Pope Francis is Writing an Encyclical on the Environment, and Both Sides of the Political Spectrum are Sharpening their Knives

Pope francis

Copyright Thierry Ehrmann, Flickr Commons, used with permission.

So, Pope Francis is going to write an encyclical on the environment, and the right wing heretics, the left wing heretics, the corporatists and the nihilists are sharpening their knives.

It would be a hopeful sign, that so many of our culture warriors and mega money-men are seemingly besotted with the pope to the point of losing all common sense.

It would be.

Except …

They are not besotted with the Pope as the Vicar of Christ. They are interested in him and his every little word because he has power, and power is what they are all about.

Pope Francis does not have the power to push a button and melt down mountains. He cannot sign an agreement and send the industrial base of a great capitalist nation to a communist nation. He can’t raid a national treasury and put the coin in his own pocket. He can not write a statue or issue an order and with his terrible swift pen KO the family, human life at its beginning or the tenuous hold on respect held by our frail elderly and disabled.

Nope.

Pope Francis can not do any of those things. What he can do is speak directly to the conscience of billions of Christians by telling them the plain facts of what Christ meant. He has the power to take the phrase “the least of these” and tell us who the least of these is and what we must do for them. He can remind us that Jesus said it more than once and He said it without equivocation that if we ignore “the least of these” we will not see heaven.

Pope Francis can define for us what, specifically, following Christ means in our world today. He can elucidate for us what the Scriptures mean when they tell us that we are our brothers’ keeper and that we have dominion over the earth.

We live in a time when corporatists are raping the American economy for their gain, while they also rape the planet on which we all live. At the same time, nihilists are selling us a cant of destruction of the family, the devaluation of human life and bloated social programs that not only do not heal the wounds our indifference to human beings have inflicted but are increasingly becoming a means to attack the rights and freedoms Americans enjoy.

Does anybody besides me see that these two things are not opposites? They are different verses of the same song, and that same song is the satan-inspired ballad of the pit, the cultural refutation of the value, dignity, worth and meaning of human life. The fact that one side does it for corporate interests and the other side does it for nihilistic interests makes no real difference. Dead is dead and we are killing ourselves in the service of these false gods of our politics.

Patheos writers from every quarter comment about this, each in their own way.

Frank Schaeffer recently published a passionate article in the Huffington Post in which he repented of and disavowed his religious right past. I think he got his politics a bit wrong when he said, … the American right is not about politics as most people understand politics but about religious absolutes. 

That may be the zeitgeist viewpoint, but from my vantage of having just completed 18 years in public office, it seems simplistic to the point of silliness. The right side of the political coin is not in any way about religious absolutes. Religious absolutes are what they use to sell their corporatism. Religious absolutes are their vote-getting machine.

Now, I know well that there are many sincere Christians who are part of the right side (let’s call them Republicans and stop the cuteness) of the political spectrum, precisely because they were chased out of the left side (Democrats) as punishment for their belief in God, in particular for their belief in His demand that we honor the sanctity of human life.

I’ve lived this nonsense, up close and personal, for quite some time. I can’t tell you how many times my fellow Democrats have uninvited me to be a member of their party because I am pro life.

I understand the flight of so many Christians to the Republican party. I also know that a good number of Republican office holders are devout and sincere Christians.

But, religious absolutes are not what the puppet masters who beam candidates into office on a beam of corporate money — in short the puppet masters who own and run the Republican Party for their own interests — are about. In fact, at least here in Oklahoma, a good many of the top tier Rs that I’ve known have been atheists, big donors to Planned Parenthood, etc.

Politics is not, ever, about religious certitude. It’s about getting power and keeping power and using power for corporatist purposes. It’s about raiding the treasury of public monies and public power which was built by the people and should be used for the people and putting it into the pockets of a few.

Buying a legislature or a Congress by putting them in office with a few million dollars is a cheap investment for controlling the American government and bending it to your own greedy and ruthless will.

On the other side, the side where Mr Schaeffer has found his new hallelujah, the vote-getting machine is aimed at the don’t-wanna-folllow-no-rules crowd. The Democratic Party, which was once the party of working people and the great builder of economic diversity and hope for this country, has become the purveyor of nihilism and the destruction of human life.

If it’s a bad moral idea, you can be pretty sure that the Ds will latch onto it and claim it as a human right before too long. Abortion, embryonic stem cell research, gay marriage, egg harvesting and the intellectual tyranny of political correctness are their vote getting machine.

