@Pontifex: Do we live as children or as slaves?

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“The Word of God explains to us, today especially, the meaning of time, to understand that time is not a reality estranged from God simply because He chose to reveal Himself and save us in history. The meaning of time, temporality, is the atmosphere of the epiphany of God, that is the manifestation of God and His concrete love. ‘Time is the messenger of God,’ as St. Peter Favre said. …

Today’s liturgy reminds us of this statement by the apostle John: ‘My children, the hour has come,’ and St. Paul speaking of the ‘fullness of time.’ Therefore, today it shows us how time, which has been ‘touched’ by Christ and by God, received new and surprising meanings. It has become ‘saving time,’ definitive time of saving and grace.

All this leads us to think of the end of life. There was a beginning and there will be an end. With this truth, which is as simple and fundamental as it is neglected and forgotten, the Holy Mother Church teaches us to end the year and our days with an examination of conscience. Through this, we go back to past events; we thank God for every gift we have received and for all the good we could do and, at the same time, we think of our faults and our sins. To say thanks and to ask for forgiveness. This is what we do, even today, at the end of the year. Let us praise the Lord with the Te Deum hymn, and at the same time, let us ask for forgiveness. The attitude of thanksgiving prepares us for humility, to recognise and welcome the gifts of the Lord.

The apostle Paul epitomises, in the reading of today’s Vespers, the fundamental reason for our thanksgiving to God. He has made us their children; He adopted us as children. This undeserved gift fills us with gratitude and wonder! Some might say, “but are we not their children, simply through our being human?” Certainly, because God is Father of every person who is born. But without forgetting that we are far from Him through original sin, that separated us from our Father: our filial relationship is deeply hurt.

That is why God sent his Son to redeem us at the cost of His blood. If there is redemption, that is because there is slavery. We used to be sons and daughters but we became slaves by following the voice of the Evil One. No one else redeems us from that substantial slavery if not Jesus, who became man through the Virgin Mary and died on the cross to free us from the slavery of sin and return us to our lost filial condition.

At the same time, the very gift we thank for is the reason for our examination of conscience, to review our personal and community life, and to ask; what is our way of life like? Do we live as children or as slaves? Do we live as people baptised in Christ, anointed by the Spirit, redeemed, free? Or do we live according to worldly, corrupted logic, doing what the devil makes us believe is in our best interest?

Continue reading “@Pontifex: Do we live as children or as slaves?”

Abbot Philip: Why Being Regular is Good for Your Prayer Life

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.

Abbot Philip: Being on ‘Monk Time’

“The only thing that makes monastic life possible is keeping one’s eyes on the Lord and not on one’s brothers or even on the life itself. Saint Benedict knew that he was setting up a life that would not be easy, even though he calls it only a Rule for beginners. One of the big challenges today is about the use of time. Modern people want hours of personal time for their own enjoyment and relaxation. Our Rule does not have that kind of time. Contemplative life is not about sitting around doing nothing. It is not about just thinking of God and good things.

Serious monastic life is about being on the go all day long: from prayer to work to reading to eating to sleeping. We have no large expanses of time in which we just sit and do nothing. We actually have some personal time. Saint Benedict would never have dreamed of such a thing. He does talk about writing letters and so perhaps there were some personal moment from time to time. Because a monk is always on the go and always has things to do, the life of prayer is picked up in that way. We must learn how to pray while we are singing our prayers. Singing itself is a discipline. We must learn how to pray while we are working, and we must concentrate on the work. We must learn to pray while we are reading Scripture and other spiritual books.

On good days, after spending the first hour of the day in common prayer, called Vigils, then I go to my cell and meditate for 45 minutes until the next common prayer. After Lauds and Mass, I have another opportunity of about 45 minutes that I can also use for meditation. Then we have the work meeting. Most often after that I teach a class to the men in formation. Then we pray Terce in the Church and I begin our normal work period and work until 12:40 pm. Then there is a short break before praying Sext in the Church. Then there is the main meal of the day, which ends about 1:50 pm. That means that from rising at 3:30 am until 1:50 pm, there has been no personal time at all.

