Vatican II – Genius of the Heart

Vatican II – Genius of the Heart, VHS 1

Originally written 6/25/2017 as a summary of a course at Spring Hill College, Mobile, AL

Vatican II – Genius of the Heart, VHS 1

Preface:

I grew up attending the Roman Catholic Church in the small town of Marshall, IL called St. Mary’s Church. (See https://www.facebook.com/stmarysmarshall/). I still have lifelong friends who attend that church.  My mother, Charity McCulley Cooper, took us there with our large family of 7 children.  Our family took up about a whole pew.  I was the oldest of the living children.  I still have fond memories of Monsignor Donahue, and I probably burned his ears off in the confessionalJJ as well as fond memories of all my friends and my family’s friends.  I don’t think there are many left now, but there are a few.  How we merited a Monsignor in the little town of about 3,000, I do not know.  I went through all the Catholic rites there.  Also, I cannot recall the exact timeline about when the Vatican II changes all filtered down to our little Parish, but my viewpoint is from someone who left the Roman Catholic Church as a matter of conscious in 1969.  I became a conscientious objector to all war at that time, something that was widely discouraged still in official Catholicism.  Nonviolence was at that time promoted by such Catholic figures as Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, and Fulton J. Sheen, for instance, whose non-violent beliefs were unbeknownst to me back then.  I joined an historic peace church.  About a year and a half ago, I was called back to the Catholic Church, partly as a result of Pope Francis and his worldwide influence.  I understand that Vatican II has a section that allows for conscientious objection to war, but that has not been covered yet in the tapes I am reviewing.

Above is a brief preface to what I am studying in companion with taking courses for a Certificate in Spiritual Direction, (CSD) under the auspices of Spring Hill College, in Mobile, AL. See: http://www.shc.edu/.  I remember Pope John XXIII and his successor, Pope Paul VI as I was growing up.  This assignment of looking back into Vatican II via listening to old VHS tapes entitled, The Faithful Revolution, is a joy.  There are five VHS tapes, and I will list notes about each as I view them.    

The first tape is entitled Genius of the Heart.  It is 60 minutes long.  This tape speaks of Vatican II as being a direct spiritual calling for Pope John XXIII to implement, or a call from the Holy Spirit to speak prophetically regarding the Modernization of the Roman Catholic Church.  To this end, he invited Bishops from all over the world to come together in a council, the first since 1817.  There have been about 20 councils in the Catholic Church since its inception, about one every 100 years, but many of them were in early church history.  I don’t know if the Acts 15 council regarding circumcision and unclean meats is included in this number of councils. 

Pope John XXIII called bishops from all over the world in order to offset the power of the Roman Curia, which would like to have had things continue along as has always been.  Vatican II was an unexpected movement, because the cardinals thought they were electing a “transitional” Pope, not one who would bring about such widespread changes. The changes began with the liturgy.  Now the priest was to face the congregation and look them into the eyes.  The congregation was to share the same cup as the priest.  The Mass was to be in native languages, as well as Latin, occasionally, in place of Latin only.  I well remember the days of Latin only.  Pope John XXIII was “attacked” by some of the prophets of doom in his own church for making such changes. He claimed it was like a flash of light, a divine inspiration that motivated him to bring this council together. The changes concerning the Liturgy overwhelmingly passed, like 2/3 or 3/4 vote. 

The Genius of the Heart VHS includes videos of Our Lady of the Universe Catholic Church, (https://www.facebook.com/ourladyqueenoftheuniversebirmingham/) a predominately black church in Birmingham, AL and shows how they implemented Vatican II.  From 1967 to late 1969, when I attended the Catholic Church in Birmingham, AL, I attended Our Lady of Sorrows, (http://www.ourladyofsorrows.com/) in Homewood, right up the road from Samford University, where I attended school.  In reviewing the first tape, I have a desire to go to Our Lady of the Universe Church sometime and experience the rich cultural heritage this church must have.

Vatican II is considered to be not a council of crisis, as other councils may have been, but a council of opportunity. This was in the time period of 1962 to 1965 and satellite TV communications were just available, and Vatican II had a 10 minute window of opportunity for live coverage each day.  Also the new venues of the day widely covered it, and it was on the front page, excepting the days when warfare took priority over what was happening in Rome.  Irving Levine was a well know reporter who daily covered the story of Vatican II.