Again, I know many people who still cling to the working-class roots of the Democratic Party. They truly are about a living wage and building an economy with American manufacturing, American labor and American know-how. I know a good number of elected Democratic officials, including, not so long ago, myself, who feel this way.

They/we are to the Democratic Party what the pro traditional marriage people have become to the Republican Party; someone to be tolerated and used, but also, when policy is made, ignored.

The American people are a bit like Mr Schaeffer in that they flip from one of these extremes to the other, in search of someone who will listen to them. Every few years they toss out whoever is in office and elect a new batch of wing nuts from the opposite political spectrum. Then, after the people they elect ignore the people who elected them and follow the the corporatist pipers who paid for their campaigns, we the people wearily, and with a deepening sense of hopelessness, toss them out and try again.

How does anyone keep putting their faith in princes in the face of this? More to the point, how does anyone keep chasing after what Elizabeth Scalia calls “Strange Gods”, in this case the false idol of political salvation, year after year, election after election?

What does all this have to do with Pope Francis and his as-yet unwritten encyclical on the environment? In truth, it doesn’t have much at all to do with the encyclical itself, and that is the primary cause of all the carrying on about it in the two wing-nut camps that seek to define Western society in their own image.

They are not dealing with the actual encyclical, and they never will. What they are doing now is rehearsing and readying. They are softening us up for the tsunami of propaganda that will be unleashed when the encyclical is published.

Right wing nuts are afraid that Pope Francis might write something that says that they (gasp, shock, rage) might be in need of conversion. Left wing nuts are hopeful that this is so. Both of them intend to ignore the actual encyclical and write their own version of it when it comes out.

What they both want out of the deal is political advantage in order to solidify their control of the American government to be used for their own destructive and America-destroying purposes.

Pope Francis has the power of speaking as the Vicar of Christ and these politicos and their mouthpieces want to harness that power to their own anti-Christ uses. That makes him the object of their hatred and delight, another person thingy to massage and lie about until they drain him of his relevance and can’t use him anymore.

Mark Shea wrote a post yesterday in which he noodled with what this might mean to Catholics like us who are living our walk with Christ in these times. He rightly notes that certain members of the clergy are infected with this disease of defining Jesus by their politics along with the rest of the populace. They veer to the left, or to the right, whittling Jesus down into a caricature of the R or the D, and teaching their hapless parishioners to do the same.

Mark is the writer Catholic righties love to hate. He’s fought the good fight of speaking against both both torture and abortion, of being against corporatism and socialism, of saying that the right to life goes seamlessly from conception to natural death and that hunger, poverty, corporate wars and nihilistic debauchery that kills are co-promotors of the culture of death.

That is a most Catholic position, and it is also the one position most likely to make everybody, everywhere in the political firmament mad at you.

Because the little g gods of political fealty require a serious jettisoning of Christian baggage as the price for that comfortable feeling of finding cheap grace and easy salvation in your voter registration card. It does not matter which party you chose. If you follow its teachings instead of Jesus, you are on the broad path that leads to destruction.

That is Frank Schaeffer’s mistake. It was his first mistake when he blindly took off after the Rs in the name of Jesus, and now it’s his second mistake when he blindly attacks them and takes off after the Ds. I do not know this man, but based on this article, it seems that he is making the same mistake, over and again.

What I call The Political Heresy, which is the practice of looking for God in your politics, is, in my opinion, the primary heresy of contemporary America.

I would put it above nonsensical claptrap such as claiming that killing people with abortion and euthanasia is a human right, or that harvesting women’s bodies for eggs is women’s rights. I would also put it above the other claptrap of claiming that Jesus was a corporatist, and that what He really meant all along was blessed are the rich.

I do that because The Political Heresy is a first cause of both these things. What makes it a first cause is that it shifts our loyalty and our followership away from Christ Jesus and places it on the propagandized musings of well-paid think tanks and media outlets who are designed and employed to confuse, delude, misinform and otherwise lead us away from Him.

Pope Francis is writing an encyclical on the environment, and both sides of the political spectrum are sharpening their knives. Because they don’t care about Jesus. And they don’t care about the future of this planet. And they don’t care about people.

They care about getting and keeping power.

And everything else they say is a lie.

The epiphany of the Epiphany: The Wise Men r Us

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Copyright: Wonderlane used with permission.

