Christianophobia?

One of the last unprotected classes in the world is believing Christians. There is much lament rightly expressed over discrimination against other religious, ethnic and various protected groups but it is usually open seasons on Christians with a special hatred reserved for the Catholic Church. It is “alright”  to use ugly stereotypes and hateful imagery regarding Christians. Unsympathetic simplifications of our doctrine are common  as are ugly labels such as “reactionary, hateful, homophobic, intolerant,  backward and rigid.” The President recently insisted that the name of Jesus be covered over at Georgetown while he spoke there no one cried foul (even at Georgetown!  🙁  ). No one would ever dare suggest that holy symbols be covered over at a mosque or synagogue. But it is open season on Christians. Perhaps it is because we seldom speak out against things such as this.

A rather interesting development along these lines took place at the World Conference on Racism.  A Russian Orthodox Delegate to the conference actually suggested that there may be such a thing as hatred against Christians. He chided the other delegates for saying nothing about what he termed “Christianophobia”  while at the same time denouncing many other forms of hatred. It seems a long overdue observation and thanks are due to this courageous delegate. More about this story at Gloria TV:

What is Distinctive About the Biblical Revelation of God?

There is much talk today about how we, despite our theological differences are all really worshipping the same God. Is that true? We might like to think that under all this diversity is really a unity but the fact is that there are some pretty radical differences in the understanding of God. So radical that I do not think we can really affirm wishful slogans like the one above. There is only one true God but many have imagined other gods who are not God, surely not God as he reveals Himself in the Bible.

Another common problem today is to presume that the Biblical insights about God are not really unique but merely borrowed from other ancient cultures. Zeitgeist the movie makes this claim. But the truth is that the Biblical tradition, while having some similarities to other things ancient, departs radically from most ancient and modern philosophies. The Biblical Revelation really IS unique and transcends many Ancient and modern errors.

Here are two videos by Fr. Robert Barron that make these points well.

The Art of the Fugue and a fine Organist

Hidden in many of our Choir lofts are secret virtuosos: the Organists of our Church!  Though they vary in their capacities it remains true that to play the organ well requires great skill. I have always had special admiration for organists who can play with both feet and hands, turn pages, switch stops and never miss a beat. Over the years I taught myself to play hymns properly with both feet and hands and it is a wonderful “full body” experience. But I could never play the wonderful fugue you are about to see, that takes a real virtuoso like the beautiful young woman in this video. Sadly her name is not listed but she plays Bach’s Fugue in D major (BWV 532).

What is a fugue you might ask? A fugue is a simple musical theme that is introduced and them elaborated upon in a somewhat mathematical fashion. Bach was surely the master of this form. Notice how our organist introduces the theme with her right hand. The left hand next begins to answer and then come the feet. A marvelous thing to behold. Music and skill, science and art.

Enjoy! Even if classical music  isn’t your thing and the pipe organ is not on your playlist, just enjoy the skill and many years of training that go into the moment of this performance.

I have posted elsewhere on the theme of the organist here: http://blog.adw.org/2009/04/easter-jig/

40 Reasons for Coming Home – Reason # 36 – The Incarnation

Reason # 36 Catholicism upholds the “incarnational principle,” wherein Jesus became flesh and thus raised flesh and matter to new spiritual heights.

One of the beauties of the Catholic Faith is the way that all creation is summoned to praise God. In the sacraments we use water, bread, wine, and oil. In the Liturgy we use candles and incense. Our bodies are very involved in worship as we stand, sit, kneel, even prostrate at times. Our Churches (at least the traditional ones) make use of beautiful stained glass, wood, marble and stone. Music is rich and varied from the haunting Chant, to joyful polyphony, from the mighty pipe organ to the unaccompanied voice. For us as Catholics we expect to encounter our faith in what is, in the world around us. The liturgy is no mere lecture or just intellectual ideas and values. It is creation in action, the Word become flesh. When Jesus took on flesh God joined with his creation and elevated it. Jesus made frequent use of creation and often spoke of it in his parables.

Obviously some of the things I have mentioned above have diminished in Catholicism in recent decades as many of our older church buildings were stripped and many of our newer buildings are minimalist in their design.  But traditional architecture is making a comeback and some of our older buildings are being tastefully restored.

Why is this a reason to come home? Because faith is not merely an abstraction that exists only in our minds or a televised message. Faith is found in our church buildings, in the people who gather there, in the sacraments and liturgies that are celebrated there. Place and time are important dimensions to faith. Here there is an intersection between the good, the true and the beautiful. It is like the old family home. Our memories are not just stored in our brains but on the worn back stairways of the house, in the pictures on the wall,  little trinkets that have been collected over the years, in the magnets on the refrigerator door, and at the kitchen table. Our churches are like this, the old familiar statues, the altar, the meeting rooms, the smell of candles and incense in the air, the rituals and sacraments that call us home.  Come home. Faith is not merely an idea, it is an old familiar place, it is sacraments and rituals that literally touch you, it is about an incarnation, something tangible, and touchable, something familiar. The Catholic Church does all this well. We may have forgotten some of it for a time, but we never fully lost it. Catholicism upholds the “incarnational principle,” wherein Jesus became flesh and thus raised flesh and matter to new spiritual heights. So come home and reconnect with Jesus, the Word made flesh.

The Many Faces and Titles of Christ

Here is one of the most extraordinary videos I have seen in a while. I am not sure how it was done but the portraits of Christ “morph” one into another. My only wish would have been that the author/artist might have used images of Christ from many cultures and nations. As it is, all the images here are European. Nevertheless, this remains an amazing work and a very fitting meditation for Holy Week.

