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Abbot Phillip

Abbot Phillip

Abbot Phillip Lawrence, OSB, at Christ in the Desert Monastery in New Mexico, offers these reflections on the paradoxical struggle for peace:

“The challenge for anyone who wants peace is to create peace within.  That is the first challenge. Saint Seraphim of Sarov said in one of his sayings that if we acquire a spirit of peace, and thousands of souls will be saved around us.  We don’t have to fight the world or to fight others. The first and really only battle is with ourselves. In much of the spiritual tradition, there is reference to the spiritual struggle, the spiritual battle, etc. That battle is always against ourselves so that we may have peace and love others without judging them.

In my own life I have gone through times when peace has been easy and has been a wonderful gift. At other times, though, I can feel my own reactions which are against peace. That is the point where there is a choice: seek peace and pursue it or play host to my bad feelings and angers and lusts and fears and let them push my life in all directions. Just because I try to choose to seek peace does not make it easy! Instead, part of growing in the spiritual life is learning to embrace such battles and not weary in pursuing peace. Most of us know when we have accepted anger or lust or fear or laziness.

It is when we become aware that we have accepted such realities in our lives that we have the chance to choose against them.  Sometimes these realities creep up on us and we are not aware of them. But in that moment that we become aware, we have the choice. If we are engaged in the spiritual battle regularly, we tend to make better choices, even if not always the best choices. So if I were to give advice to anyone about the spiritual life, it would be simple:  start now to try to do God’s will!  No matter how often you fail, keep on trying.  In time good things will begin to happen along with the necessary suffering that trying to do His will entails. … Stay with it! …

So often, when we seek the spiritual life, we are hoping to feel good.  An honest spiritual life sometimes has those moments of feeling good.  But it also has long stretches of not feeling much and sometimes periods of feeling awful about ourselves, about others and even about God.  Be prepared to suffer if you want a deep spiritual life.”–Abbot Philip, Christ in the Desert

Read Abbot Philip’s whole reflection.

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tolaw_femmesThis morning Pope Francis addressed representatives from popular movements for social justice from around the world. I can’t find a raw transcript, but reading the reports below will give you a taste of his salty flavor!

#Favorite Pope Quote: “Solidarity, understood in its most profound sense, is a way of making history.”

#Favorite Pope Quote: “It is not possible to tackle poverty by promoting containment strategies to merely reassure, rendering the poor ‘domesticated,’ harmless and passive.”

#Favorite Pope Quote: “Creation is not our property, that we may exploit as we please; far less so, the property of the few.”

#Favorite Pope Quote: “Christians have something very good, a guide to action, a revolutionary programme, we might say. I strongly recommend that you read it. It’s called the Beatitudes”.

Below are two reports that give significant quotes from Pope Francis’ talk:

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Tuesday with participants in the World Meeting of Popular Movements which is holding a conference here in Rome to discuss problems facing the poor, the unemployed and those who’ve lost their land. The group chose to hold their three-day conference here because of Pope Francis’ particular attention to the struggles of the poor.

“This meeting of Popular Movements is a sign, a great sign,” Pope Francis told his audience. “You came to be in the presence of God, of the church… [to speak about] a reality that is often silenced. The poor not only suffer from injustice, but they also fight against it.”

[click to continue…]

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Young Syrian musicians are performing on the streets of war-torn Damascus to engage passersby, despite the security crackdowns.

When people ask, What can be done against ISIS or in the midst of a civil war? Artists always have an answer. Whether it is Vedran Smailovic with his cello in Sarajevo during the 1992 siege or the Syrian youth flash performers, Meet Us On the Road (seen here), peace finds its way.

With a motto, “Start Music, End War,” the organization Meet Us On The Road (find them on FB), whose members appear unexpectedly on the street with their instruments to recite their “musical” prayers, only to disappear suddenly, sees art as the only way to motivate Syrians to put aside differences and pursue peace.

This is what protest looks like in the middle of war: reclaiming space from violence. This is what church should look like every day. This is the kind of evangelization that undercuts the brutal coercion practiced by ISIS and the others with a habit toward violence.–Rose Berger

Read more here.

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neumann

“Everyone has a mission, has a work. We are not sent into this world for nothing; we are not born at random. God sees every one of us. God creates every soul for a purpose. God needs every one of us. God has an end for each of us; we are all equal in God’s sight. As Christ has his work, we too have ours; as he rejoiced to do his work, we must rejoice in ours also.”–St. John Neumann, first bishop of Philadelphia

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Rabbi Eliyahu Fink: The Ribbon of Repentence

1422 Pocketfold InvitesThere have been three news stories this week focusing on Orthodox Jews. One is a controversial takeover by Orthodox Jews of a school board, another about financial irregularities, and the third about a rabbi who spied on women in the mikveh. (The last story is close to home for me because it’s a synagogue I’ve attended several times for classes.)

