Showing posts with label Catholicism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Catholicism. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

St. Martin's Lent: Litany For Peace

White Poppies For Peace

We would like to invite all of our friends and associates, who feel called, to join us in prayer on November the 11th, the Feast of St. Martin of Tours, praying for the peace of ourselves, our communities, and the world. As is our tradition, we will be offering the Litany For Peace every hour on the hour. Won’t you please join your prayer with ours? 

Litany For Peace By Archbishop Karl PrĂ¼ter 

Leader: Lord, Heavenly Father help us to become peacemakers, that we may be called, "The Children of God." 

All: Lord, hear our prayer, and grant us Thy peace. 

Leader: Lord, Heavenly Father, help us purge ourselves of those attributes which make not for peace but which set the stage for war. 

All: Lord hear our prayer, and grant us Thy peace. 

Leader: Lord, open our minds to see ourselves as Thou seest us, or even, as others see us, and save us from all unwillingness to know our infirmities. 

All: Lord, hear our prayer, and grant us Thy peace. 

Leader: From all hasty utterances of impatience; from the retort of irritation and the taunt of sarcasm; from all infirmity of temper in provoking or being provoked; from love of unkind gossip, and from all idle words that may do hurt, save us, O Lord. 

All: Lord, hear our prayer, and grant us Thy peace. 

Leader: Grant us, O Lord, the strength to obey Thy commandments, that we defraud our brother in nothing. May we never commit adultery or do anything to disturb our neighbor's home or family. 

All: Lord, hear our prayer, and grant us Thy peace. 

Leader: Lord, Heavenly Father, grant that we covet nothing that is our neighbors, neither his house, nor his auto, his bank account, his job, nor anything that is our neighbors. 

All: Lord, hear our prayer, and grant us Thy peace. 

Leader: Heavenly Father, help us to maintain peace within our own households, with our neighbors in our communities, within our own nations, and in the world. 

All: Lord, hear our prayer, and grant us Thy peace. 

Leader: Lord, Heavenly Father we pray not only for the absence of war, but more especially for Thy peace, which passeth all understanding. 

All: Lord, hear our prayer, and grant us Thy peace. 

Leader: Lord, Heavenly Father, grant us Christ's wish that we may become One with Him, and with Thee; that in union with Thee, we may desire only what Thou dost desire, and thus come to know Thy perfect peace. 

All: Lord, hear our prayer, and grant us Thy peace, this day and for evermore. Amen.

St. Martin's Lent

St. Martin and the Beggar
By Alfred Tethrl 1836

As we begin St. Martin's Lent I just wanted to wish every a happy St. Martin's Day!  May the peace of Christ be always with you and may you always choose to follow the Prince of Peace!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

VanLife Day 16 or Serendipity, Saint Walburga, and Matthew Shepard

I started my day on a beautiful morning in Colorado Springs.  I had spent the previous evening boondocked next to a friends fifth wheel in an RV park.  I had my second shower in 16 days and hit the road.

I was zipping through Colorado and minding my own business when Google told me to jump off the highway and hop on a county road.  It sounded dubious to me but I reluctantly acquiesced.  I was getting off an interstate onto Owl Canyon County Road.  My first thought was, nope, nada, getting back on the highway and then the wanderer in me said, "why not?"  So, I kept going.

It wasn't too long until I came to a roundabout in the middle of nowhere and exited onto a dirt road, again, following Google's instructions.  At this point I wished I had stayed on the highway and wished I had my friend Jerry's new atlas book he had shared with me the day before I left the Ozarks.

So here I am on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere Colorado and then it gets even more sketch, as if that were possible. The dirt road is being grated and resurfaced.  Now I wait with a worker holding a stop sign in my way.

It goes on, and on, and on, and on...

Finally I get the go ahead to go though.  I can here the mud slapping all over the Kraken and I am just imagining what poor Peregrine clinging to the back of the van will look like.  What a mess.\

I'm dumped out one what appears to be a secondary road and Google spurs me onward.  It's at least a beautiful drive through some wonderful canyons and then I see a sign.  Abbey of St. Walburga.  I pass it at first because I was doing about 65 mph so I slow down and turn around, heading back to the main gate.  I tried to Google the abbey to learn more about it but as luck would have it Google wasn't cooperating.  Perhaps she was out to lunch.

I pull in and drive back into the abbey grounds.  It was a Roman Catholic Benedictine abbey full of welcoming and warmhearted nuns.  What a delight. I explored the abbey, the chapel, the gift store, and the grounds.  The nuns gifted me with a handmade rosary.  What a treasure and what a lovely place.

I had complained to a friend about my seeming misadventure with Google before I found the abbey.  He suggested Google knows me and he's probably right.  However you look at it, is was a serendipitous event and I was glad for it.