The wise men r us.

By that I mean they are that vast reach of overlooked humanity that had no part in God’s Covenant with Abraham. The wise men are you and me, who will be, at long last and as St Paul put it, “grafted” onto the original tree of life that God planted when He raised up first a man and his wife, then their family, and finally, a people, to be the flame of flickering light in the darkness of fallen humanity.

We sorta know the story of the Wise Men. We’ve seen it acted out in Christmas pageants when, at the end of the story of Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the manger, three little boys walk in to the tune of We Three Kings. They are wearing bathrobes made of shiny fabric and carrying three boxes marked “gold,” “frankincense” and “myrrh.”

The little boys put their boxes next to a makeshift manger which holds a doll wrapped in a baby blanket. Meanwhile a little girl, dressed in a her mother’s bathrobe and a little boy dressed in his dad’s, look on. The shepherds are already there, along with a couple of little girl angels.

It’s Christmas and the people rise to sing Joy to the World with the gusto of those who know in their hearts that this story, however simply it is told, is true.

These Christmas pageants are simple, fun and they do tell the essential story. But the layers upon layers of meaning that the story holds are not touched. That’s to the good, of course, since belief lies not in layers of understanding but in the simplicity of ultimate truth.

Christmas is about the end of the endless night of ultimate hopelessness. It is the story of The Light breaking into human history. As such, the simplicity of small-church Christmas pageants are all we need to tell the story.

But for those who want to look past the dust jacket on the story, the questions and the answers are there. Before Jesus, God’s direct work with humanity had been limited to this smallish family turned nation that He had settled smack along the most important trade route of the ancient world. The bread basket of Egypt, the spices and riches of the East, traveled along this narrow way near the sea on their journey to Europe.

Rome fed off this route, as had numerous empires before it. Of all the places in the ancient world, the one most likely to be fought over, invaded, battered and beaten, was this one. Why did God put His people here?

My guess is that it was because the story of the Jews is not just the story of the Jews. It is the story of Jesus’ family. The Bible itself is, from the first page to the last, the story of Jesus, of God’s redemption of us, all of us, everywhere. He chose to send His redemption first through a man and his wife, then through a family and finally through a single nation.

When Jesus was born, He repeated the story and went back, once again, to a man and woman, a husband and wife. It seems that God always begins His beginnings with humanity with family.

The Chosen people were chosen, as God told Abraham, “to be a blessing.” They job was to bring that first flickering point of light to the world at large. The nation of Israel was in the one best place best situated for sending the message of redemption to the whole world. The location that made it a perilous location of great political and economic interest, also made it the perfect jumping-off place for spreading the Good News outward until it met itself circling the globe.

Thus Jesus, when He finally came, was a Jew, born to Jews in a vassal Jewish nation residing in the crook of the elbow of the ancient economy.

He was, from the beginning, the Light of the World. Not, notice, the light of the Jews. Jesus, a Jew, born of Jews, came for every person who walked the planet. Salvation came from the Jews, but it was for us all.

That is the meaning of the Epiphany. It is the underlying message of God calling three wise men to, as the hymn says, “traverse afar” in their quest to find Him. These men were not Jews. They were us, the unsaved sea of humanity that had been, up until then, standing outside the door.

The epiphany of the Epiphany is that we are part of the story now. Salvation came from the Jews, but it is no longer theirs alone. From the beginning of Jesus’ earthly life, He called all humanity to Himself. It began with three men who followed a star and it is unfolding to this day.

Pope Francis surprised the pundits this week by raising up cardinals from far-flung locations about the world, many of which are places where Christians suffer desperate persecution. The mustard seed is just being planted in some of these lands. Those cardinals are the successors to the wise men.

… the Gospel must be preached to all nations, Jesus told us.

And it will be.

And it is.

Like every other story of humankind, the story of our salvation begins with a man, a woman, and a baby. It begins with a family, and it ends with eternal life.

Mixed into this story is the tale of three wise men who “traversed afar” to pay homage to a newborn king laid in a manger in a stable. They visited the Romans’ vassal king of that land, King Herod, on their way to Him. In doing so, they alerted a ruthless and insecure man to a potential threat. Their indiscretion cost the lives of innocent children, executed by King Herod in a drive to safeguard his throne against prophecy. They were the trigger that sent Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus into exile in Egypt.

