Be Not Afraid


The Office of Readings for the feast of Pope St John Paul.

From the Homily of Saint John Paul II, Pope, for the Inauguration of his Pontificate

(22 October 1978: AAS 70 [1978], 945-947)

Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ.

Peter came to Rome! What else but obedience to the inspiration received from the Lord could have guided him and brought him to this city, the heart of the Empire? Perhaps the fisherman of Galilee did not want to come here. Perhaps he would have preferred to stay there, on the shores of Lake of Genesareth, with his boat and his nets. Yet guided by the Lord, obedient to his inspiration, he came here!

According to an ancient tradition, Peter tried to leave Rome during Nero’s persecution. However, the Lord intervened and came to meet him. Peter spoke to him and asked. “Quo vadis, Domine?” — “Where are you going, Lord?” And the Lord answered him at once: “I am going to Rome to be crucified again.” Peter went back to Rome and stayed here until his crucifixion.

Our time calls us, urges us, obliges us, to gaze on the Lord and to immerse ourselves in humble and devout meditation on the mystery of the supreme power of Christ himself.

He who was born of the Virgin Mary, the carpenter’s Son (as he was thought to be), the Son of the living God (as confessed by Peter), came to make us all “a kingdom of priests”.

The Second Vatican Council has reminded us of the mystery of this power and of the fact that Christ’s mission as Priest, Prophet-Teacher and King continues in the Church. Everyone, the whole People of God, shares in this threefold mission. Perhaps in the past the tiara, that triple crown, was placed on the Pope’s head in order to signify by that symbol the Lord’s plan for his Church, namely that all the hierarchical order of Christ’s Church, all “sacred power” exercised in the Church, is nothing other than service, service with a single purpose: to ensure that the whole People of God shares in this threefold mission of Christ and always remains under the power of the Lord; a power that has its source not in the powers of this world, but instead in the mystery of the Cross and the Resurrection.

The absolute, and yet sweet and gentle, power of the Lord responds to the whole depths of the human person, to his loftiest aspirations of intellect, will and heart. It does not speak the language of force, but expresses itself in charity and truth.

The new Successor of Peter in the See of Rome today makes a fervent, humble and trusting prayer: Christ, make me become and remain the servant of your unique power, the servant of your sweet power, the servant of your power that knows no dusk. Make me a servant: indeed, the servant of your servants.

Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power. Help the Pope and all those who wish to serve Christ and with Christ’s power to serve the human person and the whole of mankind.

Do not be afraid. Open, I say open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of states, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development. Do not be afraid. Christ knows “that which is in man”. He alone knows it.

So often today, man does not know that which is in him, in the depths of his mind and heart. So often he is uncertain about the meaning of his life on this earth. He is assailed by doubt, a doubt which turns into despair. We ask you, therefore, we beg you with humility and with trust, let Christ speak to man. He alone has words of life, yes, of life eternal.

Stuff and Things. Mostly things. Some Stuff.

The Readings for the Feast of St Luke (C1)

Penulam, quam reliqui Troade apud Carpum, veniens affer tecum, et libros, maxime autem membranas.
When you come, bring the cloak I left with Carpus in Troas, the papyrus rolls, and especially the parchments.


This one verse, St Paul’s list of Things I Forgot to Pack for This Trip, was the opening line in Fr A’s homily this morning which left me meditating on God’s action in our lives.

This shopping list is part of Holy Scripture: part of the Holy Spirit’s work in the Church is St Paul saying, “Dang it, I forgot some stuff…” and that has come down to us as part of “the Word of the Lord (Thanks be to God)” for today. Ruminate on that…

Word reached me today that I’ve been given the ok to make my Temporary Profession as a Third Order Dominican. The Third Order lives the Dominican Life in the world.

The Lay Fraternities of St. Dominic was founded with their own rule in 1285 and was officially recognized by the Church on the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas in 1286.

Lay Dominicans “are accordingly distinguished both by their own spirituality and by their service to God and neighbor in the Church. As members of the Order, they participate in its apostolic mission through prayer, study and preaching according to the state proper to the laity.” (The Rule of the Lay Fraternity #4).

