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uncommoncommunion

A look at God, faith and life through the eyes of a Catholic seeker and sojourner.

Pope Francis, Today’s Border Mass and St. John Paul’s Letters

Yesterday, in the Washington Post, I came across two important articles about popes – current and past.

This afternoon, Pope Francis will celebrate a mass almost literally against the fence which is the U.S. Mexico border. Crux offers this information about watching/participating in this historic Eucharistic celebration:

If you can’t make it to El Paso, but still want to participate, the Vatican TV livestream of the Mass will be available on Crux. Mass is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, with the prayer service coming shortly before that.

Above is a photo, taken from the U.S. side of the border showing the construction of the dias on which the papal altar will be placed. Here’s the altar near completion:

Border Mass-2

Entitled “Donald Trump is Right. Pope Francis’ Visit to the Border is Political”, Washington Post writer John Gehring quotes Francis himself:

“A good Catholic meddles in politics,” the pope has said, a pithy summation that reflects centuries of Catholic teaching that views the common good and human dignity as the ultimate aim of politics.

Gehring concludes the article:

But the pope’s presence is a stark reminder to politicians and presidential candidates — especially those who tout their Christian values and court religious voters — that immigrants and refugees are not, in his words, “pawns on the chessboard of humanity.” Demonizing immigrants, talking tough about higher walls and promising massive deportation stirs up a base of angry voters on the campaign trail…

In Mexico, Pope Francis reminds us once again that politics does matter because people’s lives are on the line.

Crux has an article with the succinct title: “Vatican to Trump: Don’t Lecture the Pope on Immigration.” which begins:

CIUDAD JUÁREZ/EL PASO – A Vatican spokesman took on GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump Tuesday night, calling Trump’s criticism of Pope Francis over his pro-immigrant stance “very strange” and suggesting Trump could use a dose of global perspective.

The other Washington Post article entitled “John Paul II ‘secret letters’ reveal a connection to married woman he called ‘a gift from God.'” is similar to ones in Crux and National Catholic Reporter among many others.

There’s nothing salacious in this discovery for as the Post notes:

This week, however, an unexpected glimpse of the man beneath the white hat came from the BBC. In a new report, the network has shined a light on “secret letters” from John Paul II to a married woman that show an intense, if not necessarily inappropriate, friendship.

I see in these two articles the best that the Catholic church has to offer as these leaders of the Body of Christ are being human in deeply loving ways. Francis literally touches all of those whom Jesus himself touched. St. John Paul was intimate and loving through friendship. These men, like all of us, are commissioned in baptism to do as Christ did – love others as God loves us. As I strive to do this myself, especially in the season of Lent, I’m grateful to have these examples to guide and inspire me.

 

 

 

Mark’s Gospel – Proclaimed!

Even though the classes I teach will be beginning next week, I’m taking a couple of interesting classes through Boston College’s on-line C21 Program.  Previously, I’ve learned through a similar program from the University of Dayton’s Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation.

The major assignment in my current Gospel of Mark course is (not surprisingly) to read, in one sitting, the gospel itself.  I methodically go through this gospel with the sophomores I teach, so I’ve read it recently in this manner.

So, I thought I’d experience Mark in the way the vast majority of early Christians did – by seeing and hearing it proclaimed.  Sincerest thanks to the talented Pastor Zac Sturm of Trinity Lutheran (ELCA) in Kirkwood, MO.

For ease of access to the videos (for myself included), here they are for each chapter of the Gospel:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The View From the Beach

The beach is one of my favorite places to go. And needless to say, as a resident of central Ohio, I’m quite a ways from an actual ocean beach.  So it’s a much appreciated treat when I journey to the shore.

It’s not the sunning, or the splashing, or the swimming that I enjoy the most about the beach.  I most like simply walking on the beach, with my feet in the shallow surf, and gazing out at the immensity of the ocean.  The bigness of the ocean and the vital role it plays for our planet is an analogy for God.  I find a contemplative gaze out over the ocean is one of the most encompassing prayer moments that I can have.

The view of the ocean from the beach is also a metaphor for the “all things visible and invisible” which we pray in the Nicene Creed.  When I gaze out at the ocean I see a vast amount of water and waves.  Perhaps I see a boat or a tanker offshore.  Maybe, if I’m lucky, I see a porpoise jump or a fish “fly.”  The “invisible” within the ocean is much, much greater than the little I can see from the beach.  There’s an astounding, interconnected web of life out there from single celled organisms to massive whales and all sizes in between.