Pope John XXIII knew he had a tumor, and was to soon die.  I like his words, “I am nothing.  I am your brother, because we are all children of God.”  This is a prophetic statement we need to look into today, in view of all the suffering and polarization in the world.  How is it we are to understand that all human kind, even our enemy, is to be our brother?  I submit it is through the eyes of Jesus, and the prophetic voice of Pope John XXIII, and others, who say, “I am your brother.”  Also, the eyes of Vatican II are still very useful eyes from which we see.

End: Genius of the heart.

Begin: Inspired Awakening, a 60 minute VHS video.

  June 21st, 1963, Cardinal Montini was elected Pope to succeed Pope John XXIII.  He chose the name Pope Paul VI.  The Roman Curia did not like Pope Paul VI, although he had been on the Curia itself, and served as the Vatican Secretary of State for many years.  He was viewed by the Curia as too progressive.  Pope Paul VI wanted to continue the Vatican council which was started by Pope John XXIII.

These were the years of the 1960’s.  It was a time of worldwide change and also change in the Catholic Church.  Women were rising in respect, also rising in respect in the Catholic Church.  These were the years of the Civil rights Movement, and the beginnings of “gay” rights.  Vatican II let about 15 women attend as observers, both religious and lay women.  Sr. Mary Luke Tobin attended from the United States.  Women just wanted to be treated as “human persons.” The video covers some of the events of the women’s movement of the time which I will not get into right now.

Pope Paul VI was very well educated, – a progressive thinker.

The three big revolutions of Vatican II were Liturgy, Laity, and Humanism.  Peace, reconciliation, and human dignity, humanism of Vatican II attempted to help reconcile and heal the wounds of the 1054 schism in which the Orthodox Church split from the Western Catholic Church.  Also, Vatican II aimed to heal the divide of the Protestant Reformation of about 1500.  Admittedly, the Roman Church needed reformation itself.  At the time of the reformation the Inquisition was going on, people were being burned at the stake for perceived heresy, and even St. Ignatius was imprisoned for 40 days for perceived heresy.  (John: St. Ignatius’ movement served as a type of counter-reformation within the Catholic Church itself.)

Orthodox and Protestant observers were also invited to attend the council.  These observers also had input into the council and were invited to review the documents and offer suggestions before the documents of the Second Vatican Council were finalized.  The council was like watching the Catholic Church step into the 20th Century from out of the middle ages.  The Humanism of the council was meant to open doors for dialog with other Faiths.  For example, both Lutherans and Catholics can now find common ground to express the truth of Justification by Faith.   Other belief systems were now viewed as “separated brethren,” NOT heretics.  Vatican II found this common ground for dialog between other churches and found the same faith was being discussed, and just how this faith is expressed is different.

A number of Catholics could not accept Vatican II and formed a group called “Traditionalist” Catholics in order to hold to their own ways of worshiping, for instance with the priest facing away from the audience, with the Eucharist received on the tongue, with head veils for women, with the Mass in Latin, etc.  The Traditionalist were set opposed to the Humanists of Vatican II.

Important to me is the matter of conscious, which was mentioned toward the end of the tape by Dr. Frederick Franck, founder of “Pacem in Terris.” See: http://www.frederickfranck.org/  Dr. Franck mentioned what John XXIII had said with words like “God’s law is imprinted on the human heart.  It is a law of human life, a human and a divine spark.” (John: This reminds me of what the Quakers have said from time centuries before Vatican II, that there is a spark of God in every man, and that the way to prove it is to ask the person if there is anything they can do that they would feel guilty about.)  I, John, am particularly interested about this matter of conscience, as I heard years later was accepted into Vatican II.  I had left the Catholic Church in about 1969 because of a matter of conscious regarding my participation in war.  I was a Conscientious objector to war and still remain so.

End: Vatican II – “Inspired Awakening,” a one hour VHS tape.

Begin, Vatican II – “Human Dignity,” a one hour VHS tape.