Their part in the story of salvation, was germinal in every way. But the most important part of it is also the most often overlooked. The wise men were not Jews, they were not of the Chosen people. The blood of Abraham did not flow in their veins. But God called them and guided them and over a long journey led them … to Him.

In this way, the epiphany of the Epiphany is that we are welcome at the table now. The doors to God’s salvation opened wide on that night when He was born, allowing any who will take the step to enter in. It began with a star, a journey and a baby.

Because the wise men r us.

The Beauty of the Catholic Church


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Notre Dame and The Little Sisters of the Poor


I thank you Father … that you have hidden these things from the wise 
and the learned, and revealed them to the little ones.

 Jesus Christ

“CCChristian people, I am come hither to die for the faith of Christ’s holy catholic church; and, I thank God, hitherto my stomach hath served me very well thereunto, so that yet I have not feared death; wherefore I desire you all to help and assist with your prayers, that, at the very point and instant of death’s stroke, I may in that very moment stand steadfast without fainting in any one point of the catholic faith, free from any fear. And I beseech Almighty God of his infinite goodness to save the king and this realm, and that it may please him to hold his holy hand over it, and send the king a good council.”

St John Fisher, at his execution

God’s warriors have always been the most unlikely people.

He sent Moses who stuttered to speak to Pharaoh and Gideon who was a coward to fight a war. He chose Deborah — a woman in an ancient middle-eastern country — as commander in chief during another war, and He was Himself born in a manger and raised by a carpenter.

God likes the little people, the unlikely people. Jesus’ disciples, who would ultimately change the world, were fishermen and disreputable tax collectors and such.

Jesus Himself once thanked His Father for revealing the truth of the Kingdom to the “little ones.”

We see this lived out in our world every single day. How often do we see the powerful and puffed up professional followers of Christ who have done quite well for themselves, thank you very much, cut and run when trouble comes? How often do we see those who claim that they speak for God and we must honor and respect them for that reason, collude with the world and do its bidding rather than Our Lord’s?

The leadership in a good many of our Catholic universities is a case in point. Many of these universities are institutions that were built by priests, jesuits in particular, and which are still headed by priests.

Education has become a primary means of brainwashing young people into turning their back on Christ. This is a magnificent opportunity for those who run our Catholic universities to make a positive difference for the Kingdom. They could, if they were committed to  Christ themselves, make their institutions a primary means of converting the culture.

Instead, many of them have chosen to convert their schools to fit the culture. When push comes to shove, as it has with the HHS Mandate, they bend the knee and kiss Ceasar’s ring without embarrassment. And they continue to wear the Roman collar while they are doing it.

As I said, in another post, enter the Little Sisters of the Poor, stage left. The sisters are, as Jesus said, “little ones.” The word “little” is even in their name. They were, before they decided to make a courtroom stand for Christ, almost anonymous. Their work isn’t the kind of thing that allows them to hobnob with presidents and kings. They spend their days caring for the least of these, for the very people that a good many in our society are pushing to euthanize for their costliness and the massive inconvenience they create. The Little Sister of the Poor care for the frail elderly,

The Little Sisters fit Jesus’ description of “the little ones” pretty well. They serve a Church which is administered by men who do sit down to sup with presidents and kings and many of whom have clearly forgotten that they are servants, not masters.

One of Public Catholic’s readers inspired this post with the comment that they wished the Little Sisters of the Poor would be more like the priests of Notre Dame and just do what the government tells them to do: Accept the HHS Mandate and follow the government instead of Christ.

The reader didn’t put that last bit about following the government instead of Christ in there. That was all me. But I honestly think it reflects the choice that the leadership at many of our Catholic universities have made, and not just in the HHS Mandate.

What the reader was saying, of course, is that they preferred Christians who follow the world rather than Christ; they like cowardly Christian leadership that will lead their people into betraying Our Lord so that the Church becomes a meaningless cypher in today’s world. This reader — and I imagine a good many other people — prefers the priests of Notre Dame to the Little Sisters of the Poor precisely because the priests are so willing to sell out Jesus and the Little Sisters are, however reluctantly, willing to fight for Him.

I wonder if this embarrasses these priests at all. I would take a look at myself if those who have as their outspoken goal the destruction of religion in general and Christianity in particular praised me for not following the Church. Do they consider, even for a moment, the implications in this?

These are difficult times, and difficult times are when the sunshine soldiers who joined to participate in the parades and fanfare lay down their arms and cross over to what looks like the winning side. How many of the English bishops acceded to Henry VIII? I know of one. Cardinal John Fisher was martyred for his faith and is now Saint John Fisher.

