Saint O’the Day: St. John Bosco (31 Jan)

Please download and share this presentation – PDF

Advertisements

Prayer Numbers – Nine Days for Life and One Hundred Days of Prayer

As I wrap up this weekend, I share a few prayer intentions my classes and I will be praying with this coming week.

First, the USCCB offers many wonderful resources to pray over Nine Days for Life (21 Jan to 29 Jan). I put some pro-life prayer intentions in the slide deck for this week’s lectionary gospel. 

21_third-sunday-ordinary-time_jan-22_20172

Additionally, I found a thoughtful, “must-read” article on the U.S. Catholic blog which offers six numbers which pro-life Catholics should keep an eye on during the presidency of Donald Trump.

And, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange are publishing a calendar of the first 100 Days of President Trump with a prayer intention each day related to life and justice.

The slide above, which combines the prayer intention and the pro-life numbers, can be accessed in Monday’s Saint O’the Day and in each Saint O’the Day posting going forward.

Happy 2017! A New Year and a New Look

As a Catholic and a teacher, January 1st isn’t as important as either the first Sunday of Advent or the first day of school. While I celebrate today with the rest of the world, I’ve already welcomed 2017 and 2016-2017.

Culturally it feels like there’s both a sense of relief that 2016 is done, yet trepidation with what 2017 will bring – especially with a new U.S. President in twenty days.

So, I share with you three things today..

First, I chose the image above as it reminds me of a favorite quote:

01-01-light-a-candle

I think I’ll use this as a prayer or mantra over the next 365 days.

Second, I’ve changed the look of this blog. I felt it was time to freshen things up and to allow more posts to be viewed simultaneously. Note that the items which were on the side bars are now at the bottom. Please let me know what you think this new format.

Finally, I offer the list of Pope Francis’ prayer intentions for this coming year. I hope you’ll pray with the Holy Father, the Universal Church, my classes and me for these great needs for our planet.

And, as we face the unknown of what 2017 will bring, may we follow Pope Francis and his invitation for all of us:

01-01-pope-francis-be-brave

 

 

Meditation Monday: Third Week of Advent

As I mentioned last Monday and the Monday before, the Spirituality Committee at my school has commissioned me to create a short video meditation for each Monday of Advent. It’s my pleasure to share this video for you to personally use or to share with others:

Today (March 22nd)is World Water Day!

Yes, it’s late in the day and ideally this post should have come yesterday or at least earlier today. But, with something as essential as H2O , better late than never.

03-22-16

When you think about it, I really should have had this day highlighted well in advance on my calendar (rather than just discover it right now on the Google blog). I don’t give much credence to the Zodiac, but I do know that I’m the “water bearer” – Aquarius. This suits me to a T as I’m known to leave home with far more (reusable) bottles of water than I’ll ever need. BTW, for what it’s worth, the best reusable I’ve ever owned is by Kleen Kanteen. 

To celebrate World Water Day, here’s some important facts from the International Business Times:

1. 1.8 billion people around the world lack access to safe water.

2. Globally, a third of all schools lack access to safe water and adequate sanitation.

3. In low- and middle-income countries, a third of all healthcare facilities lack a safe water source.

4. The World Economic Forum in January 2015 ranked the water crisis as the No. 1 global risk based on impact to society (as a measure of devastation).

5. The incidence of children suffering from stunting and chronic malnutrition — at least 160 million — is linked to water and sanitation.

6. More than 840,000 people die from a water-related disease each year, including diarrhea caused by bad drinking water, hygiene and sanitation.

7. Eighty-two percent of people who don’t have access to “improved” water live in rural areas.

8. More than one-third of people worldwide lack access to a toilet, more than the number of people who have a mobile phone.

9. Women and children spend 125 million hours collecting fresh water every day. Individual women and children spend as many as six hours collecting fresh water daily.

10. Every 90 seconds a child dies from a water-related disease.

11. Universal access to safe water and sanitation would result in $18.5 billion in economic benefits each year from deaths avoided alone, a return of $4 for every dollar spent on safe water access.

12. The amount of safe water could drop by 40 percent in 15 years if people do not change the way they use water.

Pretty shocking and downright scandalous realities about this absolutely essential natural resource. Especially #10 above, shouldn’t happen in the 21st century.

