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Semina Verbi

seeking the seeds of the word in a postmodern world

Updated: 2017-10-18T09:03:52.487-07:00


Documents for Diocesan Congress Presentation


Here are the documents for:
Session D.03
Spirituality for Webmasters and Social Media Mavens
October 14th 2017
Diocesan Congress
Diocese of Fresno

High Level Summary


Here is a five sentence summary of the presentation
  • We use the Web more and more in ministry, but it can make a problem like acedia more severe.
  • Acedia is the ancient name for a state of spiritual passivity, restlessness, and lack of care.
  • We respond to God’s call by trying to find our true self and true vocation through being transformed by His love.
  • Acedia will damage us spiritually because choosing not to care about God’s call cuts us off from our vocation and identity.
  • The remedy is stability - returning to the ordinary and a consciousness of God’s presence in it.

Doxa on Eros


How are these deep God-given desires made manifest, what are the channels where these deep energies flow?  Some that I can identify are:
  • Intimacy - We are made for intimate relationship, ultimately with God, but including the forms of human intimacy - romance, friendship, and marriage.
  • Community - Being human means forming concrete communities; social and political community, the community of the baptised, the People of God.
  • Compassion - Realizing that the Other, is not an other, coming to identify with the stranger, the sick, the poor, the prisoner. the small ones of God.
  • Joy - our recognition that God's spirit dwells in us, that we loved and valued
It is in these ways, in these areas that God calls and we respond, we are pulled both out and further into ourselves and we search to find what or who is pulling us onward. These  channels  for our searching, ascending love, our eros, are also the ways that God's answering, expanding agape reaches down to and through us into the world.

Our expression of these ways is subject to certain constraints or qualities that condition how we respond. It must be:
  • personal  
  • intentional - voluntary for a reason with understanding
  • incarnate
  • bound by time and place
  • embedded in a social and cultural context.
A note on some Greek words -- we have already been discussing eros.  Another such Greek word is doxa, the root word for such terms as orthodoxy and heterodoxy.  In this context, it means the structure of experience and belief that we construct as we gain experience in the spiritual life. Propelled by eros, based on doxa we move to the third Greek word, praxis.

In brief


In regard to the need for stability in dealing with acedia, there is The Brief Rule of St. Romuald:
Sit in your cell as in paradise. Put the whole world behind you and forget it. Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish. The path you must follow is in the Psalms — never leave it.

If you have just come to the monastery, and in spite of your good will you cannot accomplish what you want, take every opportunity you can to sing the Psalms in your heart and to understand them with your mind.

And if your mind wanders as you read, do not give up; hurry back and apply your mind to the words once more.

Realize above all that you are in God's presence, and stand there with the attitude of one who stands before the emperor.

Empty yourself completely and sit waiting, content with the grace of God, like the chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing but what his mother brings him.

To be referred to later.