Lay Dominicans come from every background, joining the Dominican charism to their state of life in the world. In this unique Dominican way, they live out their special vocation “to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s will.” (Lumen Gentium 31)


We may be lucky enough to find ourselves in community but for most of us, that community is a once-in-a-while thing. The family, our friends, our parish life, the local Knights’ council, etc, are our community. That’s where we live out the Dominican life. The Charism is really about Bringing the Gospel there… where we are. In other words, I will be able to continue exploring what it means to be a Dominican who is employed in Tech, who has friends in all walks of life and in various stages of their journey towards God.

Today’s reading with St Paul forgetting is cloak – the Word of the LORD! – highlights God working the ordinary, the mundane, the daily grind. God working as you take out the garbage. God working as the litterbox needs changing. God working as your child is born. God working as you fry eggs. God is working his purpose out – if you will let him – in each action of your life, each step of the dance. And changing all of this into Verbum Domini, the Word of the Lord.

St Benedict’s rule (to appeal to another monastic tradition) highlights normal, daily life as well. When I was inside the monastery, there was nothing magical, nothing at all like the wooji-wooji one might imagine. My first day at the Monastery was spent cleaning the kitchen. I heard Sue Anne Nivens say to Mary Tyler Moore, “Start at noon and work your way around the whole room like a clock.” I was vacuuming dead flies off the top of the fridge and using a degreaser around the room. Life in a Monastery. Stuff and things.

We are saved like this. One step at a time, one dead fly vacuumed up at a time. One new book studied, one new friend made in a coffee shop, one holiday meal cooked, served, and cleaned up after. Then death.

And glory.

You may be the only Gospel someone ever reads. What are you doing to make sure it’s not just a shopping list, but the Word of God?

The Calling of St Cletus


The Readings for Monday in the 28th Week, Tempus Per Annum (C1)

Omnibus qui sunt Romae, dilectis Dei, vocatis sanctis.
To all that are at Rome, the beloved of God, called to be saints.

Romans is Paul’s most amazing letter. It’s also his most problematic. He will rattle of lists of forbidden things that are very popular today. We won’t be reading those: the Mass lectionary has skipped over those since, at least, the council of Trent (those who say this is a “modernist concession to the world” need to pay more attention to the Church). But, they are there. And they are listed in contrast to this first passage which is in the old lectionary in a very telling place: this passage was read at Mass during the day on 24 December, the Vigil of Christmas. In a way, this Epistle is the “last word of Advent”. In that light (that dawning light) let’s look at it again.

The Coming of Jesus, the arrival of God in the Flesh, means that something new has begun, something unprecedented in all time and space. This is a scandal to Jews and to Muslims alike: for God, born in the flesh, means not only the Creator God has walked on the Earth, but that all the things we experience he, too, experienced. I’m not referring to the things that end up in Hallmark cards like sunrises and birdsong, dew, and the scent of spring. I mean the stuff of life that is more realistic: blood, pain, fear, farts, bad food, and preferring Mom’s hummus to Aunt Elizabeth’s – which tastes funny.

God becoming human means there was a moment in time – several long moments in time by our standards – when God the Word was without words, not only on his lips, but in his brain. Babies do not yet have the synapses needed to cogitate towards words. Baby brains have a very binary mode which we would call “good/bad” but they don’t have those concepts. For God in the Flesh, for a few months there was only “Cry/Don’t Cry”.

On this day before Christmas, Paul reaches out to us and says, “Today we begin.” And the Church here reminds us that today is always today. Today, Monday of the 28th Week, we begin.

Paul – after a reminder of who he is and who Jesus is – says to the Romans (that is, us) “to all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy.” Going backward in this reading, called to be holy is paralleled with called to belong to Jesus Christ.

Called is the Greek word κλητός kletos. We are summoned, invited. We are playing with our friends in the back yard when Moms begin to yell names across the neighborhood: BI-LEEEEEE, AN-THU-NEEEE! SUPPER! Called. And someplace, God the Father, standing on the back porch, did the same thing by sending Jesus into the world. We are called to belong to Jesus, called to be saints. This is the Gospel, the good news, for God doesn’t not call us to things we cannot do – by his Grace. The second Greek word is ἅγιος agios and it means holy, set apart for God. That is the meaning of Saint – not miracle worker, not inspired teacher – wholy holy. Set apart for God.

This is the pitch.

