Thursday, August 30, 2007

Simpsonize Me!

I went to this site & found out that this is apparently what I'd look like as a character on The Simpsons. Good times.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Mother Teresa

Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence
and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not
hear.— Mother Teresa

Here's an observation or two after reading this article about a new book from Mother Teresa's confessor. The new book shares her deepest spiritual struggles and reveals that she endured a dark night of the soul lasting for nearly 50 years with little relief. In fact, in corresponded with the entire time she conducted her ministry in the slums of Calcutta even as her ministry grew and expanded in numbers and recognition. I can't count the number of times I've heard teachings from leaders within Evangelical circles that were completely contradictory to Mother Teresa's experience. So often the popular version of spiritual discernment relies completely upon our feelings. If you just don't feel God leasing you, or you don't feel his presence then you must be going in the wrong direction, you've got to be outside of his will. In think this is the direct result of a theology & soteriology that is completely egocentric. When your theology begins with your personal experience of God then using your feelings for spiritual direction seems only logical.

This is one thing that would drive Lisa & I crazy. Not thinking in this way also one of the hardest things to try to get someone to understand who had been raised in the Evangelical world. In the end (as it was in the Beginning) it's just not about me, its all about Jesus.

PS - My wife & kids were hasseling me about having an ugly blog so I've changed the template.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

If Jesus is the answer, what's the question?

I recently saw a bumper sticker that read "Jesus is the Answer". I commented to Lisa that Jesus isn't the answer, he's the Question. What do we do with him? How do we respond to him? What was his message & how do we respond to it?

The Gospel reeading from mass this past Sunday is one of those "hard sayings" of Jesus that make us squirm and question our preconceived ideas about him"

"Jesus said to his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire,and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized,and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided,three against two and two against three;a father will be divided against his sonand a son against his father,a mother against her daughterand a daughter against her mother,a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-lawand a daughter-in-law against
her mother-in-law.” - Lk 12:49-53

So much for gentile Jesus, meek & mild, eh? I was reminded of this passage as I read this quote from the dust cover of my new reading project, Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI:

"What did Jesus actually bring, if not world peace, universal prosperity, and a better world? The answer is very simple: God. He has brought God. He has brought the God who formerly unveiled his countenance gradually...He has brought God, and now we know his face, now we can call upon him. Now we know the path that we human beings have to take in this world. Jesus has brought God and with God the truth about our origin and destiny: faith, hope, and love."

It's so tempting to get caught up in finding the right sound bite & bumper sticker slogan. Unfortunately, we so often miss the forest for the trees. Jesus didn't come to make me happy, he came to make me whole--by following his example of emptying, humility, and self-sacrifice--so that I can know God. He came to reveal the Father and call us to be sons in the Son, filii in FIlio. When we finally begin to wrap our heads around the idea that the Gospel isn't about us, that salvation isn't about us, that being a Christian isn't about us, but about God then we can really start to understand what it means to be a disciple, to be a community, a family of God.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Looking back on the road

Did we miss something? As we've journeyed back to Catholicism that's one of several questions Lisa and I have struggled with. Sometimes it seems like we were on this ten year detour just to end up where we left.

Before leaving the Church Lisa and I were very active and involved in ministry. I have a degree in theology from the Franciscan University. I was working as a religion teacher at a Catholic high school in MI and actviely involved in youth ministry for the diocese on the side. I was planning a career in the Church, hoping to land a diocesan level position in faith formation or as a principal. Part of me looks back at the last ten years & I have to wonder what might have been if we had stuck with it.

Then again, "God works all things together..." We've learned much and gained a greater, deeper appreciation for both Catholicism and the wider Body of Christ. I've been blessed with good, well paying jobs--more than full time ministry pays--that has given us the ability to pay off debt (from our ministry years). Most importantly, I think our journey has given us the chance to understand who we are, and now we can be true to ourselves.

People have asked us why we've decided to go back to Rome. The simple answer is that it's who we are, who we've always been. I've been watching My Big fat greek Wedding on TV while typing this. At the end of the movie the main character, Tula, says that she came to the realization that her family was big and loud, but they were her family & would alsways be there for her. I think that is part of the realization that I've had during this process. She may have her warts but Rome is my home, my family & it's where I belong.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Back Where I Began

After ten years in exile Lisa & I have finally crossed the Tiber back to Rome. The years spent in Protestant pastures have been quite an adventure. If I've learned anything during our sojourneying it's that the grass is not necessarily greener on either side of the fence. There is much that Catholics can learn from their separated brothers and sisters and vise versa. Having said that, I'm convinced that the best show in town is in the Catholic Church in spite of its own weaknesses and shortcomings.

It has been a difficult journey back to Rome, yet now that we've made that choice and been received back into communion it feels like a giant weight has been lifted off my shoulders. We've come out of the Catholic closet to just about all of our friends and have been blessed by their encouragement. I still don't know for sure what will happen to our community, Matthew's House. For our part we've decided to continue gathering on Sunday evenings with our small group and continue sharing our lives with one another while supporting each other in our pursuit of Jesus.

We've been warmly welcomed back into the fold by Fr. John Caulfield at St. Joseph's here in Lakeland. I'm sure there could have been a temptation for some finger wagging & "you should've known betters" but that didn't happen. He has been very understanding and encouraging to our great relief.

My hope & resolution is to stay more current and consistent with this new blog, althoughI think I've made that promise before with less than encouraging results. I want to post about our experiences over these past years to share what we've learned and how it translates into where we're going. Of course, I also want to be a little more proactive on posting about theology and current events as well. The name of the new blog, Mysterium Dei, loosely translates as the "Mystery of God". I can't help but think that it will come into use again if/when we ever realize our dream of developing an lay monastic community--yet another blogging topic.