After the that I headed into Wyoming.  I was still coming off my happy high from my visit to the abbey when I rolled into Laramie. My thoughts immediately turned toward Matthew Shepard, a young man who was a student at the University of Wyoming who was tortured and beaten and left for dead for being gay.  If you'll click on his name it will take you to a link about him where you can learn more.  You owe it to yourself to lean about Matt if you don't know much or anything about him.

My thoughts were consumed by the seeming juxtaposition of my visits that morning within the context of just having watched the movie Milk the night before. The horror of homophobia and fundamentalism swirled in my mind for sometime as I drove.  I know it's not popular to say these days but Matthew remains in my thoughts and prayers as do the sisters from the abbey.

Wyoming was amazing.  It was a beautiful crisp and clear spring day and everything that could be green was.  The vistas were simply breath taking.  I drove through several sporadic sunny rain showers but after one in particular the heavy scent of fresh sage filled the Kraken.  It was glorious to say the least.  It felt and smelled like a vapor smudging and it helped to clear my mind of the lingering sadness over my trip through Laramie.  Its freshness and clarity reminded me of hope and in the words of Harvey Milk, "You've gotta give them hope!"

It was a wonderful day in #VanLife and one I won't soon forget.

Monday, May 14, 2018

VanLife: Day 6 or The Shoes of the Fisherman

Today was Sunday and that meant going in later to the glass shop, Crystal Revelations, and getting off earlier because the mall's hours are shortened on Sunday.  Most malls in the United States follow this pattern: opening around noon and closing just before dinner time.  It's a throwback to the old Blue Laws that were in effect for many years which either prohibited outright or limited shopping on Sundays.  I always look forward to Sundays in malls because of that.  It's almost like a day off.

After work and a lite dinner and retired to the Kraken.  For the first time since I've been in the van, I felt like watching a movie or something on my Chromebook.  Always before I've tried to be very quiet because my windows were open and I didn't want to draw any attention to myself nor the van.  Last night I finally felt comfortable enough to do the movie thing.  There was no popcorn but it was a swell movie on a fantastic screen.  Being only a few inches from my face it seemed like an Imax theater screen!

The movie I settled on was an old favorite, "The Shoes of the Fisheman" a 1968 film adapted from a novel of the same title written by Morris West.  In short it's about a newly elected Roman Catholic Pope who sells the Vatican's treasures to help a starving China and prevent a nuclear world war.  There are some side plots and stories as well that are worthy in and of themselves.  You can read a synopsis of the movie here.

One of the things that's memorable to me from that story line is the idea of the Christian church living into its vows, to care for the "least of these"  written about in the Gospel of St. Matthew 25:1-46

1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. 
2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. 
3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: 
4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. 
5 While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. 
6 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. 
7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. 
8 And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. 
9 But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. 
10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. 
11 Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. 
12 But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. 
13 Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. 
14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. 
15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. 
16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. 
17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. 
18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money. 
19 After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. 
20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. 
21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 
22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. 
23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 
24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: 
25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. 
26 His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: 
27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. 
28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. 
29 For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. 
30 And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 
31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 
32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 
33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 
41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 
42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 
43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 
44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 
45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 
46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

Now, I don't pretend to be a good Christian and in my embrace of minimalism I don't for a moment think I'm saving the world nor is that even a consideration of mine.  My motives are purely selfish: in embracing minimalism, I'm saving myself.

Now it is true I'm part of a tiny religious order.  On a good day there are about half a dozen of us scattered around the country.  We're members of the Order of the Shepherd's Heart, an ecumenical Celtic catholic religious order.  We follow a Common Rule that, among other things, encourages us to live simple, thoughtful, authentic, and intentional lives.  I'm not very good at that either but it's what I strive towards.

In my minimizing I think I worried people and I think they asked others around me questions such as, "Is he dying?" "Is he having a midlife crisis?"  "Is he selling things off because he's going broke and needs money?"  Some even asked me these questions themselves.  My answer was most always the same,  "No," I'd say, "I'm just trying to live into my vows."  And that was a true statement because what I was saying is that I'm trying to live authentically as myself, my whole self.

There's something to be said about living simply so that others may simply live and there's also something to be said about living into your vows, or perhaps living into your values so that your life takes on an intrinsic authenticity.  You are who you say you are.  That's part of the notion of one identity that I've spoken of before.

That's the thing that comes to my mind when I watch the film "The Shoes of the Fisherman" and see Pope Kiril, played by Gregory Peck, living into his vows as Pope of the Roman Catholic Church and as a Christian.  He put his money where his mouth was or rather he put the money of the church where its mouth was.  And for that, crowds cheer in St. Peter's Square.

Now it's easy to pick on institutions whether it's the Roman Catholic Church, Walmart, or some other corporation when they're doing something we perceive as wrong or that goes against our particular values.  How much harder is it to turn that discerning eye upon ourselves?  You know, those institutions are made up of folk and folk are folk and there's nothing queer as folk and that's you and me!  There is no us and them.  There is only us.