Orthodox Rabbi Eliyahu Fink wrote a thoughtful response to these scandals that I find helpful for all who “have fallen short of the glory of God.” All of us need lessons in how to turn our failures and sin into something good for the glory of God.

Here’s an excerpt from Rabbi Fink’s essay A Better Orthodox reaction to the mikveh, East Ramapo scandals:

“One of the greatest gifts of Judaism is teshuvah — literally translated as “return,” and the Jewish word for repentance. Failure is inevitable. We are humans, and humans are flawed creatures who make mistakes. Judaism provides an opportunity to turn our errors into acts of goodness through the process of teshuvah. When we repent, we are actually closer to God than we were before we sinned. It’s as if a ribbon connects us to God. Sin cuts the ribbon into two, disconnecting us from God. True repentance ties the two pieces of ribbon together, reconnecting us. But the process of repairing the ribbon makes the ribbon shorter and reduces the distance between the two ends of the ribbon. Teshuvah reattaches us to God and makes us closer than we were before we sinned.

In any good relationship there will be mistakes that disconnect the two parties. These are opportunities for teshuvah. Whenever a relationship needs to be repaired, if it’s done right, the two parties should be closer after the “return” than they were before the relationship was harmed.

Traditionally, there are three steps to teshuvah: Acknowledgement, regret and reform. These are the three elements necessary to repair any broken relationship or any breach of trust. The Orthodox Jewish community must take these three steps to earn back the trust of Orthodox Jews and the general public.”–Rabbi Eliyahu Fink

Read the whole essay here.

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As an editor, I’m always interested when the fine art of copy editing gets political! I decided to run a “compare docs” program on the first and second versions of the report from the Synod on the Family currently going on at the Vatican. (See above. Scroll down to Part III in document for the “juicy” stuff.)

In case you are just catching up, on Monday, 13 Oct, the Vatican released an update from the Extraordinary Synod on the Family. Basically, at the half-way point, they wanted to let folks know what was going on.

Pope Francis is trying a “sunshine strategy” at the notoriously closed-door Vatican. Parts of the synod were even “live-streamed”! He seems to believe that many of the worlds 1.1 billion Catholics — and certainly most of its priests can handle the truth of how things are done, that they can handle spirited discussion, that they can handle more than one idea at a time. (This seems generally to be true, except for one or two really piqued U.S. cardinals.)

Pope Francis trusts that people are complex and intrinsically beautiful and that so is truth. In this, he is totally in sync with his predecessors.

After the first update on Monday, 13 October, the document went to small groups (based on language groups) for review. The agreed upon changes were then entered into a new document, which was released on Thursday, 16 October. (The final document will probably be released next week.)

You’ll recognize it by edits that now identify some families as “broken” (not “wounded”) and calling churches to “provide for” homosexuals (not “welcome”). These changes were ONLY made in the English language version, not the official Italian version.

Theology, like politics, can be messy to watch being made. However Pope Francis may be recalling the words of he predecessor a few years ago when Pope Benedict XVI said at Christmas in 2012 :

“I would say that the Christian can afford to be supremely confident, yes, fundamentally certain that he can venture freely into the open sea of the truth, without having to fear for his Christian identity. To be sure, we do not possess the truth, the truth possesses us: Christ, who is the truth, has taken us by the hand, and we know that his hand is holding us securely on the path of our quest for knowledge. Being inwardly held by the hand of Christ makes us free and keeps us safe: free – because if we are held by him, we can enter openly and fearlessly into any dialogue; safe – because he does not let go of us, unless we cut ourselves off from him. At one with him, we stand in the light of truth.”

Here’s the link to the original English version as of 13 Oct 2014, prior to the small group review. (Scroll down about halfway through the post.)

Here are the links to the 3 English-speaking small group (Circuli Minori) reviews: English Group (Circulus Anglicus) “A” – Moderator: Card. Raymond Burke English Group (Circulus Anglicus) “B” - Moderator: Card. Wilfrid Napier, OFM English Group (Circulus Anglicus) “C” – Moderator: Mons. Joseph Kurtz

Here’s the link to the English version current as of 17 October 2014.