But the how is still coming up. You are called to be a saint. This sounds good you say, ok, Paul. How? Paul’s got a list of things to stop doing but the Church has named this the “Universal Call to Holiness” and they can best be summed up in the “Evangelical Counsels”: living as Jesus lived according to Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. These are not just for monks – they are for everyone.

Poverty first. Remember that Jesus said it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God – but all things are possible with God. Jesus had nothing against rich people but he recognized that attachment to things of this world was all it took to keep you out of heaven. Any undue attachment will take you straight to hell. The Apostolic and Patristic writings are filled with advice on this topic. Share all things, give away all things, give to anyone who asks; your extra clothes are stolen from the poor; food you let spoil is stolen from the hungry. All things come from God and are yours to distribute as God would. The Church insists on the universal destination of goods, professing that the goods of creation are destined for humankind as a whole. Possessions are part of our vocation to care for those around us. This includes a fair and just use of Creation nd her resources – food, water, land, air – for all of the people on the planet (now, and in the future).

Chastity is the most misunderstood of the evangelical counsels. It is not the same thing as celibacy. Some Christians are called to a vowed abstention from marriage but all Christians are called by their Baptism to chastity which means to make appropriate use of God’s gift of human sexuality according to their state in life. Christians within a sacramental marriage are to engage in the gift of sexual union as a means o furthering the relationship between husband and wife and open to the generation of new life in their children. This includes abstaining from sex at times that would be spiritually (emotionally, physically) harmful for the participants in the relationship. Christians outside of a sacramental marriage are called to abstain from sexual actions which are generously gifted by God for a specific place in the created order. This includes not objectifying others sexually, not using the sexuality of others for financial gain (violating their chastity), and not allowing onc self to be used in those ways either.

Obedience is the one that drives many Christians bonkers. At least in social media what I tend to hear is some version of “The Church says X, but I disagree, therefore it’s not part of the Magisterium and I don’t have to follow it. The Church says Y and I agree and therefore it is part of the Magisterium – and you’re a crazy heretic for disagreeing.” In fact, the Documents of the Second Vatican Council are rather broadly drawn when obedience to the Pope is involved:

In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.

Lumen Gentium #25

Working up to that statement, the same document underscores the hierarchical nature of the Church, with each layer owing humility, reverence, and service across the board to priests, bishops, and especially the Pope. That, however, is the Magisterium. Paul – and the Church Fathers – carries this further. We owe reverence and obedience to each other. The enemy calls us to self-will. Any chance to escape what the Fathers call our “slavery to my own reasoning” is a gift from God and a chance to grown in virtue. This does not go against our divine gift of Freedom. Our Freedom in Christ is not the freedom from rules. It is the Freedom for the power of this world, from the power of the Devil, from the slavery to sin and “to my own reasoning” that we may grow in Virtue. It’s not, the license to do whatever but rather the restoration (in Christ) of a freedom to do the Good that we lost in the fall.

Miss Aretha sang it best. Wholy holy. We’re called to be Wholy Holy.

Oh, wholy holy
Oh Lord
We can conquer hate forever, yes we can
Ah, wholy holy, Oh Lord
We can rock the world’s foundation
Yes we can
Better believe it
Wholy holy together and wholy
Holler love across the nation
Oh, oh
Wholy holy
We proclaim love, our salvation

The incarnation means that this physical stuff of us is called to Holiness: and we are called to holiness by doing the things of this world. By living the life God has given us. If you are a married bridge builder raising a family, that is your path to holiness. Wrap it up and give it as a Christmas present to God.

St John Henry Cardinal Newman offers us this simple way to perfection, a way to hold our life out to God:

If you ask me what you are to do in order to be perfect, I say, first-
– Do not lie in bed beyond the due time of rising;
– give your first thoughts to God;
– make a good visit to the Blessed Sacrament;
– say the Angelus devoutly;
– eat and drink to God’s glory;
– say the Rosary well;
– be recollected; keep out bad thoughts;
– make your evening meditation well;
– examine yourself daily;
– go to bed in good time, and you are already perfect.

These three then, poverty, chastity, and obedience are our pathway to answer the Universal Call to Holiness. When Paul says to us we are “called to be holy” or “called to be saints” as it is in some translations, this is what he means. All the lists that follow in St Paul’s text that are skipped over boil down to these items. It’s possible to go all your life as a Christian without addressing these. But what’s the point?

