Category Archives: Gospel

Church, Companions on a Slippery Slope


Church Victim of Slippery Slope Logic

Passing through some of our local communities, I frequently notice churches, that is, the physical building, the places of worship, and what characterizes them. The structure, the upkeep, the appearances, the messages posted outside; these say a lot about the people these brick and mortar structure, symbolic representatives of the beliefs and communities they claim they serve. I often see the trite clichés like “God is home, come on in!” or “Be yourself; everyone else is taken” and similar trite slogans. Apparently the Roman Catholic Churches in this area, Ravena and Coxsackie, NY, have given up on being taken seriously so now these parish leaders, the pastors have to play cool cutsie, mimicking their Protestant and Reformist cohorts. Such silliness simply degrades the sacred space and makes idiots of those who still frequent them.

Contrary to what you have been led to believe, dear readers, churches are not where God lives [Thank God!], that is, churches are not God’s personal primary residence, they are sacred spaces where we can find safe, quiet space to reflect, meditate, be still, or engage in a conversation with the Divine, a practice we call prayer, but have forgotten – or never knew how to do it. Nowadays most conversations with God turn out to be like conversations with those twits exercising their thumbs on an electronic device; God’s trying to reveal himself to the twit who’s functioning with half a hemisphere.

Repurposing Our Churches

 Materialist-consumerists worship their new idols: mega-flat screens, surround sound, a nymph, and a bottle. Happy worshipping!

When I hear of closure of churches, merging of congregations, sale of church property, conversions of churches to art galleries, restaurants, even private residences, I feel a cold shudder. These churches have become like dinosaurs; they were once living, awesome organisms, and they thrived and nurtured similar life but at some time long ago they became sick, languished and died. Now all we have left of them are lumps of rock we gawk at in museums or use as paperweights in our studies. So, too, many of our former sacred spaces are now secular spaces where the inhabiting materialist-consumerists worship their new idols: mega-flat screens, surround sound, a nymph, and a bottle. Happy worshipping!

So where has God gone once evicted? God’s where he’s always been: in the dark silent depths of our hearts, unless we’ve replaced God there too with some idol like money, sex, a car, a political figure. Yes, O’Idolaters of Ubiquitous White Noise and Distractions, the Ultimate Truth still lies hidden in that wet, fertile, darkness deep within a human being (No, not a vagina!) but who nowadays with their stymied white-cane spirituality would dare explore the silence within when there’s so much to do in the world? Why would anyone want to become acquainted with their true self when they can invent another, more pleasant, acceptable self and transform it at any time. Who will know? You will. But you don’t care because you’ve been diving down that slippery slope for so long you wouldn’t know your true self if you tripped over it!

In my meanderings I spend time in churches, at meetings and conferences, on Internet forums, at monasteries, interacting with others in a variety of settings. I note the anxiety and the vulnerability of so many people; I note their white-cane spirituality, blindly pursuing some sort of agenda-seeking-to-become-a-religion, a tool for a virtual life; I listen to and become offended by the ignorance and narcissism of those claiming to be called to a vocation, as clergy, as lay religious, as lay ministers in churches, congregations, parishes; I frequently observe the infantile fascination of the unwashed when, in a strange ecstasy of voyeurism, they rub shoulders with monks, priests, nuns, or spiritual leaders, and they grin idiotically as if caught in an act of masturbation. “Hee, hee! Look at me!” Narcissism, too, is a form of idolatry. I have to wonder whether the gawkers or the gawkees actually realize the pitiable dynamic going on. It’s rather like the voyeurism of social media but worse. Worse because the so-called spiritual leaders are actually enjoying the worship, and the egos soar – and the wound deepens and festers, poisoning the entire mystical body.

If churches and faith communities are hemorrhaging members, the religious vocations are dwindling into membership cachexia. And like starving rats will go for anything that smacks of survival. For several decades now, the materialist consumerism and the dumbing down of society has left the message of higher truths and spirituality to languish in the shadow of anti-human propaganda, corporate greed, political narcissism, social confusion, despair and anxiety. Fear of loss is the underlying message everywhere we look. That fear is nourished by the messages we receive of time running out for something, anything, everything; fear the terror threat, fear the coming rain or snow showers, fear the threat represented by the guy next door, fear the North Koreans, fear the Russians, fear the illegals. What we need to fear is the false teaching in the poor preaching, we need to fear the pulpit politics, we need to fear the bigoted perp patrols.

Stuck somewhere in a learning curve…

We are stuck somewhere in a learning curve. But where? We need to learn to fear our own demise and ignorance thanks to the conflicting and contradicting messages we receive from the media, the poor performance of our education institutions, and the dishonesty and corruption of our political system. Add to that the failure of our Judeo-Christian religious institutions to teach correct doctrine and dogma, and to provide effective preaching in support of implementing doctrine and dogma into our day-to-day lives in furtherance of “happiness” and a “good end.” And it’s no wonder people are despairing and anxious. The only religion that’s growing these days is Islam and our response is to demonize it as a bunch of whacko terrorists. Doesn’t anyone see where this is leading? But then, when I was a kid it was the Roman Catholics and Protestants killing each other. Only the bigotry and creeds have remained the same; only the faces have changed.

Failing religious institutions and religious organizations and institutions are desperately prostituting themselves in a vain attempt simply to survive. But like our cultural and political institutions our religious and faith institutions are appealing to the lowest common denominator in the attempt to get what they can and run with it. It’s not working, people, that’s why you see so many storefront and strip mall micro-churches flooding into the vacuum left by mainstream institutions. Problem is this: the storefront and strip mall micros are just as bad as the movie-theatre or stadium megachurches, because they create their own ideologies, agendas, idolatries and there are plenty of sheeple to participate because they don’t know anything better. Thanks Vatican II and interfaith dialogue, ecumenism. Lights, cameras, action! Worship!

I can speak from personal experience made in a relationship with a monastic community in Northwest New York state, near the Vermont border. The monastic community there is comprised of monks and nuns, both referred to as monastics, mostly lay religious (as opposed to ordained clergy), living in community according to a formal rule of life. Work, prayer, rest. Sounds like the good life, doesn’t it?

The monastery is nestled between mountains on several hundreds of acres of forest and meadow. The buildings are far from the noise of the picturesque local village and the hustle and bustle of the “world.” The work life of the monks and nuns is what supports the monastery and keeps the lights on and food on the table. Support from benefactors, publishing, music, and retreats are icing on the cupcake. Spiritual life is divided into private prayer and liturgy in the beautiful basilica and the small temple church. You’d think they have it all and then some. Their outward appearance is idyllic; what’s going on inside is traumatic.

But writing books, hospitality for retreatants, dog breeding and training, and cheesecakes cannot guarantee survival. You see, just 50 years old in 2016, the monks and nuns are aging and more are dying or leaving than are being recruited. One of the problems is the fact that the bishops, though they support the concept of the monastery, do little to encourage monastic vocations. Why? Because they have a difficult time just recruiting priests for their parishes. Also because of the What’s in it for me? attitude of possible recruits, the consecrated life doesn’t offer much that can compete with the idols of the secular world. Schools and churches just haven’t taught higher values so we end up with materialist consumers who have no concept of spirit; they are virtually spiritually deaf, mute and blind. There’s a certain paradox, contradiction in so much that Christians today claim.

Get the *&%$# of my way. I’ll be late for church!

So where does an organization in decline turn in the desperate attempt to survive a couple of more years? Like the consumer society they live in, they are compelled to sacrifice quality for quantity. Like the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany reports in a recent issue of Sheaf, the official gazette of St Bernard’s School of Ministry and Theology, the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese reports “200 deacons and growing.” When you can’t attract young men to the priesthood you have to attract old men to the diaconate. Numbers not quality count; that’s why the permanent diaconate was revived by the Roman Catholic Church in the 60s to stem the decline in seminary admissions; in many dioceses the diaconate has become a boy’s club, a church country club, an organization of narcisistic logrollers. “My dad the deacon.” “My son the deacon.” “My wife, Mrs Deacon!”

Deacon Chic Coming Soon to Your Parish!

The Episcopal church has been ordaining “women” for decades; many (mostly gender ambiguous specimens) in the RC church are advocating ordaining women deacons and the reasonable expected consequence of this slippery slope is women priests! When does this comedy of errors, this farce stop? [Editor’s note: For those of our readers with limited vocabularies, a comedy of errors is a related series of amusing or farcical events involving a series of awkward missteps or other mistakes.]

Clergy or Special Ed Class?

In the 13th century, in about 1221, St Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan Order, decided that there were many lay persons unable to join a monastery or live in a religious community, who were being left out of the Franciscan experience. He founded the so-called Third Order in addition to the First Order (the Franciscan Friars) and the Second Order (the Poor Claires). The Third Order has been around for almost 800 years now, and was thriving until recently, and it too is dwindling. The Third Order, like the First and Second Orders, is geriatric and dependent on an institutional walker. Even with the approval of the New Rule for the Third Order by Pope Paul VI in his Seraphicus Patriarcha, the Third Order is turning senile. Like so many once bustling religious orders, the Renewal of the Roman Catholic Church backfired, and now the main activity of the Franciscans is competing with the Evangelicals in the Third World or selling off Franciscan properties in the First and Second World, or burying dead Franciscans in this world. The Third Order is generally made up of old women, a few middle aged men, and some hyperpious (sociopathic) young adults. We can see where that’s going. You guessed it! They’re the one’s swinging the rosary beads in front of the abortion clinics and in front of state capitols, providing rich entertainment for the studs and trollops on their way to the hourly rate hotel around the corner.