Thomas Merton wrote,“For the world to be changed, man himself must begin to change it, he must take the initiative, he must step forth and make a new kind of history. The change begins within himself.”

I think that's the only authentic change we can offer - our own.  And it we strive to do that, we may not change the world on a grand scale the way Pope Kiril did in the movie, but we'll change our world and that's real.  That's authentic.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

VanLife: Day 5 or Minimalism and Me

As I wrestled with space in the van today I thought of all the things I've had over the years and all the things one really needs.  Hello room, I'm a collector.

Covetousness is a branching subset representing and blending several of the Seven Deadly Sins, also known as Capital Vices.  Capital Vices, it sounds so 21st century.  Let's stick with deadly sins because they can kill you, if not always literally then figuratively at least.  They are: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth. Covetousness which seems to be an impetus to many of the seven deadlies is perhaps my favorite sin of all.

Now please let me explain, I don't covet in the normal sense that one might think of when we think of coveting: images of wanting to have the things your neighbor does or your friends at work do or some celebrity enjoys.  Usually when we think of coveting we think of coveting someone else's stuff.  That seldom happens to me.  I'm so finicky or some might suggest, and do, obsessive compulsive, that I seldom find things most other people like to fit into my sense of beauty/quality or offer that sense of completion that comes with possessing something you really enjoy.  No, I seldom covet other people's things.  However, it is so very true that I covet my own things!

I've already suggested that I'm very picky and that I tend to obsess over things matching, fitting, fulfilling, or otherwise pleasing my sense of form and order.  So, when I find something and settle on it, most always it's because it's ticked off all the check marks on my checklist of criteria in regard to my sense of quality.  When that happens, I covet that thing.  I've been known to buy multiples of certain items when I find things I truly see as quality because I'm just sure they'll discontinue it next season, next week, or change it in some way in the next year.  I like things and I like my things to be consistent and once again, in good order.

One of my several storage units after emptying it. It had been full.

As a result of this deadly sin of mine, I've collected tons of stuff over the years and I do literally mean tons.  I have filled house, shops, vehicles, and warehouses full of stuff.  Not all of it treasured items but by and large much of it, in it's own context and way.  I have paid for excess storage facilities all of my adult life, culminating in ultimately having three 14' X 40' storage units, one 10' X 24' unit, and one 10' X 20' unit.  At some of the same time I had a 2000 sqft gallery full of fixtures and inventory, a church full of churchy things, a 1000 sqft home full of furniture, and almost always an SUV, truck, and or van full of miscellaneous stuff.  I must at this point give a nod to my collection of over 8000 books as well.  That was perhaps my most serious collection of all and one of my most dear collections.  I was drowning in stuff and spent tens of thousands of dollars housing it.

I honestly got to the point where I felt all of the stuff I had collected was crushing me and it was.  It was crushing the life out of me one day at a time, week after week, month after month, and year after year.

It was time to do something about all the stuff.  Dare I say downsize?  I started about 6 years ago doing just that and it has taken every bit of that time to divest myself of my collection. I hauled it away, gave it away, and redistributed it as best I could.  I sold some of it, mailed some of it, pitched some of it, donated much of it, recycled some of it, and rid myself of each piece one way or another.  It was a monumental effort that took six years and in many way continues even today.

Now I agonize over every item I acquire or keep.  It simply must check off most of my list on quality and utility or I simply don't acquire or keep it.  If something fails to live up to my expectations after being acquired it isn't kept for possible future use.  It's re-homed, whatever that might mean.

My goal is to keep minimizing as possible and at least when one thing comes in at least one thing goes away.  Today that meant pitching an old worn out pair of tennis shoes and ten pairs of socks in favor of an elegant, utilitarian, and quality pair of Chacos sandals, the Mega Z Cloud to be exact.

My embrace of minimalism has certainly offered a new outlook for me and a new rule by which I measure my life and relationship with things.  Living in a van also helps to bring that into very clear and practical focus when I stumble over things in the night and then go bump!

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Day Seven The Seven Days of Creation: Day of Rest

"Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. " -Genesis 2:1-3

Day 7 of Creation: "Day of Rest"

"Day of Rest"
24" X 36" Acrylic on Canvas
By Brian Ernest Brown, OSH
"The Painting Bishop"

When was the last time you rested? I mean, REALLY rested? I bet you don't know do you?! Or if you do remember it was more than likely some time ago. God thought it was important enough to do it and in fact He thought so much of it that He blessed the day and made it holy. It should be equally important to us. One day of the week to enjoy creation, one another, and ourselves. What's that worth? Priceless! Take time off and keep the day holy. None of us own our next breath. I know that I'm really bad about taking time off but I intend to turn over a new leaf and would invite you to do the same. It's never too late until it's too late! Enjoy!

Friday, May 4, 2018

Day Six The Seven Days of Creation: From His Hands

"And God said, 'Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.' And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

Then God said, 'Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.' So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.'