Becoming a Saint is the greatest adventure possible.

St John the Melodist

St John Henry Cardinal Newman pray to God for us!


St John Henry Cardinal Newman was a very accomplished hymn writer. Many of his hymns are here in the Hymnary. There’s also a long biography there.

Praise to the Holiest in the height,
and in the depth be praise:
in all his words most wonderful,
most sure in all his ways.

O loving wisdom of our God!
When all was sin and shame,
a second Adam to the fight
and to the rescue came.

O wisest love! that flesh and blood,
which did in Adam fail,
should strive afresh against the foe,
should strive and should prevail;

And that a higher gift than grace
should flesh and blood refine,
God’s presence and his very self,
and essence all-divine.

O generous love! that he, who smote
in Man for man the foe,
the double agony in Man
for man should undergo;

And in the garden secretly,
and on the cross on high,
should teach his brethren, and inspire
to suffer and to die.

Praise to the Holiest in the height,
and in the depth be praise:
in all his words most wonderful,
most sure in all his ways.

In hope of less.

Les Brown and Bob Hope in 1951. They have nothing to do with this post.


This is not a rant about the novus ordo but the next few words may sound like it. One of the things that annoy me about the Pre V2-Post v2 argument is the claim that the new lectionary (for mass and the office) has “more scripture” in it. This is usually offered without ever explaining why this might be a good thing. The Mass (and the Daily Office) is not the time for Bible Study. While there is nothing wrong with either the new Lectionary for Mass, nor the Daily Office lectionary, it’s not automatically good simply because there is more of it. Exposure to more scripture only means exposure to more scripture. There are unexplored advantages to the older ways: as in the Orthodox and Jewish traditions, a year’s worth of readings (rather than three years) allows for memorization, familiarity, and meditation. MOAR BIBLE (to use memespeak) is not the solution to anything, really. More (or moar), by itself, is not better: it can really be just meaningless words and, if recent data about the lack of faith among Catholics is any indication, it’s actually made things worse.

However, this “More is Better” thinking is not only an issue on the “new” side of things.

I love the Daily Office: the traditional practice of reciting portions of Psalms, hymns, and scripture passages at several set times each day. The purpose of this is the sanctification of time, a weaving of the heavenly song of praise into all aspects of each day. It began as a monastic practice which was, itself, an extension of Church practice. There are certain psalms that get used all the time in the liturgies of the Church. Monastics extended this by using the entire book of Psalms. This is very visible in the Eastern liturgy where the set times of prayers have set psalms: Matins has 6, Lauds has three, and then each of the other services has three each. However, if you follow the monastic practice, into Matins and Vespers you can weave the entire Psalter or almost all of it. In the West, which adopted the Office from the monastics, this was the same pattern until recently: Lauds and each of the “little hours” through the day had set psalms that could be memorized.

The monastic practice became part of parish practice through various routes in East and West. Read Liturgy of the Hours, East and West by Fr Robert Taft, SJ, for a much deeper exploration of this history.

In the name of simplicity, Pope St Pius X made a major revision to the office and parsed the entire psalter out over 7 days with no repetition. While much of it could still be memorized it was only over a longer period of time. Without daily recitation of some texts, they tend to not be memorized as easily. But they are there. Then, following Vatican 2, a second major revision of the distribution of Psalms happened. This was much more dramatic, some might even say disruptive: the psalter was parsed out over four weeks. There is a complex layout – with some texts repeating every two weeks, some repeating weekly, and a few others only coming up once in the four-week cycle. Some do not come up at all (because they made folks “uncomfortable”) but this is said to be fixed in the new translation rumored to be in the works since the 80s…

There are some issues to raise about this new psalter. Gone is the daily repetition of the Lauds psalms (which St Pius did away with), and the daily repetition of Psalm 50/51 that was present in the P10 psalter, at least in Lent, is entirely absent in the new text, where that Psalm is only said weekly on Fridays. Also, the matins readings are not parsed into digestible chunks: they come at you in walls of paginated text. But it is still the same office in form and function, just as the new Mass – done properly – is the same Mass as the old Mass in form and function. These issues are issues of style and liturgical thinking, though. The Office – the daily prayer of the church – is present in these texts and the Office plus the Mass is the daily grace needed by all the Saints. So, we’re good.