OK. But can someone tell me how this works? How about you, Father?

More recently, the monastery I was discussing above, having had a previous community of married persons called “Companions” for some thirty years (1983-2014), until they either died or went off to nursing homes, decided that the monastic community had to generate some sort of alternative resource to support the monastery. Once the last Companion was shipped off either to the nursing home or to the cemetery, the building formerly occupied by the Companions was renovated and turned into a rather nice “guest house” where, for a “donation” of $80.00 a night, visitors to the monastery can stay. What the monastery did was to re-invent the “Companions,” who were originally married couples who lived together in an almost monastic community on the monastery grounds, and observed a life rule, and opened the new “Companions” to all faiths, all people who wanted to be “formally connected with the [redacted] monastery” and “deepen their spiritual lives.” The officially adopted and published rule of the new “Companions” calls them a “fellowship of lay people.” One of the purposes of the “Companions” is to “grow in wisdom” and to “understand the mystery of God.” If you haven’t caught some of the contradictions and inconsistencies in this, we’ll point them out to you below.

The Franciscan Third Order Cross.
(We did not have access to the Companions “distinctive cross” at this writing.)

Why become a member of this new “Companions” group? Well, according to the promo put out by the monastery, “They follow a realistic rule of life, wear a distinctive cross, have access to web resources dedicated specifically to the Companions, and help support the spiritual mission of “[redacted]. If all that sounds impressive, it’s not. Any adherent to any faith or belief tradition follows a “realistic rule of life”; “good”, that is, authentic Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. all incorporate some sort of prayerful piety in their daily lives. Oh! You get to wear a “distinctive cross” by purchasing it for about $69.00. That’s nice but a name tag engraved on an attractive plastic plate would serve just as well as an announcement that: “Hey, look at me! I’m a member of a distinctive group and you’re not!” Didn’t we just note that narcissism is a form of idolatry? Isn’t this a form of pride, a lack of humility? Does the Cross have to be “distinctive”? Sounds like a Pharisee to me. Having access “web resources dedicated specifically to the Companions” is touted as another of the membership perks. We’d rather not comment on that one but if falls short of expectations, we hear.

Let’s face the facts: The monastery may be facing annihilation over the longer term if it doesn’t (1) come up with some sort of recruitment scheme for the long-term future of the community, and (2) come up with some sort of outside “support for its mission,” which translates into people who are able and willing to give in support of the community before it has to start selling off acreage. The old “Companions” committed their lives and fortunes to the monastic community; they’re gone now and so, too, probably are their fortunes. We expect that the monastery is looking to the new “Companions” to pick up some of the slack.

And this is how it’s gonna be!

Our study of the new “Companions” and its format would indicate that as an institution it doesn’t promise much. It’s too loosely organized, there are no real commitments, everything is pretty lackadaisical in terms of governance – or dictatorial, since one of the monks is the sole director and calls all of the shots. The members are scattered all over the place, so it will be difficult to convene them for any sort of gathering. There are no financial commitments such as dues and the monastery doesn’t offer discounts or financial incentives specifically for Companions so there’s no actual money coming in apart from the odd donation, and no reason for Companions to support monastery funds generation through purchases or participation in for-fee (Oops! I mean to say, “donation.” That’s church jargon for you pay a fee but they don’t pay a tax for the “gift.”)

We have heard that the director of the companions wants to organize a retreat this year for “Companions” at the monastery but that is getting lukewarm reception from “Companions.” Wonder Why?

If the new Companions were organized as a more local group, they would be similar to a parish confraternity, and their numbers would be strictly limited to locals who participate in the parish or church community. To get numbers you have to appeal to a wider geographical coverage, like the entire state or country. But the monastery’s denomination is not even mainstream. Yes, it’s Christian, and that poses a problem right from the get go, but it’s also a very minority Christian denomination. But realistically, of all the obstacles, challenges and problems facing the Companions is the reality that being a Companion doesn’t offer anything particularly special that can’t be gotten by anyone walking through the monastery doors. Excuse me, for I have erred! There is one thing that is reserved for Companions only: the “distinctive cross.” A special design only for Companions, and only one per Companion, please. Available only through the monastery online store for $69.00. Now doesn’t that make you feel special?

A major theme was discussed by the monastics in various meetings before the Companion program was formally started…

We’ve obtained information from one of the Companions, an email from the Director, forwarded to us for information. Apparently there was some back-and-forth among the Companions about the proposed undecided retreat date, and the Director, apparently a bit pissed, but his response is interesting. He states in his email that, “[t]he Companion Rule talks about a fellowship with [redacted monastery], this fellowship is with the individual Companion and the monastics of [redacted].” This means that the fellowship is not between the individual Companion and the other Companions and the monastics of the monastery; rather it is between the individual Companion and the monastics! The director says further that this was a “major theme discussed by the monastics in various meetings before the Companion program was formally started.” Too bad the people aspiring to be Companions are not clairvoyant or mind-readers because the Rule is not clear on this point! He points out rather clearly that the Companions are not obligated to “share…with other Companions,” “that if Companions want to reach out to other Companions” they can do so of their own “free will” (But why would it be otherwise, we ask?), and emphasizes that “participation with other companions is voluntary.” That’s all very nice but where’s the bloody companionship in the Companions?

Tell me! What will the monastics decide?

We are informed that in an introductory letter to Companions, the Director states that the principal and only form of communication used by Companions central will be online. Sound a bit exclusionist? But in the more recent communication he goes on to say that although they might have computers and be connected to the [i]nternet [sic; recte Internet] “Companions do not need to be ‘shamed’ if they do not post comments on the Companion forum.” It seems to us that by definition, communication is a key word in companionship. If the Internet is the primary mode of communication and the Companion Forum is the designated place for Companions, why don’t they communicate? The do, but behind the scenes, sometimes in confidential ambush. But this is not uncommon practice in religious institutions. Much is done in secret and much done in secret is evil.

As for the “retreat date,” the Director writes: “[I]t will be up to the monks and nuns of [redacted] to set the date…the same would apply if held off campus because the mosastics must have the free time to offer a retreat.” So much for a Companions’ retreat. Question: Who’s the retreat supposed to be for?

Still in the learning curve. But where?

What’s really disturbing is that the Director writes, “[t]he monastics are still within the “learning curve” of the Companion program.” We have learned that there have already been a number of casualties among the Companions due to the “learning curve.” If this so-called Companions group purports to offer so many significant benefits, how can they achieve these under the current conditions and in the midst of a learning crisis? Please don’t call us, we’ll call you. By the way, let us know when you’ve gotten past milestone (3) of the “learning curve.”

Fellowship

Just a final word on fellowship and companionship

Just a final word on fellowship and companionship for those who are interested. We do hope that members of religious communities of any tradition, and especially the Companions get to read and reflect on this: [Editor’s note: While we do use as our authorities excerpts from Christian Scripture, parallel concepts with substantial identical meaning can be found in any of the great belief traditions. Anyone familiar with the sacred texts of those traditions will have no difficulty identifying those similarities.]

The Greek word  “fellowship” κοινωνία (koinónia) as it occurs in the Christian Second [New] Testament means essentially a partnership, joint participation, communion to the mutual benefit of those involved. Christian fellowship, then, is the mutually beneficial relationship between persons of common interest or belief. We believe that Christians can have the identical fellowhip relationship with those outside the Christian tradition. So we’re OK with the use of fellowship in the Companions Rule, if that’s what is meant. We don’t think it is clear in the Rule, though. First DING.

The mystery and privilege that is human fellowship is that it exists because it has been enabled it by Divine grace. Those who believe the Christian Gospel are united in the Spirit through Christ to the Father, and that participation is the basis of what we generally tend to call fellowship, a first step to companionship. This special relationship confirmed by Jesus in his high-priestly prayer:

“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23).

The phrase translated by “complete unity” in this prayer is the oneness that believers seek to experience in true communion —companionship — with another, and by extension, with the triune God.

If the ground is fertile for fellowship, it will grow naturally, because it’s natural for human beings to want to be around people similar to themselves and, in time, one finds one’s self desiring, seeking out, and cultivating the companionship of people who subscribe to similar beliefs and values. As a member of a faith or belief community one’s beliefs, traditions and values may be countercultural, that is, they be in stark contrast to the world around you. That’s one of the reasons why for fellowship in relationship with persons with whom we can share, relate, converse is a very important gift.

Whether one is of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition, the lessons we can learn about fellowship are condensed in the Christian pastoral letters to the Philippians. Here are some of the lessons we can learn about true fellowship and that it means:

  • praying for one another (1:3, 4)
  • serving God together (1:5, 7)
  • partaking together of God’s grace (1:7)
  • trusting in God’s sovereign working in one another (1:6)
  • heartfelt affection for one another (1:8)

Our prayers should not, in our opinion, be constantly begging for something other than what we face. We should pray that we have the strength to accept what is happening to us as God’s love for us; we should not pray that the situation change but that we be changed by the situation. This is the basis of hope: accepting the moment in anticipation of a positive outcome. We should reflect on Paul’s prayer at Philippians 1:9-11 (paraphrased):

‘And I pray this, that our love may abound even more and more in knowledge and every kind of insight so that we can decide what is best, and thus be sincere and blameless for the day of reckoning, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through virtue to the glory and praise of God.’

So where does companionship fit in this scheme of relationship living? Companionship in the Second Testament has a very specific meaning as opposed to the concept of fellowship.