Then God said, 'I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.' And it was so.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day. " -Genesis 1:24-31

Day 6 of Creation: "From His Hands"

"From His Hands"
24" X 36" Acrylic on Canvas
By Brian Ernest Brown, OSH
"The Painting Bishop"

From His hands we were made, in His image, and he said we were very good. God delighted in our creation even with the certain knowledge of our culpability in His crucifixion. I imagined the nail marks in those life giving hands as He sculpted us from the earth and the bittersweet moment of our creation as I worked with the paint on the canvas. If God has such unconditional love for us, and we were made in His image, why do we find it so hard to have unconditional love for one another, also made in His image, regardless?

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Day Five The Seven Days of Creation: Feathers and Fins

"And God said, 'Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.' So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, 'Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.' And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day." -Genesis 1:20-23

Day 5 of Creation: "Feathers and Fins"

"Feathers and Fins"
24" X 36" Acrylic on Canvas
By Brian Ernest Brown, OSH
"The Painting Bishop"

Being a great lover of the ocean I really enjoyed this painting and all the things that happened to pop up as I went. I kept envisioning the great "sea monsters" of the deep and what fun God must have had creating the myriad of birds that live on this planet and the exotic, almost mystical, sea creatures that swim the oceans. For me, this painting not only delights my vision and encourages my imagination but it also it seems to have a way of conveying a symphony of sound to my ears. If I try hard enough I can just hear the wind and the waves...

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Day Four The Seven Days of Creation: Final Frontier

"And God said, 'Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.' And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day." -Genesis 1:14-19

Day 4 of Creation: "Final Frontier"

“Final Frontier”
24″ X 36″ Acrylic on Canvas
By Brian Ernest Brown, OSH
“The Painting Bishop”

The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars created on the fourth day. Can you imagine, in the words of Carl Sagan, the billions and billions of stars out there? Growing up with science fiction all around me, space captured my attention like nothing else could. The possibilities of life on other planets enthralled me. The depth and beauty of space awed me. As an adult and as a Christian God’s joy and creativity in the creation of the universe captivates and astounds me. I hold dear a dream of exploring the final frontier after I pass from this life someday: to walk barefoot on the moon, with moon dust between my toes. What a treat!

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Day Three The Seven Days of Creation: Groundbreaking

"And God said, 'Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.' And it was so. God called the dry ground land, and the gathered waters he called seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, 'Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.' And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning the third day." -Genesis 1:9-13
Day 3 of Creation: "Groundbreaking"

24" X 36" Acrylic on Canvas 
By Brian Ernest Brown, OSH 
"The Painting Bishop" 

Imagine the forces in gathering the seas and creating the earth! The shear heat as the core of the earth forms, spills over and gives birth to dry land. The primal forces of rocks and mountains shoved toward the heavens creating cliffs, caves, plateaus, and valleys!

I tried to capture the movement, shear power, and controlled chaos of the third day while seeding the readied ground with the very beginnings of the wild growing things, vines, flowers, grass, and trees.

No front loaders, bulldozers, earth-movers, or the like. Just the awesome hand of God and His unlimited imagination. God of Power, God of Might!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Day Two The Seven Days of Creation: Water From Heaven

“And God said,’“Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.’ So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault sky. And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.” -Genesis 1:6-8
Day 2 of Creation: "Water From Heaven"

“Water From Heaven”
24″ X 36″ Acrylic on Canvas
By Brian Ernest Brown, OSH
“The Painting Bishop”

I really enjoyed this one, capturing the separation of the waters from the heavens was a task I wasn’t sure I was up to but I turned up one of Liam Lawton’s cds , “The Could’s Veil” and away I went. This also seems to be among the favorites of the series but I’ll let you be the judge.

When we think of creation often our thoughts are caged by ages of interpretation of Holy Scripture and the familiarity of the story but can you imagine the creative forces? Can you imagine the power? Can you imagine the joy? Can you imagine the love? I did, if only in my limited ability. God is indeed an awesome God!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Easter Resurrection: Grace Spilling Over

"Dancing Jesus" Sterling Silver Pendant Crafted by Brian Ernest Brown

We’ve all heard the Easter story many, many times. We’ve heard it told at least every Easter throughout our childhood and hopefully if we’ve been faithful attendees at church we’ve also heard it on into our adulthood. We’ve heard it so many times that, dare I ask, has the story has become less inspiring and awe-filled and simply repetitive and sadly maybe a little more mundane to us? Or am I wrong and we’re all moved to tears every time the crowd yells, “crucify him” as the Passion narrative is re-enacted?

I myself am moved to tears and near speechlessness during the Passion narrative year after year but even so, I am left with the question that I imagine haunted the minds of the apostles and friends of Jesus, the question of “okay, what now?”

