Tuesday, June 28, 2011
When one of my brothers and sisters is hurting, I pray that I have the sensitivity to be aware of this and to respond to their need. Although our church asks much of us, not all are empowered equally to respond to the needs due to overwhelming pain that many of us experience periodically.
First, I want to directly address the question of whether religion can foster poor mental health. Because Christ has asked us to consider others needs ahead of our own in order to fulfill his mission for us, and our faith has asked us to subjugate our needs as an offering to God, you should strongly consider the possibility that these could be maladaptive behaviors. Abraham Maslow, in his teaching as a psychologist, may have shed light on some of the paradoxes of meeting our basic needs versus the needs of others: he indicated that the former must precede the latter which he dubbed "self actualization." Each of us does have emotional needs and we need to address them. Most people who are "religious" are so because they have an emotional need that is fulfilled by seeking God. If someone has psychopathology (and we all may, to some degree) the role of religion needs to be more of that of healing, not of calling to virtue. To everything there is a time and a place.
The second way that I see a nuance that religion affects emotional health is that of a comforting, parental sort of presence. Even the name "Father" attributed to the priest suggests this. The sacraments are highly significant episodes, at the most important milestones in our family life and are appropriate times for celebration.
The third way that religion and emotion are connected may be the goal that I have for myself and that I would like to see for my brothers and sisters: that is the constructive, symbiotic relationship that religion and emotion can have when one is a healthy, integrated, and whole person. Jesus' life as recorded in scripture is the embodiment of that. He had his trials, his psychic pain no doubt, but he was able to love us all unconditionally. His treatment of the sick was not the same as, for example, his disciples, which is appropriate. I hope that I can achieve and maintain the greatest spiritual maturity, for the purpose not only of having that self satisfaction, but because I will be doing God's will and exhibiting the greatest degree of faith and loving my fellow man the best.
These words reverence the body of Christ and the celebration is an annual event on a Sunday. I can remember once or twice participating in a Corpus Christi Procession. This was certainly in the 1960's or 1970's and they are no longer present in our community, to my knowledge. In Louisville, this event was, of all places, at Churchill Downs, a horse racing facility that is very famous.
Corpus Christi is also the Sunday when the beautiful Mozart choir piece, Ave Verum Corpus, is sung by our choir. This Sunday was no exception and they did a very nice job. There is a beautiful recording you can download, I think for $0.99, from Amazon.com
that I made a small "movie" using Windows movie maker. I just added a slide show of religious themed pictures from Google Images.
I read and meditated on the first reading of Mass, which was from Exodus.
The day was also marked by Vespers celebrated by our priest, Father Jack, who is leaving. Good luck for your future endeavors and let's keep in touch!
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,
because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
Every so often I need the above reminder of the significance and essential
need for faith and belief in Jesus. Living in a secular world secularizes
me, and the readings such as today's gospel at Sunday Mass is a blessing.
Over time, I have found that the example of faithful men and women
have been my greatest influence. One of the closest to me would be my
father, also deacon at our family's parish.
Although Dad died in November, 2004, his influence continues to this
day. He was not a proselytizer. He was really a quiet type and didn't
socialize that much either. But his faith was exemplified in his
demeanor. He had a sense of dignity and larger than life persona. In
that sense he seemed not to live in this world, but in the realm of the
Sons often have an insight into their father because they observe and
learn from him over such a long period of time in childhood and
adolescence. I like many sons had a period of time when I did not want
to follow Dad's example. At this time in my life I welcome his memory
of quiet gentle spirituality, faith and fidelity.