I think the “invisible” spiritual life is kind of like this.  When I pray on my back patio on these late summer mornings, I gaze out at the life beyond me – grass, trees, birds, plants, and more.  What if these are only a small facet of the life – the “invisible,” eternal life of the Holy Spirit – which is alive in my backyard and all around me all of the time.  I suspect that when each of us passes from this life into eternal life, one of the biggest surprises we’ll have is how close and intertwined eternity is with our temporal place in creation.

Another aspect of the “invisible” not seen from the beach is the land which lies far, far over the horizon.  Have you ever gazed out over the ocean and tried to imagine who might be standing on land exactly opposite you and looking in your direction?   I did this last Spring when I stood on Tybee Island, near Savannah, Georgia.   I imagined someone in England or maybe Spain looking back at me.

So, it was a true eye-opener for me to examine the unique set of maps published recently by the Washington Post.    Here’s the one for the East Coast:

Beach Map - 2

Who knew that I was across from Morocco.  And that Europe, particularly France and the U.K. are so far north of the U.S.!

Here’s the map of the West Coast:

Beach Map - 3

Enjoy these maps and your next moments of contemplation on the beach!

The Greater Glory of God via Soccer and Baseball

I’m not a huge sports fan in general.  I do like baseball though. And I love soccer.

I may be biased, but I think that, of all of the major league sports, these two inherently give the greatest glory to God.  Let me explain.

jesus_baseball

Baseball, even in today’s multi-million dollar MLB, is wonder-full.  Intertwined with multiple aspects of Americana (fill-in-the blank:  __________, hot dogs, apple pie), infused with nostalgia, and rich in statistics, baseball is given a form of sacramental reverence in North America and parts of Asia.

I also like baseball because it’s such a communal game.  With it’s slow, relaxed pace, there’s plenty of time to converse and commune.  When you attend a game – Major League, Little League or every league in-between, whom you watch is less important than with whom you watch.  You’ll have plenty of opportunity to chat when the ball isn’t moving.  Watch the field – even the participants are talking – the players with each other; the umps and the players; the coaches to the players.  Sometimes these groups will talk with the fans too – during the game!

Baseball-Conclave

I’m thinking of baseball today because yesterday something happened in the Majors which has never occurred before – All 15 home teams won their games!  As described in today’s Washington Post: 

According to the Elias Sports Bureau (and you can check the math yourself onBaseball-Reference.com) the previous record for home teams on a single day was 12-0, set more than 100 years ago on May 23, 1914 — the same season Ty Cobb hit .368 and the Washington Senators’ Walter Johnson had 28 wins.

Baseball fans are known for their fondness for random, obscure stats, and Tuesday’s entry into the history books comes with some caveats, if not asterisks.

For one, the 15-0 mark wasn’t possible before MLB expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

And of course, because of days off and other scheduling issues, all 30 teams don’t play everyday.

The WaPo article has the score and a photo from each game which are worth viewing (and are unable to be posted here).

The other reason I have baseball on my mind is that I’m enjoying working my way through the informative 101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out by Josh Pahigian. So far, I’m only on #68 – The Elysian Fields Site (the location of the first organized baseball game on June 19, 1846) I’ve already discovered The Fort Meyers Monster (#31) – spring training replica of Fenway Park; Pittsburgh’s Negro Leagues Trail (#40) and the annual (since 1906) Midnight Sun Game  (#38) in Fairbanks, Alaska. You may be surprised that a big The Simpsons fan like me did not know that the minor league team in Albuquerque, New Mexico is named the Isotopes, after the team in the show’s Springfield.  And the ballpark has multiple life-sized statues of characters purchased from an antiques store in Los Angeles.

Simpsons Baseball

 

I’ve not played much baseball, nor have I coached it.  I have played many years of soccer as well as coached it at the high school level for numerous seasons.

jesus-playing-soccer

Soccer is indeed The Beautiful Game.  With 209 national associations in FIFA (there are presently 193 nations in the UN), it is truly THE international game.  Travel to any corner of the earth and you will find kids or adults playing in the streets, fields, alleyways, or any open area.  The “balls” they use are sometimes so awful that a group invented and now sells a nearly indestructible ball which can be gifted to communities in need.

The game play of association football, or soccer is more conducive to giving glory to God than gridiron, or North American football.  Play is free-flowing with nearly constant running.  There’s contact, but it’s generally not violent or injury producing.  Equipment is minimal – boots, shin guards, a ball, and open space.  And anyone – not just the huge and quick – can play.