After the main meal there is time for a siesta or exercise or some personal reading. This is a period of about an hour and a half. After that there is prayer again at 3:30 pm, the Office of None. Then there is Holy Reading until 5:20 pm, when we have adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for a half hour and then Vespers for a half hour. So at 6:20 pm there is an optional supper, which I don’t normally take. I usually come to my room again and work or read for the 50 minutes until the evening Chapter meeting at 7:10 pm, which is followed by Compline at 7:30 pm. The day ends about 7:55 pm. I am usually in bed by 8:15 pm and asleep by 8:30 pm.

This is a life of leisure? No! And it is not supposed to be. It is a life that can focus all of one’s energies on seeking God. There is very little time to do anything else. Monks who try to live some other kind of life here simply don’t manage to persevere. Even those of us who do persevere have to keep working at it. It would be very easy to stop praying and find ways to do other things. For myself, during all of these years, I have fluctuated from being really serious about seeking God to periods of not caring much, one way or the other. Somehow, I have always been brought back to seeking God. I know that is a grace of God. My own witness is that this is a truly wonderful life when I strive to live it well. The older I get, the more this life appeals to me and the more I strive to live it well. In so many ways, it is not different from the life of anyone who is serious about looking for God.”–Abbot Philip, OSB

Elizabeth Warren Rap: Who’s Got the Back of the Sheriff of Wall Street?

I love Elizabeth Warren. She’s “kick-butt.” As special advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, she’s been hailed as one of the “new Sheriffs of Wall Street.”

In a recent conference call hosted by Sojourners, “Sheriff Warren” said of predatory bankers: “Just because we’re not perfect human beings doesn’t give anyone the right to cheat us.” (Imagine it in Clint Eastwood’s voice.) In my opinion, Warren is taking up the cause of the prophet Isaiah, when he said: “The scoundrel’s methods are wicked, he makes up evil schemes to destroy the poor with lies, even when the plea of the needy is just” (Isaiah 32:7). Warren is determined to clean up the scoundrels in the financial industry who eat the poor for breakfast.

A group called the Main Street Brigade (MSB) released a Western-themed rap video calling for Elizabeth Warren to be chosen as the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – not “interim” or temporary, as she is currently.

The video features Los Angeles comedian Ryan Anthony Lumas rapping about how the country needs Warren to protect people from banks (“Sheriff Warren is what we need, ya’ll.”) Warren’s picture appears in the video only on the cover of Time magazine, and Lumas makes a reference to Oklahoma, where Warren grew up. MSB describes itself as “a rapid response team, nationwide, that can be activated to protect our communities” from “devastation” by the banking industry.

Also this week, Ralph Nader released anOpen Letter to President Obama calling Obama to account for welcoming with open arms General Electric’s CEO while burying Elizabeth Warren as far back as he can get her. When she spoke on the Sojourners call, she was sitting at a bench in the Rayburn Building because she doesn’t really have an office and the Republican-controlled House is working hard to defund what little budget she had. Here’s an excerpt from Nader’s letter:

An interesting contrast is playing out at the White House these days—between your expressed praise of General Electric’s CEO, Jeffrey R. Immelt and the silence regarding the widely desired nomination of Elizabeth Warren to head the new Consumer Financial Regulatory Bureau within the Federal Reserve.

On one hand, you promptly appointed Mr. Immelt to be the chairman of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitive, while letting him keep his full time lucrative position as CEO of General Electric (The Corporate State Expands). At the announcement, you said that Mr. Immelt “understands what it takes for America to compete in the global economy.” …

Compare, if you will, the record of Elizabeth Warren and her acutely informed knowledge about delivering justice to those innocents harmed by injustice in the financial services industry. A stand-up Law Professor at your alma mater, author of highly regarded articles and books connecting knowledge to action, the probing Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel (COP) and now in the Treasury Department working intensively to get the CFRB underway by the statutory deadline this July with competent, people-oriented staff.

Read Sojourners interview with Elizabeth Warren.

Is It Time to ‘Green’ Your Sex Life?

[Warning: Frank talk about sex stuff.]

