Thursday, December 25, 2014

Silence, and the Word made incarnate

When peaceful silence lay over all, and when night had run half way her swift course, down from the heavens, from the royal throne, leapt your all-powerful Word. –Book of Wisdom 18:14-15

Silence.  This was the focus of Father Richard Rohr's Christmas Day daily meditation, and the focus of many of his messages. In the silence is when we allow Christ's message into our very beings, let it infuse itself into our lives in such a way that is possible by no other means.  The path to silence, that is if I ever make it to a state of meditation where my mind is silent as well as my voice, is for me the opportunity to use what Fr. Richard Rohr calls the non-dualistic mind.  This is when we can contemplate on the facts of life and hold all of the seeming contradictions together at the same time.

These, for me, are the daily occurrences which don't get talked about, but which form our understanding of the world and even affect our emotions at times.  Like yesterday, as we celebrated the Feast of the Incarnation, known to much of the world as Christmas Day.  While many people in this country were focusing on the pomp and circumstance around the mostly secularized holiday, Pope Francis was giving a call to action to bring peace to the world, to address the suffering of refugees, hostages, and victims of violence, infection, and indifference.  While it may be the indifference and ignorance of some people wrapped up in the culture of consumerism that is contributing to violence, poverty, and disease, we understand that both of these scenes - the consumeristic Christmas culture and the Papal Christmas message - are in their own right, each recognized by society as celebrations of the same holiday.  Where lies the message of the birth of the baby Jesus, the incarnation on earth of the divine Word?  Why is it so often pushed to the side, by nominal Christians and those who just don't believe in Jesus as the Son of God?  Why don't more people see the deeper meaning behind the incarnation that Jesus came to earth to teach us, and recognize this as true Christianity that the holiday of Christmas is supposed to celebrate?

Center with silence.

I've learned a great deal about the culture of non-Catholic Christians. There are those that prescribe to the root teachings of Jesus and are in effect Franciscan-hearted even if they don't identify as such, and those who have the tendency to wash down the messages of Jesus with a culture of Protestant evangelization that does not seem to keep true to Christian spirituality.  There are Catholics who understand and live for Catholic social justice teaching. Then, there are Catholics who don't seem to understand the root spiritual principles of the faith and religious tradition - perhaps because they weren't exposed to the proper formative experiences, and/or perhaps because they never took the time to let the spirit move them - some of them have left the church altogether, while some of them continue going to church but don't let their faith transform them.  Neither is healthy. We need an evangelization of the Church which proclaims the messages that Jesus shared with the world, and provides an open space - perhaps through the taught practice of silence and meditation - for the recognition of these messages as communication of the manifestation of the divine in the physical. And if this evangelization communicated our interconnectedness and the uniqueness of Franciscan theology in being able to make peace between the seeming contradictions of the unity of the spiritual and the physical, all the stronger the Church would be for it.

There is a special bond and commitment to family that seems nearly universal within Catholic families, made all the more visual after watching "A Fitzgerald Family Christmas."  While I cannot speak much to the bonds between members of Protestant families, the bonds within the Catholic families I know seem quite sacred. Of course, no family is perfect, and there is much we can do to seek reconciliation within our families. But at the same time, why does it so often seem that the bonds of kinship within families feel so distanced from bonds of kinship with our universal family?   This, again is a question we will need to look at with the eyes and heart of the non-dualistic mind, to allow us to see the gaps between the privileged and the poverty-stricken.

May we find the peace and the silence within to allow the answers to these questions into our heart in as non-judgmental, most universal and Christ-loving way as possible.

Saturday, November 29, 2014


Maleficient.  The perfect example of both good and evil existing together as one.  The good and evil manifest themselves in the context of the physical (land of humans) and spiritual (land of the Moors) not being united.  The disconnect between the physical and spiritual worlds comes about because true love is not fulfilled.  But when true love reigns - when Maleficient kisses Aurora on the head - the curse is lifted, and the two worlds can unite.

When we allow God's agape love to rule our lives, we can unite the spiritual and the physical, and live as one with the universe. It takes a lot of courage, though. As we saw when Stefan left Maleficient, failure to love and/or have that love returned can turn hearts cold. Yet if we are open to the spirit, we can allow God's grace and mercy to warm our hearts.

If we find and name our inner Maleficient, we can identify what we should seek to warm our hearts.  Having a one-track mind for a very long time, keeping blinders on to other parts of life, can form dark spots in our line of vision. But once we realize we aren't getting the whole picture, we can begin to let light shine on the dark spots.

Shutting myself off from the culture and media that was prevalent in my life growing up, while allowing for new experiences, also created dark spots in my view and interpretation of the world.  The way I was introduced to the Franciscans was only a partial introduction to the Franciscan family. Much was left in the blind spots. My ideas about how to learn about culture only provided a segment of the various ways to understand tradition. And my education and experience working in nutrition, public health, and social justice is only one component of JPIC work. We can never get the whole picture at the same time, but we must always seek to illuminate the blind spots.

If we continually integrate and synthesize our growing awareness of and understanding of St. Francis, culture, and public health / JPIC work in with our outer and our inner reality, we can grow in faith and spirituality, awake the Sleeping Beauty inside each of us, and live in paradise... or in heaven on earth.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

From Franciscan charismatic revival to animating peace, the OFS way

We are fully three dimensional beings. I know this better than I know myself. I may have the attention of a rabbit, but that is only because I know the possibilities and potential in life are endless. We are one with the universe, which recreates itself every day. It's fascinating to think about.

I learned the divine spirit that's present in relationships through my experiences at CYFM, 10-15 years ago. Fr. Jim who Leah Kozak introduced me to the other day reminded me that my experience there was part of the charismatic revival of the Capuchins.  I knew there was something distinct about the unique way I was introduced to my faith as a teen, and I have cherished these moments inside ever since then. I've consciously and unconsciously let the Franciscan charism become part of my DNA, my way of operating in the world and interacting with others.

I've learned in life the sciences of nutrition, of food justice, of public health and social justice. I am aware of the interactions and connections between these disciplines, and that all are necessary in the elimination of health disparities. Necessary, but not sufficient. There are other sciences which I have not yet mastered but which I'm sure are equally as important - such as the disciplines of nonviolent communication and peacemaking...and the discipline of spirituality. The last one should be the simplest...yet if simple was easy more people would live that way. The discipline of spirituality may be one of the hardest things humans were ever asked to do, but we must remember nothing worthwhile ever came easily.

I have always ever pursued something new because it made sense in the context of where I had been and where I wanted to go at the time. I am at the point where I feel the limitations in my contributions to effectively contribute to the disciplines I've been exposed to so far...partially because I already know much about them and how they work, partially because I know there is so much else out there that is important that I haven't yet mastered, but largely also because I know much that these disciplines seek to accomplish won't be fulfilled until more people infuse spirituality into their work and pursue faith-rooted organizing. 

It therefore brought me peace when I came across Carolyn Townes OFS's blog, "Animate Peace," yesterday, and I saw all various ways she is working to infuse Catholic Social Teaching and Franciscan spirituality in with JPIC (Justice, Peace, Integrity of Creation) work.  I can only wonder how profound it would be to introduce social workers and public health professionals to the concept of Franciscan JPIC work. The more we can move people from a place of spirituality, the more effective our work will be, and we will transform hearts in the process. I also feel it's my obligation to bring these spiritual efforts into the secular world of work, because I have spent just as much if not more of my life nurturing my secular professional work as I have nurturing my spiritual life. The two cannot live separately any longer. They must become one, as we are one with the universe. 

May I learn to simplify so much so that I can be one who animates peace.

Pace e bene.