I was thinking about soccer today, when I found this video of a Dutch keeper scoring an equalizing goal – in a truly astounding way.

And while we’re talking about astounding soccer feats, who can forget this one from this summer’s Women’s World Cup:

Ad maiorem Dei glorium

Soccer and Jesus - 2

 

15 Promises All Couples Should Be Able to Make to Each Other

It’s an understatement to say that legal marriage has gotten a lot of press this past summer.  While I don’t think enough distinction has been made between legal, government acknowledged marriage and sacramental, Church recognized Matrimony, it is useful to ponder the commitment which is hopefully at the heart of any friendship:

15 Promises All Couples Should Be Able to Make to Each Other

  1. I promise to listen.
  2. I promise to learn.
  3. I promise to let you be you.
  4. I promise to let you grow.
  5. I promise to live for us.
  6. I promise to find time.
  7. I promise to work as a team.
  8. I promise to save things for just us.
  9. I promise to care about your interests.
  10. I promise to show you off.
  11. I promise to keep trying to win you.
  12. I promise to never get into a routine.
  13. I promise to always pick up the phone.
  14. I promise to love your family as my own.
  15. I promise to keep you.

Keep your significant other close. Keep them with you at all times. Keep them on your mind, and in your heart. Keep them from danger, and keep them from falling. Keep them in your life for as long as you both live.

The Fitbit and Confession

I’m always on the look-out for secular posts that incorporate aspects of the sacraments.  It’s even better if the post offers cultural critique as well.

I found this post, Fitted by Moira Weigel at “The New Inquiry” blog.  This blog is foreign to me as I discovered the post through Flipboard, my favorite news aggregator. While some of the language in it is a bit blunt, it’s quite a thought-provoking post.

Even though the author implies that she doesn’t believe in God, her Catholic upbringing was clearly impactful:

I remember prepping for my first confession when I was twelve years old. For weeks beforehand I dutifully took inventories of my thoughts and deeds. That time I cheated by checking the answers on my take home math test..Did it count that I was pretty sure that I did not believe in any of this? That of all the religions I had read about, Jainism was my favorite?

Our church was liberal, almost to the point of heresy, and when I showed up to receive the sacrament, it turned out they were staging it more like a friendly chat. We were called, one by one, to go into the empty church and sit opposite a priest in folding chairs… so I took the time-honored cop out: “I have disrespected my mother and father.” It was only later that I realized that taking the inventory of everything I did not confess had been the point.

Weigel draws upon the experience of Confession and sharing intimate life challenges with a therapist when considering the impact of the data the Fitbit gives to its wearer.  In case you’re like me and don’t own one, the Fitbit is a best selling wrist band which accurately counts the number of steps the wearer makes within a given period.  This data syncs to the user’s smartphone and populates a dashboard with other fitness stats (see above image).  Not surprisingly, some health insurance companies now offer discounts if you let them track your Fitbit data.

Weigel observes:

Every form of confession comes with settings that determine what kind of self we get to know, and therefore, be. It also implies a particular vision of society. A kingdom of souls under God. A nation of citizens just repressed enough to get married and carry on reproducing citizens.

In the Republic of FitBit we are fundamentally alone…isolation is literally a technical requirement of the FitBit. From the point of view of the tracker, all activity is inherently solitary and accrues to you alone…

The society that FitBit builds is not only a network of isolated selves. It is one which the only possible way to relate to others is through competition.

Fitbit-3

For Weigel, social isolation and personal connection only through competition are not the most significant downsides to the Fitbit phenomenon. The greatest harm is the way that the psyche of devoted users, especially women, is being re-formed:

Today, the ideal woman is exorexic.

In Ancient Greek, orexis means “desire” or “appetite.” The prefix an means “not.” A true anorexic wants nothing. Ex is Latin, for “out of”; arcere means “restrain.” “Exercise” meant to break out of what is holding you, and to push the limit.  The exorexic craves a challenge. Specifically, she aims to work her way out of desiring itself…

Today, the exorexic eroticizes work itself. The army of women in Lululemons and Nike Frees who bound purposefully along the sidewalks of more and more American cities proclaim no specific taste, but rather an insatiable appetite for effort. They wear the uniform of an upper middle class for whom the difference between leisure and work is supposed to have disappeared…

With the FitBit you wear your compulsion to work like an amulet, and swear it is play, and that it is good fun.