Shoving off


The presentation has just started and we are now past the initial words. Time to get on with it.I am assuming that if you didn't use the internet and social media in ministry, you would not be here. Consider this pastor's activities: Not counting weekly worship festivities, here is a glimpse of my technological life in a typical week: Twitter: 150-200 tweets Facebook: 40-50 interactions and connections /li>E-mails: 300-400 e-mail that require a response /li>Blogging: 2-3 postings /li>Time: 20-25 hours online /li>Cafe hours: 15-20 hours /li>Home visits, face-to-face meetings: 2 /li>Emergency hospital visits -- none in eight years/li>And this is Bruce Reyes-Chow, formerly the Moderator of General conference -title- for the Presbyterian Church USA But this kind of pattern is becoming more and more the norm. I know people whose ministry leadership work keeps them at a screen at least four hours each day broken up by the occasional meeting. And they feel like they are spinning their wheels. I'm sure you all have had days like that.Perhaps more than a day or so. Consider this experience from John Plotz: By some miracle, you set aside a day to tackle that project you can’t seem to finish in the office. You close the door, boot up your laptop, open the right file and . . . five minutes later catch yourself thinking about dinner. By 10 a.m., you’re staring at the wall, even squinting at it between your fingertips. Is this day 50 hours long? Soon, you fall into a light, unsatisfying sleep and awake dizzy or with a pounding headache; all your limbs feel weighed down. At which point, most likely around noon, you commit a fatal error: leaving the room. I’ll just garden for a bit, you tell yourself, or do a ew little charity work. Hmmm, I wonder if my friend Gregory is around??And he didn't even mention that quick research on a topic in Wikipedia for just a minute or watching out a hot new viral video or two, or just quickly reviewig of your Facebook messages or repeated checking of email for whatever reason.Sound familiar? So does any of this sound familiar?restlessnessinability to stick to a project or a plan - not seeing matters through, becoming or allowing oneself to be easily distracted, in attentionallowing tedium and boredom to creep in.laziness of a kind, or sluggishnesseasily becoming tired or even exhausted, This may not a problem with time management, or simple procrastination, or even overuse of the internet, at least not by itself. The danger here is not limited to the psyche -- what I am describing here is what may be a malady of the soul -- acedia.[...]

Our journey in, of and for love


Here is an extended excerpt from Pope Benedict XVI's initial encyclical Deus Caritas Est (God Is Love):
6. Concretely, what does this path of ascent and purification entail? How might love be experienced so that it can fully realize its human and divine promise? Here we can find a first, important indication in the Song of Songs, an Old Testament book well known to the mystics. According to the interpretation generally held today, the poems contained in this book were originally love-songs, perhaps intended for a Jewish wedding feast and meant to exalt conjugal love. In this context it is highly instructive to note that in the course of the book two different Hebrew words are used to indicate “love”. First there is the word dodim, a plural form suggesting a love that is still insecure, indeterminate and searching. This comes to be replaced by the word ahabà, which the Greek version of the Old Testament translates with the similar-sounding agape, which, as we have seen, becomes the typical expression for the biblical notion of love. By contrast with an indeterminate, “searching” love, this word expresses the experience of a love which involves a real discovery of the other, moving beyond the selfish character that prevailed earlier. Love now becomes concern and care for the other. No longer is it self-seeking, a sinking in the intoxication of happiness; instead it seeks the good of the beloved: it becomes renunciation and it is ready, and even willing, for sacrifice.

It is part of love's growth towards higher levels and inward purification that it now seeks to become definitive, and it does so in a twofold sense: both in the sense of exclusivity (this particular person alone) and in the sense of being “for ever”. Love embraces the whole of existence in each of its dimensions, including the dimension of time. It could hardly be otherwise, since its promise looks towards its definitive goal: love looks to the eternal. Love is indeed “ecstasy”, not in the sense of a moment of intoxication, but rather as a journey, an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus towards authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God: “Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it” (Lk 17:33), as Jesus says throughout the Gospels (cf. Mt 10:39; 16:25; Mk 8:35; Lk 9:24; Jn 12:25). In these words, Jesus portrays his own path, which leads through the Cross to the Resurrection: the path of the grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies, and in this way bears much fruit. Starting from the depths of his own sacrifice and of the love that rea ches fulfilment therein, he also portrays in these words the essence of love and indeed of human life itself.
The roots of spirituality, at least as how I am presenting it, are covered well by the underlined section.  The authentic journey to becoming ourselves and discovering our true vocation starts in our responding to that call to love and union that God has placed in our hearts.  We may not understand much about that call, or even how to respond.  But it is in responding that we gain knowledge and direction.  It is God's initiative to put this longing in us, what he is asking first is our response, no matter how inept.  He will lead us and teach us the better way, if we let Him.

Hi, I'm Claude and I am a recovering acediac . . .