I’ve read letters from the bishops, encouraging the laity to consider St Thomas More when thinking about the HHS Mandate. St Thomas More is special to me. When I was in the process of converting, I thought about him a lot. I’ve always thought that he was there with me, aiding me in that time. St Thomas More is my namesake. During my years in office I wore his medal, all day, every day.

St Thomas More refused to repudiate the Church at the King’s command. St Thomas is precious to me because he had many failings and he did not want to die. He was not aiming for sainthood. He tried his best to live, to avoid his martyrdom. But in the end, when the choice of Christ or King was put before him, he chose Christ.

St Thomas More is a marvelous example, especially for politicians, writers and attorneys. St John Fisher is an equally important example for priests and bishops. I wish there was a St John Fisher Society to promote sacrificial followership among priests and bishops. I wish they could find fellowship and strength in one another. It is not easy to lead people in these times. It takes consistency and courage.

Leadership in the name of Christ is always servant leadership. It is a giving of oneself, rather than a getting for oneself. The people of God are hungry for leadership. Even most of those who criticize and try to bully the Church into acceding to the world would respond to leadership if they saw it. In fact, a good many of these people behave this way because they don’t have leadership. They are, as Jesus put it, like sheep without a shepherd.

The single best way to lead is by example, by inspiration. Do you want people to stand for Christ? Then stand for Christ yourself. Do you want people to sacrifice for Jesus because He is worth any sacrifice? Then, sacrifice yourself. The Church is built on the blood of the martyrs, not the crisp linens and fine serving ware of dining with presidents and kings.

The prominent priests of Notre Dame are a fine example of how not to do priestly leadership. Being the big dog and aping the world are not examples of servant leadership or even Christly leadership. They are examples of betrayal.

I thank You Father … that you have … revealed these things to the little ones. 

Enter the Little Sisters of the Poor, stage left.

How Do We Know Christianity is the One True Worldview?

 

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Immaculate Conception: A Person’s a Person, No Matter How Small

 

Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

It is one of my favorite days in the Church year because it commemorates the first turn of the prophetic wheel that led to our salvation. God blessed Mary with the Immaculate Conception, meaning that He removed from her soul the stain of Original Sin at that first moment when she existed.

There is meaning, wrapped inside meaning, in this event. For the moment, I want to focus on one meaning that is especially pertinent to Catholics who are trying to follow Our Lord in this Advent over 2,000 years after Our Lady was conceived.

The many meanings of the Immaculate Conception almost have no limit, applying as they do to the nature of the woman who was to become the Mother of God and Our Mother, as well. But one meaning that can get lost in the tinsel and Christmas carols that decorate this season of Advent is the simplest and most obvious.

Mary was Mary from the moment of her conception. God is not remove the stain of original sin from a little girl. The Angel Gabriel did not announce it to a young woman at the Annunciation. Christ did not endow his mother with it from the cross.

The meaning and the reality of the Immaculate Conception were woven into Mary’s biological and spiritual being from the precise moment that she began to exist as herself; a separate, entire, unique, individual, human person.

God did not remove the stain of original sin from a pile of chromosomes wrapped around one another. He did not deign to honor an anonymous cell that would shortly begin dividing and taking on the outward shape of what we have learned to identify as a human being.

The Immaculate Conception was God’s gift to Mary, the Mother of the Christ, the contributor of all that is human in our Lord and Savior from her first moment of life. Mary was conceived without sin in a silent miracle that would eventually bear the fruit that would become the I Am made human. Mary was, as parents always are, the co-creator, along with God, of the child that she birthed.

Her assent at the Annunciation was the same assent every woman gives today when she chooses to give her child life. Mary, like every other woman, was one of the life bearers of humanity. God recognized this great gift of maternity, not in the young woman whose fiat changed all of history, but in the single cell, the conceptus, that was Mary at her beginning.

If ever a believing Christian needs proof that a person’s a person, no matter how small, this is it.

The grisly deaths of human embryos, slaughtered for their body parts and used in embryonic stem cell research, can never be justified by any cure of benefit obtained from their executions at the hands of a society gone totally mad. Embryonic stem cell research is a form of cannibalism. It is the ultimate version of the biggest and meanest, making all the rules to their benefit.