It is with some humor (and not a bit of sly irony) that in reading Trady complaints about the new office, the most common reason for urging a return to the older form is some version of because it is longer. MOAR OFFICE! “But we say more psalms,” said one monastic to me.

More than once since becoming Roman Catholic, your host has fallen into this same trap. Though now obligated to the Office as a Dominican Tertiary, the Office (with more or less regularity) has been a valued part of my growth even as an Episcopalian in the 80s. Even as a neopagan, the sense of need for daily prayer had become so ingrained that I wrote a daily office in a pagan style, complete with a yearly cycle and “canticles” lifted from early Welsh and Irish texts. My first thought, picking up the current Roman office in Liturgy of the Hours, was, “Hmm. This is a little light.” The translation is pedestrian at best, the hymnody is often meaningless, and the distribution of the Psalms, as mentioned, is problematic. So, I constantly find myself wanting to revert back to some older form with more – or moar.

Why? What is the attraction of or the value of more pro se? This is the same thing proffered in comparison of rites, old/new or east/west: ours is longer, as if duration was a mark of holiness or as if God would say, “Whoa! More words is totes better, Bro!” This rant began when the Liturgy of the Hours called the “Liturgy of the Minutes” and as much as I love the breviary, I realized then the internal pride I felt at doing the Office in the Extraordinary Form. If I were an SSPX tertiary, that would be correct, but that’s not the case.

The banquet is prepared.

Knowing that we are the prodigal, that Jesus is the father welcoming us home…


There it was to see today, even though, certainly, it’s been there before. Something finally clicked. Knowing that we are the prodigal, that Jesus is the father welcoming us home, it was evident, finally, that the Mass itself was the banquet prepared for us. Why this hadn’t been noticed before is clearly the fault of being too far away to see the father’s love for his wayward son.

Mass for Five Voices


At St Dominic’s on Sunday we heard parts of William Byrd’s Mass for Five Voices, sung without humorous comment by 30 voices in choir. Byrd’s Masses for three, four, and five voices were composed between 1592 and 1595 when the aging Elizabeth (pictured above from 1595) was hounding Catholics all over England, killing them or turning them into state spies by threatening their families and using them to smell out other pockets of papistry.

In order to maintain the beauty of the Liturgy, even in a time of persecution, these Masses were set to easy-to-sing music and printed on small sheets of paper rather than bound in books to better allow them to be hidden. They were printed without commentary or instructions, no author or publishing house was noted. The Masses included the Kyrie which, prior to the reforms of Trent, was rarely sung in the Mass since the English (Sarum) liturgical tradition required a series of tropes to be woven into the verses, depending on the feast being observed. But the priests coming from the continent, trained in the English Colleges for the English Mission, were trained in the Tridentine Mass, with its one missal book, and it’s simplified liturgy. A priest could open a book, sing Mass, and get out of the house on to the next mission before the Priest Hunters and police were able to find him.

I was thinking about all of this as we heard the Mass for Five Voices on Sunday. I am aware that we are on the edge of something – I honestly don’t know what. Robert Hugh Benson felt it in 1907 when he wrote Lord of the World, a dystopia where communism and an occult pseudo-spirituality he called “Masonic” ruled the world and tried to destroy the Church. He saw this issue looming over the Church then. It’s still looming – although Fatima seems to indicate we’re closer to it now. It feels this way more and more because of the culture – but I don’t mean the secularism of the culture. Quite the opposite.

The English persecution at the time of Byrd was not a case of “Christian against Christian” for the Queen followed her father, Henry VIII, in using the state to keep Christians divided to protect her crown. These Christians who were Protestant and Catholic, yes, but it was the state that was driving the war, and keeping the people divided. This issue of perception is still very important: a state may have Christians in it or holding offices but a State cannot be Christian. The English State, in order to maintain its power (as it did in the north of Ireland), kept Catholics and Protestants at each other’s throats. Christians on all sides who fear to lose their mammon find it easy to support politicians who will help them keep their pockets full.