More facts and illustrations can be found at water.org 

And from Charity: Water comes this high-tech, heart-breaking and amazing short film:

Also DROP4DROP seeks to raise awareness of the global water crisis and aid communities in getting the water they desperately need.

So, this Easter Sunday, when you get splashed by holy water while renewing your baptismal vows, say a prayer for those without clean, safe water. And maybe also give to one or more of these worthy organizations.

Friday FaithPost: Scapegoating, Mimetic Theory and Another View of Atonement

OK, so the title of this post doesn’t roll off of the tongue very well. And you may be asking: Why should I read about atonement? How does it relate to scapegoating? Or even “What is atonement?

From a Christian theological perspective, atonement refers to how Jesus’ life, death and resurrection reconciled our sins. The “bumper sticker” version of this is “Jesus saves.” Many, if not nearly all, Christians, when thinking about how Jesus saves, adopt a transactional or legalistic view of this process.

Substitutionary Atonement is a general term for this view. The logic supporting it can be summarized:

+ Human sin, both Original Sin and the myriad individual sin flowing from it, offends God’s sense of justice.

+ This justice demands payment or punishment commensurate with the offense committed against God.

+ Since human sin is so massive, there is no amount punishment or ransom humans can endure or offer which can appease God’s justice.

+ Only God’s son – both human and divine – can take upon himself human sin. When he endures the violence of brutal punishment and sacrificially sheds his blood as a stand-in for humans (a substitute) God’s justice is served. And through this sacrifice, God and humanity are reconciled.

A very popular narrative representation of this view of atonement is in C.S. Lewis’ beloved and allegorical “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” Edmond betrays his siblings to the evil character. Even though he is forgiven for this by the Christ-like Aslan, the satanic witch cites the foundational justice of the land which requires traitors to become subject to destruction at her hands.Instead,  Aslan takes the witch’s violence himself, thus saving Edmond. And in doing so, an even “deeper magic” come into effect to restore him to life and energize all to defeat evil.

Another bumper sticker sized statement flows from this view of the mechanics of atonement – “Jesus Died For Your Sins.” Adherents of this perspective often emphasize how much Jesus suffered before and on the cross. A correlation is drawn between the magnitude of sin committed by humanity and the amount of pain Jesus endured as a direct consequence. The not infrequently stated: “Your sins drove a nail in to Jesus” is the harsh conclusion of this belief.

The question at the heart of this view of atonement is: “Did God the Father need (or want) Jesus to die in order to save humanity from sin and death?” Certainly Jesus died a violent death at the hands of the Romans. But, did God want/need this? If the answer is “yes,” then violence and the resulting salvation proclaimed by Christianity is sanctified and glorified. The implications cut right to the heart of Christian ethics. Although Jesus lived a life proclaiming peace, if God the Father needs/wants the blood of his son for appeasement, then violence trumps peace as the core characteristic of God’s nature. And consequently, Christians may be justified in similarly using “righteous” violence.

A growing number of theologians are showing how the exact opposite is true – Jesus died as a result of sin, specifically the foundational human sin of scapegoating.  God didn’t need/desire this violence, but allowed it, in order to turn it inside out through the resurrection of the innocent, scapegoated victim.

Perhaps the most prominent American Catholic theologian, Bishop Robert Barron, has  been speaking more and more about the theology of non-violent atonement. Read or watch below Bishop Barron’s high praise for recently deceased sociologist and theologian Rene Girard who wrote extensively about mimetic theory and scapegoating.

Bishop Barron concludes about Girard:

There are some thinkers that offer intriguing ideas and proposals, and there is a tiny handful of thinkers that manage to shake your world. Girard was in this second camp. In a series of books and articles, written across several decades, he proposed a social theory of extraordinary explanatory power.

