Archive for the ‘confusion’ Category

From Provincial to Radical: Getting Below the Surface

Friday, May 18th, 2012

I am currently re-reading Henri Nouwen’s last book, Sabbatical Journey The Diary of His Final Year. I read it years ago and found his honesty and vulnerability very moving. There is a journal entry for each day of his sabbatical, and each one sparks reflection.

from http://tennoshima.com/Events.html

In the entry from Tuesday, September 9, Nouwen mentions the occasional retreats he gave with friend Jonas and how Jonas could play the Japanese bamboo flute. He writes, “The amelodic music he plays on the shakuhachi, a Japanese bamboo flute, allows people to experience God’s spirit in ways that words cannot express.”

Learning to stretch

In my reading of the gospels over the past year, I have been struck by a recurring theme: Jesus’ insistence that we get beyond our preconceived notions. As the great Spiritual Doctor, He diagnoses humanity with the affliction of narrow-mindedness: we practice our faith by clinging stubbornly to ritual, all the while being oblivious to the actual meaning. It’s easier (and safer) to blindly follow the rules rather than digging deep to understand their intent.

Jesus challenges us to be radical lovers and thinkers; He means to stretch us.

Leaders bound to ritual

This is evidenced by His repeated confrontation with the scribes and Pharisees, the most learned of the people. Despite their knowledge, these leaders adopt a provincial view of life through their observance of the Law. They flawlessly fulfill the rituals yet have no clue as to how the Law applies to their inner lives. It’s all about outward performance and it fuels their pride and arrogance, blinding them to the Son of God who stands before them.

Talking to myself

Rituals affect prayer too. I can use a parochial approach to prayer, doing my fifteen minutes a day mindlessly reciting my rote prayers and feeling a sense of accomplishment at performing my duty. I might as well be saying the prayers to myself. Jesus is waiting for me to sit at His feet and be with Him and I don’t recognize Him standing there before me.

Following the Spirit’s lead

In the book of Romans Paul writes, “the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26). In essence, prayer without the Spirit’s help accomplishes nothing.

Be, not do

The prayers we’ve been taught are good, reinforcing what we’ve learned. They prepare the heart. It’s the next step that requires a more radical approach and that involves acquiescing to the Spirit. My only task at that point is to allow Him to lead me.

It takes effort and fortitude to quiet myself and allow the encounter to begin. Then all effort ceases. And that’s when I sometimes wonder if, in fact, I am praying.

Is it prayer?

Sometimes a wave of peace and gratitude will flow over me.  The result is a sense of love and well-being that wells up inside. It surpasses words and instead, produces tears.

Other times I experience intense pain and swirling confusion, leaving me floundering and helpless.

If during those moments, I turn and face Jesus, they become prayer.

Music as a means to prayer

Nouwen’s description of Jonas’ music reminds me of how easily music leads me to these encounters. I feel almost guilty letting my collection of spiritual and classical music shuffle through my iPod as I drive into work. It’s too easy, there’s no effort.

And that’s when the encounter begins. It’s not my effort that produces prayer but the intercession of the Holy Spirit.

The preparation

Music prepares my heart and soul with a rhythmic kneading, softening what was once hard. I am then prepared to stretch out my hand and allow the Spirit to grasp it, leading me into the inner sanctum.

The experience

In there I could experience a myriad of things: the sense of being loved, deep sorrow for my sins, insight, consolation, maybe even nothing at all. No matter what I may or may  not feel, Jesus is as close to me as my own breath.

Openness to the gift

What a wonderful gift our Lord gives us through His Spirit when we open our minds and hearts and step outside of ourselves. This was the gift He longed to give to the Pharisees but they could not let go.

But like the cripple who, after being healed by Jesus, throws away the crutches and walks freely, I too can employ that same trust, knowing that God will extend His hand and lead me deeper into His heart, and closer to paradise.

Perhaps Fr. John Corapi is still teaching us

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

Today I saw a wonderful article regarding the Fr. John Corapi saga. I liked this article because it was firm yet reasonable, strong yet loving. It was free of hyperbole and written by someone who had greatly admired Corapi.

Here is the link to the article:

Father Corapi — Still Teaching

July 14th, 2011 by Patti Maguire Armstrong

I particularly loved a section of the article which quoted a blog from Father Dwight Longenecker regarding true saintliness:

“Where shall we find a holy person? Where shall we find a saint? It is difficult because the real saint is hidden and humble and holy. Instead of looking for the hidden holy ones we fall for the celebrity ‘saint.’ We want the big dramatic conversion story. We want the dynamic, uncompromising speaker. We like the one who speaks out on sin and rails against the devil…

“…Stop and consider that the real saints are hidden. They follow the little way. If you were to tell them they were saints they would laugh and tell you to keep searching. If you even had the sense and discernment to see the saint next to you–the ordinary person who perseveres–the little person who serves others–the plain Jane who takes life easily and simply loves people–then you would learn again what true holiness really is. If we only had eyes to see the simplicity of the saints, the extraordinary ordinariness of holiness, the practical good humor and humility of the truly grace filled ones…

“It is the little way that leads to salvation. Not the way of pride and pleasure and power. Not the way of wealth and the world. Not the way of ego and ambition.

