Thursday, February 27, 2014


Live this day.  Don’t live in the past.  Regret for the past is a waste of spirit.  The future is a season unborn.  Don’t stare off into the east hoping for a better day tomorrow.  This moment is now.  It is all we have.

Live this day.  The rain has come after a mild winter and a long drought.  It flows through canyons and stream beds that were dry only yesterday.  Things change.  Impermanence.  Suffering.  These are the companions accompanying us on our journey.  Embrace them.

Live this day.  Listen to the music and the silence.  Dance, even when you are the only one who hears the drumbeats in the distance.  Speak only when you can improve the silence.  The way that can be spoken is not the way.  Bear witness.

Live this day.  We are all dying from the moment we are born.  All stories move to their inevitable conclusions.  In every death, a resurrection.  In every cross, a redemption.  Open the church of your heart.  See infinity in the eyes of the other.  The story is eternal; we are only chapters in the greater narrative.

Live this day.  The sky always loves you no matter what you’ve done.  There is no greater sin than to have never lived.  A boat longing for the sea, yet afraid.  Don’t let life be too strong for you; it takes life to love life.  This is the distance we must travel, and in the end, we finish as we were born, naked and alone.

Live this day.  On cold and windy mornings it sometimes seems as if our hearts might burst.  Those who have gone never truly leave us. The stone rests at the bottom of the river of life.  Its metallic taste flavors every drop of water.  The river is everywhere at once; at the source, in the rushes and where a million drops fall into the greater sea to become one with the force of completion.  So we must live within the paradox—separate as part of a greater whole.  The river runs.

Live this day.  There is no past, there is no future.  There is just this moment.  Become a wise child, a holy sinner, a loving stranger.  We are all travelers in a foreign country.  This world does not belong to us.  We are only passing through this existence.

Live this day.  To be a teacher, you must forget everything and remember what it is like to be shrouded in darkness.  Remember the absence.  See every child as one who will spend 75 years being born and then die content having fought hard to come into this world only to slip away on a whisper of a last breath.  To live is to rage against the moon.  To live is to feel every life as your own.  To be a teacher means to see with the eyes of a child and relish every chance to learn, realizing that wisdom is the only treasure you’ll carry with you into the next life.

Live this day, in the wind and rain and stars.  In spring, summer, fall, and winter.  And when you pass, we will all say that even though you’ve gone, your journey goes on in blessed memory, in another place and time, another dimension, where you take the wings of dawn to live another day.

Thank you:      Walon Green
                        Mahatma Gandhi
                        Lao Tzu
                        Edgar Lee Masters
                        Hermann Hesse
                        Book of Psalms

Friday, February 14, 2014

Evangelii Gaudium

Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis’ recent apostolic exhortation, sets a tone and direction for Catholics the world over.  The document is a breath of fresh air after the closed and vaguely malevolent papacy of Benedict XVI.

Here is a rundown of Francis’ ideas:  a new chapter of evangelization—check; the evils of consumerism and the pursuit of material goods—check; a call to renew the joy of faith, even in crisis—check; the need to serve the poor—check; revamping the Church’s rituals, methods, language and structure—check; a revitalization of parishes and schools—check; the need for Catholics to be bold and creative in thought and action—check; the call to remember Church history, Aquinas, Vatican II, etc.—check; the exhortation to abandon our throw-away culture and global indifference to the plight of others—check; the call to recognize laity as central to the Church’s mission—check; the recognition of the importance of women in the Church, although not important enough to be ordained priests—check; the need to find common ground between science and theology—check; how to write and deliver an effective homily—check; recognize the dignity of each human life, increase dialogue with other faiths, avoid judgment, cultivate humility, find a contemplative spirit—check, check, check, check, check.

This is Francis’ first exhortation since he took office.  It is a profoundly humanistic and modern document.  If he is true to his word here, his papacy will be a transformative one, but he will need to bring along the old guard Catholics, or quietly retire them and send them down the path with Benedict XVI.  (History may record his resignation as the greatest act of his papacy.)

It is difficult to take Francis’ social teaching with the elephant in the room:  the molestation scandal that has plagued the Church and embroiled it in legal and criminal proceedings.  How he deals with this blight on the Church going forward will define his time in the Vatican.  To successfully evangelize, people must fully trust the messenger.  Among the faithful and in the eyes of the world, that trust has been shattered and not much has been done to rebuild it.  In fact, what little that has been done was mandated by legal threats and challenges, not willingly by the Church itself.  This is not a position of transparency or reformation.  For the Church it has been all defense and no contrition beyond token words.

With Evangelii Gaudium, the actions implied, the promised reforms, offer tantalizing clues to how Catholicism may restore its dynamic presence in the world.  Already, Francis has launched reforms of the Curia and Vatican bank.  He has quietly pushed out stale administrators and hardliners in favor of his own team.  He has advocated a ministry to the poor and downtrodden, a shout-out to the liberation theology of Latin America from where he originates.  “I want a Church which is poor and for the poor,” he writes in the exhortation.  These are positive, encouraging signs.

What is most powerful in Evangelii Gaudium is the language:  imagistic, philosophical, poetic, metaphysical.  It is all there in the text, the blueprint for the future.  Catholics must “maintain a spirit of joy in the midst of a task so demanding and challenging that it engages our entire life,” he tells us.

“We need to remember that all religious teaching ultimately has to be reflected in the teacher’s way of life,” Francis writes.  All teaching, secular and religious, must reflect the life of the teacher, as it did for Jesus and Socrates.

Francis as cultural critic:  “In the prevailing culture, priority is given to the outward, the immediate, the visible, the quick, the superficial and the provisional.”

Francis the prophet:  “…to read the signs of the times it is helpful to listen to young people and the elderly.”  He also crosses borders:  “…cultural diversity is not a threat to Church unity,” and it may in fact be the key to survival.

There is much to love in this novel-length apostolic exhortation.  Of course, this is not all Francis’ doing.  He is responding to the Synod of Bishops that took place before his election.  Still, he manages to put his unique stamp on the results of this Synod, since the exhortation always serves as a summary and commentary on the discussions of this papal advisory group.  He outlines the formidable challenges facing the Catholic Church as the 21st century continues to unfold.  He is not going to rest on the power of the papal throne.  From all appearances, he is a man of action, and an active, forward-thinking pope is what Catholics need to keep the faith relevant and dynamic in a changing world.