In his book, The Second Mountain David Brooks suggests that a key to sustaining fidelity in any vocation is to build a structure of behavior for those moments when love falters. He’s right.
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What’s right and what’s wrong? We fight a lot over moral issues, often with a self-assured righteousness. And mostly we fall into that same self-righteousness whenever we argue about sin. What constitutes a sin and what makes for a serious sin?
And it’s happened again: the French state has launched a crackdown on Muslim extremists, rounding up contacts of the killer and vowing to shut down radical groups. It has also reached out to the law-abiding majority of French Muslims with proposals to create an “enlightened Islam”. So what will happen next? French leaders have tried and failed to reshape Islam along more Gallic lines for the past three decades.
Looking at our world today, what frightens and unsettles me more than the threat of the Covid virus, more than the growing inequality between the rich and the poor, more than the dangers of climate change, and even more than the bitter hatred that now separates us from each other, is our loss of any sense of truth, our facile denial of whatever truths we judge to be inconvenient, and our slogans of “fake news”, “alternate facts”, and phantom conspiracies.
The sage Qoheleth said: “There is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said ‘See; this is new?’ It has already been; in the ages before us” (Ecc1. 1:9-10). It is inevitable; however; that we all forget the events of the distant past, and then we find ourselves in situations which appear unusual; exceptional; and without parallel; their presumed abnormality becomes a source of anxiety.
On October 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis released a new encyclical entitled, Fratelli Tutti – On Fraternity and Social Friendship. It can appear a rather depressing read because of its searing realism, except it plays the long game of Christian hope.
One size doesn’t fit everyone. This isn’t just true for clothing, it’s also true for spirituality. Our challenges in life change as we age. Spirituality hasn’t always been fully sensitive to this. True, we’ve always had tailored instruction and activities for children, young people, and for people who are raising children, carrying a job, and paying a mortgage, but we’ve never developed a spirituality for what happens when those years are over.
Compassion, which is an expression of the commandment of mutual love and of the witness of the Spirit, is understood by the theology (practice) of welcoming, starting from the “connection” of which the simile of the vine and the branches in John 15 speaks: it is participation in the communion of Jesus with the love of the Father, source of life (for all).
The interview released by the FSB director demonstrated that it is still too early to leave to historians the question of state-sponsored terror against its own citizens. This organization now not only represents the center of the security apparatus in Russia, but also constitutes the nucleus of the political system – and today ever more of the economic system.
Sometimes we meet people who have had a good Christian formation, but who have become agnostics over time. We might think that these are exceptional cases. However, we are convinced that these cases are a symptom of an obvious fact: in traditionally Christian countries there is a crisis that affects both the faith and the life of the baptized.
We tend to be naïve about evil, at least as to what it looks like in everyday life. Our picture of evil has been falsely shaped by images taken from mythology, religious cults, and from books and movies that portray evil as personified in sinister spiritual forces.
Many people in the Church in France are concerned about the dangers of deviation and manipulation present in certain retreats, meetings or prayer groups that offer “psycho-spiritual” therapies. These practices, coming largely from overseas, raise fundamental questions: Should we recognize boundaries between the spiritual and the psychological? Which ones? On what basis?
The excusable doesn’t need to be excused and the inexcusable cannot be excused. Michael Buckley wrote those words and they contain an important challenge. We’re forever trying to make excuses for things we need not make excuses for and are forever trying to excuse the inexcusable. Neither is necessary. Or helpful.
The question of post-truth goes beyond the definition in the Oxford English Dictionary: “Objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal beliefs.” The so-called “objective facts” imply the possibility of being recorded and quantified.
The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason. Eliot wrote those words to describe how difficult it is to purge our motivation of selfish concerns, to do things for reasons that are not ultimately about ourselves.
With the advent of Covid-19, Facebook and similar digital platforms seem to have become liturgical spaces. Every kind of celebration is transmitted through them: “home-made” liturgies are held, retreat houses offer online activities, spiritual assistance is offered through a computer screen and so on.
Courage isn’t one of my strong points, at least not one particular kind of courage. Scripture tells us that as John the Baptist grew up he became strong in spirit. My growing up was somewhat different. Unlike John the Baptist, as I grew up I became accommodating in spirit.
The ancient Greeks had gods and goddesses for everything, including a goddess of Shame called Aidos. Shame for them meant much more than it normally means to us. In their mind, shame brought with it modesty, respect, and a certain needed reticence before things that should remain private and hidden.
While a lot of good is being done by psychiatrists, psychologists, and the medical profession in terms of treating depression, something important is being lost at the same time. Melancholy is much more than what we call “depression”. For better and for worse, the ancients saw melancholy as a gift from God.
Every reader of Scripture is in fact invited to say, “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; He went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien” (Dt 26:5) The Bible invites us to remember and assume the spiritual status of the immigrant, because in this a mystery of grace is given and from it a path of wise justice unfolds. Let us see how we can be guided by the Biblical narrative.