“Only the way of the cross. When are we going to learn this?”

I hope that all of you know of someone in your life who fits this description. I am honor to know two and feel greatly honored that God has given me these people in my life. Truly He has lavished his blessings on me and I hope I am a constant blessing to them.

Who do you know in your life that teaches you holiness? Please leave a comment and share with us.

I am grateful to the author of this piece on Fr. Corapi, Patti Maguire Amstrong. She reminds me that prayer is certainly the best path to holiness, and to remember Fr. Corapi in our prayers will help us in our journey.

Brief comments about the Corapi controversy

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Many of you may be familiar with Fr. John Corapi, a priest who had a very public speaking ministry. After a dramatic conversion, he traveled the world preaching the Gospel, inspiring many to come back to the Catholic Church with his orthodox teaching.

Recently however, a terrible scandal emerged. A woman accused him of sexual impropriety and he was suspended from his priestly duties. A few months after this suspension, Fr. Corapi took it upon himself to discontinue any public ministry as a priest, dropping “Father” from his name. He became his own entity,  known now as The Black Sheep Dog. On June 16, the following statement was released on his blog in written form and as a video.

This statement created much confusion among those who had supported him and many condemned him for leaving the priesthood. Others sympathized with his reasoning. A tidal wave of responses poured in, many frankly quite judgmental and vitriolic. Well-known Catholic bloggers such as Mark Shea and publications such as the National Catholic Register and Our Sunday Visitor published pretty harsh commentaries on the situation.

I used to enjoy watching Fr. Corapi on EWTN for he spoke with such authority. When the scandal broke, I shook my head in disbelief, not just over the charges and his actions, but also over the harshness of the response from fellow Catholics.

I chose to wait and see, preferring to discern from the fruits of his actions. I believe now that the fruit born of this scandal is confusion, and confusion is not of God. It leads me to back away from Fr. Corapi. It’s never good to attach oneself to a personality – it’s only safe to attach myself to Christ.

Recently SOLT, the order of which Fr. Corapi was a member, released a statement which, in effect, pronounced Corapi guilty. This was the final straw and I knew I had to back away.

These scandals just don’t seem to let up. I live in the Boston area, ground zero to the eruption of the sexual abuse scandal which began to rear its head in 2001. We’re talking about 10 years of relentless scandals. What really hurts is hearing Fr. Corapi himself talk about being spat upon by strangers in airports when he wore the collar. And all along, he may have been scandalized himself.

I have known many wonderful, dedicated  and holy priests. My own husband is a deacon. I still believe that most priests are faithful to their vows,  in their love of God and His people. Hero worship is akin to idolatry and that the only safe course is to keep my eyes fixed on Christ alone for He is where my hope lies.

In lieu of that, I wrote a song back in 2001 called “Still the Same” in which I remind the listener that our Lord never changes but always remains the same. You can listen to it on the player below (lyrics follow), along with a song I wrote about forgiveness. I find myself praying for Fr. Corapi and asking God for forgiveness.

 

My good friend Nick Alexander (who himself says that he is a “faulty vessel” as we all are) said it best: “Be grateful that the Truth of the Gospel came to you, even if it came from a faulty, hypocritical vessel. And don’t let that vessel take up any more of your time, if such becomes that enormous a distraction from that very Truth.” Amen.

Still the Same

CHORUS:
Jesus, He will never change
Ageless, everlasting, still the same

VERSE 1
Yes He died (yes He died)
But forever now He lives
We may sin and do wrong
But He always will forgive
If we turn to Him

VERSE 2
Though our world (though our world)
Is spinning out of our control
And it seems that our pain
Is getting harder to console
He is here for us, He is here for us
He is here for us

VERSE 3
Though your trust (though your trust)
May be broken and betrayed
And the ones that you counted on
You find have feet of clay
You can count on Him, you can count on Him

BRIDGE
The wounds will heal, His church grow strong
We are His Body, in His love we will go on
And every person we must embrace
The poor, the broken
And the fallen in His grace.

CHORUS
Jesus, He will never change (His love flows forever)
Ageless, everlasting, still the same (Through His wounded Body)
(Through His Body)

VERSE 4
You can find (you can find Him)
In the breaking of the bread
He in us, we in Him
And His healing love can spread
Spread forever