I would suggest reviewing this from "Their Noonday Demons, and Ours" by John Plotz in the 9/17/2011 New York Times Sunday Book Review:
By some miracle, you set aside a day to tackle that project you can’t seem to finish in the office. You close the door, boot up your laptop, open the right file and . . . five minutes later catch yourself thinking about dinner. By 10 a.m., you’re staring at the wall, even squinting at it between your fingertips. Is this day 50 hours long? Soon, you fall into a light, unsatisfying sleep and awake dizzy or with a pounding headache; all your limbs feel weighed down. At which point, most likely around noon, you commit a fatal error: leaving the room. I’ll just garden for a bit, you tell yourself, or do a little charity work. Hmmm, I wonder if my friend Gregory is around?

This probably strikes you as an extremely, even a uniquely, modern problem. Pick up an early medieval monastic text, however, and you will find extensive discussion of all the symptoms listed above, as well as a diagnosis. Acedia, also known as the “noonday demon,” appears again and again in the writings of the Desert Fathers from the fourth and fifth centuries. Wherever monks and nuns retreated into cells to labor and to meditate on matters spiritual, the illness struck.
This is a key issue -- more later.

Opening Shots


Here are some of my notes towards the opening of the presentation -- in some ways setting out the thesis for the session.

Spirituality is like breathing -- all human beings have to figure out what they really desire and what they can do about it. My definition of spirituality for the talk:
The individual pilgrimage responding to our deepest God given desires. This is difficult journey of integration and transformation to become our true selves doing our true work according to God’s loving intention for us. 
 Twenty-first Century digital communication technology can be God’s gift to us, and often is. But only if we have control of it, as opposed to it having control of us. The effects of losing that control is becoming more insecure, fearful, socially and intellectually isolated, passive and distracted. We will concentrate on how we address these effects in order to continue to grow as ministers and in the kind of help needed by those we minister to.

I am not sharing the problems I have solved, or those parts of my life where I think I have made the most progress, or have it together. I am sharing my challenges and sometime failures, and the journey I am on because of them.

This presentation does not address addictive disorders connected with the internet -- when internet use significantly interferes with normal life. We are addressing how it can interfere with our spiritual life and the spiritual lives of others. (In some cases we are concerned with the prevention of such disorders and addressing internet use with young people is a special area of concern. )

I am not intending to offer some quick palliative measures for dealing with stuff, nor am I here as a technological Jeremiah to say that with the Internet we are all doomed. We will be looking at real problems, with a response that does more than slap a band-aid on the wound.



Colleen M. Griffith includes an excellent discussion of the idea of a "spiritual practice":
The Nature and Purpose of Spiritual Practice 

Spiritual practices are concrete and specific. They are consciously chosen, intentional actions that give practical purpose to faith. Situated between life as we know it and life in its hoped-for fullness, practices are imbued with a sense of our relatedness to God, others, and the earth. Influencing our dispositions and outlooks on the world, spiritual practices render us more open and responsive to the dynamic activity of God’s grace, and move us toward greater spiritual maturity.

The “how to” question regarding spiritual practices is usually everyone’s first interest. Authors in this issue directly address the “how to” question, making it possible for readers to experience a spiritual practice for the first time. Ultimately, however, the “why” question proves more significant than the “how,” particularly over the long haul in maintaining the discipline of spiritual practice. What are we practicing for?

We engage in spiritual practices because we seek a way of life rather than just a conglomeration of doctrines or a set of moral principles. Desiring an embodied faith that touches us and changes us, we opt in spiritual practice for a “knowing” that springs from the heart’s core, the lev, spoken about in the Hebrew Scriptures as the center of our affections (Ps. 4:7), the source of our reflection (Is. 6:10), and the foundation of our will (1 Sam. 24:5). The point of such practice is never mastery, but deeper relational life, a kind of living that makes appropriation of one’s faith all the more possible.

Catholic Christianity is indeed a tradition rich in practice. It is this editor’s hope that readers will find in the essays that follow entry into practices that nurture their spiritual lives, practices to be received, lived into, and reshaped in time and place for generations to come.
Much of the importance of this lies in the recognition that "why" is more important than "how".  Things that are considered spiritual practices by some can be nothing of the kind to others, and vice versa. This will be very important when examining spiritual issues within a specific professional and technological context.

