Friday, October 26, 2018

Fr. Thomas Keating O.S.C.O, RIP

Trappist Fr. Thomas Keating: "He taught me the value of friendship with members of different religions. He taught me the value of silence and careful thinking." (NCR file photo)
 Trappist Fr. Thomas Keating, a global figure in both interreligious dialogue and Christian contemplative prayer, has died at the age of 95.

NCR has a very good write up of his life HERE.
Largely in response to the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council's call to religious orders for renewal, Keating and fellow Cistercian monks Fr. William Meninger and the late Fr. Basil Pennington (1931-2005), worked together in the 1970s to develop a contemplative prayer method that drew on ancient traditions but would be readily accessible to the modern world.
"The gift of God is absolutely gratuitous," he said. "It's not something you earn. It's something that's there. It's something you just have to accept. This is the gift that has been given. There's no place to go to get it. There's no place you can go to avoid it. It just is. It's part of our very existence. And so the purpose of all the great religions is to bring us into this relationship with reality that is so intimate that no words can possibly describe it."

The News, continued

" ... And then, beside the few real horrors, there are the countless pseudo-events, the come-on's, the releases, the statements, the surmises, the slanders, the quarrels, the insults and the interminable self-advertising of the image-makers.

"We believe that the "news" has a strange metaphysical status outside us: it "happens" by itself. Actually, it is something that we fabricate. Those who are poor artisans make only pseudo-events. These are the tired politicians and businessmen, the educators, writers, intellectuals and the tiredest of all, the Churchmen."

- Merton "Events and Pseudo-Events", Faith and Violence, 1967, p. 152

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The News

" ... Nine tenths of the news, as printed in the papers, is pseudo-news, manufactured events. Some days ten tenths. The ritual morning trance, in which one scans columns of newsprint, creates a peculiar form of generalized pseudo-attention to a pseudo-reality. This experience is taken seriously. It is one's daily immersion in "reality". One's orientation to the rest of the world. One's way of reassuring himself that he has not fallen behind. That he is still there. That he counts!

"My own experience has been that of renunciation of this self-hypnosis, of this participation in the unquiet universal trance, is no sacrifice of reality at all. To "fall behind" in this sense is to get out of the big cloud of dust that everybody is kicking up, to breathe and to see a little more clearly.

"When you get a clearer picture you can understand why so many want to stand in the dust cloud, where there is comfort in confusion."
-Merton, "Events and Pseudo-Events", Faith and Violence, p. 151

Monday, October 22, 2018

Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world. 
 Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life: The Diaries, Diary entry (September 29, 1942)

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

beautiful is the moment ...

"Beautiful is the moment in which we understand that we are no more than an instrument of God; we live only as long as God wants us to live; we can only do as much as God makes us able to do; we are only as intelligent as God would have us be."
- St. Oscar Romero

Monday, October 15, 2018

Prayer: Oscar Romero

Peace is not the product of terror or fear.
Peace is not the silence of cemeteries.
Peace is not the silent result of violent repression.
Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all.
Peace is dynamism.
Peace is generosity.
It is right and it is duty.

- St. Oscar Romero

HT: John Predmore SJ

Sunday, October 14, 2018

the authentic, courageous Gospel

Canonization of Oscar Romero and Paul VI, October 14, 2018
Today Óscar Romero (1917–1980) was named a saint by the Catholic Church. I woke up early and watched the live stream from the Vatican. Francis wore the same blood stained belt that Romero was wearing when he was killed. The quotes below are from St. Oscar Romero's homilies, gathered by Richard Rohr OFM. Whatever else is going on, this canonization feels like a good place and direction to me. This is a Church that is firmly rooted in reality (here, now, what is -- the world). It is a great gift to have this anchor in life.