I have a sterling silver cross I crafted many, many years ago while in college that I call, “The Dancing Jesus” and I think this image is part of the answer to the question of “okay, what now.” Unlike so many other representations, the crucifix pendant I crafted is somewhat abstract and demonstrative rather than a creation of representational realism. Christ’s body forms the cross in an almost sensual way and if one looks hard enough one can see life, movement, triumph, and celebration within this small silver interpretation of the crucifixion, an interpretation I call “The Dancing Jesus.”

The inspiration for the pendant came after reading a passage from the Gospel of St. Matthew 27:51-53. Never before had I realized that others were resurrected during that time! How had I missed that? Well, as it turns out many of us have missed that little fact all of our Christian lives. Wow!

The vision I was given was one of dance, of celebration, of triumph, of empowerment, and of love. It was as if a light, unable to be contained, spilled out of the darkness and brought light to the dark corners of the world, to the darkest corners of our souls. In the moment of Christ’s death, overpowering grace spilled out upon the entirety of creation and changed the whole world. The joy and permeating grace couldn’t be contained and it seeped into the depths of rock and soil and transformed or re-created men and women long dead, raising their bodies from the earth and empowering them to go out and proclaim the Good News – the earth shattering, death defeating, empowering love of God: Christ is risen!

While it is important to recognize our own sinfulness and need for grace during this time of the church year let us not stop there, soaking up grace and reveling in our own individual salvation. Let us not neglect the empowerment that is offered to us as Christians to “raise the dead” in celebration and remembrance of what Christ has done for us, indeed for the entire world!

"And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." -Marianne Williamson from her book A Return to Love

That is the meaning of Easter! That is the empowerment that Christ offers each one of us! That is what we are called to do by virtue of His crucifixion, death, resurrection, and ascension! As Christians we are called to love fiercely and sacrificially, we are called to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth, we are called to baptize, and we are called to empower others to do the same. That’s what Christ did for us and is still doing!

I invite you to do the same this Easter season. May the overpowering grace of this Easter Resurrection pour over you and forever change your life! May Christ illumine the darkest corners of your soul and shine through your life in this broken world and may you go out and change the world for the love of God! Let your light shine so that you may empower others even as you have been empowered by the Light of the World.

Blessings upon you and yours this Resurrection Day!


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Who Does God Hate?

I was thinking about the quote from Anne LaMott I posted the other day on my Facebook page. I noticed folks copied and pasted it all over the place.
Here was the quote:

“You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” -Anne LaMott

It really started some good conversation and such. I then happened upon something dealing with that atrocious group, Westboro Baptist Church and their GodHatesFags website. I see now they’ve branched out into selling t-shirts and other things online. In fact I saw something that just broke my heart. They’re selling t-shirts that are children’s size that say “God Hates Fags.” How would you like to see a child wearing such a thing?

Their hate speech isn’t limited to “fags” but all kinds of folks whom they see as different and falling outside of not only Christianity but also God’s love. I have seen this hate group grow over the years due to power of fear, ignorance, and hate and or people’s apathy. I don’t know how many hate filled websites they have but others include GodHatesIreland, GodHatesAmerica, and the list goes on. I’ve seen them speak out about Jewish folks, political leaders (usually democrats), being publicly thankful for dead soldiers, thinking 9/11 was a blessing, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Surely this is just a fringe group you say. Well, no, it’s a pretty large well coordinated group with deep pockets. Unbelievable. But it all stems from the preaching of hate. Remaking God in their own image and transposing that image on the world around them.

God hates this, God hates that. This person or that group of people are an abomination to the Lord. God can’t love you because he loves me and besides, you’re a sinner because I say so.” Blah-da-blah-da-blah. And through the machinations of preachers and churches who preach things like this, the Christian church slips further into irrelevancy and idiocy and the Gospel Message of love and inclusion meant to heal this broken world is lost.

That’s the slippery slope when we preach hate and intolerance of a person or a group of people and sadly our churches are full of that kind of anti-Christ type of message.

We’re tempted to look at Westboro Baptist Church as a vocal extreme and certainly not like the average Christian church in this country but I would say that any church or preacher that preaches hate is just as culpable of distorting the Gospel Message and harming the universal church even if it is a single topic of hate they’re preaching on. Lest someone think I’m picking on the conservatives here, I am not, would be liberals do the same sort of thing when they seek to exclude folks who don’t believe exactly like they do from God’s love, care, and fellowship.

Another quote I posted on my Facebook the other day:

“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” -Elie Wiesel

As Christians I think it’s our duty to stand up against such hate speech, bigotry, fear mongering, and evil. As followers of the Prince of Peace it’s our duty to stand with the meek, help the suffering, come to the rescue of the thrown-aways, and love those who have been labeled by others as unlovable. To do any less is to spit in the face of Christ.

A dear friend of mine, Fr. Sean Lotz of the Celtic Catholic Church penned an excellent paper in response to the Westboro Baptist Church’s stance of GodHatesFags. Fr. Sean asks the question: Is It True That God Hates Fags?