From the sayings of the Desert Fathers


They pretty much speak for themselves:
(Abba James) said, 'Just as a lamp lights up a dark room, so the fear of God when it penetrates the heart of a man illuminates him, teaching him all the virtues and commandments of God.'

He also said, 'We do not need words only, for, at the present time, there are many words among men, but we need works, for this is what is required, not words which do not bear fruit.'
(Abba Isidore the priest) said, 'If you fast regularly, do not be inflated with pride, but if you think hightly of yourself because of it, then you had< better eat meat. It is better for a man to eat meat than to be inflated with pride and to glorify himself.'
Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, 'Abba as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?' Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, 'If you will, you can become all flame.'
   The last is a favorite and is good to keep in mind in discussions of spiritual practices.

Taking a long vocation


One of the concepts that seems tied to the sort of spirituality I am examining is vocation.  Here are a couple of quotes that I have been working with.

Frederick Buechner, put the same idea in more Biblical and Christian terms. And I quote:
"Vocation comes from the Latin vocare, "to call", and it means the work one is called to by God. There are all different kinds of voices calling you to do all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God, rather than that of society, or the superego, or self-interest. By and large, a good rule for finding this out is the following: the kind of work God usually calls you to do is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do, and (b) that the world needs most to have done. If you really get a kick out of your work, you've presumably met requirement (a), but if your work is writing deodorant commercials, the chances may be that you've missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leper colony, you've probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you're bored and depressed by your work, the chances are you've not only bypassed (a), but you probably aren't helping your patients much, either. ... Neither the hair shirt nor the soft birth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet."
Similarly, Buechner writes in Now and Then: A Memoir of Vocation: "Listen to your life."
See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace” (Now and Then, 87).
Thomas Merton
Discovering vocation does not mean scrambling toward some prize just beyond my reach but accepting the treasure of true self I already possess. Vocation does not come from a voice “out there” calling me to be something I am not. It comes from a voice “in here” calling me to be the person I was born to be, to fulfill the original selfhood given me at birth by God.
The more I worked on the idea of spirituality, the closer I would get to the idea of vocation.

The Questions


The reality is that I really can't give many answers in my Congress presentation -- maybe I should stick to the questions.   Here is one high level set, or rather set of sets:
  1. What frustrates me most right now?  Is distraction and lack of attention a problem? When I get bored, what is my "go-to" activity?
  2. What am I looking for?  What is missing in me that I am seeking?  Have I given up looking?  Do I have any idea where to start or resume?
  3. Where am I on the journey?
    • Do I know how to pray, by myself, silently? Do I feel God listening? Do I think God has failed me or dislikes me?
    • What is my most important or liked regular religious activity that does not involve going to Mass? Am I accountable to anyone spiritually or morally?
    • Am I walking with the small ones of God? Do I know by name non-relatives that are poor, sick, incarcerated, homeless, bereaved, or abandoned? How have they changed my life?
    • Do I wake up in the morning happy or at peace most days? Do I wake up angry or depressed a lot?
  4. Tomorrow morning, what is the first thing that I will begin to change? What help do I need from others, or God? What do I expect?
This is just a start.  I will have updates and an explanation of the structure a little later.