The original concept of companion, as we read it, has to do with journeying together (Gk  συνοδία (sunodia) — a journey together), or to receive or give access to one’s self (Gk. προσδέχομαι (prosdechomai), both involving the prefix σύν (syn), indicating the notion of being with, together with, in union, in communion. Companions are further described as σύντροφος (syntrophos) used to mean “nourished by” or in the sense of a foster-brother, brought up with; one’s companion. Other words translated as companion express the notion of accompaniment such as περιάγω (periagó) — to lead around or take around as a companion) or παραλαμβάνω (paralambanó) meaning to take along with oneself, to join to oneself to, to companion.

It seems that companionship is a relationship in which the participants emphasize achieving an almost profound intimacy with each other through individual growth and self-actualization and excellent communication sharing so that their best spiritual and temporal fruits can be harvested. Companionship implies a relationship characterized by its closeness, and is more intimate than fellowship. Shared culture, tradition and values can be the basis of sincere fellowship but companionship requires the willingness and capability of going even deeper, and requires a higher degree of development of self-awareness, self-reflection, authenticity, commitment.

Companionship involves trust, vulnerability; not sameness.

To be companions, we don’t have to be clones of one another. Likewise, the responsibilities and vulnerabilities increase with companionship, and the companion must anticipate some of the challenges. Companionship goes beyond fellowship in its requisite attention to forgiveness, reconciliation and genuine presence. Companionship adds to the definition of love the aspect of sacrifice of one’s own interests to nurture the spiritual growth of others.

Companionship may be thought of as a form of fellowship but companionship is built upon interchange or communication, and communion, that is, a closeness that exists among companions, those closely associated with one another in virtue of a life rule or standards to which they are committed and hold in common. The key in companionship is communication and the focus concepts that describe companionship are interchange, communion, sharing, dialogue. Communication means sharing reflections, perceptions, ideas, information, needs, support, resources, gifts, using words or other symbols, dedication of time and treasure, being accessible and present, or even body language and actions so that all members of the relationship understand these to be expressions of one’s commitment to the community of companions.

Unless we have chosen to forsake all that is society and isolate ourselves from any contact with human beings, and choose to escape human community by living in isolation in some remote wasteland, we live in a society. Living in a society means that we live in close interaction with other human beings, and that the interaction will necessarily fluctuate between pleasure and pain. We have to navigate the testy waters of human relationships each moment of each day; we have to tread water or drown. Again, Holy Scripture teaches us something about what to do when we feel that our space has been violated.

In companionship there is also vulnerability, and vulnerability can often lead to suffering, even if only unintentionally inflicted. Ancient wisdom teaches that “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” (Prov. 19:11) To overlook an offense means to be able to understand what might have caused a person to offend you and to let it go. Christians generally believe that they are adopted members of the family of God and fellow members of the body of Christ. (e.g., 1 Co. 12:27; Rom 12:5; Eph 4:25)

Companions are Soul-Friends

Communication, accompaniment, forgiveness and reconciliation are the hallmarks of true companionship. If you are companions on a journey why would you vex your companion, and if you are aware you have offended your companion, you would likely go to great lengths ask forgiveness and obtain reconciliation. “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 18:23-24). We think that is a profound statement on companionship and the intimacy and communication that is seminal to the concept of being a companion.

And, of course, we do recite a familiar passage in our daily prayers, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Regrettably, in our materialist-consumerism, in the political and social climate of today, we are really poor losers. Rather than practice the principles of our faith and belief traditions, the precepts of our institutions, and our true nature, we’d rather ambush, deceive, misinform, simply flick the bird to those who should be our companions on the journey of life. This is equally true for individuals as it is for our organizations and our institutions. We are on a slippery slope, a situation in which a relatively small and well-intentioned first step leads to a chain of related events culminating in some significant, usually unintended or negative effect.

Companions Together.
See beyond the monkey.

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New Homiletics Blog


Many of our readers are pastoral or spiritual care providers, and only some actually have the opportunity to teach or to preach in a formal way, that is, by way of sermons or homilies.

Here is the Link to Our New Blog, Homiletics and Spiritual Care


When Listening is Greater than Talking

Why the homilist should be a more skilled listener to be a better talker
or
What they don’t (can’t) teach you in seminary.

bible-notebook

I feel that bereavement provides one of those moments of what we theologians call kairos, a supreme opportunity. If spiritual care providers are blessed with the opportunity to officiate at funeral or memorial celebrations, such opportunities are kairos moments not only for practicing our ministry of compassion for the suffering but also for proclaiming our fundamental sacred doctrines on living and dying, and what may come after.

We tend to talk a lot about homiletics and talk is what we apparently do best. But homiletics, good homiletics and the product, the revealing homily, requires good listening skills. Dag Hammarskold said, “The more faithfully you listen to the voice within you, the better you will hear what is sounding outside. Only he who listens can speak.” This brings me to mind two ways of communicating with that voice within: lectio divina and the lesser known lectio continua. I’ll have more to say about those two disciplines and their role in homiletics in a later article on the Homiletics and Sprititual Care blog. Reflection and self-examination are also very important when it comes to listening authentically. Again, I’ll comment on these in a later editorial.

 

For now it may be interesting to look at some listening statistics:

listening-statistics

But here are some more startling listening facts:

Listening is the communication skill most of us use the most frequently. Various studies stress the importance of listening as a communication skill. A typical study points out that many of us spend 70 to 80 percent of our waking hours in some form of communication. Of that time, we spend about 9 percent writing, 16 percent reading, 30 percent speaking, and 45 percent listening. Studies also confirm that most of us are poor and inefficient listeners.

Thought speed greater than speaking speed. Another reason for poor listening skills is that you and I can think faster than someone else can speak. Most of us speak at the rate of about 125 words per minute. However, we have the mental capacity to understand someone speaking at 400 words per minute (if that were possible).

So listening is a critical skill that needs to be developed by us as spiritual care providers, particularly those of us involved in a teaching/preaching ministry that requires us to confect effective homilies.

big ear buddha 2

No doubt you have seen depictions of the Buddha with long pendulous ears and probably have asked yourself, “Why does Buddha have such big ears?” Well, in the Orient large ears are looked upon as auspicious because they indicate wisdom and compassion. So, the Buddha is depicted as having big ears because he is the compassionate one. He hears the sound of the world – hears the cries of suffering beings – and responds. The important thing for us is not how large our ears are, but how open are our “mind ears.”

As a professional interfaith chaplain practicing primarily in bereavement and grief facilitation, I find that listening, effective authentic listening is profoundly important in several prominent situations:

  • Initial interview
  • Family interview
  • During lectio divina and lectio continua
  • During reflection on potential readings
  • When selecting hymns
  • When rehearsing the homily.

Listening for the interfaith chaplain is also especially important when communicating with colleagues in spiritual care ministries of other faith and belief traditions, and in exchanges with hospital, nursing home, funeral home staff, and with members of the community.

An important concept to bear in mind when writing homilies is that while the assembly is listening to the words, the sounds coming from my vocal apparatus, they should be moved to listen to the internal voice that speaks in them during that outside listening. After all, that’s our target as homilists, to get that internal voice speaking and the listener listening to that voice.

Chaplain Harold

ListenHeart

 

 


How Sick is the Church? An Opportunity to Share Your Inputs


Francis: Rebuild My Church

Rebuild my Church

[But not into an art gallery, disco, or brothel!]

By way of introduction, here are a couple of examples from real life, that you may have experienced:


  • PS, a Roman Catholic priest and RCDA tribunal judge, made the revealing and statement in a moment of resenting sarcasm, “They’ll ordain anything these days!” That raises the questions of “Who?” will ordain and Who are the “anything?” But that’s just one example of the many careless and imprudent public statements that are being made by persons in visible and influential positions in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany.
  • A Roman Catholic Sister of Saint Joseph (you know, the nuns who seem to have usurped the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany Pastoral Center and most administrative and higher teaching  positions) has a favorite innuendo – filled phrase, “Those men in Rome!” The impression made by such insensitive and indifferent statements on auditors of any persuasion can be devastating.
  • A Roman Catholic priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany claiming to be of Ukrainian origin and liaison to the Orthodox churches, refers publicly to the soon-to-be-canonized Pope John Paul II as the “Polack on see of St Peter.”
  • Women chaplain interns under the tutelage of a Calvinist supervisor at a major Albany, New York, hospital, in a Clinical Pastoral Education (hospital chaplaincy) announce that they are disgruntled Catholics, publicly announce their support for women in the priesthood and criticize the Roman Catholic Church openly and publicly; they are then invited to present talks at the so-called Spring Enrichment.
  • Roman Catholic clergy and male religious cow to that same Calvinist supervisor and are degraded by the non-Catholic, mostly women, chaplaincy staff.
  • Women gatekeepers decide who speaks with the bishop, the pastor, etc., and create an environment of exclusionism.
  • Hungry faithful feel unwelcome in God’s house; unwelcome at His table.
  • A well-educated, highly competent,  man in excellent health applies to the diaconate program of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany. He is initially welcomed but is later called in by the director of deacon formation and told, “I did not notice your age. The deacon program is 6 years and you must be ordained by age 62. That’s the diocesan policy. You will be 64 in six years so we cannot enroll you in the program. Thank you for your interest.” In the meantime, poorly educated, ailing men are welcomed into the program, some drop out because of health or program leadership.
  • A graduate of St Bernard’s School of Ministry and Theology continues a ministry of pastoral and spiritual care to the faithful who are not affiliated with a Roman Catholic parish; the minister practices a Roman Catholic spiritual discipline with a local male religious community. The minister attempts to place an ad in the official Roman Catholic newspaper offering his services in pastoral care, provides the text of the ad, the ad is accepted by the Evangelist, he pays for the ad. Several days later the female editor of the Evangelist contacts he minister and informs him that the ad will not be printed because he is not associated with a parish.
  • A feminist theologian and member of a women’s lay religious community, the Sisters of Saint Joseph, comes under fire for her heterodox writings on the theology of the Trinity; she lectures to the public at the local Sisters of Saint Joseph Provincial House

Rebuild My Church!