Fr. Sean Lotz in his article while discussing the protesters signs of “God Hates Fags’ and “Matt Was a Sinner” (referring to Matthew Shepherd, a gay young man who was viciously beaten to death and whose funeral was picketed by members of the Westboro Baptist Church) says:

“Fortunately in the midst of this wrongness and cruelty was one small glimmer of humor. One of the protesters carried a placard that proclaimed, “Matt was a sinner.” It may as well have said, “It’s cold out here in the snow.” We already knew that. Of course, his sinfulness resulted not from his being a homosexual but from his being a fallen human like all the rest of us.

Except for that last self-evident statement, none of their theology is right, none of it is the Gospel. None of their behavior can be called the will of God. But it seems to me that the most evil sign of all was the one that read “God hates fags.” This is the theology of hell, and the author of this sentiment, a prophet of Satan himself.

To understand that such a sentiment could not possibly have come from God, consider Matthew 5:22.

But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult [say raka/ (rah-kah) to] a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool [mwre/ (moh-re)],” you will be liable to the hell of fire. (New Revised Standard Version)

Now the Aramaic word which is transliterated into the Greek as raka/, and generally translated into English as “fool,” carries with it a whole equipage of Aramaic connotation and Jewish thought. To the Jews, the concept of “fool” did not mean someone of limited intelligence, but rather a person of deficient morals.  
And the word raka/ was, please notice, a word of derision, an insult, not a technical term. The same with mwre/. Although a Greek word, it had been used by the Jews of Jesus’ time to indicate a fool, but with added overtones of “traitor,” especially a traitor to the generally accepted moral code. And it too was a term of contempt and derision.

It is impossible not to see the similarity to the English word “fag.” And it is impossible to believe that the same God who, through his Son who died on the Cross for us, taught that those who dismiss God’s creatures with stereotyping words of contempt shall be liable to judgment, would approve of his sacred Name being used in the same sentence with such an ugly word of derision as “fag.” This sign was not just rude, not just wrong, but a direct violation of a clear principle taught by our Lord.

But there is more. What reveals this statement as not just non-Christian, but actually anti-Christ, is the word “hates.” Saying that God “hates” any of his humans is to deny the very activity of Christ and the basic nature of God. It is blasphemy of the highest order.

Certain Christians are fond of finding isolated verses of Scripture that they use to prove almost anything. Doing this, it is quite easy to show that God hates individuals or groups of persons. But Scripture must not ever be read this way. Nothing in it makes sense unless considered in the total context from Genesis to Revelation. ”

I recommend you read Fr. Sean’s entire article. You can catch up with him at the Celtic Catholic Church. It’s certainly well thought out, well written, and if you’ll pardon me, the Gospel Truth.

No, hate, vindictiveness, fear mongering, bigotry, self-righteousness, spiritual terrorism, and evil have no place in the Christian Church nor should such things come from “ministers” of the Christian faith. Such things are anti-Christ.

I am glad that our communion, Christ Catholic Church, and specifically our little ministry here in the Ozarks is a little different than the norm out there. I’m thankful that our little group of believers in Archdiocese of the Prince of Peace is committed to a message of Love and inclusivity regardless and we hold firm on that message of welcoming love. On our website you can read:

“We Are Inclusive: Believing as Saint Isaac of Syria, “Do not try to discriminate the worthy from the unworthy, but let all people be equal in your eyes for a good deed,” we do not discriminate and hold no regard for a person’s race, color, age, gender, sexual orientation, preference, nationality, socioeconomic class, nor a person’s state of grace. We are fully committed to inclusivity and our support for the LGBTQIAPP (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersexual, asexual, pansexual, polyamorous) and anyone who would seek to find a spiritual home within Christ Catholic Church is unwavering and unapologetic.”

If you feel like discovering a kinder and gentler way to express an authentic Christian faith of hope, love, inclusion, and reconciliation won’t you give us a a try? Visit Christ Catholic Church We welcome not just some of you, but ALL OF YOU!

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Seal of Confession

Confession is such a spiritually important and often over looked and misunderstood sacrament of the Church. And while I’d agree that most of the traditional seven sacraments are misunderstood and often overlooked it has been my experience as a priest that the Sacrament of Confession tops such a list.

A friend and mentor of mine once said,”you can pay $100 for a visit to a psychologist or for a nickle in the collection plate you can get the counsel of a priest, confession, forgiveness and reconciliation. While my mentor was not trying impugn psychologists in any way nor was he trying to sell the sacrament of a nickle, he was in fact making a rather astute if not cute observation. That for the Cure of our Souls we need turn only to the the Sacraments of the Church and God’s infinite love and confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation are a constant requirement to live a balanced and grace-filled Christian life.

Enter the priest.

It is through the priest that the penitent comes seeking understanding, counsel, guidance, and ultimately forgiveness for the sin in his or her life. It is through the priest and the Sacrament of Confession that a penitent’s sins are absolved by God. This is one of the sacred acts that sets us apart from the Protestant church and this relationship between priest and penitent must be held to the highest standard and strictest confidence.

