Saturday, April 03, 2004

I plan to attend the Great Easter Vigil of 2004 next Saturday, April 10th, so I can see what next year will bring for me... and because I understand it's beautiful.

Spain and the Catholic Church 

I heard on the radio the other day that 94% of the population of Spain is Catholic, but only 14% of the teenagers and young adults attend mass. I didn't have free time today to read or scan about, but I did have time to think. Perhaps it is an old thought, I don't know, but it seems like Heaven doesn't hold much attraction for Western youth. You can see how the Lord as shepherd would be meaningful to anyone raising animals, and perhaps especially meaningful for parents. You can see how going to your eternal rest would be meaningful to anyone living a life of hard labor. You can see how the waves of sickness and death that have swept the world through histories past would make the mercy of Christ meaningful.

Why would people who have plentiful leisure time, plentiful health, plentiful toys and gifts and treasures seek heaven when they have, in their daily lives, what many, perhaps most, would considered heaven on earth?

That's where the Holy Spirit comes in, yes? The Spirit which brings our souls through Christ to God? So as I thought all these things, I wondered how the Holy Spirit approaches today's rich youth.

Wireless Lord

Wireless Lord, your spirit brings
my soul to Christ. I reach for you
and in your heart creation sings.
Wireless Lord, your spirit brings
the praise and prayers of living things
to glorify your Kingdom's truth.
Wireless Lord, your spirit brings
my soul to Christ. I reach for you.

Yes, yes... I am imagining the Holy Spirit as a Wi-Fi, surrounding us unseen, a hidden pathway to the Lord all around us. Here Christ is the handshake through which, and only through which (though in a variety of ways) we can connect to God, the Internet. Are such thoughts blasphemy? I'll sleep on it.

Friday, April 02, 2004

A Poetic Vocation 

I mentioned a love of poetry. I am reading in the Catechism that "God invites each person into relationship and union with himself by calling the person to a particular state of life or vocation, which means "calling." It is through or by means of this vocation that the person will attain the Christian perfection or holiness that is required of all followers of Jesus Christ, as is emphasized in Vatican II's "Dogmatic Constitution on the Church," chapter five, on "The Universal Call to Holiness. It is important that each Christian pray fervently and seek counsel to discuss the vocation that would best enable him or her to know, love, and serve God fully. God has a plan for each of our lives."

I won't turn this blog into a poetry blog, but suffice to say that I've had some joy and pride in poetry but have fallen away from writing since 9/11. My focus has been on the news, on fear inherent in my 17 and 18 year old sons having to register for the draft (which isn't here now, but which may come). I haven't ever written much about God or in praise. I did write this to Christ, about the hollow feeling of my Methodist Church one Christmas a few years back, before I even thought of starting on this journey:

Capricious Crowd

Look at your capricious crowd --
seeking till their numb --
the still, small voice of God
in pandemonium.

They just can't wait for you to come --
and so -- they're quite content --
to celebrate your shadow
but not the Word you left.

How pointless are the gifts they give
to glorify your birth --
when Prophecy met Promise
and the Light was come to Earth.

How fruitless are their efforts
preparing for The Day
when Prophecy meets Promise
and The Light returns to stay.

Anyway, I can't say that Methodists believe or teach that everyone has a vocation that should be used for the glory of God. As I've said, no one over there volunteers, people turn in receipts for even small change and when someone does volunteer time to paint or mow or shovel, their work is often belittled (as awful as that sounds) behind their back as unprofessional. What I'm trying to get at is that I feel a pull toward writing verse again, verse reflecting the Word as I read it.

My Heart is Here

My heart is here,
Lord, take now what I cannot give.
My heart is here,
erase desires I hold so dear.
Free me, Lord, and please forgive
the captive life you've watched me live.
My heart is here.

When you get right down to brass tacks, there are certain things all Christians should give up, don't you think? I mean, I'm reading about the Eucharist and the Rite of Confession, and we're not really supposed to sin just because we know forgiveness is available, right? How can we release these things that hold us hostage? Is it gossip? Is it the occasional racy video? Is it love of money and things? Just what comes between a man and God besides doubt, besides pride.

I have read widely over the years because I have a love of poetry, and there is a famous book called "The Golden Bough." In that book, which was banned in America early in this century, James Frazier describes the history of the world's superstitions and religions. The whole book is online at the link I gave above. If you read it, you will see a section called "Eating the God" where Frazier describes many places and times throughout the history of Man which are similar to Christian communion. If you read another section, about Scapegoats you will see many times throughout history when people were treated like Jesus, where all the sins of the community are poured onto one man who is driven out.

For a long time, these things bothered me because Christians hold the Eucharist and the Crucifixion so dear it seems to undermine us to find out our events are not as unique as we thought. If you read Frazier, you'll even see a section on sacrificing the King's son, you'll see sections which describe the torture Jesus went through only described in other cultures, you'll see the ritual we know as releasing Barabbas... you'll read lots of things if you read the Golden Bough that bring the Bible into relief.