Serve up some buns and sauerkraut with that sausage!–Rose Marie Berger

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Evening Prayer with Pope Francis

camp-chefs-braised-beef-summer-veggies-adam-sappington-0811-m

“Evening falls on our assembly. It is the hour at which one willingly returns home to meet at the same table, in the depth of affection, of the good that has been done and received, of the encounters which warm the heart and make it grow, good wine which hastens the unending feast in the days of man. It is also the weightiest hour for one who finds himself face to face with his own loneliness, in the bitter twilight of shattered dreams and broken plans; how many people trudge through the day in the blind alley of resignation, of abandonment, even resentment: in how many homes the wine of joy has been less plentiful, and therefore, also the zest — the very wisdom — for life […]. Let us make our prayer heard for one another this evening, a prayer for all.”–Pope Francis to the crowds in St. Peter’s Square (Oct. 4, 2014)

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Here’s a 3 minute video for discussion in your church. This incident took place in the posh upper Northwest neighborhood of Foxhall in Washington, D.C., this week.

Discussion Questions

1. What is the power dynamic between the police officers in the car and the officer on the street?
2. What do the physical positions and body language convey about the power dynamics?
3. How is technology being used?
4. How are names used? What does the use of names convey?
5. Is white privilege at play here?
6. Who is the most powerless in this scenario? Who is most powerful?
7. What is the role of an ally? Are an ally’s motives “pure”?
8. If there were bystanders, what would their responsibility be? How did the police handle themselves?
9. As a Christian watching this video, who is Christ in the scenario? Who are the followers of Christ, acting as Christ’s hands and feet?
10. Where are you in this scenario?

Read more about this incident here.

Study Resources
Handout on Power and Empowerment

On Racism and White Privilege

The Color of Christ and The Cross and the Lynching Tree

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@Pontifex on Your Right to a Decent Job

Pax Christi co-president Marie Dennis and Pope Francis

Pax Christi co-president Marie Dennis and Pope Francis

Today Pope Francis met with members of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Here’s what he said:

“… The State of social rights must not be dismantled, and in particular the right to work must be protected. This must not be considered a variable, dependent upon financial and monetary markets. It is a fundamental right for dignity, for the formation of a family, for the realisation of the common good and for peace.

Education and work and access to welfare for all are key elements both for development and for the just distribution of goods, for achieving social justice and for belonging to society, and for participating freely and responsibly in political life, understood as the management of the “res publica.”

Ideas that claim to increase income at the cost of restricting the job market and creating further exclusion are not coherent with an economy at the service of man and the common good, or with an inclusive and participatory democracy”.–Pope Francis 

Read the whole statement here: To Justice and Peace: rising inequality and poverty endanger democracy (Oct. 2, 2014)

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Abbot Phillip

Abbot Phillip

Abbot Philip is serving at Christ in the Desert Monastery in New Mexico. I find his “notes” very helpful. He writes:

“One of the aspects of my life is that often I cannot keep any kind of regular schedule. For sure, I keep the external schedule in the monastery when I am home, but even within that schedule, there are aspects that simply do not work for me. I love to have a short nap after Vigils, but often that is impossible because of something that must be done at that time. After Holy Mass I like to be quiet and still but that is not always possible when brothers come to knock at my door. After Terce I try to go for a walk, but sometimes there are other appointments that get in the way.I like to try to get my regular work (answering letters, mostly, but sometimes working on music for the community) done so that I can have a nap after lunch. That time after lunch should be sacred for all monks, but there are still times when it must be give up for the sake of seeing someone. And so my days go by.

I often think of myself as one who works to have a regular order in his life, but who most often must respond to the exigencies of whatever is happening. When my trips are also added into this mix, it is easy to see why all I can do is work towards order in my life. There is always a basic order but it never is able to be lived for long periods of time. Sometimes I long for a type of work where I could clock in and clock out and no one could bother me afterwards. Each of us has his or her own life.

Most of us have some order in our lives. Many live as I do: seeking order and sometimes finding it. Why order? Because with order we are able to focus our inner energies toward prayer and towards that deep relationship with God that is at the heart of any Christian life.

The ultimate order, of course, is simply to live in God and to do all for God. For most of us, that requires an inner effort, both of mind and of will. In order to focus ourselves, daily order can be helpful. There are people who are completely ordered externally with no thought of God. Thus order is not a guarantee to think of God and to live for God alone. But it can help. For myself, when I let myself long for the Lord, I find that I want to put more order in my life so that I can give more time and attention to Him.

At other times, I find myself so caught up just in surviving and getting things done that I let my longing for the Lord simmer and almost become extinct, even though I seem almost always aware of His presence. So for me, both order and longing for the Lord are elements that help me stay on the path of the Lord. There are wonderful moments on the path and there are times when it is just difficult to keep walking. That is a normal part of my life. I rejoice when things are going well and I struggle when they are not. I continue to seek to put order in my life, no matter how often it eludes me. Most of all, I try to allow my heart to long for Him who is the only meaning of my life.”–Abbot Philip

Read more from Abbot Philip here.

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