When a priest violates this sacrament, violates the Seal of Confession, he or she throws away his or her priesthood, by breaking sacred vows, and by breaking the intimate trust placed in him or her by the penitent. What would the world of the church be like if the Seal of Confession was simply a quaint custom and the confessor free to spread around shared confidences as he or she saw fit? Who would ever trust such an irresponsible and heartless “priest” with anything again? No one would of course and the Sacrament of Confession would be useless, and the offending cleric’s priesthood simply make-believe.

One of the older catechisms taught that the lowest level in hell was reserved for the priest who broke the Seal of Confession and I believe this to be so. though perhaps in a metaphorical sense. I hold the Seal of the Confession inviolable and I hold the priests under my episcopal protection subject to do the same as should all bishops and priests worth their salt.

Let’s see what the catholic encyclopedia has to say about the subject…

From New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia

Seal of Confession

Regarding the sins revealed to him in sacramental confession, the priest is bound to inviolable secrecy. From this obligation he cannot be excused either to save his own life or good name, to save the life of another, to further the ends of human justice, or to avert any public calamity. No law can compel him to divulge the sins confessed to him, or any oath which he takes — e.g., as a witness in court. He cannot reveal them either directly — i.e., by repeating them in so many words — or indirectly — i.e., by any sign or action, or by giving information based on what he knows through confession. 
The only possible release from the obligation of secrecy is the permission to speak of the sins given freely and formally by the penitent himself. Without such permission, the violation of the seal of confession would not only be a grievous sin, but also a sacrilege. It would be contrary to the natural law because it would be an abuse of the penitent’s confidence and an injury, very serious perhaps, to his reputation. It would also violate the Divine law, which, while imposing the obligation to confess, likewise forbids the revelation of that which is confessed. That it would infringe ecclesiastical law is evident from the strict prohibition and the severe penalties enacted in this matter by the Church. 
“Let him beware of betraying the sinner by word or sign or in any other way whatsoever. . . we decree that he who dares to reveal a sin made known to him in the tribunal of penance shall not only be deposed from the priestly office, but shall moreover be subjected to close confinement in a monastery and the performance of perpetual penance” (Fourth Lateran Council, cap. xxi; Denzinger, “Enchir.”, 438). 
Furthermore, by a decree of the Holy Office (18 Nov., 1682), confessors are forbidden, even where there would be no revelation direct or indirect, to make any use of the knowledge obtained in confession that would displease the penitent, even though the non-use would occasion him greater displeasure.

These prohibitions, as well as the general obligation of secrecy, apply only to what the confessor learns through confession made as part of the sacrament. He is not bound by the seal as regards what may be told him by a person who, he is sure, has no intention of making a sacramental confession but merely speaks to him “in confidence”; prudence, however, may impose silence concerning what he learns in this way. Nor does the obligation of the seal prevent the confessor from speaking of things which he has learned outside confession, though the same things have also been told him in confession; here again, however, other reasons may oblige him to observe secrecy. 
The same obligation, with the limitations indicated, rests upon all those who in one way or another acquire a knowledge of what is said in confession, e.g., an interpreter who translates for the priest the words of the penitent, a person who either accidentally or intentionally overhears the confession, an ecclesiastical superior (e.g., a bishop) to whom the confessor applies for authorization to absolve the penitent from a reserved case. Even the penitent, according to some theologians, is bound to secrecy; but the more general opinion leaves him free; as he can authorize the confessor to speak of what he has confessed, he can also, of his own accord, speak to others. But he is obliged to take care that what he reveals shall cast no blame or suspicion on the confessor, since the latter cannot defend himself. 
In a word, it is more in keeping with the intention of the Church and with the reverence due to the sacrament that the penitent himself should refrain from speaking of his confession. Such, undoubtedly, was the motive that prompted St. Leo to condemn the practice of letting the penitent read in public a written statement of his sins (see above); and it needs scarcely be added that the Church, while recognizing the validity of public confession, by no means requires it; as the Council of Trent declares, it would be imprudent to prescribe such a confession by any human enactment.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Validity, Legitimacy, & Education

Recently I had the occasion to dialogue with a young priest in the ISM (Independent Sacramental Movement) on Facebook. While he wasn’t necessarily young in age, he hadn’t been ordained long.

The conversation started with some folks talking about the need for better training for clergy in the ISM, or rather, perhaps more accurately, they were picking apart an ISM seminary long ago closed.

They disparaged much of the nonsense that goes on in the ISM in regards to clericalism and lack of education and in those regards I would agree with them.

I certainly agreed with most everything they said and have said as much myself many, many times over the years, and yet out of the ISM, there are still good folks of deep faith out there doing good works and making a difference in this broken world by sharing the Gospel Message.