In the Methodist faith, we believe a thing called Prevenient Grace. It is what Catholics believe, too, that the Holy Spirit brings you to God. So I choose to believe that the Grace of God works, past, present and future, in all humanity and that these past rituals, so similar to our central mysteries, were merely foreshadowings of the coming Messiah, working in the minds of early Man.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Thank you to all the well-wishers who sent word to me today. It's a wonderful feeling to be welcomed into the Faith by so many. :)

"Amongst these historical documents,
in this spot, once hung
the Ten Commandments,
forced to be removed by court order."

Back in the early 1920's, my grandparents eloped and were married in Goshen, IN. Today, the sign above hangs in the Goshen courthouse. Even in fly-over country, our religion is being chased back into our churches. I do not recall, ever, in my Methodist church having the Ten Commandments taught or delivered in a sermon, in any meaningful way. We got more knowledge from Charlton Heston than from our church. Why, because preaching the Ten Commandments would hurt feelings. Being honest with someone who is on the wrong path has been turned on its head and those who sin, because they don't rock the boat of the church, become those who rise to leadership.

I reached that point in the Catechism book that I'm reading where communion is discussed as the actual flesh and blood of Jesus. Methodists (perhaps all protestants?) believe that the bread and wine are symbols, not the actual body and blood of Jesus. When we had communion, (three or four times a year), the Methodist pastor would say, "ours is an open table, everyone is invited to partake." So, of course, everyone does (except for any visiting Catholics who know this to be wrong). Even little kids. In fact, my own little kids enjoyed draining the tiny little cups and eating the tiny 1cm x 1cm bit of bread. I am reading now what an affront this was and am rather ashamed of how I treated communion. I can see the path ahead and how I have to adjust my thinking. What will it be like on that day when I eat the bread and drink the wine and really believe the flesh and blood of Christ are in my body?

It's been difficult. We've been going to our Catholic Parish now for four or five months and I've been watching everyone take the bread of life while I, generally, kneel and wait. Over Christmas, I went on up and crossed my arms over my chest like the little kids and got myself blessed. Generally, I pray while I sit alone in my pew, since my wife is Catholic and can participate. I've read elsewhere, in Amy Welborn's blog, that perhaps it is wrong that I pray and should, instead, focus on what the priest is doing. My RCIA teacher said that is true. Even with reading and watching as closely as I do, I have so much to learn, so I watch closely: some people, mostly older people, let the priest put the wafer right in their mouth. Some people bow here and there in the process. Some people take the wine, some don't. Many try to pack the aisle where the priest is performing the ritual while others prefer the shorter lines.

When my RCIA class ends, we pray. All my life it was, "bow your head, close your eyes and pray." I notice that Catholics don't tend to do that... we keep our eyes open and pray almost conversationally. I rather like that.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Even though I was the only non-Catholic at the RCIA Pre-Catechumenate meeting last night, it was still a good meeting. A woman who was once Lutheran, but became Catholic nearly 40 years ago upon marrying her husband was also there. She was seeking, felt a calling, to learn more about her faith.

The meeting started with one of the hostesses asking what our image of God was when we pray. One woman said that she often imagines Mary when she calls upon her to intercede, but interestingly, when this woman was young, her image of Mary was of the young Mary, the virgin mother Mary, while now her image of Mary is of the older Mary, the Mary of the cross.

We talked about Catholic Tradition, mostly, in a variety of ways. We attend a rather conservative parish. We still ring bells during mass and I asked about it. In the old days, in the big Cathedrals and before Vatican II, the priest used to face away from the congregation during mass and the mass was in Latin... so most people had no idea what was going on. The bells told people that the priest was raising the host.

We talked about incense. One priest was heard to say that the incense covered the body odors of the time. A better answer, by one of our hosts, was that the bells and the incense just help to involve more of our senses with what's going on.

We talked about Mary and how the Catholic Tradition has evolved around her. How outsiders take one look and say, "They are worshiping Mary," and don't understand that Catholics call on Mary and the angels and the saints to intercede on our behalf.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Scientists are working hard to create life in the lab. What should our view of this be? The article I linked talks about creation of cellular life. They intend to prevent this artificial life from escaping by the same means that Michael Crichton used in his Jurassic Park book. This sure sounds like a dangerous game on a whole lot of levels.

Monday, March 29, 2004

I have my next RCIA meeting tomorrow night. At the first meeting, one of the items we talked about was "who is going to hell." Our instructors said, if you remember, that Catholics don't presume to know who is going to hell. We believe that when you die, you are given a choice between accepting God and rejecting God. If you reject God, down you go. In times past, people who committed suicide were not allowed to be buried in a Catholic graveyard because suicide is a mortal sin. Now, since much more is understood about mental health, and since we don't presume to know how God will handle each person's sin, Catholics who commit suicide can be burried along with other Catholics.

I bring this up because an odd fellow who used to work for me a few years back (we had to let him go because he falsified his time sheet) committed suicide over the weekend. He sent a postcard to the coroner's office containing his suicide note. How efficient, and how like him. He was an athiest and attended yearly get-aways with Mensa. I fought with him on a lot of issues, big and little. One that I remember very well was that he often complained that I left pop cans and bottles which were not quite empty on my desk which I ended up pouring out and throwing away. He believed that a person should have a rule, when the pop reaches a certain level in the bottle or can, one should drink the rest. That way, nothing goes to waste.

I guess he reached that level in his life.

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