Nailing jello to the wall


I don't know if spirituality is  the most difficult term to define, but you can spend a lot of time and find a lot of definitions.  Here are some I came across, with my working definition at the end.Dictionaryspir·it·u·al·i·tyˌspiriCHo͞oˈalədē/nounnoun: spirituality; plural noun: spiritualitiesthe quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things."the shift in priorities allows us to embrace our spirituality in a more profound way"Sr. Sandra M. Schneiders, I.H.M., Jesuit School of Theology at BerkeleyThe experience of consciously striving to integrate one's life in terms not of isolation and self-absorption but of self-transcendence toward the ultimate value one perceives.Spirituality in the Academy, Theological Studies 50 (1989)Urban dictionaryPeople who still want the mental crutch of Religion, but want to be as vague as possible about it so its harder to argue with their bullshit. These people generally lack the ability to form coherent logical arguments, struggle to think carefully and deeply about subjects and don't like the rules and restrictions imposed by Religion. Their position is so vague as to become difficult to argue against, allowing them to not only benefit from the mental crutch that usually is attached to religion, but hold a smug air of superiority that will piss off any reasonable critical thinker no end. Fr. Ronald Rolheiser O.M.I“Spirituality is more about whether or not we can sleep at night than about whether or not we go to church. It is about being integrated or falling apart, about being within community or being lonely, about being in harmony with Mother Earth or being alienated from her. Irrespective of whether or not we let ourselves be consciously shaped by any explicit religious idea, we act in ways that leave us either healthy or unhealthy, loving or bitter. What shapes our actions is our spirituality. And what shapes our actions is basically what shapes our desire. Desire makes us act and when we act what we do will either lead to a greater integration or disintegration within our personalities, minds, and bodies—and to the strengthening or deterioration of our relationship to God, others, and the cosmic world. The habits and disciplines5 we use to shape our desire form the basis for a spirituality, regardless of whether these have an explicit religious dimension to them or even whether they are consciously expressed at all. Spirituality concerns what we do with desire. It takes its root in the eros inside of us and it is all about how we shape and discipline that eros. John of the Cross, the great Spanish mystic, begins his famous treatment of the soul’s journey with the words: “One dark night, fired by love’s urgent longings.”  For him, it is urgent longings, eros, that are the starting point of the spiritual life and, in his view, spirituality, essentially defined, is how we handle that eros.”The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian SpiritualityColleen M. Griffith, Boston CollegeFrom a Christian perspective, spirituality gets traced back to the letters of Paul in which he uses the Greek term pneuma to signal a life lived in alignment with God’s Spirit. Christian spirituality presumes, through God’s grace, a human desire and capacity for growing in union with the Triune God. It encompasses the dynamic character of human life lived in conscious relationship with God in Christ through the Spirit, as experienced within a community of believers. To live a Christian spirituality is to attend to what is of God and to deepen in a life of conversion that has discipleship as its goal.Christian Spirituality in Practice, Century 21 Resources, Spring 2009And now me. This is su[...]

First things


Dana Greene in NCR remebers an exchange she had with Dorothy Day:
My earnest query was, “What must be done next?” She replied: “First scrub the toilets.”
First things first. A saying with various ascriptions:
If you don't know what to do, do what is in front of you.