Dear Father in Heaven, I pray that my faith grow each day and that my
spiritual family may nourish my seed-like kernel of faithfulness. I
pray that the worldly distractions will act rather as you generous gifts
that can help as tools to spread your grace and good will and faith in
Jesus Christ. I pray for peace in the world as your faithful children,
and many who have not sought your light or accepted your message of
love, learn to coexist in a manner that is acceptable and glorifies your
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Pentecost - Holy Spirit for a Community
Pentecost this year had a lot more meaning for me. This is because I
have been studying the Sunday readings, writing blog entries, and
reading the blogs of other Catholics and Christians. Basically I am
just paying more attention. So I was glad when I found that today is
Pentecost and that it made more sense to me, than the past 50 plus years
of prior Pentecosts. It is as my readers would tell me, the celebration
of the Holy Spirit, having been introduced by the breath of Christ in
the upper chamber where the apostles were gathered. I think that this
is indeed a significant celebration. Some have said it is or should be
on par with Easter and Christmas.
What I think is significant about Pentecost is the relationship between
this holy day and our faith communities. The original faith community,
that of the apostles, was transformed in at least 3 ways by Pentecost.
First they received the peaceful but action oriented gift of the Spirit
itself. Secondly, the ability to communicate with people of vastly
different cultures speaking different languages was given them.
Finally, a fervency and desire for their work was instilled, symbolized
by the tongues of fire above their heads. I think each of these
phenomena are best portrayed in the context of their effects on the
Christian Community, at a time when it was in its infancy.
The apostles had fellowship and communication was facilitated by the fact
that they spoke the same language. I'm sure they had their share of
disagreements over the years they worked together following Christ and
his teachings. The presence of the Holy Spirit, following Jesus'
resurrection and ascension, served to fortify their mission. The gift
of language enabled them to reach out to people of different backgrounds
and cultures than their own. Christ was asking them to spread the news
of his resurrection and Salvation to all the world. This sounds great,
but because it takes work, even the apostles were not always up for the
job I would suspect. That is where the gift of awareness of mission, of
work ethic, blessed the 12 apostles.
Dear Father, I pray that I receive the blessing of the Holy Spirit
today, on Pentecost, and each day and that I work with a mission and
goal as sharply focused as your apostles in doing your will. I ask that
my fellow man may understand my words, and more so that I may listen and
witness to your love and understanding and that the news of your
salvation may spread not only to the edges of the earth, but more
importantly to my brothers and sisters who are with me in my daily course of
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Today is the feast of the Ascension. This feast day was moved from Thursday to Sunday to give it more of its deserved attention. At the time of the Ascension, Christ was taken bodily up into heaven, prayed to his Father, and gave words of reassurance to His disciples. In so doing, He left the earth and the disciples to do their work.
Like many events that are recorded in the Bible, this is not really dramatized as are remarkable events that appear in modern media. It was stated in reverent, sober terms. Despite that, many scholars criticize the reality of this event and other miracles that occurred during Jesus' time on earth. The scholars seem to be convinced by their research and education that they can judge the impossibility of a human body going into the sky, and into the heavenly realm.
My response to that is that my faith tells me that this did occur, just as recorded in the Bible. I see no reason to doubt the possibility of this or any other supernatural event or miracle. If I have sufficient faith and humility and respect for the teachings of generations of faithful who went before me, I just don't have a problem with this. It can engender a great deal of reflection, marvel, and seeming disbelief, in light of my educational achievements. But science is composed of theories. Our very perception is in an experiential realm. We don't actually possess our seeing, our hearing, or our feeling. They are, as science teaches us, merely perceptions that register in the outer layer of our brain called the cortex. I feel that faith progress is not achieved with the same tools as that of science. I feel that the tools of faith are the tools of Godliness, being the faithful men and women of God, the word of God in the Scriptures, traditions of the Church, and the Sacraments. As God's children too, even those who have not yet found faith can help witness to God's love and His mercy.
I pray that your Ascension, oh Jesus, may be an example to me and my brothers and sisters on earth this day as we commemorate it, of the miracles that you used to nourish our faith and love for you. We look forward to your coming in the future as the Gospels attest. I thank you for the gifts that God has given us, the greatest of which is your atonement for our sins, so that we may believe in you and some day join you in Heaven. I thank you for your love and mercy. Amen.