Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Roots in Freedom

In the early 70's I was offered a parish in Colorado if I would join a diocese there.  I took some time to think about it and finally said, "No."  All of my family connections were in Maryland.  I had some long friendships with some Baltimore priests.  In addition, I found that I placed a high value on the roots of the Baltimore diocese in democracy and freedom. 
John Carroll, the first bishop, whose brother Charles signed the Declaration of Independence, was understandably convinced of the importance of democracy and freedom of religion.  Church leadership in Rome had no appreciation of those values and often tried  to repress them, even at one point condemning "Americanism." 
Finally at the Second Vatican Council a Maryland Jesuit, John Courtney Murray crafted the Declaration on Religious Freedom, which Baltimore's Cardinal Lawrence Shehan convincingly presented to the bishops gathered from all over the world.  It passed 1,997 to 224.  The roots sowed in our beginnings continue to flourish.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ancestors' Parish

On December 29, 1833, the fourth bishop of Baltimore, James Whitfield,  dedicated to St. Ignatius a second church at Arnold's Settlement (now Mount Savage) in the western mountains of Maryland.  (These are in West Virginia along the new Route 48)
The historian doesn't say when the first church was built, but in an 1817 list of missions in the diocese Arnold's Settlement and Cumberland are the only places mentioned in Western Maryland.
Archibald and Fanny Arnold were my great-great-great-great grandparents.  It is a source of pride and encouragement for me to know that some of my ancestors were among the earliest Catholics in the far western part of the oldest diocese in the United States.  I am also impressed that the bishop traveled that far by horse or coach.
(Click on picture to enlarge it)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Bishop Takes a Chance

I'm reading the history of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Thomas W. Spalding's The Premier See, as we prepare to celebrate our 225th anniversary.  Not much humor in any history but in chapter one on John Carroll, the first bishop, the author writes about a very ambitious lottery to raise money to build a cathedral:  "Fifteen percent of the proceeds, or $30,000, would go to the building of the cathedral, the rest to prizes. No one seemed the least amazed when the bishop himself won first prize.  This $20,000 award, of course, was turned over to the building fund."

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Way Through

All that anyone of us needs to move from this world into the spirit world is right here.  This world is  the way through to that world.  Beauty, especially, draws us into the Divine.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Love is what we came here for.

Jesus says that the greatest commandments are love God and love your neighbor.  He concludes by saying "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."  In his day the phrase "the Law and the Prophets" referred to all of the official Jewish holy books.  (The official list of holy books did not yet contain what we call the Wisdom books.)  What God wills is love.  Every other command and obligation must be judged by asking ourselves if this is the most loving thing to do.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

About Being Loved

Jesus almost shrugs off the question about paying taxes to Rome and says, in effect, "Let me tell you what really matters.  You are stamped with the image of God.  Are you giving yourselves back to God?"
Christianity has gotten off track by linking religion almost exclusively to moral behavior.  It is certainly important that we behave ourselves.  But it is nowhere near as important as growing in our faith conviction that our God loves us and desperately wants us to love him.
The Gospel of Jesus is not about being good or bad.
It's about being loved.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Teresa of Avila--Mystic

Yesterday was the feast of St. Teresa of Avila, a great mystic and teacher of prayer.  I think of a mystic as someone who has a direct relationship with God, without much of an intermediary.  One analogy Teresa uses to help us understand this is to compare two troughs.  One is filled with water that comes from far away through many aqueducts with much effort.  The other is filled from a spring right by the trough without any noise or anything artificial.  The spring is abundant and the water overflows once the trough is filled, forming a large stream.  Water is always flowing from this spring.
God, like the source of this water, is welling up within us. Since God desires to do so, God produces this delight with the greatest peace and quiet and sweetness in the deepest part of ourselves.
(Click on picture to enlarge it.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

E.E. Cummings

Yesterday was the birthday of E. E. Cummings, one of my favorite poets.   Of his hundreds of poems here is one of my favorites:

who are you, little I
(five or six years old)
peering from some high

window, at the gold

of november sunset

(and feeling that if day
has to become night

this is a beautiful way)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What Belongs to God

"Whose image," Jesus asks, "is on the Roman coin with which the tax is paid?"  Tiberius Caesar's.  "Give back to Caesar what belongs to him."  "Where do we find God's image?"  On humankind, indeed on all of creation.  "Then give yourself and everything else back to God."
Not a formula for separation of church and state.  Everything belongs to God.

Monday, October 13, 2014

In the Image of God

When Genesis says that we are made "in the image of God," what does it mean?  In this first chapter of the story all that we see God do is create.  Is God creating us to create?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Present Moment

The present moment is the incarnation of the infinity of God.  Something going on and on without ending is not only impossible for my finite mind to grasp but scares me a little.  The present moment, however, I can deal with.  We certainly remember the past and plan for the future, but I want to give most of my attention to the present.  That's where I meet God.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

God Weds Human Race

God is marrying the whole human race.  We can accept or refuse the proposal.  If we accept, God will reshape our hearts and make us lovely.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

In Him who strengthens me

"I can do all things in You who strengthen me," has been for thirty years one of several brief prayers that I say out loud as soon as I get out of bed in the morning.  It comes from the ending of St. Paul's Letter to the Philippians.  Paul is not bragging that he can do all things.  He is saying that whatever comes his way he can deal with because he lives in Christ and Christ lives in him.

Monday, October 6, 2014

A Glimpse

Autumn takes me back.  Sunday late afternoon I drove up to this overlook.  I first went here as a child and got a glimpse of eternity.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The God of Peace

God's very self is the source of our peace.
A kind of unreal religion says, "Fear not, trust in God, and God will see that none of these things you fear will happen to you."
Real religion says, "Fear not, the things that you fear are quite likely to happen to you, but they are nothing to be afraid of."
No matter what pain or grief or trouble threatens us it cannot touch us in the deepest part of who we are which is overflowing with the God of peace.