Rebuild My Church!

We have over the past several years received a number of communications complaining of problems perceived in at least the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany but which may be reasonably inferred to be endemic in most of the American Catholic Church. We have listed some below, but instead of a bulleted list, we’ve made it into a survey list that our readers can check off and which can be tallied to get some idea of the range and nature of ecclesiological, pastoral, and magisterial problems the Catholic faithful are experiencing in their dioceses.

We’d like to invite our readers to review the following list and to click on the circle preceding a “problem” if you find that you have experienced such a problem.

At the end of the list, you can tell us whether you are Roman Catholic, Protest and, Jewish, or Other, and after that list you can tell us where you live.

This is all anonymous and for information purposes only. You can see the results up to the current date by simply clicking “view results” at the bottom of each poll box.

Thanks very much for your participation in this interesting undertaking.

American-Idolatry

Ecclesial and Pastoral Pathology List

In the list below, simply check off the list items that most correspond to how you feel. If something is not included in the list, you can enter it in the space at the end of the list or leave a comment to express your thoughts.


 

Religious or Faith Affiliation

This is where you can let us know about your faith tradition. It serves two purposes: (1) it informs us of the percentage of RC readers responding, and (2) it informs us of the percentage of non-RC respondents who have some perception of the problem.


 

Ministry Activity

We’d also like to know about your ministry activity. Are you involved as clergy or as a lay minister? What are your perceptions about these problems.


 

Where Are You Located?

We are discussing the situation in the United States but this doesn’t mean that these problems are unique to the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. But it is important for us to know where our respondents are located, and whether the majority of our readers are experiencing these problems in the Roman Catholic Church in the United States.


 

Yes, it does come down on the heads of the American bishops; as the saying goes, “The fish rots from the head down.” If the bishops do not recruit to the ranks, the ranks deplete. If the bishops lose the reins of their diocese, the horses run amuck. If the bishops do not take command of the front line troops, they have mutiny on their hands. If the bishops abandon the rudder, the ship of Church runs aground. In the present state of affairs the faithful are angry, confused, depressed, and lost. It’s just such an ecclesiology and pastoral theology at work when Protestant authors note the hemorrhage of the Roman Church and the recourse of the faithful to evangelical, fundamentalist, and Orthodox traditions. The breakdown of Roman ecclesial hierarchical authority has created a festering wound that refuses to heal because it’s not receiving the appropriate attention.

But it’s not only the bishops who are failing us and the Church, its we, too, who as members of that mystical body we call Church, turn our backs on Mater et Magistra, Mother and Teacher, and then point the finger as if we were pure as lilies. Now, during Lent, instead of giving up something, let’s do something. We can start by identifying where the pathology is and then proposing a course of therapy. That’s the whole sense of this survey.

Otherwise, and generally speaking, the Roman Church must return to its origins and principles or it is doomed to mutate into an institution that bears no resemblance to its former self; much is the fault of bishops who have lost control over their dioceses, and much the fault of those who want to be Church but want Church to change according to their parameters. This is a similar situation where some agendas want God to have specific genitalia or be a particular something; in otherwords, anthropomorphizing God, downward theism, if you will. Poor teaching has brought this about; God is pure spirit and doesn’t need a created body! God is perfect and doesn’t need to be made according to creature parameters. God is unmade and cannot be made.

Our culture is overwhelmed by idolatries! Idoltatry is worshipping something created as if it were God. Look around you, what would you give up to be closer to God? If you don’t say everything and anything, then you are an idolater! You are putting something before God or between you and God. In the simplest of terms, that’s idolatry!

But much, too, can be attributed to the ambitions and scandal of those with heterodox agendas acting under the aegis or cover of the Church; these are the most insidious and dangerous pathogens that must be eradicated if the Church and the Tradition is to survive.

 Please leave a comment about this article.

Where are you on this scale?

Where are you on this scale?
Idolatry————————Humility


Tedious if Not Platitudinous…On Public Prayer and Poetry


The Local, Regional and National News Is Fast Becoming Tedious If Not Platitudinous. A Sure Sign that Media is Spiritually Exhausted and Intellect-Starved.

boys on fenceJudging from the front page of the some of the local and regional rags as well as the digital table-talk, and from the subject-matter dominating the blather–it’s not news, actually, nor is it journalism, by the way–the tabloid-wannabe-news is fast becoming undisguised infomercials promoting ideological, political, or commercial, that is, they’re local propaganda rags. We’ll look at the latest edition of a local weekly newspaper (the Ravena News Herald of Ravena, New York) to see what we mean at the grassroots level of misinformation.

In a front-page piece commemorating the local Boy and Girl Scouts of America reaffirmatin of faith in God at a meeting in the Roman Catholic Church of St Patrick in Ravena, NY, we read that

“…dozens of community members gathered at St. Patrick’s Church in Ravena to witness the Cub and Boy Scouts of Troop 1067 reaffirm their commitment to reverence, “to be reverent toward God, faithful in his [Ed. note: God’s?] religious duties and to respect the beliefs of others” in accordance with the law of the Scout put forth by the Boy Scouts of America.”

That bit of scurrilous reporting which, if you read the news outside of Ravena-Coeymans, is the epitome of misinformation and hypocrisy, given the BSA’s refusal to stop being a pillar of discrimination, exclusion and hate, where even the federal government has long ago legislated against such practices. I think it’s the part about to “respect the beliefs of others,” that got my attention. But more on that some other time.

But the most glaring first-page gaffe is the caption under the large photo on the first page. More on that below.

Weeblos of Pack 1067 illustrate the deadline sin of gluttony in a skit at the Scouts Own Service on Sunday.(Source:

Weeblos of Pack 1067 illustrate the deadline sin of gluttony in a skit at the Scouts Own Service on Sunday.
(Source: The Ravena News Herald, Vol. 132 No. 52 (February 14, 2013). Photo by Marlene McTigue)

This was followed by a rather lengthy “prayer” read by Brian Searles, BSA troop master, which runs more than 144 words and takes up 2/3 of the first page text. That “prayer” runs along the lines of the Prayer of St Francis of Assisi that starts, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace…”

“Dear Lord, bless all those everywhere who contribute to shape the hearts, minds and bodies of young people. Let us remember what they have taught and apply it daily.”

I have some serious questions as to the “what they have been taught,” and if the scout leader is referring to the explicit policy of discrimination and hate espoused, defended, and ipso factotaught” by the Boy Scouts of America espouse with regard to certain groups. The venerable scout master Searles continues:

“When facing deceit and dishonesty, let us be trustworthy. If we see hypocrisy and faithlessness, let us be loyal. Where disregard for others and where materialism prevails, let us be helpful. In an atmosphere of ill manner, let us be courteous. Where some measure manliness in brutality and crudeness, let us be kind. Though law-breaking and rule-scoffing are common, let us be obedient. While others grumble and grouch, let us be cheerful. In an environment blighted by waste and extravagance, let us be thrifty. When confronted with danger and temptation, let us be brave. As we see filth and pollution everywhere, let us be clean. While witnessing impiety and irreligion, let us remember to be reverent. In short, in a world that has for generation after generation lamented the lack of good examples, let us Scouts stand out, grow up and be real adults.”

Clumsy as Mr Searles plagiarized prayer might be, his complaints are quite clear–we all know what he’s talking about, don’t we?

Actually, had Mr Searles simply read the Peace Prayer of St Francis of Assisi, maybe someone in the group would have more completely appreciated the intended prayerfulness of the moment and would have actually attempted to live the admonitions promoted by the holy example of the saint, and centuries later distilled shortly before the First World War into the now popular and familiar verses. (To read and download a copy of the Franciscan Peace Prayer I’ve prepared, click this link: The Story Behind the Peace Prayer of St Francis )

It’s rather ironic, too, that these lofty confessions of what our society and community have come to represent: “deceit and dishonesty,” hypocrisy and faithlessness,” “disregard for others,” “materialism,” “ill manner” ( must admit, I’m at a loss to really understand what that is supposed to mean), “manliness in brutality and crudeness,” “law-breaking and rule-scoffing,” where our neighbors “grumble and grouch,” and in a culture that confronts us daily with “danger and temptation,” where we find “filth and pollution everywhere,” and in our very churches we witness “impiety and irreligion” (irreligion is an interesting word meaning hostility towards religion. I don’t think that’s the problem though.), “lack of good examples.” In a word, doesn’t this sound like the routine in this community, in the local schools, in the  entire country–with few exceptions? And let’s ask ourselves how long the Scouts have been the model of American youth? And where do they go and what do they once they graduate from our schools, move on from the scouts, and enter the mainstream?

The same issue, reports also on the front page, an interview with a local official,  a building inspector, who allegedly advocates, misconstruing a Robert Frost line, that  “Good fences make good neighbors?”  While it’s not really out of character to read that a building inspector might advocate good fences, he also advocates more laws to smooth out relations between citizens and local officials but good relations involves building community not fences, and seeking collaboration and consensus, not compliance with laws.