Abortion was its door-opener, just as the Immaculate Conception was the door opener to our salvation. One door leads to the destruction and murder of innocents for the benefit of scientific industry and commercialized medicine. The other door, the one that the Immaculate Conception opened, leads to love, forgiveness and eternal life.

If you are a Christian, and most especially if you are a Catholic and have the benefit of the full understanding of Mary’s conception and her maternity, of who she is and what she means, you can not support embryonic stem cell research. You can not follow Jesus and go through that door both. You have to choose. The door of embryonic stem cell research is an evil wrong turn that leads away from the cross, away from salvation, away from eternal life and straight into eternal death.

The human person is made in the image and likeness of God, and you may not kill an innocent human person.

Because, as Doctor Seuss wrote, a person’s a person, no matter how small.

Mary Knew.


Mary Did You Know is a pretty song.

I rather like it myself.

But it is based on the false premise that there is a question as to whether Our Lady knew that the Baby she was carrying was the Messiah, the Son of God, the Lord of Lords, Christ the King.

Here’s the short answer to that question: She knew.

Here’s how I know she knew.

When the Archangel Gabriel spoke to Mary, he asked — not told, but asked — her if she would consent to be the mother of the Son of God. He made it clear that was what he was asking.  He told her that the Holy Spirit would “come over her” and the “power of the most high would overshadow” her and for that reason the Holy Child will be called the Son of God. If that wasn’t clear enough, he also said, He will be called the Son of the Most High and the Lord will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.

Do you still wonder if Mary “knew?” Then flip forward a few pages and read the Magnificat. This incredible hymn of praise comes from the lips of a young girl who has just had what the angel told her recognized and confirmed by her cousin Elizabeth who said, Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me? when she saw Mary. Blessed are you, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, she said.

Elizabeth goes on to tell her that the baby she was carrying leapt in her womb in recognition of the presence of the unborn Christ Child.

Here is how Mary responded to this recognition. It is not the warbling of a naive youngster. It is the praise and acknowledgement of a theologically aware woman who knew absolutely that she was the Mother of God. The answer to the song’s question, Mary did you know? is yes, absolutely. She knew.

My soul magnifies the Lord
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
Because He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid;
For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed;
Because He who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is His name;
And His mercy is from generation to generation
on those who fear Him.
He has shown might with His arm,
He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and has exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich He has sent away empty.
He has given help to Israel, his servant, mindful of His mercy
Even as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity forever.

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Book Review: Accepting the Lordship of Christ, Gay Style

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To join the discussion about Gay and Catholic, or to order a copy, go here

I know a lot of people who are gay and Catholic, on both sides of the altar. Contrary to the media yammerings, being Gay and Catholic is something of a commonplace.

I’ve never personally known someone who was Catholic and gay who hated the Church the way that we hear they should. What I have seen is a number of people who are doing just like so many Catholics. They are obedient to the Church’s teachings to varying degrees, but they are sincere to the core in their longing for the transcendent love of God.

I know gay Catholics who are in loving sexual relationships. I know gay Catholics who have lived their lives and almost certainly will die in the closet. I know gay Catholics who have marriages, children, grandchildren and who live two lives, a secret one as gay and the one they present to the world and to their families as straight. I know gay Catholics who are single and, so far as I can tell, living celebate lives.

What I haven’t known until I came to Patheos was gay Catholics who openly discussed their sexuality in terms of their acceptance of the teachings of Catholic Church. I had not met the willingness to discuss their own gay-ness within an intellectual and lived framework of obedience to Christ in an open and honest way.

I had not, in short, met Eve Tushnet.

Eve, whether she puts it in these words or not, is striving toward the wonderful objective that Margaret Rose Realy states so beautifully, “Being pleasing to God.”

Margaret’s faith and her elucidation of that message have been a beacon to me in these days of my retreat, a light showing the way forward. When I read Eve Tushnet’s book, Gay and Catholic, I recognized that I was reading the message of a person who is also striving to “be pleasing to God” with her life.

There is no one story for how to apply the love and lordship of Christ to our lives. Each one of us has our uniqueness which we bring to that way of living. But “being pleasing to God” must — must — begin with accepting that Christ is the Lord of all life, and most particularly and most demandingly, of our own lives.

Jesus does not force us to follow HIm. He lets us choose. He lets us say no. He even, just as He did during His passion, lets us mock Him and attack Him and deny Him.