Girard also informs the excellent work of The Raven Foundation who offer this video mission statement:

I appreciate the dedicated work of the Raven team who frequently post commentary pointing out the many ways scapegoating happens all around us. Two thought-provoking, recent posts to check out are:

“Zootopia” How to Make the World a Better Place

“Spotlight” on Children

A bonus third post, my favorite one, also referencing a movie:

My Daughter, the Star Wars myth and Jesus – How to Defeat Evil

So, why did I spend time with this long post today? First of all, a week from now, on Good Friday, I hope this post and Girard’s powerful way of re-understanding how atonement happens allow you to experience the cross in a deeper, more profound way.  Next, as the violence, especially religiously justified acts, increases in the world, Christians must look at the root of our theology to critique how it may support God-ordained violence. Finally,  a deeper understanding of mimetic dynamics, the subsequent scapegoating and its ancient social power should lead all people of faith to prophetically expose this mechanism in order to defuse its seductive power.

 

 

 

Tuesday FaithPost – Powerful Stations of the Cross by Busted Halo

Is it Friday already? No, sadly it is not yet. I’m sharing a FaithPost a couple of days early as I want to offer this wonderful resource now, so that you could possibly use it before or during Holy Week.

The good Paulist Fathers who create the awesome, newly redesigned, young-adult site Busted Halo, have put together a quite powerful set of videos following the Stations of the Cross. Each video uses just text and music to tell the story and interpret the meaning of each of the fourteen traditional moments in Christ’s Passion. Here’s the fourth station, which I find particularly moving and insightful:

There’s a lot I like about these videos. But two aspects are particularly meaningful. First, the overarching theme of this version of the Way of the Cross is the Kingdom of God. This central vision of Jesus’ ministry is at the heart of the gospel and thus something which we must emphasize time and again to those to whom we minister.

I also find the simple music accompanying the words on the screen provocative, compelling and deeply moving. The piano melody used with the stations in which Jesus Meets His Mother, Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus and Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem is one I find haunting and well-matched to the emotions of these encounters.

I’m using these videos in our chapel as a prayer service with all five of my classes today. It has worked better with my one sophomore class than my two freshmen ones. I think the greater maturity and developing wisdom in the older students is the main difference.

I’ve created this presentation to use with the videos. It should be pretty self-explanatory – show the slide introducing a station, play the video and then prayerfully read the supporting slide while giving the viewers/participants a few moments to reflect.

A couple of things you may wonder about the presentation: The photos of the crosses were ones that I took while visiting Christ in the Desert Monastery in northern New Mexico a few years ago.  And the colors of the background of the slides is meant to represent the transition and transformation of this time in Lent, to Holy Week and then to Easter.

I hope you find this Busted Halo Stations of the Cross as meaningful and useful as I do. The video below will link you to the playlist of  all the fourteen stations.

May you have a blessed Fifth Tuesday of Lent and a good rest of the week.

Friday FaithPost: Pray as You Go App/Website/Podcast

Another week rolls by. It’s hard to believe that a fortnight from today is Good Friday. March often drags by, but this year it and Lent are zipping by. The relative lack of winter here in Ohio surely helps!

Last weekend I posted about some podcasts that I like and an outstanding way to listen to them on an Android device (Pocket Cast).  Today, I share a Catholic daily podcast which helps my faith to grow and deepen. It has its own iOS and Android apps too (see below about Android.)

The site is “Pray as You Go” and it’s created by the Jesuits in Britain who also create the equally excellent “Thinking Faith”  and “Sacred Space”

I won’t spend time and space here trying to “sell” you on “Pray as You Go.” I will say that I get much from the short (12 min or less) combination of music, the day’s scripture (read twice in lectio divina style), brief commentary, reflection questions and an invitation for prayer.

I do recommend that you listen to it directly through the website or via a general podcasting app like Pocket Cast. “Pray As You Go” has an expanded presence on Soundcloud which has a pretty good Android app. It appears that there’s content there which isn’t elsewhere, such as this series of talks and poems by the great Gerard Manly Hopkins, S.J.

About the Android “Pray as You Go” app – I’d avoid it for now. It has an issue which doesn’t allow you to stream or download a day’s content until well after it has passed. I thought this might be just an issue on my device, so I emailed them. Turns, out they are aware of this universal problem and are working to fix it in a future release.

Until then, I hope you’ll use one of these many means listed above to pray as you go — to work, on a walk, to the store, wherever!

