression of the energy that is our soul.  Every part has its own unique individuality, and yet if we remove any part of this progression of nestings, e.g., if we put our atoms on their own, we will fall apart and die.

   Some young people show a problem with wholeness when they hold back from getting married.  They live together for a while, but if this arrangement doesn't satisfy their individual needs, they split up.  They never quite get to the point where they're satisfying their common needs.  They show their fear of commitment by not using the word "marriage," but instead, preferring the word, "relationship."  By this, they mean they are in an arrangement where they are standing off a bit from each other, fearful of losing their individuality.  Similarly, many say, "I am spiritual but not religious."  But you can't be spiritual all by yourself.  We all have to be a loving, giving and "nesting" part of some whole. 

  Recall the statement of Bishop Camara, "When I give food to the poor, the people call me a saint.  When I ask why the poor have no food, the people call me a Communist.  We should all be deeply embarrassed that the people did not call him a Catholic.  Physically, psychologically and socially, we are "designed" to operate within our deep, natural wholeness;  ours is a spirituality of family, friendships, schools, businesses, and all the various social,and religious organizations we are part of, and of our loving oneness with God.  As 21st century expressions of Christ, we operate from our "home base" of wholeness.  

    6.  Our Culture:  In the mid-20th century, agnostic philosopher Martin Heidegger noted that if God exists, he is known by his absence.  Today's hyper-individualized, fast-moving, changing, noisy, shallow culture can drown out our experience of God.  We are daily challenged to find the place of quiet within ourselves, the "still point of the turning world" (T. S. Eliot) where we can see how to respond to God's presence and intentions by fulfilling our true selves in today's society and culture.    

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  1. Just catching up on my reading after a couple of weeks enjoying work in my garden.

    I'd like to comment on your June 12th writing on wholeness. As social beings, we need community whether Catholic or no. Community starts in our immediate families, then extends to friends, colleagues, neighbors, faith community, acquaintances, and complete strangers in the world around us. How we treat others is a function of our internal moral compass which many of us become attuned to as children growing up.

    If my parents treated me with dignity and respect, it becomes natural for me to treat others the same way, which, of course, is the commandment of love that Jesus gave us. I learn that if I treat others well, they will want to play with me. If all is well, I will grow up and apply the same attitude and behavior to others.

    Alas, not everyone gets the same beginning, and this is where I think the church should be focussing its attention instead of the many superfluous issues typically related to gender or sexuality. Fractured children who have been neglected, abused and/or abandoned require loving intervention so that the light you describe earlier can shine out.

    My part, as a woman trying to live as a child of God despite my many shortcomings, is to treat all I meet with dignity and respect. I wish I could say that I am always successful, but I am slowly getting better. However, it's not always easy to see our interconnectedness, and it's often very difficult to determine which action contributes best to the whole.

    For example, a local discount shop sells "hand-made" greeting cards made in China. Should I buy one, knowing that they were likely assembled by someone who worked in poor conditions for a poor salary? Perhaps if no one buys them, there will be no job at all at any salary. Or if I buy one, am I contributing to exploitation? I try to be informed, but the world is more complex and yet more interconnected than ever before.

    I pray each day that I may do God's will, and I hope that decisions I make and actions I take each day do more good on balance than harm. I look forward to more of your writings, Tony.

  2. Dear Anne,
    Thank you for your most welcome comments and participation. I see your sensitivity and good will when you say you're praying and acting each day in the hope that you are doing more good than harm. In that, I recognize a lively sense of the faith.

  3. Anne,
    P. S. I hope your garden thrives this summer!

  4. The rain has come, and come, and come, and finally, we see the sunshine. Trees that barely survived the dry fall and winter are lush and green. I'm trying to remember to consciously take time to enjoy the beauty.

    This afternoon, I noticed a young dragonfly perched on a flower blossom in one of my hanging baskets. I quickly ran inside and brought out my digital camera, hoping to capture a tightly-cropped image using the zoom feature. I managed to make 3 shots before the insect flew off. Unfortunately, one missed the critter entirely, one was completely blurred with no recognizable image, and the last was a pretty picture of the texture of the fence boards in the background with the purple flower in front, but the dragonfly itself was only a grey shadow.

    Minutes earlier, I had been obsessing about an essay written by the local bishop published on the editorial page of our city newspaper discussing his reasons for discouraging the local taxpayer-funded Catholic school district from permitting immunization of female students against HPV-- abstinence until marriage, essentially.

    My daughter-in-law made the decision to take my granddaughter to a local public health clinic to get the shots, but not all families have the time, resources and knowledge to do so. The bishop went on at some length about proponents of having the vaccine available within the school system (a group of medical professionals, parents, and HPV sufferers) being concerned about physical health while he and the Vatican are concerned about their spiritual health, etc. I feel the need to respond, but every time I read something of his, it makes my stomach hurt, and something other than God's love for my fellow creature takes over.

    The dragonfly reminded me that sometimes I get too close to issues and lose focus. Sometimes I need to fly away temporarily to regain perspective and return when I can step back a little. I've decided that this is not my issue to deal with today, and fortunately there are many others in this area who feel as I do. There will be a well-articulated and thoughtful rebuttal in tomorrow's newspaper as opposed to the self-righteous response I was composing in my head. God's will is always done, but it's not always my turn to be her instrument.

  5. Anne,
    What a very beautiful meditation. With the intensity of the Lynn and Sandusky convictions here in Pennsylvania, it is good to pause for a moment and reflectively gather up and renew our spirit for the hard work ahead to create a church that is the beautiful expression of Christ that it should be.