Where I disagreed with them was in their conclusion that the only legitimate way forward was to ordain only those folks with an accredited Master of Divinity. 

What was particularly and delightfully demonstrative of my counterpoint in the conversation was when the young priest touted his own degree from Yale Divinity School, I believe, and then asked what the acronym “ISM” stood for. 

Now, anyone who’s spent any time in the ISM knows it stands for the Independent Sacramental Movement, a moniker made popular by Bishop John Plummer in his book, “The Many Paths of the Independent Sacramental Movement” which should be standard reading for any cleric involved in the ISM. 

I asked the young priest about his affiliation and he said, “I’m not an independent, I’m an Anglican priest.”

He could have been an Episcopal priest, meaning a member of the clergy in The Episcopal Church of the United States and that might explain his ignorance of the ISM acronym but I doubted it and so I pressed on.

After more questioning I discovered he was a part of a group that claimed to be Anglican but was not a part of The Episcopal Church nor in communion with the wider Anglican Communion.

I gently corrected him, educating this graduate from Yale Divinity School, that he was indeed a part of the ISM. I stopped short of pointing out that he wasn’t Anglican at all unless he was in communion with the greater Anglican Communion. The reality of the fact would have fallen on deaf ears.

His ignorance underscored my point that we, in the ISM, must train our own and not rely upon the mainstream educational institutions to do it for us. Simply put, they don’t know who we are or much about our own venerable traditions.

I’ve said all of that to say this:

I live by a simple saying: “They won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Our validity will never be found in goofy titles, silken vestments, and photo-shopped pictures. However it won’t be found in academic degrees, accreditation, and professional credentials either. We mustn’t fall into the trap of shunning one set of contrived trappings and yet embracing another in our grasp for legitimacy and validity.

Our validity as ministers of the Gospel will only ever be found in our servitude to Christ and our compassionate and loving ministry to our brothers and sisters and in our continual work to make manifest the Commonwealth of God here on earth.

Many of us may not be perfect but we try at least to be faithful.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

My Patron: Saint Melangell

This website/blog is dedicated to Saint Melangell, a long time patron saint of mine. She’s a wonderful wandering Celtic saint that spent her life trying to make a safe place for folks amongst the thorns, thickets, and brier patches of society and of the world.

The Legend of Melangell and the Hare

There is a legend that survives from long ago, known to Welsh school children who have learned it from their mothers’ lips. The legend concerns a maiden, an Irish girl whose father had arranged for her to marry a chieftain back in 607 CE. She did not want to marry this chieftain – he was old and she was young. She joined a band of Irish hermits who came across the sea to preach the Christian gospels to the Pagan Welsh. The maiden’s name was, in Latin, Monacella. In Welsh it became Melangell. She traveled to the Pennant Valley, in Powys, in the 7th Century and lived in a cave in the hillside.

One day Brochwel, mighty Prince of Powys, was out hunting with his men and his hounds. The hounds raised a hare that took refuge in a thicket. The hounds were urged on but fled howling. Their huntsman raised his horn to his lips and was unable to remove it. On pursuit, the Prince found a young woman standing there – the hare had run under her long skirts to hide. The young woman told Brochwel that she lived in the valley, where she had come to take refuge. The Prince was so impressed by the young woman’s godliness, that he granted her the valley as a sanctuary for people and animals. Here she founded a religious community.

Another Account Of Saint Melangell

The Life of Saint Melangell of Wales (+ca. 590) ST MELANGELL (whose name has been latinised as Monacella) is interesting because the incident for which she is known is a Welsh version of one that is known in various forms in several European countries. She appears in the pedigrees as a descendant of Macsen Wledig (the usurping Roman emperor Magnus Maximus), and according to her legend her father was an Irish king (probably Scottish, in its later meaning, is intended). She vowed herself to God, and when pressed to marry fled to the part of central Wales called Powys, where she remained hidden for fifteen years.

Then one day the prince of Powys, Brochwel Ysgythrog, came hunting in her neighborhood, and pursued a hare into a clearing of the forest where Melangell was at prayer. The hare ran for the shelter of her garments, and turned to face its pursuers from a fold of her skirt.

Brochwel urged on his hounds, but they drew off, howling; the huntsman tried to wind his horn, but it stuck mute to his lips; and Brochwel approached the girl for an explanation When he had heard Melangell’s story of herself, he made her a present of the land on which they were standing as a “perpetual refuge and place of sanctuary”, in recognition of God’s protection of the ” little wild hare” in the shadow of His servant Melangell.

Accordingly she lived the rest of her life there, another thirty-seven years, gathering a community round her which she directed as abbess. But it was also a meeting-place for hares, who never showed any fear of their protectress, so that they came to be called “Melangell’s lambs”.

The church of Pennant Melangell in Montgomeryshire claims to stand on the site of this happening, and it formerly contained St Melangell’s shrine. It still has some medieval carvings relating the story of the hare, and the shrine chapel at east end.