What we can learn from Augustine’s mom about community

When Augustine’s mother Monica moved to Milan, she was concerned about fasting. The practice was universal in the church from the beginning, but it differed in places. In Monica’s hometown the church abstained on Saturdays, but not the church in Milan. What should she do?Augustine, then a catechumen, had no idea; so he put the question to his bishop, Ambrose.“[W]hatever church you come to, conform to its custom,” said Ambrose. Even as a bishop he said that he observed the same rule (Let … [Read more...]

Christ is both our goal and our way

Christ is everything to the believer. Our lives follow his.This short reflection from Augustine's City of God shows us that Christ is the goal of human life and the way we walk toward that goal. He's the point and the path. (I've paraphrased it here from Marcus Dods' translation.)Man is properly understood to be made in God’s image. This is the higher part of his nature that transcends the lowly animals and brings him nearer to the Supreme. But while the human mind is naturally capable o … [Read more...]

Understanding God’s mysterious methods

Detour

It's easy to get frustrated at God and the way he appears to be ignoring our plans and prayers. But God's ways are not, so Isaiah informs us, ours. And it's interesting what can happen when we look back at unfulfilled ambitions, unplanned occurrences, and unanswered prayers.Sometimes we can see God winking at us through the supposed disappointment. Why? Because in retrospect it all turned out so much better than we had hoped.If we think about it, we all have a dozen examples from our … [Read more...]

Merry Christmas! In March?

The Annunciation

Today is March 25. Merry Christmas!Well, sort of. Let me explain. There is a widespread belief -- or maybe a suspicion -- that Christmas is little more than a baptized version of a pagan winter solstice celebration. The idea is that the church "christianized" the celebration so recently converted pagans would celebrate Jesus instead of Saturn or Sol or what have you. … [Read more...]

Enriched by ritual

Enriched by ritual

I run into people from time to time who are very skeptical of religious ritual, things like liturgy or hourly prayers, practices like fasting or crossing yourself. If we discuss it, they usually tell me that they think it's deadening, that their spirituality is vital and free and that ritual would stifle things.I think I understand the resistance. Some come from families that just seemed to cycle through the motions at church. Some of those families were very serious and consistent, others … [Read more...]

Trusting God’s messy providence

Into the tangle

If your week hasn’t gone according to plan, this post is for you. Come to think of it, if your life hasn’t gone according to plan, this post is for you.St. Paul offers the Romans (and us) an extremely comforting thought when he tells them that God works all things for our good. Probably most of us believe that, cling to it in fact. We’re just mystified about how he goes about doing it.Look at Joseph’s story. God used him to save Egypt from famine and, by extension, the fledging nation of Is … [Read more...]

Simplicity is not all it’s cracked up to be

Peering into the nebula

I once heard a pastor talking about how Jesus’ ministry was all about simplifying things. One of the examples was that Christ took the entire Mosaic Law and summarized it in the Great Commandment.On the surface that sounds reasonable. Cramming the essential meaning of reams of passages into two sentences is quite a feat. But is loving the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength simple? What about loving your neighbor as yourself?People talk about the simplicity of the G … [Read more...]


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