Fear or Love & My Trip to the 2012 Iowa Republican Caucus

On the eve of the much anticipated (and hyped) 2016 Iowa Caucus, I’ve been thinking about how I got the once-in-a-lifetime (for a non-Iowan and non-politico) chance to witness the Iowa Caucus the last go-round in 2012.  For me, one who follows politics like some people follow sports, it felt like going to game 7 of the World Series. Just being on the ground at the political focal point for the U.S. and even international media was a thrill.

Here’s how it happened: During the 2011-2012 school year, I worked for a major educational publisher in a role which took me to Davenport, IA every week. Even though I worked closely with the technology department in that school district, it was a pleasant surprise that I struck up a warm friendship with Rudy, who was assigned to the same project as I. During one of our many conversations, I learned that he was a leader for the Republican Party in his mid-sized town Muscadine – about 45 minutes down the Mississippi from Davenport.

I don’t recall whether he outright invited me, if I strongly hinted for an invite, or just invited myself to the caucus meeting. Regardless, I met him at the school used for the meeting at about 6:30 pm on January 3, 2012. The fund-raising spaghetti dinner was wrapping up, so we went directly to the gymnasium with the other caucus-goers.

By the time the program started, the bleachers were full and people stood against the walls. I estimated at least 400 people and maybe even more. After introductions of those running the proceedings and some “housekeeping” items, the surprisingly informal presentations started. Each person running for the GOP nomination had a proxy speak on his or her behalf. I remember clearly the remarkable range of formality offered by these representatives. At one end were a few seemingly unprepared presenters who didn’t speak clearly, rambled, and generally didn’t sell their candidate effectively.

I gasped when a presenter, representing the VIP end of the spectrum, stood and spoke for Texas Governor Rick Perry. It was none other than the infamous, controversial, former Ohio Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell.  He offered an impressive testimonial for Perry and surely caught the attention of the Iowans present. I imagine most of them didn’t know what I did, as an Ohioan – Blackwell was demolished in the governor’s race in 2006 during which he earned just 37% of the vote!

At the conclusion of this assembly, we filed out and headed to classrooms grouped by precincts. Rudy, the leader for the Social Studies classroom in which we met, introduced me as a guest “from the important swing-state of Ohio.” I thought to myself- although these Iowans have a huge role in the primaries, we Ohioans have a bigger role in the general election. Ballots, like the one pictured above, were handed out. After each of the 40 or so people in the standing room only gathering marked and folded the papers, these were collected and counted. Soon after Rudy announced the totals. While I don’t remember the exact numbers, I do recall that Rick Santorum won our room and the state by just a few votes over eventual nominee Mitt Romney.

After the main event of the evening was completed, the under card of participatory democracy commenced. The voters in the classroom were invited to write down issues they would like to have considered for the GOP platform discussed at a statewide meeting that spring. These slips were collected and read aloud. Some people spoke briefly on a few of the issues before the room voted by voice and hands on the most pressing ones. The suggestions chosen by the cell in our room were then passed up in the Iowan GOP body politic. After a brief closing, I headed into the dark, cool, yet dry winter night, grateful for the chance to witness and vicariously participate in one of the most important political traditions of our nation.

The 2016 caucus held on Monday, Feb 1st will be more closely watched than what I experienced four years ago. We’ve talked often in my religion classes about how much fear, anger, and hostility is being put forth this election cycle by candidates of both parties. An article posted last week by popular Catholic blogger and author of “Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life,” Elizabeth Scalia caught my eye. In it Scalia asks the provocative question: Are your decisions born of fear or love? She writes:

Why is everyone so afraid? Don’t we realize that fear is the foundation that supports so much of our sin? I’m stupid, and sometimes I will not be afraid when perhaps I should be. But I’d rather be stupid, naive and bumbling, than so afraid, all the time.

Everyday, I ponder the Sacred Heart of Jesus before me, “abode of Justice and Love … enriching all who invoke thee …” and I realize that every concern can be placed into that huge heart, and left there, in complete trust.

Nothing is safe or pure. Everyone will have a turn (or several) in the crucible. But the Sacred Heart is a self-immolation, never consumed. It is there, in the crucible with us. What is there, then, to fear?

I pray that, as the second reading of today’s mass proclaimed, faith, hope and love will win over fear and anger in Iowa, the U.S. and our broken world.