Oh, THAT word


A presentation, especially one an hour long, is an exercise in storytelling.  Your audience can't flip back a few pages to figure out what you are talking about if you are not clear, if you have not brought everyone with you by telling a story.  You can sometimes get away with breaking it up into small pieces so that the immediate perspective is obvious. (This is one of the errors that Power Point enables.)  You have to  tell a story that makes sense all the way through. Like any other form of storytelling, backstory is an issue.  This is all the material you work out that underlies what you are presenting -- the hidden skeleton beneath the visible skin.  This could be biographies of main characters.  (Of course, the ultimate backstory builder was J.R.R. Tolkien - the formal backstory to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings is several volumes headed by the magnificent Simarillion.)  But you can't spend your time talking fascinating backstory instead of the story you are trying to tell.One of my backstory issues is how far to go in the triplet of concepts that make up my definition of spirituality, designated by their Greek names:Eros -- desireDoxa -- knowledge, understanding or opinionPraxis -- a or action.More about all three and how they fit together later.  But we have to deal with the top term, eros. Eros is the Greek word for desire, and is often used in connection with sexual desire, hence the term erotic. In fact,  many people find it difficult to grasp that larger meaning, but get stuck and zero in on that one concern.  They miss the point.One of the best current writers on spirituality is Fr. Ron Rollheiser.  He makes this point in his 1982 essay Spirituality An Erotic Urge: ... When in fact someone in all sincerity believes that they are too full of life and eros, restlessness and complexity, to live the spiritual life they are being sucked in by a viral heresy which would have us believe that eros, the drive for life, is fundamentally irreligious. That is always a serious and costly mistake because eros is the very basis of the spiritual life and everyone, absolutely everyone, must live a spiritual life.  What we do with the eros inside of us, be it heroic or perverse, is our spiritual life. The tragedy is that so many persons, full of riches and bursting with life, see this drive as something that is essentially irreligious, as something that sets them against what is spiritual. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our erotic pulses are God’s lure in us. They are our spirit! We experience them precisely as “spirit,” as that which makes us more than mere mammals. However, again and again, in my ministry and in my friendships I am confronted with persons who sincerely believe that they are unspiritual when, in fact, they are deeply spiritual persons. Unable to form a vision within which they can integrate their drive for life, celebration and sexuality, into a commitment which includes church-going, Christian sexual morality, prayer and involvement in a Eucharistic community, they are forced into a false dilemma: They must choose between a Christian commitment (which appears as erotic suicide) and a life partially away from Christian community, sacraments, prayer and morality, but within which they feel they can be fully human, sensual, sexual and celebrating. This dilemma, within which the church is seen as a parasite, sucking life’s pulse out of its subjects, then allows society’s amorality to parade itself as being ultimately life-giving and the true defender of eros. Our discussion of spirituality must begin with eros, even if the term bothers[...]

Dialogue cannot exist without humility.


Some relevant bits from Paulo Freire:
No one is born fully-formed: it is through self-experience in the world that we become what we are.
No one can be authentically human while he prevents others from being so. 
Within the word we find two dimensions-reflection and action. If one is sacrificed even in part, the other immediately suffers. To speak a true word is to transform the world.

Nice Try


Here is one of the descriptions I put togethere for the talk -- one that did not get into the registration book.

Achieve Enlightenment with this one stupid trick - spirituality in a time of clickbait, packaged "religion" and transhumanism

Spirituality is as natural and universal as breathing -- and we as Catholics recognize that spiritual development is necessary for becoming fully human

But the path to that humanity can be hard to find today. There are:weapons of mass distraction such as click-bait, fake news, and online pornography. "Spirituality" is becoming just one more consumer product. Explosive progress in artificial intelligence and neuroscience alters for some the idea of what humanity is, and what it might become.

We don't need to retreat to some enclave of imagined safety or to try to ignore the whole thing. Our challenge is to make a pilgrimage back to our roots as a Christian community to understand better not only our own spiritual needs but how to accompany others in this confusing time.
My experience includes several years as journalism, followed by 20+ years of software development. For the past 10 years i have worked for this diocese in detention ministry and as the sometime webmaster. I'm now a year into being the full time webmaster as part of CommNet Media.

Coming Detractions


Well it finally happened. No, not the fall of Western civilization. I am scheduled as a presenter At the Diocese of Fresno Congress October 14 in Visalia. My session is D.03 - Spirituality for Webmasters and Social Media Mavens. My intention is to start posting some of the pieces of my presentation here, as a sort of tryout, once concept at a time. In the end, my intention is to post any materials for the session here. Stay tuned.