R. Frost (1874-1963)Probably Turning in his Grave!

R. Frost (1874-1963)
Probably Turning in his Grave!

In a misinformative and pitifully distorted version of both American literature and reality, the idiot reporter, one Bryan Rowzee (reporter with the Ravena News Herald of the Hudson Catskill Newspapers group), in the front-page item, kicks off his item with a quote from Robert Frost’s memorable poem, Mending Wall. But in the true spirit of American journalism, Rowzee prooftexts, misinterprets and so falsifies to his readers the message of the poem, and does so by taking one familiar line out of the context of the whole poem, similar to what’s done business as usual in the American propagandist media.

For starters, the poem is a lament of fences, how walls and fences are something that are unnatural:

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.

And throughout the poem Frost questions the necessity for fences and even characterizes the neighbor who builds the fence (in the poem a stone wall) as being

…like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness

In fact, Mr Rowzee, Frost’s poem has nothing good to say about walls or fences; in fact, the entire poem is a statement against walls and fences! Mr, Frost, describes his neighbor likening him to a menacing caveman as he puts a rock into the wall, and repeats, “Good fences makes good neighbors.” So, either Mr Rowzee is trying to be cute and is using the Frost quote in total ignorance of what the poem actually preaches or, Mr Rowzee is being sneaky and using the quote to ridicule the interviewee in the article. Difficult to say unless you read the item in the News Herald, and until you reach the paragraph

“Conrad said the town loves growth and wants growth but needs growth that follows the laws created to help the whole community. He said he hopes that this business and others will benefit from clearer zoning maps and believes this may lessen misunderstandings and strained relationships between community members and town officials.”

The building inspector interviewed in reality has a motley history of contradictions and obstruction; he’s not much different from any other small-minded, small-town, power-drunk petty official. Of course, Mr Conrad, the building inspector,  loves walls and fences, they’re unnatural and intended to isolate and obstruct. He’s been building unethical walls in his community for years, and has gotten very good at it.

Moreover, there’s nothing small-minded, small-town, power-drunk petty official’s like more than passing laws that make them appear more powerful and make their jobs more secure, while at the same time make everyone else’s lives more complicated, and unpleasant, increase the already insufferable red tape and corruption in the area, and offer more opportunities for the small-minded, small-town, power-drunk petty official to do “favors” for special people.

Like so many in our élite, exclusionist community, political, religious groups, our Conrad talks out of both sides of his face

two-facedLike so many in the Ravena-Coeymans élite, the judge, who violates the Code of Judicial Ethics and interprets the law according his own or his party’s (im)morality; the mayor or board member who plays loosey-goosey with public money, the community wife, who runs a close second to her double-talking husband and has a teflon surface with her supporters;  the attorney who places avarice and winning above ethics and justice; the bishop or prelate, who juggles doctrine with politics, and politics comes out on top, to the detriment of credibility, and the list could go on and on, those who cooperate in the sin of others  must by necessity talk out of both sides of their faces, but as a made members of the élite inner circle, they are loyal to the their own corrupt interests and to their godfathers and protectors.

So you can really understand, given the example of our building inspector’s associations, history, cronies, and the mob he hangs out with, we must carefully scrutinize statements like “the town … wants growth but needs growth that follows the laws created to help the whole community. He said he hopes that this business and others will benefit from clearer zoning maps and believes this may lessen misunderstandings and strained relationships between community members and town officials.”

Conrad, the official with a modicum of power and authority,  apparently believes that more laws controlling what residents and neighbors do and “help the community,” and that more laws “will lessen misunderstandings and strained relationships between community members and town officials.” Which side of his mouth is this coming from, I ask?

To all those who share such a perverse world view, the only way that misunderstandings and strained relationships between community members and village/town officials can be lessened is not by creating more laws but by streamlining the administration. This may very well entail eliminating some laws, some positions of authority, and rehabilitating what’s left, an administration that will first of all put an end to the corruption and coercion that has hallmarked communities, government, church for decades through ineffectual governance, poor teaching, and pandering to the vociferous ignorant! It will involve elimination of the money pits and dens of cronies we popularly call our administrative and governing bodies and purging the hypocrites and ignorant from our leadership and who call themselves licit leaders! A thorough re-examination of ourselves and our systems would be the wisest move ever for our communities.

Before you create new laws or bring in new systems, Leaders, there’s a hell of a lot of healing that has to be done to “lessen misunderstandings and strained relationships between community members and town officials.”

Most communities, whether secular or religious, have been hemorrhaging members and resources while being poisoned by the corporations and oppressed by the special-interests, while popular denial and complaisance are feeding and fostering the small-minded, small-town, power-drunk petty officials, who all believe they have their positions for life and can hand them over to their designated heirs. And theyhave all but silenced the democratic process in our communities, both secular and sacred. Clean out and town hall and the pastoral centers completely and maybe the fresher air in the town and diocese, parish, congregation will attract more health conscious entrepreneurs, ministers, leaders, thinkers. To date all that our communities appear to have attracted are corpse flies feeding on the dead and dying communities, businesses, churches. What community organizations and institutions that are left standing after the special-interests and sociopaths have finished are disillutioned, angry, and suspicious of anything that comes out of the town halls or from the chancel!

Officials like our example, Mr Conrad,  haven’t a clue what they’re talking about! Before you create new laws or bring in new systems, Leaders, there’s a hell of a lot of healing that has to be done to “lessen misunderstandings and strained relationships between community members and town officials.” The TRUST and CONFIDENCE in local government and in our Church leadership has to be re-established after decades of a local corrupt machine of indiffernece, impotence, self-interests and special interests have made our entire communities  into a communities of paranoid recluses!

Rather than Building Fences or Proselytizing that “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” or that Laws Lessen Misunderstanding and Heal Strained Relationships, Government, Church  and the Boy Scouts of America–at all levels–Should be Proactively Tearing Down Fences and Building Community in spite of the Hypocrites, Whether Religious, Social, or Political Hypocrites!

The Moment of Truth is NOW!Make Positive Changes Now. Tweak Later.

The Moment of Truth is NOW!
Make Positive Changes Now. Tweak Later.

So back to page 1 of the Ravena News Herald. We can start by not asking God to do what we ourselves are very capable of doing ourselves, if we simply follow the ethical principles taught by the Gospels and especially the Beatitudes (Sermon on the Mount). If you’ve forgotten what they are, find a Bible and read them again, if you ever have read them. The entire law condenses down to, “Love God totally and love your neighbor as you love yourself!”

Careful How You "Pray"!

Careful How You “Pray”!

Misusing prayer to make a political appeal to empty hearts is a sacrilege and involving God in that conspiracy is blasphemy! In the precincts of a Roman Catholic sacred space used for secular purposes, the prayer should either not have been done or the real experts in screwing up prayer should have been invited to invoke the petition to the divine: either the pastor of the Roman Catholic Church of St Patrick in Ravena or the bishop’s minion, the deacon at St Patrick’s. At least the screwed up prayer would have been screwed up professionally. But to have such a “prayer” come from the lips of a representative of an organization that conspicuously and publicly discriminates and offends the dignity of persons, and whose hypocrisy flies in the face of such dignity and of  the community of the Faithful is an affront to fair play and justice.

But certainly, the admonition that can be taken from the scout master’s so-called prayer is the enumeration of the darkness that the speaker finds in the community, society, and the world. But just publicly displaying awareness of those evils, evils that are right outside our doors, is not enough. Solutions are needed but no solutions are offered. That doesn’t work for me at all.

The newspapers at one time played an important educational role–they now churn out chum, crap!

The public media have lost all sense of dignity and continue to fail in their obligations to the people of our communities. Where the public media, the newspapers, played an important role of sharing good information while playing fair, and demanding quality in the information they send out to the public–yes, the newspapers at one time played an important educational role–they now churn out chum, crap! The conspicuous cover photo accompanying the article, “Scouts reaffirm their faith in God in annual service,” regrettably demonstrates this point. In the caption we read: “Weblos of Pack 1067 illustrate the deadline sin of gluttony in a skit at the Scouts Own Service on Sunday.” What is a “deadline sin”? Doesn’t the editor know gluttony (actually intemperance in moral theological terms) is a “deadly sin“? Shame on you!

Poor editing, poor attention to detail, poor reporting substandard education of the still-reading public. But giving reporter Rowzee the benefit of doubt, maybe he was actually writing his article tongue-in-cheek.

And again, the glaring ignorance of Mr Bryan Rowzee and his pitiful misrepresentation of a renowned American poet laureate’s poem, Mending Wall, reveals the deplorable level of teaching the humanities, even important American literature. Rowzee’s gaffe reveals two things at least: the carelessness and indifference of the print media in terms of accuracy and reliability of facts, even well-established facts, and the failure of our education system in teaching our American literary heritage to such an abominable degree that an allegedly “qualified” journalist (a term used very loosely, indeed, in this discussion), one whose prose is made public as if it were credible, doesn’t have an inkling of understanding of what he’s writing about. If Mr Rowzee knew anything of what he was writing about he would have used the line from the Robert Frost poem correctly, and Rowzee would certainly have known better than to have printed the Conrad quote. But giving Rowzee the benefit of doubt, maybe he was doing both tongue-in-cheek. We can only guess!

seek truth

Don’t Believe Everything You’re Fed!
The Editor

If you’d like to read Robert Frost’s poem, Mending Wall, I’m pleased to attache a copy. Just click this link: Mending Wall by Robert Frost.

