Tag Archives: freedom

13 May: Time to have fun

herefords

The Christianity many of us grew up with was not big on laughs. My childhood parish priest seemed determined to make sure we were suitably miserable. Fun was equated with self-indulgence – all too likely to carry us away into the path of sin. The eleventh commandment was ‘Thou shalt not laugh, nor enjoy thyself’.

The hangover of that upbringing is that I have sometimes struggled to allow myself to enjoy life. The notion that God is a spoiler is not one I adhere to rationally but somewhere inside that image of God must linger. And yet when I remember some of the moments of deep fun that I have known I see how they abound with love, friendship, wonder, energy, and liberation: and as I put themselves back into those times I sense the presence, joy and life of God.

  • Sledging down the snow covered slopes of Greenwich Park while the ambulances circled below
  • Playing foot ball with my nephews in a muddy field
  • Losing myself in working with clay and not minding too much what shape I came up with
  • Making music with a group using my three and a half chords on a guitar
  • Going swimming on the spur of the moment with my sister in West Wales
  • Being thrown around at a barn dance without really having much clue what steps I was supposed to be making.

What moments do you remember?

Fun can have its downsides. Making fun of another at their expense is destructive. Thrill seeking can be addictive and self-centred. But these are perversions of what is essentially good and of God.

It is through fun that we lose our self-consciousness and allow ourselves to run free.

Walls of polite distance or even hostility between people evaporate in shared laughter.

Bonds of friendship are forged.

We stop taking ourselves too seriously – as if everything depended on our performance

We discover that we are creative after all – and all we needed was the opportunity and the courage to dare to express ourselves.

We delight in life, in the company of those with us and are completely held in the moment, putting aside our fears and preoccupations.

These are good moments, God moments.

In our churches and within our neighbourhoods,

in our tired lives, and amidst our difficulties

it is time to have fun!

CC.

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7 May: Our Daily Bread

 

bread

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
  Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
  Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial
but rescue us from the evil one.

Matthew 6:9-13

In whatever version we are familiar with, the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ or ‘Our Father’ is a simple, yet sustaining way of ordering our life towards God.

At the start of the day the prayer sets us on the path of life.

In a pause within the busyness of life it helps us unravel our complexity and return to the simplicity of abiding in Christ.

At the end of the day its phrases return us to a place of rest.

What follows is not a detailed scriptural analysis but a simple prompt towards aligning ourselves towards God in the midst of different feelings and experiences.

Say the words of the Lord’s Prayer, pausing between them to allow them to draw you into a place of trust and openness before God.

Our Father in heaven,

We are held in relationship with one who loves us.

Here we can rest even as we move through the day

Hallowed be your name.

We look at, ponder, and wonder at this God so intimately close to us yet far beyond our imagining.

Your kingdom come.
Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

In all we do on this day we seek to co-operate with God and to be open to the Spirit.

Today and in this place God is renewing all things.


Give us this day our daily bread.

God gives for the day. There is no need to be anxious for tomorrow.

We seek to live this day simply, by trust, rather than by fearful accumulation of possessions.


And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.

As God lets go of any desire to blame or desire to punish so we seek that same freedom of Spirit

And do not bring us to the time of trial,

but rescue us from the evil one.

We acknowledge our frailty, and our continual need of God’s provision and protection.

CC.

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30 March: “Is Christianity Dead?”- Our Response to BBB: V, ‘Going out’.

Dear BBB,

I promise you I did not know this Synod document was about to be published when I began answering your question,  Is Christianity Dead?  But there are good ideas in there to help address your concerns. I move on to the short paragraph entitled Going Out. I think we have to realise that when Pope Francis is talking about vocations he is by no meaning just the priesthood and religious life. 

Pastoral vocational care, in this sense, means to accept the invitation of Pope Francis: “going out”, primarily, by abandoning the rigid attitudes which make the proclamation of the joy of the Gospel less credible; “going out”, leaving behind a framework which makes people feel hemmed-in; and “going out”, by giving up a way of acting as Church which at times is out-dated. “Going out” is also a sign of inner freedom from routine activities and concerns, so that young people can be leading characters in their own lives. The young will find the Church more attractive, when they see that their unique contribution is welcomed by the Christian community.