You are Baptized as Priest, Prophet&King

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord”

There is much conversation these days about a Catholic’s responsibility to live and practice his or her faith in the world. Popular culture suggests that faith be considered something private. It ought not be discussed or shared outside of a circle of family and friends. All religious traditions share a common insistence that the faith one professes shape a person’s worldview and spill over into every aspect of one’s life. Catholics are no different in this regard and in fact lay women and men by virtue of their Baptismal vocation are specifically called to bring the Gospel to the world—in our homes, our workplaces and in our communities.

 

Priestly  

At one point in every Baptism, the priest or deacon takes the oil of chrism and anoints the child (or adult) while saying that by Baptism the person shares in the priesthood of Christ. The Catechism teaches “Baptism gives a share in the common priesthood of all believers” (CCC, 1268). What this means in a practical way is that as lay women and men our responsibility is to give witness to our faith in the way we live our lives everyday and everywhere. As priestly people, we are called to present the events of our day as an offering to God—in thanksgiving for all that he has given us. (Take a minute to look back over the day thus far, does it make a good gift?)

 

Prophetic

We share in Jesus’ prophetic ministry by living as witnesses to the Gospel. Having an opportunity to consider in every situation “what Jesus would do” and act accordingly. Catholics do have a unique spin on this popular saying among Christians “WWJD”. Because we believe in the living presence of Jesus among us, in the Eucharist and in one another, our bracelets should read “WIJD.” What is Jesus doing in and thorough us. Giving witness to our faith does not only mean talking about it or praying out loud in your cubicle at the office. Francis of Assisi has a wonderful saying, “Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary use words.”

 

Kingly

As a people who share in the kingly mission of Jesus we are first and foremost people of hope. We have been promised eternal life as our inheritance, and so we need not fear death. In the age of the Israelites, kings were first and foremost stewards, stewards of the “treasures” God entrusted to them and stewards of God’s people who were in their care. The mandate of the steward king is to cultivate the kingdom for God, to be a partner with God in the transformation of the world in the light of the Gospel. So for Catholic men and women, particularly those with responsibility for leadership, governance, education and care of people there is direct relationship between the practice of our faith and our public life.  We are always and everywhere called to participate in the building of the reign of God.

 

Let us keep in prayer in the coming week the 150,000 adult men and women in the United States who will join the Catholic Church at Easter and be about the work of bearing Christ to the World.

A Warning to the Church – Distinguished or Dead!

Here’s another Fr. Robert Barron Video where he reviews a recent survey on religion and some of the basic trends. The first half  describes the largest growing category of religious observance: “None.” If this is you or someone you know there are important insights.

The second half of the video however contains a kind of warning for the Church. Many of the Mainline Protestant denominations have lost dramatic numbers. Why? In large part because they are no longer distinguished from the world around them. Once the distinctiveness of the church experience is lost, its adherents begin to say, “Why bother going since I can get the same things from the world?”  Here then is the warning for us: We have been called out of the world, to be in sharp distinction to it values and priorities. Once we lose this distinctiveness we begin to loose numbers, parishes and schools close, and we shrink away. Dinstinguish or die! We’re supposed to be salt and light! So pass the salt and turn on the lights.

Some Old Gospel Wisdom

 Every now and then some one will come past my door and request parish services of some sort. Maybe it’s to plan a wedding, a baptism or a funeral, maybe its for money! And then I look at them and I say, “Who are you?” since I don’t recognize them. “Oh well Father, you don’t know me but my Grandmother goes here, this is our family Church.”  “Oh, I see, but where do yougo to Church?” I usually ask. 😉 The response is usually something like, “Well you Know how it is Father, I don’t get to Church too often….But my mother goes here.”

Well, I got news for you, your Mama’s faith isn’t going to save you. You gotta have your own faith. You have to know Jesus for yourself. There are just some things you can’t borrow. Don’t get me wrong, you depended on your mother and ultimately the Church to announce the True Faith to you. But at some point you have to be able to claim the True Faith as your own. Your mother can’t go to Church for you and she can’t believe in your place.  

Remember the story of the wise and foolish virgins? (Matt 25:1-13)  They were waiting for the groom (in those days you waited for the groom, now days we wait for the bride) to show up for a wedding. Five were wise and brought extra oil for their lamps, but five were foolish and did not not. But the groom delayed his coming and so the foolish ones said to the wise, give us some of your oil. But the wise ones said to the foolish that they could not do this for there was not enough oil for all ten. You see there are just some things you can’t borrow and some things you can’t loan. You can’t loan your readiness to meet God to someone else. You may know what happened. The foolish bridesmaids went off to buy more oil and missed the groom’s arrival and they were not able to enter the wedding feast. In those days when a wedding feast began the doors were locked and no one could enter. Bottom line: You have got to know Jesus for yourself. You can’t borrow your mother’s relationship or readiness. You have to have your own. No one can go to Church for you. You can’t pay to have someone offer your prayers. You can’t borrow someone else’s holiness.

There is an Old Gospel hymn that says, “Yes I know Jesus for myself.” It’s not enough to quote the pastor, its not enough to say what your Mother said. You have to know him yourself. Do you know Him? I didn’t say, “Do you know abouthim.” This is more than intellectual knowing, this is the deep, biblical, experiential knowing. Do you know the Lord Jesus? Have you experienced that he has ministered to you in the Sacraments? Have you heard his voice resounding from the pulpit and in others you meet? Do you know him? Don’t be satisfied that your mother or grandmother knew him. You are called to know him for your very self.

Here are a couple of renditions of the old Gospel classic I mentioned. The first is from the St. James Mass Choir. But then, lo and behold, the second version is sung by a choir from a Polish Girls School! See the original and then enjoy a very different version as the song leaps the Atlantic Ocean and lands in Eastern Europe. What a wonderful world! Crossing oceans and cultures the message remains the same: Yes I know Jesus for myself.