In our culture, the fringes of the Church – pulled to the political left and the political right – are increasingly following the lead of their political bosses in asking if other Christians (who don’t share their political ideologies) are even Christian at all. In our current era this began as left- and rightwing political ideologies crept into the Church in the 70s and 80s, although it runs through our history from the Aryan heresy. It is now very much in full force. The sitting president of the US on the right, the leaders of Europe on both sides of the aisle, and their unknowing minions inside media and religious communities are very skilled at using the political environment in the Church to tear the Churches apart. When American writers criticize the Pope for being too liberal whilst German bishops criticize him for being too conservative, you will see both sides of this play out. Any voice for traditional morality is derided as “nearly Hitler” and any voice of concern for the poor or the environment over money or power is called “communism”.

In such a world, eventually, the structures of spiritual support will no longer hold communities together and the state structures (which always seek to either consume or destroy all other structures) will step in to hold up their political friends and destroy their political enemies. In our modern era, we saw this in Soviet Russia as the Marxists decided to corrupt the Church from inside rather than trying to blow it all up. We see Putin continuing these same shenanigans today.

What will become of the Church? That is in God’s hands, but I fear we should begin to learn the Byrd Masses again. They can even be sung without a guitar or flute.

Kerygmama – Departing Tao

We are schooled by our legal system to think of “sin” as a series of discrete actions that are each a negative point against us. Instead, sin is this departure itself.


Earlier posts suggested that God loves us and has filled the world with proof of that and then I suggested that the reason we don’t see that is because every last one of us wants to not have a boss.

Still, on what I called the “golden road” or what CS Lewis called the “Tao” we all see the positive qualities of what we think of as “virtues”: compassion, care, mutual concern, love, care for the poor, honoring our parents, etc. We can see the positive qualities even if we don’t want to always agree with them. This is where we are today, actually. We acknowledge these qualities – shared by nearly all religious and philosophical traditions – as good. But we only see them as one choice among many. Especially when it comes to issues of “private concern” such as in the bedroom we tend to think we can each make up our own rules.

Curiously, we then insist that our rules match the Golden Road. I am loving others by having with as many folks as I want. I am caring for the poor by changing the laws so that they can’t live on my street. I am honoring my parents by changing the financial structure so that their savings are without value. I am helping the environment by shifting responsibility for my petroleum consumption onto the third world so that it only hurts poor folks I never have to meet. I know that plastic is hurting basically every part of the world, but I like my disposable contact lenses: bifocals make me look so old.

We do this all the time and here’s where I will mention something that most folks agree with but never in the first person: this deviation from the Golden Road is called sin. I don’t mean in the sense of this specific act or that little peccadillo is a sin. I mean the deviation itself. We are schooled by our legal system to think of “sin” as a series of discrete actions that are each a negative point against us. Instead, sin is this departure itself. If the golden road laid all over the world results in steps toward God, departure from the golden road, from the Tao, is to move in the other direction. Some of us make those choices – in fact, most of us make those choices – to move in the other direction all the time. One choice leads to another choice, and the further we move from the Tao the harder it is to get back.

I said this is never in the first person. We find it very easy in the Third Person to discuss sin. They are breaking the law. They here are usually our political opponents. We are also good at what I call the Second Person Abstract. Although we would (nearly) never say “You, sir, are a sinner…” but we find it easy to say to a TV or on a radio, “You suck!” We can also say this at a distance as at a political rally, etc.

Can you see this sin in the first person? You really need to. We’ll not be able to get any further in this proclamation if you can’t see it. 

  • Do you find yourself acting in a selfish way when you didn’t want to?
  • Do you find yourself unable to be as loving as you really feel you should be?
  • If you are aware of the ways in which you are unjustly treated can you see, also, the ways in which you unjustly treat others?
  • If you are aware of the ways in which you are gracefully moving through the world, can you honestly see the ways in which you fail to do so?
  • Can you see the ways in which you confuse “love” with “self-interest”?

If you can find resonance in these questions, you’re self-aware enough to move forward. If not, perhaps you can continue reading, but learning this may not make sense at this time. It is not my goal to teach the fullness of Catholicism here, but only to proclaim the need for it, the open joy of it.

There are enough commonalities in all religions to find what I have called the “Golden Road” or the “Tao” as C S Lewis named it. There are also enough departures from this Tao that it is important to ask Why? I’ve offered the idea that we all are individualists; and also that it is far easier to see this in others, but some of us see this departure in ourselves as well. The next question is what to do with this knowledge?