Special Notice: We make every effort to be truthful, complete, fair, and balanced on this blog; therefore, if you see anything that you know to be false or incorrect, or if you have additional information to clarify any issue, please let us know by e-mailing your information or by leaving a comment. It’s very important to us that we don’t fall into the same category as those whom this blog is intended to expose. Thank you very much in advance for your cooperation and assistance!

Pastor or Chaplain, or Both?


Is There a Distinction that Needs to be Drawn Between a Practicioner’s Playing the Role of Pastor or that of Chaplain?

I was a bit bemused by the persistence of the tendency to Bible-thump one’s way through any such discussion

I recently engaged several colleagues on the question of chaplaincy or pastoring. I was a bit bemused by the persistence of the tendency to Bible-thump one’s way through any such discussion, while advocating an interfaith approach as advanced by the adherents of the CPE agenda. I thought I’d share my contribution to the discussion.

listen-with-heartIt is my contention that we should not advance the notion of a “versus” or “as opposed to” when discussing chaplaincy or pastoring. While it is true that some traditions, the Hebrew and Islamic, for example, eschew the notion of “pastor” or “shepherd” for cultural or traditional, even ethical reasons, in the broader sense all chaplains are in fact “pastors,” while all pastors (in the conventional sense) are not necessarily “chaplains” (or critically speaking, even pastors!). In fact, I object in principal to the biased terminology we so frequently use in our vocations, “pastoral care” department, because it tends to be exclusive. I personally prefer spriritual care provider (although in my professional materials I do use pastoral care). Moreover, most people, even those in the vocation, tend to associate pastoral with pastors and thus with some sort of clergy or ordained service provider (usually with no questions asked and we all know about the profanation of ordination); that in itself is a misfortune for all concerned. But the much-touted CPE doesn’t do much to clarify the issues for interns or residents, and we still see chaplains “certified” by the self-proclaimed arbitors of chaplaincy who are just as ignorant after several years of “education” as they were before.

A case in point is taken from the scenario presented by the initiator of the discussion who describes walking into a Jewish patient’s room with a Christian clerical collar, which I characterized as benign “ignorance” but in reality was outright insensitive and would indicate that the “chaplain” in question did not do any initial preparation before launching out on rounds or visitations.clerical collar pc I might fraternally suggest that in future, whether you are a chaplain or a pastoral care associate, to check the chart briefly or dialogue with the nurse assigned to that patient before you visit. The offending chaplain actually says that he was aware that the patient was dying and had no family, so it seems rather odd that the chaplain did not appreciate the patient’s faith tradition and, if it wasn’t in the chart, that he didn’t consult with the immediate caregiver (nurse or LPN).

I also questioned the fact that the visiting chaplain was aware that the man was “Jewish”. Being Jewish immediately identifies one as being associated with a certain cultural, socio-religious tradition, after all, one does not call one’s self “Jewish” except to identify one’s self as a Jew. So this also raises the question of whether the chaplain in question was indifferent to the possibility that this dying man might have welcomed a visit by a rabbi, or that the chaplain did not make or offer to make a referral. Such sensitivity may have been a great comfort to the man, who might have found great refuge in his tradition and prayers. So I identify a boundary issue in this behavior, too; an issue of knowing one’s limits.

This situation also sends up red flags in that it clearly indicates that the institution did not do a spiritual assessment of this patient, much less a spiritual evaluation or history, which also reveals a glaring ignorance of the now widely inaugurated JCAHO and HIPA scoring categories relating to patient spiritual care.

The scenario I describe above should be instructive to us all and I thank the so-called chaplain for the inadvertent teaching/learning moment he has provided.

Finally, in the dying process I don’t feel there’s a heck of a lot of “pastoring” left to be done, unless it’s for the survivors. In my experience, in end-of-life situations I am more of a presence and spiritual guide/companion. While that may arguably be part of pastoring in a general sense, I feel that the actual mission of pastoring contrasts in praxis with the mission of spiritual accompaniment at end-of-life or in an existential crisis.

plant in handIt’s rather like the difference between evangelization and catechesis, if you have that in your tradition. One takes care of the basics and gets the seed started (evangelization), the other (catechesis) ends in the care and nurturing to harvest time.

Listening to hearAnother colleague mentioned in a rather cliché fashion with which we are all familiar when listening to the CPE crowd, that CPE trains one to listen. I disagree with such responses such as “CPE “teaches” one to listen.” I’m not quite sure how that works but in my divinity training and three years of supervised pastoral formation, and my participation in and disappointment with a rather popular CPE program in a large trauma center in Albany, New York, which fell far short of even my minimum aspirations, I don’t think that people can be “taught to listen” they may listen, but they don’t listen deeply. I know that from experience the deep listening skill comes from deep within one’s self, once one is comfortable with one’s self, and can leave one’s self for the time it takes to absorb and process the patient’s narrative. It’s that kind of listening that might be part of qualifying an aspirant to be spiritual care provider but it certainly isn’t the be all and end all.

The serene face of the large Buddha his long wise curvaceous ears at once loving and open to the woes of the world: Compassionate.

The serene face of the Buddha, his long wise curvaceous ears at once loving and open to the woes of the world: Compassionate.

Deep listening is the act of sinking into a serene quiet place, and awakening a receptive awareness of the other. By entering quiet and becoming aware of the other, we move out of and beyond our ego-driven chaos to become open to the divine messages within us and shared with us by the other. Imagine the irony here is that we so often complain of the pain of not having been heard, but we are so guilty ourselves of being deaf to, not hearing the innate wisdom from within ourselves and shared with us by others. When we learn to accept emptiness, when quiet, we instinctively trust in the guidance of sacred voices far more profoundly than what our bullying brains and the busy buzz of life would have us hear. And we listen, respond with silence.

In fact, having examined quite a number of CPE curricula and having developed continuing quality improvement curricula for the healthcare chaplaincy department, I find that the current CPE programs and their associated certification elements serve only to promote a burocratic and very branded form of “pastoral” care, and that branded product falls short of most suffering persons’ real needs. helpingIt’s the proprietary nature and standardization (viz. uniformization, homogenization) of the learning that deals the death blow to an appreciation (1) of the universal truths and values shared by all human beings, (2) the beauty in the diversity of traditions and how to appreciate and be enriched by a certain mutuality, (3) the possible pitfalls of an interfaith approach to faith traditions that may adhere very loyally to their dogmas. There are other reasons I could enumerate but regrettably (or fortunately for the readers) space is limited.

I think that an overwhelming majority, too, of CPE students come with excess baggage and too little self-death–I’ve observed interns, residents, even certified chaplains who have a great potential to do considerable damage…and do. The situation is not unlike seminary, you can do much to scrutinize, to form, to standardize but Whoa! when you turn them loose on the world, watch out! (A Roman Catholic diocesan priest, who also serves in the chancery tribunal, remarked ironically to me one day, “They’ll ordain anybody these days.” Which is probably true given the shortage of priests today.)

The so-called supervisors of the CPE programs almost invariable have their own biases and agendas, and these tend to impair good formation.
In some, not all instances, too, CPE programs have become “pay-to-work” programs in which minimally screened individuals, wet behind the ears and green, are turned loose on the floors to deal with sophisticated staff and human beings in existential crisis. I don’t feel that’s right. And I have also observed that interns are exposed to the same curriculum content for three or four years, and unless they have the academic predisposition to independently advance their armamentarium of experience through narrative and study, many don’t build their foundations. Some interns do not have theology or pastoral studies to help them through the necessary processing, and almost all have a depraved Western bias to their spirituality that tends to act as a speed bump when offering care to Non-western recipients. These programs tend to be “chaplain mills.” CPE does not fit the bill on its own to form professional, well-rounded spiritual care providers, but does excel in churning out multitudes of volunteers for greedy institutions. That may be one of the reasons it has survived this long.

On another level, some practitioners involved in the discussion advocated that the “Gospel” or, by extension, holy scriptures, has no firm place in chaplaincy. I do differ in that the fundamental ethics of the “Gospel” (not as understood principally by the evangelicals or fundamentalist among us) is a major part of chaplaincy. servant leadershipI cite particularly the beatitudes and the teaching of discipleship and servant leadership (chaplaincy is certainly not limited to the sick and dying but to the suffering generally). While I abhor the notion, and even more so the practice of proselytizing to captive audiences, and would hasten to emphasize that evangelization and catechization is not a fundamental role of the chaplain, ethics, discipleship, and servant leadership all play a special role in the myriad activities of the professional chaplain. (Note also that I do distinguish between the “professional chaplain”, the pastoral/spiritual care associate, and the visitor providing spiritual support.) To advocate that the truths and values espoused by the “Gospel”, the holy scriptures of any faith or spiritual tradition might have no place in chaplaincy is to advocate a position, I believe, of a chaplaincy practice devoid of ethics (and religion) (I do realize that this is a particularly “Christian” approach and my Judaic, Islamic and Buddhist colleagues may not necessarily agree with the religion-ethics statement, but I make the statement here somewhat loosely for convenience sake).

I’m not judging colleagues in chaplaincy or Clinical Pastoral Education too severely at all. In fact, I’m simply sharing my own observations and opinions based on personal experience. I am not a bit surprised when some readers tend to take these observations personally, as if they were meant to make an ad hominem stab at the straw[wo]men of CPE; I usually anticipate that persons in our line of work have a bit more self-awareness not to take every facially severe remark as a lancet thrust to the heart, however.

Rather than play an offended person’s role, perhaps we all would benefit by admitting that we may have learnt something about one’s self as through another’s eyes.

We Respond, We don't React.

