Tag Archives: sacrifice

November 12. Truth telling XIII: the first casualty in war.

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It seems to have been the ancient Greek dramatist Aeschylus who first said that truth is the first casualty in war.

This poster sums that up. It was intended to attract young Irishmen to join the colours during the Great War of 1914-18. I return to the question we asked on November 6 two years ago: What sacrifices have been offered in modern industrial war and to what deities?

Truth, in this case, was sacrificed to the idols of Nationalism and Xenophobia. And  all too many young men were sacrificed.

Let nation speak peace unto nation.

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October 20, What is Theology Saying? XXXIII: Original Sin

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Welcome back to Friar Austin and his explorations of today’s thinking theologically. 

We have all heard of Original Sin – and there is abundant evidence that it is still with us. But what is it? Let us begin with recognising the fact that there is collective and social violence accompanying everyday living [starting with Cain and Abel]. It has been called humanity’s family secret [Sebastian Moore, OSB] – it is against this backdrop that one man shedding his blood becomes real.

Salvation through shedding blood has had every possible expression and meaning. To appreciate this better we need to be more aware not so much of how we get to God, as how God gets to us. Original Sin has things to tell us about ourselves in a way that highlights the wonder of salvation.

It is only natural to assume that what I desire starts and ends with me – I know what I want. But there is a prior question: do I make my desire or does my desiring make me? My desiring first comes through being aware of some other person desiring. This prompts me to follow, even imitate, until eventually and inevitably, imitation gives way to rivalry: I may like what you are wearing enough to do the same – but then seek to justify the choice as being mine only; it is in this way that I identify myself through being me against… [X has a big house I will get a bigger one] – And that is me.

Being passed-over causes resentment, and sets me against – what makes my desire mine is that it isn’t yours! The “me” is now in place through being opposed to the other [not me] as the fruit of my desire. By contrast, Jesus sees himself as only gift – given to me by Abba, to enjoy, and to know where I’m from and where I can go. This is the crux of the matter – not me through being opposed to any other… I’m me as only gift… Given by the totally other to me. And this is not just a personal reality it is social and cultural – waiting in the wings to be kick-started by any desire intense enough to do so. [Desire is what humankind has in place of animal instinct].

AMcC

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15 October: Women as Apostles, by Saint John XXIII

john xxiii

John XXIII’s opening paragraph really applies to any baptised Christian, and so does much of this extract. John concludes by reminding us that women were there from the beginning of the Church, and perhaps he challenges us all to act as one in what he calls a fusion of souls.

No soul consecrated to the Lord is dispensed from the sublime duty of continuing the saving mission of the Divine Redeemer.

The Church expects much from those who live in the silence of the cloister, and especially from there. They, like Moses, have their arms raised in prayer, conscious that in this prayerful attitude one obtains victory.

ther3So important is the contribution of women religious of the contemplative life to the apostolate that Pius XI wished to have as co-patron of the missions—and a rival therefore of St. Francis Xavier—not a Sister of the active life, but a Carmelite, St. Theresa of the Child Jesus.

May the Church militant feel that you are present wherever your spiritual contribution is needed for the good of souls, as well as for real human progress and human peace.

May those who are dedicated to the active life … strive in obedience to study and obtain the degrees which will allow you to surmount every difficulty. Thus, in addition to your merited and proven capability, you may be better appreciated also for your spirit of dedication, patience and sacrifice.

There is, moreover, the presage of further demands in the new countries which have entered the community of free nations. Without lessening one’s love for his own country, the world has become more than ever before a common fatherland. Many Sisters have already felt this call. The field is immense.

Not even the Sisters dedicated to contemplation are exempt from this duty. The people in certain regions of Africa and the Far East feel a greater attraction to contemplative life, which is more congenial to the development of their civilization.

The consecrated souls in the new secular institutes should know also that their work is appreciated and that they are encouraged to contribute toward making the Gospel penetrate every facet of the modern world.

 May the spirit of Pentecost prevail over your chosen families and may it unite them in that fusion of souls which was seen in the cenacle where, together with the Mother of God and the Apostles, several pious women were to be found (Acts 1:14).

We thank God for the families we have been given, but also for our friends who are sisters, especially the Littlehampton Sisters, the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Saint Joseph and the  Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood, who were all part of the community at the Franciscan International Study Centre.

 

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11 October: Feast of Saint John XXIII

john xxiii

I thought we would celebrate the Feast of Good Pope John with an extract from his writings. In 1962 He wrote to women religious – sisters in other words – a letter called ‘Il Tiempo Massimo’. Here he talks about prayer. 

The Church will always encourage its daughters who, in order to conform more perfectly to the call of the Divine Master, give themselves in the contemplative life.

