Friday, February 22, 2008

Feast of the Chair of St. Peter

Fr. Chris Tessone, AIHM, and Bishop Timothy Cravens, AIHM Obl, offer some important reflective thoughts on this feast. I encourage you to check out their blog postings. See the listing/web address links at the side.

I offer here some Augustinian thoughts on the subject for reflection:

As a cradle Roman Catholic, I must admit that this teaching on infallibility has always cause me angst. My inmost being has always felt something wrong with this teaching, yet the need to trust in something infinite is also at the core of my being.

+Timothy Cravens in his blog rightly puts into context the two polar extremes of this thinking: biblical infallibility and papal infallibility.

I do believe that the Church is infallible in the sense that she contains all of the Grace necessary for us to be reconciled to God through Christ and be redeemed and restored to our original innocence, again through Christ. Tim, again, here helped me to put into context this general, but important doctrine.

What does the Church contain? The apostolic faith of Trinity, incarnation, and paschal mystery, and the continuing effect of Jesus’ recreation and redemption through the Grace of the Sacraments.

As an Augustinian, I point to the notion of Augustine that we as humans need to know that there is something beyond us that is truth and eternal beauty. Our very being seeks this. We need not to make the mistake of seeing the created for the creator. But, we seek to anchor ourselves with that which is beyond us. We are finite, but need to know and trust in something infinite. Thus, in our inmost yearnings we sometimes make the same mistake as Adam and Eve, turning to something human for eternal be it the scripture, or a church office, or science, or magic, etc.

Human beings, the bible, even the Church are all creations of God, they are not God. What we know and can rely on is that God is infallible, God is truth, God is faithful. God will accomplish in the Church and human history all that is necessary for our re-creation to eternity and complete joy in him(her).

The Church will endure until the end of time because God has promised it and accomplishes this through the Holy Spirit, not because of what we the Body of Christ do, but because of what Christ the Head did and does in the Church and human history now and unto the end of the ages.

“Remember man that thou are dust and unto dust thou shall return+”

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ash Wednesday

Blessings to all on a Holy and Prayerful Great Lent. Below are two reflections given by our Bishop, Tim Cravens (see full blog from list on side) and myself to one of our confirmation candidates who asked us what Lent really meant for us. I hope they provide some reflection for any who might need.

Timothy wrote, "One thing I always do is take Ash Wednesday off from work. I try to use the day as a day of reflection. The words that are traditionally used when ashes are placed on Christians' heads are "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return", and it is a day to reflect on our mortality, and where our life is going, in the knowledge that, sooner or later, it is going to end. It is easy to become so busy that we don't take the time to stop and think about the larger picture in our life (and being clergy, it is easy for me to even become too busy with church to do this!) , and Lent in general and Ash Wednesday in particular, gives us that opportunity to do that.

Often, funerals are a time when people, in the shock of grief, and realization that since life is short, they are not necessarily living as they wish they were. It might be helpful to think of Ash Wednesday as our own "funeral", where we come face to face with our mortality, mourn it, and come to terms with how it will affect our living. Of course, baptism is our "dying with Christ so that we might rise with Christ", and Lent was traditionally the time of preparation for baptism, ending in the Three Days when we celebrate Christ's death and resurrection. So as we contemplate our deaths on Ash Wednesday, we also look forward to the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ at Easter, which is a promise of our own resurrection."

I offered the following, "
All of the outward things we do today: fasting, abstinence, prayer, ashes, are meant to help us focus on the fact that we are mortal, but God is not. Our lives and our futures are in God's hands and God has promised us greater joy and love than we can ever imagine.

Part of me hates today because I hate to think that I am not in total control. All the more reason for me to have today to discipline myself and remember from where my life comes and where it is going.

It is also a day to begin to think about ways to make peace with ourselves and others knowing all that God did to reconcile us to each other. Our gift at baptism of new life came at a great cost of love on the cross. Lent helps to remind me of that cost and how I am called to imitate it, if/when I am called to do so. Another reason I hate Lent...Italians are not good at reconciliation. We are better at getting even! Again, all the more reason I need this season!

A Holy Great Fast to all!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Lent and Vocation

As Lent approaches, early this year, I wanted to address some thoughts to all of those who are in formation either as catechumens, novices, or seminarians, and those charged with forming them. This post was originally written as a response to Fr. Chris' AIHM blog, Even the Devils Believe (see link at side).

Our first obligation to our novices and seminarians is spiritual and comes from mentoring and shared experience. A vocation is threefold: a call to being, a call to living, and a call to doing. Many secular professionals receive training in the last of these only, as it might only need to be. However, those called, and consecrated, “set apart,” for ministry or prophetic prayer, need to be formed in all three aspects of their vocation, and formed, not just trained.

They need to see who they are, where they come from, and where they are going in relation first to their baptismal initiation into the life of Grace in Jesus Christ made in God’s image. They need to explore the very movement of the spirit in their lives past, present, and future: their joys and hurts, fears and courage, successes and challenges. The need for learning to really pray is so important here.

Next they need to understand how they can best live who they are in the world. Are they called to know God’s joy as a single person, in married relationship, or in celibate prophecy? This aspect is sometimes taken for granted, especially in Churches where the choice is made for you. Celibacy and ministry are not exclusively bound together from our church’s perspective. A deeper call to spiritual direction, prayer, and meditation is where this aspect of the call can be heard.

Finally, adequate preparation then, and only then, can be given to the particular requirements of ministry: theology, counseling theory, liturgy, evangelization/preaching. A deepening of the sacramental life of Grace is a primary nourishment here along with mentored practical ministry practice.

Evident through all three of these stages is a recognition of the importance of the religious community into which we are born and live and grow. Our life of Grace is not formed in a vacuum. From catechism to religious/monastic formation, to seminary preparation, all is done in the context of community. The Holy Spirit works in us as it does in the Trinity through the bonds of loving relationship. The very life of the sacraments is about God’s revelation to us and the Church through us and the Church, and the experience of the faith communities of the Holy Scriptures.

In our small church and Order, with our limited resources, I think we do a good job of recognizing and implementing these important elements. I have been humbled and impressed at how our novices and seminarians have grown over the past year and what I have also learned from them. That is the joy of the difference between professional preparation and religious/ministerial formation, it is always a shared journey that goes both ways.

Candlemass: Our Lord and Ourselves are Presented to Our God

Candlemass is here. Christmas is over, and so is my break from blogging :-)

Today we hear the Canticle of Simeon: "O Lord your Word has been I see your Salvation."

We pause to see God's salvation in our own lives, the movement of the Word made flesh in our very selves and our communities of faith and family, and we give thanks and praise.