We Respond, We don’t React.

Our role is to humbly respond, not to knee-jerk react. After all, to paraphrase the prophet Martin Luther King, Jr.: ‘We are all wrapped in the same cloth…when we directly hurt another we indirectly hurt ourselves.” (I do hope I did that statement justice!). So, when one party to the conversation called such a response arrogant, and a failure to simply accept some responsibility in relationship to colleagues’ responses, I merely responded, “My point indeed. The mouth loves the feel of words.” Instead we minimize, rationalize and justify our behavior, making certain to protect one’s self. This particular correspondent insists that “our patients have thick enough skins to handle a collar.”panda overload My response was tantamount to the fact that I don’t think that we have any right to expect patients to have “thick skins.” Some practitioners in pastoral care seem to admit patients’ strengths but underestimate their sensitivity and vulnerability. Many of the patients I see have lost their thick skins and in fact are pretty bruised in terms of dignity, autonomy, fortitude, patience, etc. I see no reason to add another straw to the pile. And Yes! It’s not about us, it’s about patient-centered, family-focused, inter- and multi-disciplinary care.

bedside prayerWhen we adopt such an approach we appreciate that, whereas many of our colleagues practice their spiritual care ministry in acute care settings or in crisis settings, many colleagues may find themselves–particularly in the scenario of the long-term care setting–in the position of playing both the role of chaplain and pastor to some residents in those longer-term care facilities. Regrettably, many of these residents lived their lives unchurched or churched with infrequent interaction with their faith community; more regrettably, some faith communities have disappeared or simply no longer continue a ministry of visitation of the sick and homebound who were once part of their faith community. It’s in such situations that the chaplain may very well become the pastor, and have to function in both roles. I don’t feel that this should be a major stumbling block nor even a concern to the well-formed spiritual care provider, who is responding to a true call to spiritual care ministry.

We're all wrapped in the same cloth...

We’re all wrapped in the same cloth…


Now God Comes in 29 Designer Flavors!


We Are Being Dumbed Down and Turned into A Nation of Zombies.

The Zombies are Eating Our Tax Dollars!

They’re Turning Us Into Zombies
And We’re Eating Each Other!

Technology, the Promoters of the Technology, the Lobbies and Unions Shoving Technology Down Our Throats, the Public Officials Who are Slaves to the Unions and Lobbies, and our Already Zombified Teachers and Administrators are Hell-bent to Zombify our Entire Culture!

Just Shoot Us! Why Doncha!?!

You’re Boring Us To Death!
Just Shoot Us! Why Doncha!?!

I was going to continue the reports on the RC Teen Activity Center and on the Unending Persecution of the RCS CSD BoE President by the Hypocrite Albany DA P.[udenda] David Soares until I experienced a recent local school board public meeting. I simply had drop my plans, and comment on it because the situation has become literally endemic in most all of our institutions and organizations, public and private.

PowerPoint Masturbation. I recently reviewed a local Central School District board of education meeting,  and I was initially amazed that it was so…quiet. Fact is: It was barely attended by the public. Then came the reason: Another one of those idiotic digital slide show presentations where the presenter self-pleasures him or herself by vomiting onto a wall or screen a mass of numbers, charts and graphs that no one but the presenter understands. Only a death squad of mercenaries could kill the audience quicker! Is that the plan? Kill attendance by presenting idiotic garbage? Is that the purpose of the public sessions of the board of education meetings? Well, it does show one thing: If these presenters, who are teachers and administrators in the schools, are that self-absorbed and mentally zombified that they don’t give a damn how intensely boring they are and how disrespectful they are of their audience, what on earth are they doing in the classrooms? Is this an indicator of how they communicate information in the classroom, too? Then, of course, I started to think…

zombies ahead run

Education is all about communication. If teachers and administrators are not capable of communicating appropriately with their audience, what in hell are we spending all this money on paying teachers extreme salaries? If, from what we see and hear in these PowerPoint slide presentations by teachers and administrators is: What in hell are we spending all of the “professional development” money on for teachers? (Please don’t tell me, “It’s in their contract.”) The PowerPoint presentations are much too long, too many slides, too poorly designed, too poorly presented, not presented in a language the audience can fully understand, and present too much information for anyone of normal intelligence to digest! The time, effort, money would be better spent on a simple one-page executive summary, and an essential facts sheet followed with a Q/A session.

The superintendent did an excellent job by jumping in and summarizing a very confused and muttered presentation point by clearly distilling the facts: “When she says [the increase in] online testing, the state has essentially told us that Within two years they expect that all state tests will be takend online at the same time by every student in the state.” Bingo. Stop the convoluted explanations and miscommunications, cross-referencing and pointing to other people. You’re supposed to be informing everyone!

But the fact remains: So much money being spent on technology, updates, new computers, etc. doesn’t do very much to improve socialization, reading, writing, development of self. Those are the problems that are being created by over-technologization of our schools and digitizing our learning environments. Out-of-control and excessive dependence on technology is a key factor in zombification.

Big Brother's Zombies

Big Brother’s Zombies

Zombification of America. Imagine all of those futuristic low-budget films where masses of human beings are mindlessly gazing at Fearless Leader, who appears demonically proselytizing on a huge flat-screen. Imagine all of those low-budget walking-dead films depicting zombified undead human beings walking around aimlessly, mindlessly trying to find a brain to eat (apparently they’re brain -starved, the product of our education system). Imagine all of the newsreel, archival, and documentary images of the Nazi era, of Stalin’s Russia, of Revolutionary China and the propaganda machine that deprived whole populations of freedom of thought, speech, movement, and controlled every atom of information served to the public. Have you ever thought about how all of that was accomplished? Have you ever thought about the underlying message these films of protest, of warning are sending?

Are these your kids>

Are these your kids

Isolation of Children. In all of the totalitarian regimes, the family unit was a prime target. First you isolate parents from children, and then you get all the children in one place and brainwash them. Sound familiar? Here, let me help you to understand. In the Nazi, Stalinist, China during the cultural revolution, the family was always made sacrosanct because the propagandists knew at the time that it was central and a core value to the population. But what they then proceded to do is to gradually dissolve the traditional family to form a new-age type of family. Breeders would produce perfect offspring, who would be herded into education camps, and who then would become a generation of perfect zombies, and the cycle would continue. Are you getting it now? Maybe not? Let’s move on, then.

This isolation of children, young people from parents and the traditional family unit then went on to isolate families and children from the ethics and morality sources, the spiritual and faith communities, the churches and congregations. Once the sensitivity to the value of spirituality, faith and religion was erased in the family and in the youth, new gods, idols, could be set up to fill the void created by killing God. Once ethics and morality was taken out of the hands of the faith and spiritual communities, the now ethically and moraly sterile parents and youth could be filled with a popular, government, corporate morality and ethics.

zombie girlNow those newly indoctrinated, brainwashed young adults become teachers. Without the traditional family to instill a sense of culture and identity, and without the faith communities to inspire ethics and morality, the education system, the schools and liberal colleges and universities now disseminate faddish, dumbed-down learning at economically hobbling prices. The basic thought here is: control the spirit and the mind through zombified education, the spirit through corporate ethics and morality, and vertical and horizontal movement by shackling the population with the propaganda that the ultimate goal is a college education even if you end up with a lifetime of debt and no job.

The control logic is ingenious. Don’t you think? No, you don’t think. That’s the fundamental problem!

Undead - The Zombie Teacher

Mr Undead
The Zombie Teacher

Here’s an example: The other day I was having a breakfast meeting with a contributor. The waitress, always ready to add her two cents, starts bitching about what her daughter is [not] learning in middle school. Seems she’s falling behind and the mother hasn’t a clue how to help her. “She just doesn’t get the math they’re teaching! It’s all dashes and dots and numbers. I just don’t get it. I don’t understand what it is!” ISOLATION OF THE PARENT FROM THE CHILD’S EDUCATION! The government sets up systems that eliminate parental participation in their childrens’ education (except to pay dearly for it). If the parent doesn’t get it and can’t help the child, the parent loses esteem in the child’s eyes (“Gee, mom, you’re a dumbass!”), the child feels helpless and vulnerable, has low self-esteem (“I’m stupid.”), the modern morality, ethics, and economics force the single mother to work long hours to support the child (“Gee, mom, you’re never around when I need you!”), the father’s probably a victim of the legal system and in jail for peeing in public or desperation drinking (think alcoholism in soviet Russia), and the child has a no-parent family unit (Our law enforcement dunces and idiot judges at work reinforcing the zombification process!).

eat more brainsEnter the A.S.A.P. programs and the Teen Activity Centers of the world! Parents are already technically isolated from their children and the ethical and moral foundations have been eroded to such an extent that any sense of guilt is radically lessened, so now parents, in the squeeze by the financial environment and the corporate brainwashing that they MUST HAVE, MUST RUSH OUT and GET, MUST GIVE, now make the excuse that to make ends meet, they both, mother and father, must have jobs.

(No one seems to catch on that they’re being satanically manipulated by the corporations, the educators, the service providers. Nope! They’re zombies now, they don’t have to think. No brain left, you see! That’s why the movie zombies have to eat brains…they have to replace their own brain they sacrificed to the government, unions and corporations!). But now we have “After School Activities Programs” and Community Teen Centers, Youth Centers, etc. that gather the young people together, away from home, family, parents, and become the surrogate home, family, parents to the children. All they are are Nazi, Stalinist, revolutionary Chinese youth camps, and they have the same effect: Separate the children from the home, family, parents; gather them into one place; make them feel good and liked there; replace the home, family, parents with a new home, family, and new “parents.” Get it yet? Sure, you rationalize the whole thing and think you “need to work to make ends meet,” that “you need to give the kids the latest brain-dissolving handheld toys,” that you need “to rush out and buy that product,” that everyone in the family “needs their own vehicle” (so that they can rush out and leave the home, family, parents and get to the youth or teen center, indoctrination camp.). No guilt anymore! Everyone has his or her addiction. Everyone’s a zombie.