Re-read the line: ..for whom the difference between leisure and work is supposed to have disappeared.  Scary stuff – no difference between leisure and work?!?  We’ve seen technology and the use of personal devices creep deeper into our lives and further erode the boundaries between work and “the rest of life.”  Before returning to teaching a few years ago, I worked at a consultant/trainer for a major educational publisher.  I was chilled at the annual meeting when the top employees were praised: “She’s accessible to her customers 24/7” or “It’s not uncommon to receive an email from him at 2 or 3 am.”

Fitbit-2

In the end, the greatest harm from the physical performance data confession the Fitbit wearer puts out to the world is not self-love, but instead a subtle form of self-hatred.  Although her youthful experience of Confession was complicated, she acknowledges the value of this sacrament:

Older kinds of confession promised to teach us how to love. The you that Catholic confession made me into may have looked constantly over her shoulder. But after we recognized our failings, and the priests absolved us, we could receive God’s love, unmarred, for a few sinless minutes; it was this we were supposed to try to imitate and live up to in human relationships.

As disturbing as it is to hear how tortured souls can be by the shaming confession produced by Fitbit, it’s reassuring that even a secular young adult can know the profound value of Confession or the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Perhaps Weigel would agree with Pope Francis: 

The Sacrament of Reconciliation calls us back to God, and embraces us with his infinite mercy and joy. May we allow his love to renew us as his children and to reconcile us with him, with ourselves, and with one another.

 

Why “uncommoncommunion?”

I strive to place communion at the center of my life.  I see a dual, related meaning for this word.

A spiritual mentor of mine (whom I’ve unfortunately not yet met) is Fr. Richard Rohr, O.F.M.  A few years ago, I did have the opportunity to visit the site of his Center for Action and Contemplation.

Just this week, his emailed daily reflection describes the Christic consciousness – recognizing the unity and community of all creation as experienced in the present moment.  Fr. Richard offers insight on Jean-Pierre de Caussade (1675-1751), a French Jesuit who penned Abandonment to Divine Providence a important work which contains a profoundly simple message: “Embrace the present moment as an ever-flowing source of holiness.”

I strive to experience Christ through my deepening (“little by slowly’ as a friend used to say) mindful meditation practice which aids me in seeing that every aspect of creation is infused and connected through the love of God through Christ.

Cosmic Christ

Another meaningful aspect of communion for me is the Sacrament of the Eucharist.  The simple bread and wine, the actual and symbolic “work of human hands,” is transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ.  This miraculous gift of Christ nourishes me and aids me in recognizing the communion of Christ in all creation.  For as Christ says in the gospel from last Sunday: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

My way of seeing Christ though this wide communion is uncommon for I’ve had quite a journey over my 45 years. I hope you’ll journey with me at this site as I share the many ways I find Christ in creation.

Introducing… An Uncommon Perspective on Life, the Universe and Everything

Today, July 31st is an auspicious day to launch my new personal blog.

Fourteen years ago today, at 2:37 in the afternoon, my oldest child was born in Syracuse, New York.  As I held him for the first time after his arrival into the world, I too was born – as a dad!  I had already been a husband from April 5, 1999, yet I entered a new relationship and way of being for others on that hot summer afternoon.

Centuries earlier, on July 31, 1556, Ignatius of Loyola entered into eternal life.  Since this was deemed to be the day he entered Heaven to be with God, it became his feast day when he was canonized in 1622.  As Ignatius is my confirmation namesake and I’ve been thrice educated by the Jesuits, this date has additional meaning for me.

And, although I’ve only read one or two of the books and watched a handful of the movies, it’s also worth remembering that today is Harry Potter’s birthday (and J.K. Rowling turns 50 yrs old today)

Finally, let’s not forget that today is a rather rare Blue Moon (which happens only about every 2.7 years)

Thanks for stopping by today.

I hope you’ll return often to experience my thoughts about, with thanks to Douglas Adams, “life, the universe and everything.”

I reference this title since it puts into a nutshell how and where I experience God.  My students will tell you about another way I state this, from the Lasallian tradition: Let us remember, we are always (and everywhere) in the holy presence of God.” 

In these posts, I’ll share my observations from my sojourn through life.  Links to stories and ideas will be offered as inspiration, motivation, and celebration to see how God is moving and working in our world.

I hope this will be a dialogue, so please let me know your thoughts, ideas and feelings in response to what I share here.

So, here’s to a new beginning. Imagine me raising a Blue Moon.  While singing “Blue Moon…”

Saint Ignatius of Loyola, on your feast day… pray for us.

St-Ignatius Trading Card

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