The church porch is important; each one is a door of mercy where people, old and young, should feel welcome to come in and go out freely. If that is not the case, how can it be remedied? What ways of acting do we need to give up? Pope Francis does not promise it will not be demanding.

 

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29 March: “Is Christianity Dead?”- Our Response to BBB: IV, ‘A mature choice for a life of faith.’

Walking with young people builds up the community.

Dear BBB,

Today I’d like to share some thoughts from the preparation document for the coming Synod of Bishops. You ask: Are we experiencing the decline of faith and church as we know it?  Well, that’s one way of looking at it, but I agree with Doug that hardly means Christianity is dead.

Baptism, the Bishops remind us, is not the same as making a mature choice for a life of faith. Arriving at this point requires a journey which sometimes includes unpredictable paths and uncustomary places which are far removed from ecclesial communities. In this regard, Pope Francis said: “Vocational pastoral ministry is learning the style of Jesus, who passes through the places of daily life, stops without being hurried and, by looking at our brothers with mercy, leads them to encounter God the Father (Address to Participants in the International Conference on Pastoral Work for Vocations, 21 October 2016). Walking with young people builds up the entire Christian community.

Precisely because the proposed message involves the freedom of young people, every community needs to give importance to creative ways of addressing young people in a personal way and supporting personal development. In many cases, the task involves learning to allow for something new and not stifling what is new by attempting to apply a preconceived framework. No seed for vocations can be fruitful if approached with a closed and “complacent pastoral attitude that says: ‘We have always done it this way’” and without people being “bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelisation in their respective communities” (Evangelii gaudium, 33). Three verbs from the Gospel, which describe the way Jesus encountered the people of his time, can be of assistance in adopting this pastoral style: “going out”, “ seeing” and “calling.”

If we want to be seeing young (and older) people in our church buildings, we have to go out to them; only then can we be used to call them.

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6 March:Human Will II: The Will and the True Self

carvingwomanchich

 We are trying to understand what our will is, and are enlisting the help of St. Augustine.  Yesterday we were looking at St. Augustine’s notion of the ‘divided’ will.  In Confessions he admits that he was enamoured of this idea for a while, because in allowing himself the emotional “leeway” which the idea of a divided will gave him, he found himself in the emotionally comfortable position that comes of blaming something else for his sins and failures.  But Augustine ultimately rejected this idea. His relentless pursuit of truth just would not allow him to rest in an untruth.  Eventually, he admits that his will was one and that it was whole.

This kind of will – single and undivided – demanded that Augustine take full responsibility for all his actions.  In one way, this was a much less comfortable position for Augustine.  But by this time, he had found that, paradoxically, a certain kind emotional discomfort is no bad thing, if it enables one to come to a deeper level of personal truth.  His words in the Confessions that we looked at yesterday have a modern sound to them.  ‘I was the only one involved,’ Augustine declares, in describing his moral wrong-headedness.  He is saying here that the desire to blame his wrongdoing on a flawed will is simply a dishonest cop-out.  His words also ring with a kind of healthy, joyful spiritual freedom, as anyone will know who has begun the process of accepting the truth about himself and of undergoing a deep interior change.  Augustine lived in the fourth century, but his words and experiences are timeless.

I recall the words of a teenage boy I knew when I was a teenager – a boy who had been caught stealing on a rather grand scale.  When he finally began to turn his life around he admitted frankly, ‘I stole.  I did it because I wanted to and because I was greedy.  I deserved the punishment I received.’  The acceptance of personal responsibility for his actions, the complete absence of blaming anyone or anything else for his decision to steal, the honest naming of the greed that impelled him, paradoxically, strengthened him on the level of his will and of his true self.  This boy really did turn his life around.

So, what kind of light does this shed on the concept of the human will?  The boy’s very conversion of heart was inseparable from something that originated in his will: the act of taking personal responsibility for his behaviour and attitudes.  This resulted in giving him a sense of himself not as a thief, but as an honest person, allied to truth and goodness.  For this teenage boy, as for Augustine so many centuries before, the will was both the instrument of change and the locus of a new sense of self.  Our will, then, is quite an important endowment.