Sustainably grown mahogany sex enhancer
Sustainably grown mahogany sex enhancer

The October 26, 2009,  Time magazine ran Kathleen Kingsbury’s article titled Sex and the Eco-City. Who knew that “green” creep had made it into the bedroom? Kingsbury describes a market of organic lubricants, biodegradable whips and handcuffs, vegan condoms, and glass or mahogany vibrators (even hand-crankable models, eliminating the need for batteries).

To top it off, some Catholic church folks have incorporated these green concepts into their teaching on Natural Family Planning! NFP is now the “back-to-nature” method of birth control. As the old Catholic joke goes: What do you call couples who practices NPF? Answer: Parents.

Here’s an excerpt from Kingsbury’s article:

As the green movement makes its way into the bedroom, low lighting is a must–to conserve electricity–but so are vegan condoms, organic lubricants and hand-cranked vibrators.  Another big enviro-sex trend: birth control that’s au naturel.

Like all good Catholics, my husband and I had to attend church-run marriage prep before we tied the knot last year. I was surprised, however, during the hard sell on natural family-planning (NFP), that this updated version of the rhythm method was being advertised not only as morally correct but also as “organic” and “green.” I was even more surprised when I found out that some of the most popular instructors of NFP–known in secular circles as the Fertility Awareness Method–are non-Catholics who praise it as a means of avoiding both ingesting chemicals and excreting them into rivers and streams.

The search for phthalate-free alternatives helps explain the increase in sales of sex toys made of such materials as stainless steel, mahogany–yes, you read that correctly–and glass. …

The Roman Catholic Church is catching on to the organic trend. “People pay $32 for eye cream because they’re told it is good for them and the planet,” says Jessica Marie Smith, who repackaged the NFP program at the diocese of Madison, Wis. “We figured we could do the same with NFP.”

NFP detects ovulation by monitoring a woman’s temperature and the amount of cervical mucus. But this process is not 100% accurate. And several studies on climate change note that the best way to protect the planet is to have fewer children. “Around the world, more than 40% of pregnancies are unintended, and full access to birth control is still unmet,” says Jim Daniels, Trojan’s vice president for marketing. “Meeting that unmet need would translate into billions of tons of carbon dioxide saved.”

To that end, Trojan makes latex condoms as well as ones made of biodegradable lambskin. Other brands offer a vegan variety that replaces the dairy protein in latex condoms with cocoa powder. And no, they don’t all taste like chocolate.

Read the whole article Sex and the Eco-City by Kathleen Kingsbury. And a shout out to Cindy for spotting this article.

Remember Way Back When the Republicans Supported “Death Panels”?

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Since this craziness is all over the news, I thought I’d publish Amy Sullivan’s nice little piece of research here. Amy’s life-long dream has been to be a political pundit — and she’s GOOD at it! Check out her original.

Oh, Those Death Panels
by Amy Sullivan

You would think that if Republicans wanted to totally mischaracterize a health care provision and demagogue it like nobody’s business, they would at least pick something that the vast majority of them hadn’t already voted for just a few years earlier. Because that’s not just shameless, it’s stupid.

Yes, that’s right. Remember the 2003 Medicare prescription drug bill, the one that passed with the votes of 204 GOP House members and 42 GOP Senators? Anyone want to guess what it provided funding for? Did you say counseling for end-of-life issues and care? Ding ding ding!!

Let’s go to the bill text, shall we? “The covered services are: evaluating the beneficiary’s need for pain and symptom management, including the individual’s need for hospice care; counseling the beneficiary with respect to end-of-life issues and care options, and advising the beneficiary regarding advanced care planning.” The only difference between the 2003 provision and the infamous Section 1233 that threatens the very future and moral sanctity of the Republic is that the first applied only to terminally ill patients. Section 1233 would expand funding so that people could voluntarily receive counseling before they become terminally ill.

So either Republicans were for death panels in 2003 before turning against them now–or they’re lying about end-of-life counseling in order to frighten the bejeezus out of their fellow citizens and defeat health reform by any means necessary. Which is it, Mr. Grassley (“Yea,” 2003)?