Nobody needs to care. Everyone needs an assault weapon (to finish off all the other zombies). Do your hear the evil Lord [In]Sidious sniggering in the confusion of your life, now?

FEAR IS ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL MOTIVATORS, CONTROLS, WEAPONS!

Zombie Teachers

Zombie Teachers

Zombification of Education. Well, I started out talking about PowerPoint masturbation and presenter self-pleasuring. I raised the question if what we are seeing, the total alienation of the audience by the presenter, total unawareness of the audience, is that what’s happening in the classrooms? I then provided you, dear readers, with a tour of what I see is going on right under unseeing eyes: the zombification of the people. Yes, we are so blind that we sheeple along to the drumbeat of the propagandists, our richly lobby-bribed elected officials, the corporations, and a federal government too big to care and money-making-bailout-sponges the propagandists tell us are too big to fail. But what we are really missing, so tragically missing is the true tragedy right here, in our own communities, right in your own home: the zombification of the family! We used to hear that “education starts in the home, formation in the churches, training in the schools.” Where has all that wisdom gone? We are becoming a nation of digitized, electronic junkies. We are becoming a society of ethically cleansed, amoral, brainless, starving zombies. Why? Because it’s so easy. That’s why.

We like easy. But when you actually think about it it’s catastrophic! Take, for example, electronic communications. Before the birth of the transistor radio way back in the 1960’s, people sat home and listened to the radio together; with the transistor radio, the migration genes were facilitated, and you could listen on your own, while on the move! Then came the computer and e-mail and online searches. No more sitting down and writing a nice card or going to the library, seeing friends, socializing, browsing the stacks. Now you could sit in a dark cubicle or in a corner of your bedroom and get it all! But even then you still had to go out, face the world, shop, negotiate, pay bills.

No more, my little zombies! Just isolate yourself in your dark little corner and Bingo! It’s all done…digitally. Eating out in a restaurant or a diner used to be a social ritual. Forget about that, too! Just look around you: couples sitting at the same table, each one looking blankly down at their lap. It used to be that when you saw something like that you yelled: “Hands on the table!” No more, my little zombies! All the self-pleasuring now is done…digitally!

So the universities came up with another rain-making, revenue generating, cost-saving strategy: online degrees. No more physical interpersonal social learning experiences. Just sit in your dusty, smelly, infested corner and “earn a degree.” It’s that simple, simpletons!

Worse still, our educators and the boards of education are caving to an idiotic decree, now law, that mandates that our schools go digital! Now if this isn’t a conspiracy by the information technology lobbies, the computer and software lobbies, I must have come down with the last shower!

Freud, Piaget, Ainsworth, Watson, Bandura, Kohlberg and others all have theories of human development, of stages of human moral and character evelopment and all of them take into consideration the importance of human physical interaction.

One Instructor, One Lesson for All

One Instructor, One Lesson for All

Almost every magazine and journal has recently published articles on the importance of human contact in healthy human development and the consequences of “isolation.” The studies and research on which these articles are based is done by scholars and academics, scientists. Why is it all lost on our educators? The Answer: Unions and Lobbies! MONEY. And our federal and state education pundits are all in the union and lobby pockets! That’s why the New York State Education Department has told schools to start planning for the flatscreen teacher–all of education will be cleansed of the personal role model in the classroom, the adored teacher (what’s left of any real role models in the classroom). One standardized model will present one standardized presentation over fiberoptic delivery or satellite hookup. All zombies will get one standardized program of instruction. All little zombies will be uniform in their thinking. All parent zombies will be eliminated from the picture (until tax time comes). The entire world will be ZOMBIFIED!

Which Way Is God?!?

Which Way Is God?!?

Nowadays Even God Comes in 29 Different Flavors. Religion and faith, too, has been zombified by the media and by the courts. People are spiritually lost, impoverished. They know there’s something more than the new idols of cars, money, handhelds, digital friends. The human spirit feels drawn to something else! And the free market economy, atheist capitalism is right there to meet the need! My question is Why? if so many people are searching that someone doesn’t get the message that they’re not finding what they need. Just driving around the area we see more different churches than Heinz has soups! What is it that all these churches are attempting to answer but don’t seem to be doing? An interesting fact is that Episcopalians are defecting to Roman Catholicism; Roman Catholics, fundamentalists, Evangelicals, and others are flocking to the Eastern Orthodox Church! The reasons? Here are just a couple:

  • the reductionism, barreness, and minimalism in most faddish, modern faith communities
  • a search for a sense of mystery and majesty in worship
  • a search for a joyful and confident, credible celebration of the gospel liturgy
  • a commitment to the role of tradition as a supplement/complement to the Bible as a source for theology
  • an experience of a well-defined sense of identity in faith tradition rooted in a historical consciousness of the early church
  • a heritage of Christian perseverance tested by modern challenges, even persecutions.

The Powers had to Make God Politically Incorrect in our Schools and Public Institutions.

Why? Because a belief in God and freedom to speak about God could possibly remind us that we have the freedom, the chutzpah (Hebrew: audacity) to Argue with God would this would create a dangerous situation in which the citizen could challenge the Powers. Hell, if Abraham and Job could argue with God, why shouldn’t we challenge the Powers?

One possible explanation is that the general zombification we are witnessing is expressing itself in confusion and derailment relating to spirituality and the search for Ultimate Truth, a search for our own identity. The causes of the general zombification include those discussed above. The solutions don’t need to be discovered, they’re already under our noses, we need only to see and acknowledge them.

Believe!Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid!

Believe!
Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid!

The Editor

P.s. If you’ve gotten this far, you deserve a little gift! I’ve found an interesting article, very short, that goes through seven technologies that George Orwell describes in his novel, 1984, and that have become reality in 2013! The man was a seer, a prophet! Read the short article with my best wishes. Click 7 sinister technologies from Orwell 1984.


A Moment to Consider Suffering


“There is a time for everything…under the heavens a time to be silent and a time to speak.” (Ecc 3:1a,7b)

The Suffering in the World and the Heaviness of Grief Drag the Soul Down and Weight it With Despair…But It Is Better to Light A Single Candle than to Curse the Darkness Around Us.

animated candle small

All religious and spiritual traditions teach that man lives in horizontal time or chronos; the Divine time is vertical, kairos. In Divine time there is no past or future, it is all here and now. Unlike humankind, the Divine does not look to the past nor to the future, they are simply unnecessary because the Divine is perfect and that perfection embraces unchangingness and allknowingness. Perfection does not have to learn from the past nor hope for the future.

Rachel Weeps for All Her Children!

Rachel Weeps for All Her Children!

But we exist in a different dimension, if you will. We can either despair of the past or hope for the future; resent the past and despise the future; or as Ecclesiastes teaches, we can accept that the Divine plan provides for “a time for everything…a time to be born and a time to die..a time for scattering stones and a time to gather them…a time to embrace…a time to search…a time to mend…a time to be silent and a time to speak…a time to love…and a time for peace.”

The Divine plan is Perfection and Immutable. It keeps us on schedule and on plan always, whether we like it or not, and whether we understand it or not. The world is full of pain and suffering, most of it so far away from us that we almost take it for granted and go on with our own lives without considering that human beings and other creatures are suffering immensely but we don’t see their tears or hear their cries…so they’re easy to pass by and cast our eyes away. Until it strikes close to home. But the Divine plan includes us always and when Perfection sees its creatures becoming callous to the lessons of suffering, Perfection brings it closer to home so that we, too, can face the challenge and become humbled by it. When we see suffering we can appreciate the wisdom of Ecclesiastes: There is a time to be born and the fact of being born brings with it the fact of death.

gathering togetherWe are made of fragile materials and we break, sometimes very badly, and we die. It’s when we are humbled by challenge, moments in the Divine Plan that we are incapable of comprehending, that it becomes time to gather stones to rebuild, a time to embrace our universal humanity as the kin-dom of the Divine, a time to search for meaning in the challenge. But above all and essential to the purpose of the Divine Plan is that a time of challenge is a time for love, a time for God, because as John teaches “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love,” (1 Jn 4:8). Gathering together in love, we are in a time of mending, of healing; in that time of healing we find a time to be silent, present, and a time to speak. As stones gathered searching for meaning in the challenge, and embraced by the power of perfect love, we heal in silence and sometimes speak silently in prayer…we seek peace.

The events in the world that cause suffering and despair, confusion and anger, anxiety and hate are in our time, not Divine time, we can move into Divine time by staying in the moment, no past no future, for but a breath’s time and find peace in the moment we occupy now.

blue tear

Let’s stop for a moment being stones scattered and be stones gathered, remembering in this moment the suffering around us. Let’s stop for a moment to heal, to love, to be silent. Let’s stop for a moment to be peaceful and to grant peace to all of Creation. It’s in the Divine Plan. Let’s stop for a moment and remember we are created in the image of a God who is Love.

Remembering in this Divine moment of love, healing, and peace, the suffering in the world of all Creation, and remembering the acute pain we now suffer with the events closer to us. In your own, personal way remember the suffering in Newtown, Connecticut.

animated-candleburning3


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