We chose to follow Christ, to make Him the Lord of our lives, each of us, of our own free will. Or we refuse.

Obfuscations and claims of following Christ without actual followership do not count in this choice. What matters is if you actually live out that choice on a daily basis. That means living lives that are profoundly counter-cultural. It does not matter what your culture is, you will not “fit” with its worldly zeitgeist if Jesus Christ is truly and absolutely the Lord of your life. It is not possible.

In that way, Eve Tushnet’s decision to accept a celebate life is no different from the many decisions that Christians all over the world must make. It certainly is not so fraught as the decisions to follow Him that Christians who are imprisoned and murdered for their faith are forced to make.

But the decision to give up her will for His will is Eve Tushnet’s gift of herself to Christ.

That, at bottom, is what accepting Jesus Christ as Lord means. It means making a free gift of yourself and your choices to Him. It is not possible to make such a radical commitment to Christ and still be comfortably aligned with the world. In this way, gay Catholics face the same choices as all other followers of Christ.

Eve Tushnet seeks to develop a paradigm of friendship as a way to live out the vocation of celebacy without inflicting the aridity of isolation and loneliness on oneself. In truth, friendships are the elixir of life, and once again, that applies to all of us. Katrina Fernandez, who struggles with the loneliness of a single mother, is just as much in need of loving friendships as the gay Catholic sitting in the pew in front of her.

Friendship, real friendship, is a lost art in our culture of immediate satisfactions and raging political divisiveness. That is a tragedy which reflects our deeper alienation from God.

I say this because the more you love God and the longer you walk with Christ, the more fully you see that we are all the same underneath our artificial differences. We are all scared and alone, pitted and stained, lost and isolated. We all crave the infinite and we all need forgiveness and love.

The rageful craziness of our society as it plunges into a steepening descent, is a manifestation of what happens when people seek these things inside themselves instead of finding them in God.

The antidote to this raw, keening alienation is the complete freedom of accepting that Jesus Christ is Lord, and by that I mean, that Jesus Christ is Lord of you.

For the gay person, no less or even no different, from the rest of us, that means laying the whole of ourselves, including our sexuality, on the altar of His love. But that does not mean that gay people should live lives of solitary confinement inside their gayness.

We were made by a triune God Who understands fellowship, Who made us for fellowship, with one another and with Him.

In Gay and Catholic, Eve Tushnet begins the discussion about how this fellowship might look for a celebate gay Catholic. I don’t think her suggestions are the final discussion about this. I think they are the beginning of a great dialogue, which, if it is to be truly meaningful, must be based on the acknowledgement that this need applies to far more people than just those with homosexual orientation. It is a human discussion, about universal human needs.

We were made for God, and for one another. Friendship is a human need that is probably stronger and certainly more persistent than our sexual longings.

I like Gay and Catholic so much that I’ve bought copies to give to gay Catholic friends of mine. I am interrupting my retreat to write this review because I think that Gay and Catholic begins a discussion that is long overdue and which we desperately need to have.

Know, Trust and Don’t be Afraid

detail-from-the-creation-of-adam-michelangeloFrom what I gather, I’m doing this retreat so wrong that it hardly qualifies as a retreat. I think I’m supposed to go sit in a room and keep silence, waiting for God to speak to me. But, to be honest, if I went off in a room and kept silence for days at a time, I would probably sleep for a couple of days and then start trying to dig a tunnel through the floor.

It’s just not me.

My best idea of a retreat would be, if I had a horse, to saddle up and go for long meandering rides while I think and talk to God about what I’m thinking. I understand going off into the desert and wandering as a retreat. I can understand lying on your back and looking up at the stars. But locked inside four walls with a candle and a holy portrait? Not so much.

Since I don’t have a  horse, I play the piano. And I’m finding the piano fills me up with pleasure that seems holy and pure to me. I also care for the people I love. I read. I kibitz. I spend time with friends. But mostly, I talk to Jesus about what ails me.

A retreat for me is taking time to be with God and trusting that He wants to be with me as well. If He has something He wants me to do, He’ll tell me.

I use the phrase that I am going to “seek the Lord” when I talk about these withdrawals into the Holy Spirit that I do from time to time because that phrase seems to make sense to the people who hear it.

But I don’t “seek the Lord,” for the simple reason that He hasn’t gone anywhere. He’s with me all the time. Sometimes I ignore Him for days on end and just go my way. When I do that, he’s like a parent, watching while Her child plays and rambles; not interfering, but there.