May all of you meditate on this truth, beloved daughters, who are justly called “quasi apes argumentosae” (like industrious bees), because you are in the constant practice of the fourteen works of mercy in sisterly community with your other fellow Sisters. You also who are consecrated to God in the secular institutes must derive all the efficacy of your undertakings from prayer.

The life offered to the Lord entails difficulties and sacrifices like any other form of coexistence. Only prayer gives the gift of happy perseverance in it. The good works to which you dedicate yourselves are not always crowned with success. You meet with disappointments, misunderstanding and ingratitude.

Without the help of prayer you could not continue along on this hard road. And do not forget that a wrongly understood dynamism could lead you to fall into that “heresy of action” which was reproved by our predecessors. Having overcome this danger, you can be confident that you are definitely co-operators in the salvation of souls, and you will add merits to your crown.

All of you, whether dedicated to a contemplative or an active life, should understand the expression “life of prayer.” It entails not a mechanical repetition of formulas but is rather the irreplaceable means by which one enters into intimacy with the Lord, to better understand the dignity of being daughters of God and spouses of the Holy Spirit, the “sweet guest of the soul” Who speaks to those who know how to listen in recollection.

May we all learn how to listen to the Holy Spirit in the silence of our soul. And let’s be grateful for the prayer and work of all the sisters upholding the Church throughout the world.

 

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18 August: Mites.

footwash

Father Andrew, the pioneering Anglican Franciscan, returned time and again to the story of the Widow’s mite.

” The man who counted the collection judged the widow by the mites and said to himself, ‘Two mites! What’s the good of that?”

“Our Lord understood all the widow’s brave life and humble sacrifice, and His judgement was, ‘She has given MORE than anyone else.’ Well now, there are ‘mites’ of penitence, and ‘mites’ of spiritual capacity. ‘She has done what she could,’ He said of another, who only cried and washed His feet. You see, he understood her, and he understands you and me.

“God bless and keep and guide you, my dear child.”

From The Life and Letters of Fr Andrew, London, Mowbray, 1948, p 210.

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13 August, What is Theology Saying? XXIV: In the Image of God

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We are imago Dei not in some external, visible way but in the depth of our experience when we look in on ourselves and share ourselves with others. To think of Jesus as the hollow shell of a man with a divine inside we would miss the real channel of divine revelation – the human inside.

Jesus experienced a gradual consciousness of himself, his ordinary human feelings about friendship and loneliness, loyalty and betrayal, life and death and sharing a common destiny for all. Jesus learned to speak, think and pray and to figure out the will of the Father from the Hebrew Scriptures, from the faith of those around him and from what was happening in the larger world. He exercised his prophetic mission in different ways and by trial and error, followed through with those that best served his purpose.

He knew there was a price to pay for this: he would be arrested and got rid of. He freely chose to stand his ground and continue his mission; through prayer and reflection he came to see his coming death as an innocent sacrifice for the lives of others.

How could his consciousness be that of God and man at the same time? God does not think conceptually, nor does God know the way we know, when we speak of God as a person we are using analogy. God is mystery, we have no idea of knowing how God knows. When we speak of Jesus as human we know what we mean, when we speak of Jesus as divine we do not know what we mean. We know we do not mean a simple equation like Mrs Jones is the former Susan Smith because God is more beyond personhood than simply person.

AMcC

Photo from Monica Tobon

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July 30. 100 years ago today: Prayer of a Soldier in France.

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Joyce (Alfred Joyce) Kilmer was an American Catholic Poet who died at the front this day 100 years ago. He is buried at the Oise-Aisne cemetery shown above. In this poem he comes to terms with the everyday suffering of the soldier by laying it alongside the passion of Jesus. Our second post today is a response to KIlmer’s verses from a living American poet, our friend Christina Chase.

I have found it difficult to reconcile the link people have made between Christ’s sacrifice and the soldier at war, prepared to be killed but also prepared to kill, for his country. What right does the country have to demand either sacrifice?

But here is one man. One man’s pain and suffering, offered, not to his country, but to the one true Man who was the one true God. A lesson in that for each of us.

Prayer of a Soldier in France

My shoulders ache beneath my pack 

(Lie easier, Cross, upon His back). 

I march with feet that burn and smart 

(Tread, Holy Feet, upon my heart). 

Men shout at me who may not speak 

(They scourged Thy back and smote Thy cheek). 

I may not lift a hand to clear 

My eyes of salty drops that sear. 

(Then shall my fickle soul forget 

Thy agony of Bloody Sweat?) 

My rifle hand is stiff and numb 

(From Thy pierced palm red rivers come). 