SJC

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February 21: Inter-galactic Discoveries XXIV, It’s cold outside.

 

It was cold, too cold for pseudo-Chihuahuas to do more than put their noses outside the door but they were enjoying people watching from the bay window.

 

‘Look down there! It’s little Abel on the sands. What is he doing?’ Alfie was half wrapped in his blanket which had become a shared blanket, as so much was shared, freely, by the Ossyrians in dogs’ clothing, almost without their realising it was happening.

T got out his binoculars and soon focussed on the toddler, clad in blue wellington boots and a warm all-in-one suit. ‘Very interesting. We should go join them.’

‘But what is he doing?’ demanded Ajax, who could read the amusement shaking T’s shoulders, but not the reason for it.

‘Come and see,’ said T, shaking the dog leads, and off they went, past the Waste Land shelter and along the prom. Just by the Jubilee Clock, the dogs yanked their leads from T’s hand, turned tail with one accord and refused to go on to greet Will, Abel and his mother. T had to follow. When something made Will look up he just caught a glimpse of the dogs mounting the steps to their front door, with the Director some yards in the rear. He did not realise they were avoiding Abel, and T never told him.

Indoors, Alfie shivered: ‘Abel was wading about in that cold water at the edge of the sea and splashing rocks and laughing! I’ll never understand humans. He was enjoying it and his mother and Will were letting him do it, and they were laughing too.’

‘They can’t help sharing his fun, and they aren’t the sort to stop him doing it completely. Sun, Sand and Sea. That’s why we came to Margate.’

‘But not Sun, Sand, Sea and Splash!’ grumbled Alfie.

‘Lighten up boys,’ said T. ‘Laughter is part of being human. Why the wife of Abraham, mother of the great religions, even laughed at God and called her son ‘laughter’ or Isaac. But I don’t think the humans totally understand it themselves.’

margatesunset-21-1-17

Sunset over T and Alfie and Ajax’s house, Margate, January 2017.

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8 February: Freedom in forgiveness, Saint Josephine Bakhita.

wed-feb-8-bakhita
(Image from http://www.jesusmariasite.org)

 

Wednesday February 8th 2017

Today we remember Saint Josephine Bakhita, a woman who found the strength in God’s love to overcome painful memories of cruelty and injustice in her past experience of slavery.  Forgiveness can be a long process of letting go for so many of us, and we too need the help of God’s grace.

Once upon a time, I was caught up with a past hurt.   When I was much younger, somebody told me that I was ugly and wasn’t worth anything.  I went home and wept, looking in the mirror to see if I was really ugly.  The next day, I walked up to the person and announced to her that I was not ugly.  I became really angry and disassociated myself from her. Our parents intervened in the situation but it didn’t make any difference. We became enemies for years.

One day, I went to Mass and the Gospel teaching of forgiving seventy times seven times was read.  It dawned on me that there is no limit to how many times we can forgive one another. When I got home, I gave her a call and she could not believe I did that.  Tears ran down from my eyes and I felt a huge relief. I discovered I was holding myself in bondage all those years.

Sometimes we do things, thinking we want to hurt others and in real sense it is ourselves we are hurting.  From that experience, I realised that it is only in letting go that I am able to forgive myself and others.   It doesn’t matter how many times I have to do this.  As Saint Josephine said, ‘”The Lord has loved me so much: we must love everyone, we must be compassionate.”’

FMSL

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Autumn Lectures at FISC: “What is theology saying?”

austinFr Austin McCormack has been speaking on Thursday evenings this term: only three sessions remaining! I recommend these lectures to any Christian, including those from Reformation traditions who may wonder what we Catholics are all about. Please feel free to come to as many of these lectures as interest you.
Start time 19.00. You are asked to make a donation to cover expenses.
WT.
The subject of the course is:

“What is theology saying?”

8. 01/12: What morality did Jesus teach?
9. 08/12: Should we renounce the world or change it?
10. 15/12: Is there salvation in other religions?

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October 13: CONSCIENCE VI: Personal Conscience and External Authority

petworth.dairy (640x426)

If our conscience needs to be formed by truths propounded by the teaching authority of the Church, how, therefore, can our conscience be said to have within it “a law inscribed by God”?  That would suggest that we don’t need anyone to tell us what the truth requires of us.  External authority shouldn’t be needed.