ADDITION (Monday Morning):

After publishing this post last night, I discovered this wonderful quote by Fr. Richard Rohr from the Center for Action and Contemplation. He’s dedicated this entire year of daily reflections to the them of love. Yesterday he remarked:

The passion of Pope Francis is to again make merciful love the foundation, the center, and the goal of Christianity. Love is not just the basis on which we build everything, but it’s also the energy with which we proceed, and it’s then the final goal toward which we tend. Love has two lovely daughters, twins called grace and mercy. Like identical twins, they are often indistinguishable: Grace is the inner freedom to be merciful. Mercy is grace in action. And both are the children of love.

 

Merry Christmas – Fear Not! Peace! Hope! Joy!

Yes, this blog has been silent for quite a few days. I fell behind in assessing and publishing my sophomore students’ blog posts (for both their midterm and before it) and vowed to not post on my blog until I completed theirs. I tied the bow on their posts a few minutes ago, so it’s time for my Christmas wishes.

While it’s the season of peace, hope and joy, there’s been a lot of fear going around this year – even during the month of Advent. As a reminder about why a follower of Christ shouldn’t fear, here’s the beginning of Bishop Robert Barron’s reflection for today, Christmas Eve:

The first Christmas homily ever given was spoken on the Judean hills surrounding the little town of Bethlehem: the annunciation of the angel to the shepherds on Christmas night.
The first thing the angel said was “Fear not!” How that phrase echoes up and down the Scriptures! When a being from a higher dimension breaks into our world, he typically says, “Do not be afraid.” Paul Tillich, the great Protestant theologian, commented that fear is the fundamental problem, that fear undergirds most forms of human dysfunction. Because we are afraid, we crouch protectively around ourselves; because we’re afraid, we lash out at each other in violence. If Christmas means that God is with us, that God is one of us, that God has come close, then we no longer have to be afraid.
How can we experience peace during a time of conflict, strife and “terror?” Taking a different view of our home helps me to rest in faith about the peace of creation which was “In the beginning” and to which Christ is returning us.
I feel moved and inspired by the stunning image of the earth rising from the moon which NASA released today (pictured above). Please take a moment to visit the link as there’s more to the image than I could capture above.
As for hope, I’m inspired by this story which was making the rounds on the internet this week. I quote it here in full from Time:
A group of Kenyans traveling by bus refused Islamist terrorists demands that they identify themselves as either Christian or Muslim in an act of defiance that reportedly saved lives.

According to BBC, militants boarded a bus in a small border town and requested the passengers divide themselves up by religion. The passengers refused, the BBC reports eyewitnesses say, telling the terrorists to “kill them together or leave them alone.”

Officials are looking into whether the militant group al-Shabab is responsible for the attack. Two people were reported to have been killed in the attack, but officials say the militants ultimately left after the passengers banded together.

Also today President Obama and Vice President Biden released on Spotify their “Holiday Playlists” While listening to President Obama’s, I discovered this wonderful song of hope by the legendary Stevie Wonder, which was originally released way back in 1967.

Here’s the lyrics, composed during another time of fear, anger and uncertainty:

Someday at Christmas men won’t be boys
Playing with bombs like kids play with toys
One warm December our hearts will see
A world where men are free

Someday at Christmas there’ll be no wars
When we have learned what Christmas is for
When we have found what life’s really worth
There’ll be peace on earth

Someday all our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where men are free
Maybe not in time for you and me
But someday at Christmastime

Someday at Christmas we’ll see a Man
No hungry children, no empty hand
One happy morning people will share
Our world where people care

Someday at Christmas there’ll be no tears
All men are equal and no men have fears
One shinning moment my heart ran away
From our world today

Someday all our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where men are free
Maybe not in time for you and me
But someday at Christmastime

Someday at Christmas man will not fail
Hate will be gone love will prevail
Someday a new world that we can start
With hope in every heart

And for the joy….so much to be joyful for today. But for me (huge listener of Spotify), here’s my top reason — I CAN FINALLY STREAM THE BEATLES!!!

I hope your Advent of waiting was fruitful and rich.

May your days of Christmas (the season continues until January 10th) be blessed and full of much faith, peace, hope and joy!