Lord, Thou didst suffer more for me 

Than all the hosts of land and sea. 

So let me render back again 

This millionth of Thy gift. Amen. 

Joycekilmersignature

Oise-Aisne Cemetery,  official site.
Signature: Open Access, via Wikipedia  

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26 July: Mio Nido.

Alfred Noble, inventor of dynamite, hoped his high explosives would make an end of war sooner than international peace congresses. Mutually Assured Destruction as a deterrent has turned out to be MAD indeed. Nobel himself died, a lonely man, in his Italian Villa, ‘Mio Nido’, My Nest. But he left his prizes.

In 1955 the United Nations High Commission for Refugees was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for what is a practical work of peace. Here are a few excerpts from the acceptance speech of the High Commissioner, Dr. Gerrit Jan van Heuven Goedhart.

“Der Mensch braucht ein Plätzchen

Und wär’s noch so klein

Von dem er kann sagen

Sieh’ hier dast ist mein

Hier lebe ich hier liebe ich

Hier ruhe ich aus

Hier ist meine Heimat

Hier bin ich zu Haus”.

(A man needs a little place, small as it may be, of which he can say:This is mine. Here I live, here I love, here I find my rest. This is my fatherland, this is my home!”)

The essence of the refugee problem is very, very simple. It is: to find ‘ein Plätzchen,’ to find a ‘Mio Nido’ for people who for reasons of persecution have been obliged to leave their native country and who have therefore become ‘uprooted’ and homeless.”

The refugee problem has nothing to do with charity. It is not the problem of people to be pitied but far more the problem of people to be admired. It is the problem of people who somewhere, somehow, sometime had the courage to give up the feeling of belonging, which they possessed, rather than abandon the human freedom which they valued more highly … And the refugee can solve his problem only by striking new roots.

Many years ago I participated in a discussion on the problem of international education. After many experts had presented their complicated theories, an old headmaster of a certain school got up and quietly said: “There is only one system of education, through love and one’s own example.” He was right. What is true for education is true also for the refugee problem of today. With love and our own example – example in the sense of sacrifice – it can be solved. And if in the cynical times in which we live someone might be inclined to laugh at “love” and “examples” as factors in politics, he would do well to be reminded of Nansen’s hardhitting, direct and courageous words, based on a life full of sacrifice and devotion: “Love of man is practical policy”.

Find the full text here. 

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April 13: Feeling the Fire: I

We don’t follow many blogs, but Ignatius’s As a Little Child is one I am always glad to see and occasionally reply to. He put this out a few weeks ago, and has graciously allowed me to use it – and my reply – here. Over to Ignatius; a response tomorrow.

Can I honestly say, that when I look at myself or at my Church, locally or universally, that I recognise followers of Jesus, the Body of Christ, or the Kingdom of Heaven?

‘I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!’ [Lk12:49]

Where is this fire?!

I don’t see it in my life. And I rarely hear it in homilies. And I hardly see it in the Church. I start to wonder if we’ve forgotten Jesus.

There are saints amongst us, though. There are holy bishops and priests and religious and lay people, living the gospel. There are orders, and movements and organisations and just people. There are many people out there who sacrifice themselves with Jesus, living the reckless, radical love of the Father.

I just wish it were the rule. I wish that I heard this fire in every homily, and saw it in every Church activity. I wish that we were obviously so much more than a club, or an NGO. I wish that this fire was burning in all my flesh, down to the marrow. But I’ve read that all that’s needed to become a saint, is to will it. God wills it already; we just need to co-operate, accept His grace, obey His gospel.

And the truth is, there’s no real life apart from Jesus’ life. It’s a choice between life and — far worse than death– not-life. I could perhaps call it half-life, but I think not-life better captures the emptiness I’m thinking of. Or being “lukewarm”. 

 

I hope I’m not alone in feeling this way. Please pray with me, that we will together be set on Jesus-fire.

 

 

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6 March: At-one-ment

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The Eildon Hills and the countryside where Duns Scotus was born.

Janet and I were discussing matters theological over dinner. What is communal living, like L’Arche, about? I recalled the suffering manifest in some core members from the early days of the community, people who had left incarceration in hospitals and had to learn that they could live a life where they were valued.

From their suffering we moved to talk of the Crucifixion, where Christians have some explaining to do. It’s not difficult to imagine people concluding that a God who demanded the sacrifice of animals, let alone human beings is a cruel god, not a loving shepherd. Janet shared how the Franciscan Richard Rohr takes sacrifice, building on the work of his confrere, John Duns Scotus, in this reflection from his website: Atonement not atonement .

Well worth reading during Lent. Jesus came to change the mind of humanity about God, as Friar Richard says, not the other way about.

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