This is one of the points that the then Cardinal Ratzinger addressed in a paper entitled “Conscience and Truth”, delivered in 1991.*  In the paper he asks, isn’t ‘conscience the highest moral norm which man is to follow, even in opposition to authority?  Authority, in this case, the Magisterium, may well speak of matters moral, but only in the sense of presenting conscience with material for its own deliberation.  Conscience would retain … the final word.’

With a profound penetration of the subject, Cardinal Ratzinger’s paper explored the question of whether conscience exists in opposition to authority.  We need to ask ourselves, he says, what faith is for the human person?  What is truth for us?  What does it do for us?  There are those, said Joseph Ratzinger, who seem to feel that faith is a very heavy burden that makes their life difficult.  There are those who feel that people who are weak perhaps shouldn’t be asked to shoulder the burden of faith, with all its moral obligations.  For such people, he points out, it is not really the truth that sets them free; rather they somehow feel that they need to be set free from the truth in order to be happy.  However, these are the attitudes that Cardinal Ratzinger’s paper challenges.  These attitudes, he maintains, come from a misunderstanding that exists on a deeper level – in a concept of conscience that is false.  To those who feel that faith and truth are burdens, he explains the misunderstanding they have about the nature of conscience.  He says, for such people conscience

…does not appear here as a window through which one can see outward to the common truth which builds and sustains us all.  Conscience does not mean man’s openness to the ground of his being, the power of perception for what is highest and most essential.  Rather, it appears as subjectivity’s protective shell into which man can escape and there hide from reality.

cave5

Conscience does not open the way to the redemptive road to truth – which either does not exist or, if it does, is too demanding.  It is the faculty that dispenses from truth.  It thereby becomes the justification for subjectivity, which would not like to have itself called into question.

These deep and penetrating lines perhaps need to be unpacked.  We can do this by simply reversing the negatives.  Then one begins to see the beauty of Cardinal Ratzinger’s understanding of the human conscience.  Conscience is a window onto the truth that builds and sustains all people; conscience is access to the ground of one’s being – one’s very heart; conscience is the capacity to perceive what is noblest and most vital in life; conscience is the redemptive road to truth.  Surely our conscience, rightly understood, is a part of ourselves that we cannot do without, that we should never wish to suppress.

SJC.

  • [Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, “Conscience and Truth, presented at the tenth Workshop for Bishops, February, 1991, Dallas, Texas, U.S.A., published in On Conscience, Two Essays by Joseph Ratzinger, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, CA, 2007].

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24 September: Intergalactic Discoveries, XII: Going Native.

darkevening

Alfie and Ajax were certainly changing, as T had observed. Inducing the Builder’s Dog to walk on duckweed was almost saying that which was not, and without Mrs Fox’s kind-hearted motive. Indeed motivation and emotions had bubbled up more and more frequently for the dogs as well as for T, frustrated in his mission to California.

On his return to Kent he was philosophical about it. ‘Not worth losing sleep over it. Let’s get back to Margate and regroup.’

For the dogs – or pseudo dogs – life was exhausting. People wanted to touch them, dogs wanted to chase them, cats hissed and spat. A far cry from the Ossyrian way of life, in atmospherically controlled dwelling pods, eating a scientifically designed diet, performing the social protocols according to seasons no-one had experienced since the Great Descent to the SubOceanic Halls and Pods.

Surface life on earth was painful and joyful in ways unknown in the plankton-lit world of Ossyria but how could they explain this to their co-citizens? How to describe an ache that was not a result of injury? The taste of forbidden food – and why was it forbidden? ‘A little of what you fancy does you good!’ Mrs Fox had said. The sensation of physical contact – at first unsettling, then craved. Alfie had grown to seek out Abel’s touch, and had taught Abel to be gentle by relaxing himself and thinking in tune with the little boy. There was little room for such fellow-feeling in the Pods, designed in long-ago desperate times for survival, not thriving. Why were all three less than anxious to return to their lives as Director, Droghmirrxz and Bogmerlg?

 

This follow-up report would be much more difficult to write than their first two had been.

WT.

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