I don’t truly “seek the Lord” because all I have to do is what any one else has to do; acknowledge His presence and talk to Him about the things that are troubling me. There’s no formula for interacting with the Holy Spirit. If you are a Christian, the Holy Spirit is with you and in you every moment of every day. He loves you and His viewpoint is much broader than yours.

One thing I have read in the book I’m using for this retreat (Consoling the Heart of Jesus) that I don’t get at all is the rather tortured explanation as to why we need to console Jesus when He’s in heaven. I was confounded by how difficult the thinkers the author quoted make this simple thing.

Here’s my non-theological explanation for what I didn’t know was a question: Jesus is God. He made everything, everywhere, including — get ready for this — time. If Jesus made time, He is outside of time. He is not part of our linear time that flows inexorably from one moment to the next in a steady measurable procession that you can, well, set your watch by.

My son and I had a discussion with another homeschooling mom back in the day about the first chapters of Genesis. I kept saying that, while the description in Genesis is true, it is expressed in poetic terms. Specifically, the word “day” does not refer to a 24 hour, solar day. First, there was no sun when God began His creation. Second, God is outside of time. The term “day” is a non sequitur to Him that He uses for the benefit of our understanding.

She didn’t get it.

Finally, my 11-year-old son said, “I don’t think God sees time as a line the way we do. I think He sees it as a dot.”

That is probably pretty close to the truth in that God, being the creator of time, and being outside of time, sees all of creation, from beginning to end, constantly and as one whole. I don’t think that when He says He knows our days and the future of our world, he is saying that He is predicting what will happen the way a prophet or seer would. I think in God’s eye view the end and beginning and everything in between is an eternal now.

What does that mean to the idea of consoling Jesus for His sufferings while he is now in heaven and far from those sufferings? Just this: Everything is now to God. Jesus is at Calvary in the same way that, when the actual physical event occurred, He died for you and me two thousand years before we were born. It’s not a trick of theology. It’s a matter of perspective. God’s perspective.

I think my rather odd ball way of retreating is an echo of that understanding of God. I met God when I was driving my car on the way to make a speech. The Holy Spirit filled me up with God’s love in a moment and from that day to now, has never left me.

That experience and what I’ve learned from this continuous presence of the Holy Spirit, shapes the way I approach God and the way I do a retreat.

I drop out from public activities and go to a period of praying because I get battered up by life and I need the healing and solace that just being with the Lord gives me. I need to be loved and God never fails to love me when I just stop and let Him.

But I do not go into long periods of “discernment.” I have learned that if God wants me to do something, I won’t be able to get out of it. It’s that simple: If He wants me to do something, He’s gonna to tell me, and if I don’t get the message, He’ll keep on telling me until I do.

My job isn’t to “discern.” It’s to obey. And there are times when that obedience is not cheap.

I do ask, and have been asking a lot during this retreat, things like “Was I wrong when I said that?” “Did I behave like a jerk?” “Do you want me to change about that?” I’m so willful and given to doing things on my own initiative that I need — and pray — for God to guide me away from doing the wrong thing while thinking it’s the right thing.

But mostly, I find myself face to face with God and He changes me inside by loving me. I’ve said it many times: God does not change what we do. He loves us and that love changes what we want to do.

There’s more, and I’ll talk about it in the days ahead. But for now I want to emphasize one thing: Seeking God is like a child, crying out for its mother in the middle of the night. The minute you say you need Him, He is there. Because He was always there.

That was the experience I had at my conversion. He was there, right there, and He always had been there. I had willfully shut off my awareness of Him. But the moment I reached out, He was there.

All you have to do is trust and know that. Even in times of peril, grief, chaos or terror when the white noise in your head blots out everything, He is still there. You can’t hear Him, because you are drowning Him out with your keening. But He is there, and He won’t leave you.

You don’t have to earn His love and you can’t make Him stop loving you. Nothing you can do will stop Him from loving you and nothing you can do will make Him love you any more. You are His child.

Know that. Trust it.

And don’t be afraid.

 

In Christ Alone: Whom Should I Fear?

If you are engaging the world for Christ on any level, you will face opposition and personal vendettas.

Put your trust in Jesus and don’t worry about it. It’s just old scratch, working through his unaware disciples. Pray for those who try to stop you from witnessing for Jesus and keep your eyes on Christ alone.

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