 " ... the Christian faith does not cut us off from the world but immerses us in it." (St. Oscar Romero)

See also: The Political Dimension of Christian Love (Oscar Romero)
The shepherd must be where the suffering is. [1]
My soul is sore when I learn how our people are tortured, when I learn how the rights of those created in the image of God are violated.  [2]
A Gospel that doesn’t take into account the rights of human beings, a Christianity that doesn’t make a positive contribution to the history of the world, is not the authentic doctrine of Christ, but rather simply an instrument of power. We . . . don’t want to be a plaything of the worldly powers, rather we want to be the Church that carries the authentic, courageous Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, even when it might become necessary to die like he did, on a cross. [3]
In his homily on March 23, 1980, the day before he was murdered, Romero addressed the Salvadoran military directly:
Brothers, we are part of the same people. You are killing your own brother and sister peasants and when you are faced with an order to kill given by a man, the law of God must prevail; the law that says: Thou shalt not kill. No soldier is obliged to obey an order against the law of God. No one has to obey an immoral law. And it is time that you recover your consciences. . . . In the name of God, then, and in the name of this suffering people whose laments rise up to heaven each day more tumultuously, I plead with you, I pray you, I order you, in the name of God: Stop the repression! [4]
The next day, following his sermon, a U.S.-supported government hit squad shot him through his heart as he stood at the altar.
Only a few weeks earlier, Romero had said:
I have often been threatened with death. I must tell you, as a Christian, I do not believe in death without resurrection. If I am killed, I shall arise in the Salvadoran people. I say so without boasting, with the greatest humility. . . . A bishop will die, but God’s church, which is the people, will never perish. [5]
[1] Óscar Romero, Homily (October 30, 1977). See Through the Year with Óscar Romero: Daily Meditations, trans. Irene B. Hodgson (Franciscan Media: 2015, ©2005), 17.
[2] Homily (December 5, 1977). Ibid., 28.
[3] Homily (November 27, 1977). Ibid., 24.
[4] Homily (March 23, 1980). Ibid., 175.
[5] From a telephone interview with newspaper correspondent José Calderón Salazar. See James R. Brockman, Romero: A Life (Orbis Books: 2005), 247-248.

HT: Richard Rohr OFM

Friday, October 12, 2018

Not a conversion, but an evolution

This article in NCR combats some common misconceptions about how Blessed (soon to be St.) Oscar Romero came to take the courageous stands he did for the farmworkers and challenged the landowners and military dictatorship. These stands that Romero took — stands that got him into trouble and eventually got him killed — were not instances of him ignoring church doctrine or rebelling against it, but rather of him faithfully taking it to its fullest consequences — as he did, for example, with Catholic social teaching.

Romero was not radicalized by the Left. He did not "change sides" in a political struggle. Rather , Romero remained faithful to God, his calling, and the Gospel:

In fact, Romero objected to people speaking of his "conversion." Salvadoran Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chávez says, "I once asked him the following question: 'Monseñor, they say you've been converted. Is it true?' I remember his answer well: 'I wouldn't say it's been a conversion, but an evolution.' "

It was, as Romero wrote on another occasion, "an evolution of the same desire that I have always had to be faithful to what God asks of me; and if earlier I gave the impression of being more 'prudent' and more 'spiritual,' it was because I sincerely believed that in that way I responded to the Gospel, because the circumstances of my ministry were not as demanding as those when I became archbishop."

Romero was radical, but not in a partisan way that some people want to make him. His canonization was blocked for years by those who say that Romero made the church's role "political".

Theologian Charles Curran says:
"Romero's struggle against the government and its injustices did not [amount to] unacceptable involvement of the church or church leaders in the world of politics. Whatever affects human persons, human communities, and the environment is by that very nature not just a political or a legal issue. It is a human, moral and, for the believer, Christian issue. The Christian tradition has consistently recognized that the political order is subject to the moral order."
Pope Francis unblocked the canonization process and moved it forward.
Nor did Francis stop there; he did something else that had long cried out to be done. Many people aren't aware — but Francis was − of how shabbily Romero was treated by all but one of his brother bishops. Seldom has there been a condemnation of bishops as strong as the one Francis expressed to a group of Salvadoran pilgrims who were visiting the Vatican in 2015:
I would … like to add something that perhaps has escaped us. Archbishop Romero's martyrdom did not occur precisely at the moment of his death; it was a martyrdom of witness, of previous suffering, of previous persecution, until his death. But also afterwards because, after he died — I was a young priest and I witnessed this — he was defamed, slandered, soiled — that is, his martyrdom continued even by his brothers in the priesthood and in the episcopate. I am not speaking from hearsay; I heard those things.
It was good to see — at long last — Romero vindicated in that way.
 There is much more (and photos!) in the NCR article HERE.

