Thursday, December 17, 2015

Solstice Gift

In the fourth century, Christians envied the feasting of pagans in honor of the sun's birthday at the winter solstice. Christians created their own feast in honor of Jesus, whom they called the "true sun." This was the birthday of Christmas.

Whatever the meaning of Christmas for you, I hope this poem by John O'Donohue infuses you with hope appropriate to this solstice time of new beginnings. The poem fills me with courage to face new possibilities. John O'Donohue was an Irish poet and priest.
     In out-of-the way places of the heart,
     Where your thoughts never think to wander,
     This beginning has been quietly forming,
     Waiting until you were ready to emerge. 
     For a long time it has watched your desire,
     Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
     Noticing how you willed yourself on,
     Still unable to leave what you had outgrown. 
     It watched you play with the seduction of safety
     And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
     Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
     Wondered would you always live like this. 
     Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
     And out you stepped onto new ground,
     Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
     A path of plenitude opening before you. 
     Though your destination is not yet clear,
     You can trust the promise of this opening;
     Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
     That is at one with your heart's desire. 
     Awaken your spirit to adventure;
     Hold nothing back; learn to find ease in risk;
     Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
     For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
This is my Christmas present to you, dear readers.


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Let’s Hospice Our Church

John Chuchman is a Catholic, to my observation, a Catholic like I’m a Catholic.  It’s our spiritual home, come what may. It remains our blood family, no matter what differences we have with it. John and I exchanged books and I quote extensively (with permission and editing license) from one of his—Let’s Hospice Our Church:

            We are in a demographic collapse
                        of the priesthood.
            Anecdotes abound throughout the Church
                        about how the collar
                        trumps intellectual competence.
When are we going to pay attention?
The wheels are coming off the bus,
 and we are debating whether the seats
on the bus should be cloth or leather.

                        Priests are on anti-depressants.
            Congregations feel betrayed by Church leadership.

            It is no secret there is a widening chasm
            between official Church teachings
                        on human sexuality
            and the actual behavior of the vast majority
                        of the Catholic population.
            We don’t believe, deep down
            that the Church’s teaching is correct.

            The Magisterium has heavily invested its authority
            in maintaining these traditional teachings.

                        The Church is simply irrelevant.
The younger generation has simply decided to move on.
                        The Church is dying;
a new Church is being born.

            Hospice consciousness requires that we recognize
                                    the transition,
                                    the loss,
            the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression.

            Hope requires the willingness to work
                        for a non-guaranteed future.
            Prophets listen to groans of the people
                          and posit an alternate future.

More than one responder to the previous post mentioned the last stage of the grief process—acceptance. Yes. In fact, Christians are far from accepting the demise of our great religion, but in its present form it will not continue. This the signs clearly show.
Many of my readers agree.
Deb commented,
very symbolic article for the future of Christianity as a world religion unless there is change.
Steve Applegate said,
The Church has no one but itself to blame. It persists in being a medieval institution. It could make key changes to become relevant again, but it chooses not to do so. If it passes from the scene, I will miss the one thing it excels in—worldwide missions to the poor.
Anonymous was struck by the title of my email invitation, “The Church is dying,” before she even looked at the title, “Let’s Hospice Our Church.”
I think the church is in the midst of a transformation/revolution—a repudiation of the old, out-of-date ways of being, in favor of a new system that is in fact truer to its original intent. The old has to die so the new can be reborn.
And many people fight change, maybe out of misunderstanding, maybe out of literal interpretations, maybe out of fear of “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
But according to Ecclesiastes 3:
To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.
a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to break down and a time to build up;
a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to get and a time to lose; a time to keep and a time to cast away;
a time to rend and a time to sew; a time to keep silence and a time to speak;
a time to love and a time to hate; a time of war and a time of peace.
Clearly, we live in a time of change. Unless Christianity adapts, it will eventually die. I’ll state my belief more starkly. I believe that it is dying right now, and I accept this. My generation still derives spiritual benefits from our religion, but this will diminish in succeeding generations as a new spiritual paradigm takes shape.
After I posted this, Mike emailed this information. Pope Francis seems to agree with me and my readers. I had read this and then forgot about it. Thanks, Mike.

*Editing note. As usual when I quote emails, I take the liberty of changing mechanics like punctuation, capitalization, etc.
Readers who pay attention to mechanics may think that I use upper and lower cases inconsistently with certain words, but I really try to be consistent. I consistently write “Church” when I mean the Catholic Church, and I write “church” when I refer to all Christian churches. I critique both.