St. Thèrése, Creation, and You


You know well enough that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them. ― St. Thérèse of LisieuxThe entire material universe speaks of God’s love, His boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains: everything is, as it were, a caress of God”. ― Pope Francis Many today love and try to emulate St. Thèrése of Lisieux. She died an obscure young nun in France in 1897, but less than 30 years later was declared a saint. We have a special devotion here to St. Thèrése and her Little Way of Love, as the Diocese of Fresno was the first in the world to adopt Thèrése as our patroness. Pope Francis in his new encyclical, Laudato Si' points to St. Therese as a model for us in how we treat Creation, a model that is important for us here central California.In this letter, Francis reflects on our relationship and responsibility to God’s Creation, what science can and does tell us about the condition and future of the natural world, and the moral and social roots of the current crisis. Key insights and teachings include:the same selfishness and obsession with consumption that result in violence, poverty and injustice, are also at the root of abuse of nature;we need a new understanding of man and nature together, an integral ecology, which addresses the current environmental crisis while respecting human needs and dignity;this is a genuinely dire crisis and our response must include action by governments and all other social institutions including economic, legal, and political changes.All these great changes are necessary, but they cannot be enough unless we choose to simplify and moderate our lives. Pope Francis points us to Thèrése for guidance: 230. Saint Thèrése of Lisieux invites us to practice the little way of love, not to miss out on a kind word, a smile or any small gesture which sows peace and friendship. An integral ecology is also made up of simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness. In the end, a world of exacerbated consumption is at the same time a world which mistreats life in all its forms. We live in a large diocese, with a great range of climates and ecosystems, as well as urban areas and the many cultures brought here by generations of new arrivals. There are few American dioceses that encompass more of the natural and social issues that the Pope writes about. Our challenges are from both our natural and human environments, problems that share the same source in the darker places in our own hearts and institutions. We are going to need more than sustainable agriculture or renewable energy, we must have a community of many cultures that can sustain this effort in things big and small, which requires continual renewal of our own lives, especially our spiritual lives. We already see and hear a lot of concern and conflict over these issues, from major policy decisions to how much a neighbor waters their lawn. Turning around our relationship with nature and each other will be hard and require daily effort. But following the little way of love of St. Thérèse can be our way forward. We can find God in all the small and everyday things, trusting in His mercy, doing each task and encountering each person with love and humility. The result can be a renewal of nature, our culture, and ourselves.It is up to us.“Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.” ― St.[...]

Above all, trust in the slow work of God



Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way
to something unknown,
something new.
Yet it is the law of all progress that is made
by passing through some stages of instability
and that may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually. Let them grow.
Let them shape themselves without undue haste.
Do not try to force them on
as though you could be today what time
-- that is to say, grace --
and circumstances
acting on your own good will
will make you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new Spirit
gradually forming in you will be.

Give our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
Above all, trust in the slow work of God,
our loving vine-dresser.


Fr. Peter Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.

Quote: James Baldwin


The price one pays for pursuing any profession or calling is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side.

Quote: C.S. Lewis


To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.

From out of the past


Noodling around Google I recently found an old post of my from Slashdot that I had posted on a wiki (that I had almost forgotten), part of a discussion about a Jon Katz /. article. I found it as good as statement as I have made as to why I bother with religious belief, even after all this time.This was a response to a message that included the statement: atheism is NOT a religion; it is based on logic and reason; religion is based on faith and presumption. Well, I don't know about atheism being a religion, although it has seemed to be one for some atheists I have known personally. If atheism is not a religion it is most definitely a belief --a mental attitude of acceptance or assent toward a proposition without the full intellectual knowledge required to guarantee its truth. ...Belief in someone or something is basically different from belief that a proposition is true.Belief, When those of us who are theists (those who believe in a personal supernatural being that intervenes in history -- that covers a lot of territory, religiously -- Jews, Christians, and Muslims, Hindus perhaps, I'm not sure) discuss God, we are not talking about Santa Claus, some magical figure that "defies the laws of physics" as you put it. I think you may misunderstand the word "supernatural" as it applies in this kind of a discussion, as opposed to the Blair Witch Project. "Supernatural" is not magical, weird, or necessarily occult: it comes from the latinate terms meaning above or greater than nature. Or in another way, outside of nature, and therefore, the "laws of physics".Here's an example from physics. For more than a thousand years, the accepted "laws of physics" were understood to be the body of Greek and Hellenistic theories about observations of the natural world that is often referred to as Aristotelean physics. Based on the experience of phenomena that was available, these theories worked just fine. Much later on, observations from astronomy, coupled with much better mathematical tools, allowed Newton to rework physics completely once again, based on a wider base of experience. Incidentally, the Newtonian theories still work just fine for the phenomena they were intended. Starting in the 19th century, new phenomena such as radioactivity led theorists such as Planck, Maxwell, Einstein, Bohr, Dirac, et. al. to construct brand new "laws of physics", some of which seemed then (and often seem now) nonsense, unless you understand the domain of phenomena they were intended to make sense of. But they are very practical -- the computers that you and I are using depend on a knowledge of quantum mechanics.To us, God is a person outside the natural world, and is the person who created it. This set of theories or beliefs are what we use to make certain phenomena -- our experence of our own human experience, of values such a truth or beauty or justice, make sense. Can we "prove" the existence of God? Well, to some extent, it is a meaningless question, if you mean can I prove the existence of God the same way I prove the existence of Peoria or Phobos. If God is outside the frame of natural experience in the manner I state above, I can no more "prove" his existence than Einstein could have meaningfully discussed the truth of Special Relativity before such experiments as the Michaelson-Morley demonstration.In the very same way, you cannot disprove the existence of God either, you can just choose whether or not it makes sense for you to believe th[...]