 I will be watching the canonization on Sunday with much interest. Pray for us St. Oscar Romero.

silence amid the noise

“To preserve the silence within--amid all the noise. To remain open and quiet, a moist humus in the fertile darkness where the rain falls and the grain ripens--no matter how many tramp across the parade ground in whirling dust under an arid sky.”

Dag Hammarskjöld, Markings 
If only I may grow: firmer, simpler, quieter, warmer.
Read more at:
If only I may grow: firmer, simpler, quieter, warmer.
Read more at:
If only I may grow: firmer, simpler, quieter, warmer.
Read more at:
If only I may grow: firmer, simpler, quieter, warmer.
Read more at:
If only I may grow: firmer, simpler, quieter, warmer.
Read more at:

Monday, October 8, 2018

photo of Merton's 1st Mass

H.B. Littell | AP Photo
I don't know why I'm adding this photo to Louie - perhaps for historical context.  It is a good photo and I've seen it circulating several places on the web with this information:
Father Louis (Thomas Merton) elevates the chalice during his first celebration of Solemn High Mass since his ordination to the priesthood in Trappist, Kentucky, May 28, 1949. In foreground, the censer-bearer swings censer. At this point of the Mass the Consecration of the Body and Blood of Christ are complete and will be followed by Communion. Other priests are unidentified. Merton was given the name “Louis” upon entering the Cistercians of the Strict Observance, better known as the Trappists, at the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani.

Photograph by H.B. Littell via AP Archives

See also:

active solitude

photo by Thomas Merton
He loved the loneliness of the night. It taught him to view solitude as act, and to conclude that the reason no one really understood solitude was because men viewed it as a condition, something one elected to undergo -- like standing under a shower. Actually, solitude was for him a realization; even a kind of creation as well as a liberation of active forces within him. As a mere condition, solitude could be passive, inert and basically unreal: a kind of coma. To avoid this condition, he had to work actively at solitude.

Thus, a need for discipline, for techniques of integration that keep body and soul together, harmonizing their powers to bring into one deep resonance, oriented to the root of being.

Freedom began for Fr. Louis with the willingness to realize and experience his life as totally absurd in relation to the apparent meaning which had been thrown over life by society and by illusions. But that could be only a starting point leading to a deeper realization of that root reality in himself and in all life "which I do not know and cannot know ... This implies the capacity to see that realizing and knowing are not the same ... solitude itself is the fullness of realization. In solitude I become fully able to realize what I cannot know". 

-- John Howard Griffin, writing about Merton in "Follow the Ecstacy"

Monday, October 1, 2018

the need for love

 Merton with Sr. Anita of Jesus O.C.D., Fr. John of the Cross Wasserman's sister
Man is most human, and most proves his humanity (I did not say his virility) by the quality of his relationship with woman. This obsession with virility and conquest makes a true and deep relationship impossible. Men today think that there is no difference between the capacity to make conquests and the capacity to love. Women respond accordingly, with the elaborate deceit and thinly veiled harlotry -- the role assigned to woman by fashion -- and there is a permanent battle between the sexes, sometimes covered over with the most atrocious and phony play acting. In all this everyone completely forgets the need for love. A desperate need: not the need to receive it only, but the need to give love.

In the monastery, with our vows of chastity, we are ideally supposed to go beyond married love into something more pure, more perfect, more totally oblative. This should then make us the most human of all people. But that is the trouble: how can one go "further" than something to which one has not yet attained? This does not mean that one cannot validly embrace a life of virginity until he has first been married: a nice contradiction to put a person in! But it does men that we cannot love perfectly if we have not in some way loved maturely and truly. Family life should ordinarily provide the climate in which this is possible: but if the family is simply a place where the sexes fight for supremacy ...

-Thomas Merton, Conjectures, p. 190-191

The Good Shepherd’s commitments to us

Photo (by me) from the Basilica of Sts. Cosmos and Damian, Roma HT to John Predmore SJ for the following: I would like to talk about God’s ...