We shall return to this. But this essay – our ability to see the departure – is the most important so far. It’s the “mother” from which all else descends, really. For as adults we know failure in the first person long before we are aware of it in others. What we do with this knowledge can decide if we ever grow up at all. This is not a moral question: a person may be aware of his departures from the Tao without any moral judgments. I can be proud of my choices to depart from the general consensus even when I am aware of them. All that we need at this point is the awareness of that departure, but I will ask one thing: if someone else’s departure can be enough to spark a protest or an “F-bomb” to be lobbed towards various mediae, then why are not your departures the same?

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Kerygmore – Why the SNAFU?


I now have to say another thing as huge as my first point. It may even be harder to accept. No one (or very few), in this age of enlightenment, believes in science. Unlike the God thing, I can actually prove this one.

Once someone I knew spent $20 on $2 lottery tickets. On one ticket he won $6. He said, “Look, I’m ahead $4!” He fought me when I pointed out he’d lost $18.

We’re all ready to pay the Math Tax called the Lottery, or other forms of Gambling. Evolution has brought us to a place where we and many other creators stand. Every last one of us is the product of billions of years of evolution and breeding. Yet how many of us refuse to accept that – not because of religion, but rather because of ideological points? If any other creature was so dedicated to denying its own nature, it would die out. We will, too, if we are not careful. We imagine that some races are “more evolved” than others.

We deny simple mathematics when it comes to our economic choices. Listening to “Freakanomics” on NPR, you realize over and over that what we think of as liberal economic policies – and conservative ones – fail. Constantly. Yet none of us want to hear that and even the reporters on the show don’t like to hear their pet social programs wreck lives.

We know that plastic is killing the planet, but how much plastic do we use? We know that petroleum consumption is practically an addiction, but we fight wars to sustain it. We are sure that unprotected sex with multiple partners, chain-smoking, capitalism, processed food, and even greenhouse gases are killing us, yet we do nothing to stop and most of us are certain it will not affect, you know, me… personally. We are sure on the right that big gov’t is an evil – but we constantly make it bigger. We are sure on the left that big gov’t will be just and protect us, so when the gov’t fails to do that – does the reverse, actually – our solution is to give the gov’t more power.

We’re this way when it comes to Astrology (now more popular than ever and most of my non-religious friends think of it as just another form of M-B personality tests). Social work, politics, food. We love “science” when it shows us we’re right. We ignore it when it shows us we’re wrong. And there’s no deity or church to condemn us for it.

We say we want to do something – but the opposite gets done.

I mentioned yesterday that it seems as though all of the religions overlap in some very important ways. Then I commented that they feel to overlap in some crucial ways as well. Why is that so? a superficial exploration of this question will point out cultural, historical, and political issues. We may even get to theology. yet, if everyone says, for example, we must love the other person then why do some religions deny the existence of the other person at all? Some religions say any love of other is actually the love of self and any perception of “other” at all is a misperception. How can this be?

To understand the answer to this question we must go deeper than things superficial.

Remember I asked you to accept, as a given, that there is a God and he loves us. From this, I drew the point that such a loving God would try to reach us, to make himself known to us and we known to him. I pointed out all the overlap and suggested that here was a golden path to the knowledge of God. In fact, a Christian writer by the name of Paul said (in the Bible) that all humans have this knowledge of God written in their hearts – even unbelievers. Another writer, Justin, in the 2nd Century adds that all truth (he uses Plato and Socrates) no matter where it comes from is always God’s truth. Today we would say even scientific truth is God’s truth. However, we don’t believe in Science.

The real issue: we won’t believe in any form of Authority.

One version of history says Martin Luther was opposed to the Pope. In fact, Martin Luther was opposed to confining Papal Authority in one person. Instead of One Pope, Martin gave us a world filled with Popes. Each Christian (and, in fact, each person) inspired by their “inner light” has become infallible. There is a direct line from the Wittenburg Door to Oprah Winfrey and it continues on. We now “know” that feelings are more important than facts. I don’t like this because it makes me feel X. Therefore it must be untrue.

But this is not new. Humans have been like this, quite literally, forever. We’re afraid of Authority and we will do anything to manipulate and mold it into our own likeness. This is why all the overlapping golden road I mentioned before has brought us no closer to unity, no closer to “coexist” than millions of bumper stickers. Each one of us wants to be their own pope.