Quote: Walter Bruggeman


People notice peacemakers because they dress funny. We know how the people who make war dress - in uniforms and medals, or in computers and clipboards, or in absoluteness, severity, greed, and cynicism. But the peacemaker is dressed in righteousness, justice, and faithfulness - dressed for the work that is to be done.

Conservation Law


One of the big temptations when digging through this kind of a document is to put in big block quotes to react to instead of sending people back to the text. I will give into that temptation from time to time, like today.Chapter 1 is titled The Message of Populorum Progressio presenting the case for continuity between that letter and Vatican II as well as other teachings from Pope Paul VI. There has been a great deal of comment concerning the direct links Benedict describes between Populorum Progresso and Humanae Vitae. Linking these two letters is not as novel as some commenters seem to think.Some years ago I studied public administration and policy, and often encountered programs that were very effective in their original or pilot form, but much less effective when scaled up. In particular, a small project in one city would be much less sucessful when either scaled up to a large project, or scaled out to many cities. Sometimes this is just regression to the mean -- the pilots or experiments that seem to work out tend to be picked to scale up, and somtimes the early good results are dumb luck, results that aren't likely to be repeated. Another problem is that poor results in later efforts is likely to be seen as bad compliance with program guidelines or bad management. Translation: "If you only did this exactly the way we told you, it would have worked!"We Americans like to trust in process -- if you just do the right things in the right order, things will work out. If we properly set up the office or program or agency or volunteer group, results are guaranteed. Sometimes we would really like a good franchise approach to social action. We like a kind of automatic development or justice. Benedict agrees with Paul -- this is a fallacy.from § 11In the course of history, it was often maintained that the creation of institutions was sufficient to guarantee the fulfilment of humanity's right to development. Unfortunately, too much confidence was placed in those institutions, as if they were able to deliver the desired objective automatically. In reality, institutions by themselves are not enough, because integral human development is primarily a vocation, and therefore it involves a free assumption of responsibility in solidarity on the part of everyone. Moreover, such development requires a transcendent vision of the person, it needs God: without him, development is either denied, or entrusted exclusively to man, who falls into the trap of thinking he can bring about his own salvation, and ends up promoting a dehumanized form of development. Only through an encounter with God are we able to see in the other something more than just another creature, to recognize the divine image in the other, thus truly coming to discover him or her and to mature in a love that “becomes concern and care for the other.”When I studied these social programs, I wondered if there was some kind of basic principle to be discovered, something like the Law of Conservation of Mass/Energy, or perhaps the venerable geek expression, "Garbage in, Garbage out." If you want justice, peace, and human development to be the output, love and sacrifice must be the imput. Technical or managerial competence is not enough. The founders of programs or movements often act from personal conviction and love for who they serve, and are willing to sacrifice time, talent, and security to see it happen. Sometimes this disape[...]