Someone asked me, how can we keep alive the spirit that filled DC during the Pope’s visit?” Consider these words from St Polycarp about how his people kept the spirit alive after visits from St. Paul. Pick up some texts on Papal teaching by Francis, or any of the Popes, study Scripture, and always always spend time each day discerning how Christ is loving you! Enjoy:
FROM A LETTER TO THE PHILIPPIANS BY ST. POLYCARP
“It is not out of presumption that I write to you, my brothers, on what righteousness means, but rather because you asked me to do so. For neither I nor anyone like me can equal the wisdom of the blessed and glorious Paul. When he was in your city, he fully and courageously taught the men of that time the word of truth; when he was absent, he wrote you letters. By carefully studying these letters, you can strengthen yourselves in the faith that has been given to you. This faith is the mother of us all, followed by hope, preceded by love—love of God, of Christ, of our neighbor. Whoever lives within this framework has fulfilled the commandment of righteousness. For anyone who has love is far from sin.”
This may not be the most obvious take on the recent visit of Pope Francis to Washington, but stick with me… Also, enjoy this Friday’s Morning Glory from EWTN Radio in which we discuss the Holy Father’s DC Visit
We’ve all heard that smell memories are the strongest of all. My kindergarten teacher – who I’ve not seen in decades, at this point – was immediately present to me one day when a woman wearing her distinctive perfume walked by. Smells communicate as much as anything, perhaps more so.
One commonly known smell is crushed grass. Not freshly cut, not alpine heather… you heard me, “crushed” grass. It takes us back to the pumpkin patch trip in first grade… or the state fair we attended on a visit to grandma’s house… it’s the distinctive mixture of oft-trodden grass and well worked slightly damp soil, now fully exposed to the breeze. In Washington, the smell of crushed grass usually means that something big happened on the National Mall, and this week was no exception: the Pope came to town.
Crushed grass in DC connotes many things… It can mean that a protest has taken place, or that the Smithsonian’s Folk Life Festival is in full swing. Usually the smell of crushed grass is attended by a general feeling of exhaustion, political fallout and a desire to return to the status quo as soon as possible. Taking America by storm in his Fiat 500L, Pope Francis generated something very different. As tens of thousands traversed the Mall and the Ellipse, the days were not marked by exasperation, but by HOPE… pure unadulterated HOPE, of the kind that no politician has brought since – perhaps – Kennedy, or Roosevelt before him. For two days everyone believed that something better could happen… that common ground can be found in a shared sense of humanity. As the National Mall springs back from its latest thrashing, will the scent of hope stay in the air? I pray so.
In high school we all learn about the importance the printing press for producing the Gutenberg Bible, revolutionary political tracts and other texts… but the Press was also used to great effect in diffusing the beauty of images. For the first time hundreds of copies of original masterpieces could be made and sold to patrons rich and poor… spreading not only the fame of the artist, but also people’s sense that they could touch the sacred through beauty. Brining the sacred and the beautiful ever more into daily life is a priority of the New Evangelization… Consider visiting the exhibit. It may spark some ideas!
For a great new morning radio show, “Morning Glory” on the EWTN global radio network.
For those who don’t know, EWTN is the Eternal Word Television Network, begun by Mother Angelica, a Catholic Nun. The Network had humble beginnings but has grown by leaps and bounds to bring eyes and ears of faith to the airwaves. By way of witness: I wasn’t always a fan of EWTN. As a kid I thought “Church TV” was about as lame as you could get. Over time though, my own tastes, my own media needs, and the quality of the programming all grew. I’m a big fan of the contribution that this great team of people are making to faith-filled culture. I hope you’ll consider checking out this Friday’s (9/11/15) radio show using the link above and tune in regularly for all the good material they’re broadcasting from right here in Washington, DC!
When Moses came down Mt. Sinai with the Ten Commandments he was surprised to discover his people worshipping God in the form of a golden calf. They weren’t worshipping a false god (lower case “g”). Traditional readings of this scene tell us that the Jewish people had not abandoned the Lord… but they were in a hard place and had a hard time conceiving of how they could relate to their shapeless God. So the people, in an act of desperation, in the shaking of their faith made a golden calf, a containable image of God. At its best this was the people’s attempt to more easily perceive the living God. At its worst, this was the people making the living God into something they could manipulate. In all cases, God “contained” in a human creation is an oxymoron. Compassion for the people’s situation doesn’t change this reality.
In a recent letter (12 June 2015) on the nature of Catholic worship, Cardinal Robert Sarah (Prefect of the Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Sacraments a.k.a. protector and promoter of the Church’s worship practices) raised a concern about contemporary worship: “We run the real risk of leaving no room for God in our celebrations, falling into the temptation of the Israelites in the desert. They sought to create a cult of worship limited to their own measure and reach…” Hence, all too often, the criteria for our public worship is, “Wouldn’t that be nice?” or “Wouldn’t it be popular if…?” or “People would like mass more if…”
NOTE: This post is NOT about liturgy, but Cardinal Sarah’s comments and the experience of the Jews teaches us an important lesson about life with the living God – It’s not always easy, and earthly comfort is not the primary goal.
Speaking with someone today about the jailing of Kim Davis I was told, quite firmly, that the Supreme Court’s recent rulings about same-sex marriage represented the definitive end of all conversation and Ms. Davis should’ve quit her job rather than disobey in protest of the law… End of discussion. The truth was to be neatly boxed in a space just large enough for the comfort of society at this particular moment in history… A new golden calf. But Truth… and Truth’s author, the living God cannot be contained like that, not even by the highest court of the Land. The Court once ruled that “separate, but equal” was legal. Did that make it true? The Constitution once determined, by popular vote of the Convention no less, that slavery was (a) legal and (b) that slaves = 3/5 of a person. Did the legality of those laws make them True? No. The truth cannot be manipulated by human beings… only discerned and appreciated. Furthermore that discernment is something that should be always ongoing. For even the most certain truths will only be known fully in heaven. Indeed, the great philosopher Josef Pieper described the virtue of hope precisely as the constant state of our lives as “in via,” always on the way, never content to stop and settle for where we’re at. One could saythen that to abandon the discernment of truth, to box up God is to limit or even smother hope.
Such ongoing discernment necessitates a degree of discomfort… call it our sacrifice in honor of the Truth. It also necessitates ongoing, open, honest, and NON-violent dialog. Such discourse shows respect for everyone on all sides… and above all shows our mutual respect for Truth… but it’s not easy and its rarely comfortable. A great book on this subject is Ratzinger’s Truth and Tolerance I highly recommend it. I also recommend a re-reading of the St. John Paul II’s Veritatis Splendor and of course, the Catechism. Interestingly, the Church does not command the faithful to unflinchingly assent to all her teachings… Rather she invites Catholics to an ongoing exploration of Truth marked by the humility of simply saying, “I might not know everything at this point in my life.”
Building the golden calf was all too easy… Living in a dynamic, developing relationship with our Father is tougher… but ultimately more satisfying. Let’s keep the conversation going. Peace.