Sunday, July 26, 2009

chew on this

A Christian is a person in whom and through whom Christ lives.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. And last weekend when I went to the celebration of my pastor's 50 years of being a priest, I met the wonderful Pallottine, Sister Carmel Therese. I always knew there were a group of Pallottine sisters that lived down the road from me. But it wasn't until I just googled "Pallottine" that I had a better understanding of these followers. I related really well to Sister Carmel Therese, yet now realize it may be more than just her - I agree with the Society's aims in general. Please do read this page! And "Pallottine Spirituality" (under the Charism tab as well).

Thanks to God for introducing me to Sister Carmel Therese and the Pallottines :)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Faith-based health initiatives

I am cross-posting this from my other blog. Fascinating.

Theologies of Sickness, Equality

I can't say that this isn't the way I already think, I just am not really into reinventing the wheel. Read this stuff, it's great.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

God, help us reconcile your Church

Just call me a Franciscan

Reader beware….else I might offend you. But I write with conviction regarding my experiences with the church and the people I’ve met so far in life.

I don’t have the 10 commandments memorized. Or know the life stories of the different people mentioned in the Bible. Or know who is who in the different statues and stained glass window paintings in church, or know the different saints. Or even know the order of the mass, really. But I’ve been going to church since childhood, and my faith is pretty strong. What sense does this make, you ask?

Going to church isn’t what made me follow the path of Jesus. It helped get me started – true. But that’s about it. I realize that God said, “Do not make for yourselves images of anything in heaven or on earth….Do not bow down to any idol or worship it, because I am the Lord your God.”1 Then how does the Catholic church account for all of the statues and paintings and so on and so forth? When God spoke to St. Francis of Assisi and told him to destroy the church and that He would rebuild it in three days – to mean a Church not made of stone – why does the Christian religion insist on the importance of going to those buildings? Why did I learn how to put a dollar in the collection basket every week, but never learn to actually go out and give money to the poor firsthand? Why are there so many divisions in Christianity if division is precisely what Jesus didn’t want?

I spent an Easter weekend hearing my grandmother start an argument over politics, waking up Easter morning to hearing my cousins bicker over an ipod charger, participating in an Easter mass filled with lots of form prayer that deadens the soul, and having to wait for my uncle because he doesn’t attend church so showed up to brunch by himself later than the rest of us (okay, it wasn't that bad - it was still a good weekend. Those are just subtle things I noticed). I’m tired of this “Christianity” taught to us through religious education classes and monotonously similar weekly church services where a grand total of 15 seconds are allotted to interacting with your “neighbors.” I believe in community. Jesus never told us, “go and repeat this last meal I’m having with you on a weekly basis for all of eternity, until I come back (does anyone really expect Jesus to show up on their doorstep again some day…honestly?). Go and worship me in a building with lots of gold on the alter every week.” No, he never said that. As a matter of fact, he never preached anything like that, as far as I know (but then again, I don't have the Bible memorized. Hit me with your best shot). He came to teach us how to live, and showed us by example. He wanted us to live in loving community with one another. That’s all. Why the big ornate churches and highly scripted masses?

I really like CYFM. It’s where I first learned the meaning of community, and to follow in the way of St. Francis. (And FYI…Franciscans don’t quite follow with the ornate churches typical of Catholicism.) The Prayer of St. Francis has always held a special place in my heart, because it’s based on the Beatitudes2, and the Beatitudes (or, as Dave Andrews calls them, the Be-Attitudes) hold a special place in my heart. The Prayer of St Francis goes like this:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

where there is injury, pardon;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;

to be understood as to understand;

to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Dave Andrews relates the Be-Attitudes to the well-known maxim coined by Gandhi, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Someday, I’d like to live in community in the ways described by Shane Claiborne and Dave Andrews. In an "intentional community," such as The Simply Way or the life lived by Dave Andrews, members not only interact with community, but are a part of the community; this is what makes Jesus come alive every day. These communities value loving those who need it most, coming to decisions as a group after everyone’s had a say, and living in a non-materialistic society where everyone appreciates the Earth that God’s given us and sees being a steward of the Earth as his or her responsibility. They value people’s health and know that food comes from the ground. And everyone watches out for others and thinks of ways to improve the lives of others. Then, these positive messages are taught to the children.

I find it unfortunate that most of us did not grow up with this mindset, but instead must really work at it if we really want to live the way Jesus called us to. Instead, our society cedes to the whims of corporations interested making money and therefore dowsing our food in chemicals and then packaging it up in stuff that taints our food with yet more chemicals and then winds up in landfills and oceans, whereby it kills lots of plants and animals. Instead, we send our children to schools that have contracted with these companies to sell junk (not food) from vending machines (and lunch lines, for that matter), and that don’t give kids enough time for physical education and recess.

Instead, we’ve done precisely what Jesus didn’t want us to do – leave God in a structure which we call the church. Divide this church up into little pieces which we call denominations and orders. Get into arguments about which sect is the right one to be a part of, or fight about which religion is the better one to follow. Accept religion as the way to follow God, without even thinking that religion might just as well as be a culture, and not a way to follow God at all.

With that said, while I’m still living at home I’ll continue to go to the Catholic church I’ve grown up in since moving to this town 10 years ago, because deciding not to go to church would divide me from my family (not to mention many others who I’ve met through churches and are dear to my heart). But I’ve pretty much stopped going to regular mass with my parents. Instead, I’ve been going to the Spanish mass at my church, where the choir is my family and the congregation is my community, and where I’m united with them through the love of Christ, not commonality of ethnicity or fluency of language [I may know Spanish, but I never claimed to be as fluent as natives]. And in the Spanish mass, the pastor actually speaks with the native Mexican people during the homily (not at them), and the mass as a whole just feels more right. Community should come first, and then praising God in a service – whether it be through rituals or some other method. If community doesn’t come first, God’s message is lost anyway.

References (sorry…the academic mindset is forever ingrained in me)

1. Exodus 20:4-5

2. Matthew 5:3-12

Books that came to mind when writing this that I’ve read:

1 Corinthians 11:24-31

The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne

The Jesus Mysteries by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy

Books that came to mind when writing this that I haven’t actually read yet but would like to:

God’s Politics by Jim Wallis

The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power is Destroying the Church by Gregory Boyd

Plan Be by Dave Andrews

Christi-Anarchy by Dave Andrews

Not Religion, but Love – Practicing a Radical Spirituality of Compassion by Dave Andrews

God is Back: How the Global Revival of Faith is Changing the World by John Micklethwait

Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola

The Gospel of Inclusion by Carlton Pearson

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Tim Keller

Secrets from the Lost Bible by Kenneth Hanson

The Power of Intention by Wayne Dyer

The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty by Peter Singer

Books that I've read since writing this:

Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder

Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne

Evangelical ≠ Republican…or Democrat by Lisa Sharon Harper

The Radical Disciple by John Stott