Every part of that golden road is pointing towards God – towards an Authority to whom each one of us feels in their heart, they may have to submit. And each one of us knows we would never submit. Ever. YOU ARE NOT MY SUPERVISOR is the credo of this age. But this is not new. It’s been the just-after-primal human cry for ever.

So there are forks in the road and precipices. There are unpaved stretches and who landslides worth of washouts. You can’t get there from here. But each of us knows that road is there. And when we get on it (even by accident) we find ourselves wondering, “Where does this go?”

I’ll be back tomorrow with the mother of all Kerygma. The Kerygmama. 

I Think You Have Questions


Questions always arise about my participation in Church. I think they are valid questions, but I think they are often predicated on invalid assumptions: essentially, they are some form of How can you do this? Where this is incorrectly understood or defined. As a result of “this” being incorrectly defined often “you” and “do” are also incorrectly defined. So what is the this is the first question that must be addressed. What is being done? comes way before Who is doing this? and How is it done? Ironically, my blogging is mostly about How and Who rather than what. To use insider jargon, these blog posts are usually testimony or discipleship rather than kerygma. Although you cannot properly do any without the others, the Kerygma comes first: the What, then the who, then an invitation to how.

Take it as a given that there is a God and he loves us. That’s a huge leap for some readers, I know. So maybe inviting you to “take it as a given” is a huge stumbling block for you. Yet, I don’t think you’ve read even this far without understanding that I believe this. We can fall down the rabbit warren of debates about God’s existence at a later date. For the sake of argument take it as read. I will take it, as writer, that the rest of this essay is totally useless without that beginning. But you cannot prove to me that there is no God – you can only prove that you do not believe there is a God and that may be a better question to debate, but we’ll come back to that. For now: the is a God and he loves us.

Imagine that you’ve met someone on Tinder, Scruff, or Growlr. How do you decide they are real and not some Nigerian scammer waiting to ask for money or someone worse waiting to beat you up when you go out to meet them the first time? You ask questions, you exchange photos, you probe a bit. After deciding the risk is worth it, you go ahead and meet. Did they reveal themselves in a full face shot? Did you see a full body shot as well? Are you able to say their physical type is – with 100% certainty – exactly what you think it is? How did you arrive at that conclusion?

Having walked through all of that how big of a risk will you take? Will you meet? Will you meet in a crowded, safe space? Will you go to each other’s apartments first? God and you have just “swiped right”.

There is a God and he loves us. What would such a God do? Who he hide away? Would he reach out? If he hid, how would we know? If he reached out how can we tell? Christianity says God has spent literally all of human history trying to get to us and trying to get us to listen. The classic Kerygma would include a long list of the Hebrew Prophets and their teachings, but you might rightly ask, “What about the Chinese?” or “Where does that leave the Arapaho?” It may surprise you to hear that both the Jewish and the Christian teaching is that God has left no one alone in this. C.S. Lewis used a nice, respectable word, “Tao” to describe the common teachings of all the religions on love, morality, ethics. It may surprise you to hear how great a common overlap there is among them all. This would make sense if God is a God who loves us. He would want us to know him as best as we can. He would put not just clues, but a huge, golden pathway everywhere around the world for us to get to him. This is not a case of “many pathways, one mountain”. Where, then, does this pathway go?

It’s useful to acknowledge all the ways these religions do not overlap. But is that important? Or is that like saying the leftwing or rightwing all around the world is destroyed by differences more than held together by commonalities? Being something of a Personalist Anarchist, I think all statists (Left and Right) have far more in common than they wish to admit. I think most religions would agree on even some very profound theological truths. But there are differences, yes. We’ll come back to that in a minute.

Is there anyone who manifests all these truths in one, supreme way? Is there anyone whom we can point at and say, “Given these two assumptions, and the fact that all these religions overlap in all these awesome places, is there anyone I’d say I want to be like more than I want to be like anyone else?”

Yes, I want you to say Jesus there, but not yet. In Part II I’ll go over a few other choices whom I am happy to acknowledge: but also to explain why they don’t seem to be the right ones. So tune in later this week for Kerygma II – Kerygmore.