Vatican II freed the Catholic Church for social action.  An example of this is Fr. Luis Olivares of Los Angeles, who protested the U.S. involvement in El Salvador.  He said: “With the poor here, I want to throw in my luck.”  There were many refugees in Los Angeles form El Salvador who were fleeing the U.S. supported war in the mid to late 1980’s.  They sought sanctuary here.  There was civil disobedience in 1989 in which the actor, Martin Sheen, took part.  Mr. Sheen was arrested and someone asked him if he were a Communist, to which he replied, “Far worse than a Communist, I am a Catholic.”

Human Dignity was to be for all people, Jews, Muslims, Christians, and even unbelievers such as atheists.  The thought was that if a person is living by their conscience, they could live and be saved.  Fr. John Courtney Murray, SJ, in 1966 said that freedom of conscience – Conscience should be free to worship God as each own person freely thinks.  The Vatican Council wanted to affirm religious freedom. 

Dignitatis Humanae: Individual or group is to be left to be free to act in conscience.  To Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, (to become Pope John Paul II) the council was a test case for putting Human Dignity teachings to the test.  Communists in Poland could not break the Church.  June 2nd, 1979 Pope John Paul II returns to Poland.  Solidarity – We are Catholics, we pray – That’s the beginning of Solidarity.

Catholic is an adjective, – universal – The church is meant for all people and for all ages.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger – Perfect, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Vatican, (was to become Pope Benedict.

There is a section of the video which includes an example of the Church’s Enculturation, and shows how the Church is celebrated differently in Africa.  There is dignity in primitive cultures too.

Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue – 1964 – Pope John Paul II

Professor Hans King: “No peace among the nations without peace among the religions, there will be no peace among the religions without dialog.”

Vatican II ridded the liturgy of anti-Jewish statements like blaming the Jews for Christ’s death in the Good Friday liturgy.  Jesus was Jewish, Mother Mary Jewish, the apostles were Jewish, and the scriptures were Jewish.  There were anti-Jewish statements by Catholic leaders before WWII.  Pope Pius XII did not speak out against the dictatorial regimes of Hitler and Mussolini, although he did personally save a good number of Jews.  Pope John Paul XXIII apologized to the Jews for this sin.

(John: One of the things that kept me from returning to the Catholic Church for many years was the terrible and corrupt history of the Catholic Church in such matters as this and the Inquisition.  However, I eventually realized the same is true for most all other churches historically and the same is true for John Cooper too.)

The VHS gives an interesting statement.  “The Image of God was dying in each person who died in Auschwitz.” God kept silence in Auschwitz, and the Catholic Church kept silence too.

Pope John Paul XXIII: We are meant to serve the rights of the human person and not just the rights of the Catholic Church.

Vatican II started repairing the damage and difference between what the Church has stated and what the Church does.  Pope Paul VI condemned anti-Jewish sentiment.

End: Vatican II – “Human Dignity,” a one hour VHS tape.

Begin: Vatican II – “A World Transformed,” a one hour VHS tape.

As a result of Vatican II, the Church is now defined as the people of God, not “the mystical body of Christ.”  Laity, women, all are collaborative in worship, used as Eucharistic ministers, readers, etc.  Priests are to be collaborative, not just ruling over people. 

Regarding birth control – lay people were on the commission – support for change was overwhelming.  This went against the super rigid stance of previous Popes before John XXIII.  Pope Paul VI … 1968, Announcement referred to individual’s conscious regarding birth control, use own judgement. (As I understand it) Pope had advised all acts of sex should be open to recreation, the question was, is this a fallible, or infallible teaching?

Food kitchens for the poor arose, gypsies were fed, – The Community of Sant’Egidio, in Rome, spread to over other communities, taking care of the poor.  There were many such communities as this after Vatican II.  (John:  Also, Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement in New York City preceded this.)  

Mozambique – Pope John XXIII invited two warring sides to the Vatican and advised them to start with what they had in common, not what they had that divided them.  The treaty for Mozambique was created at the Vatican.

VHS mentions Opus Dei, a lay movement.  It had started in 1928 in Fascist Spain. Opus Dei was not happy with Vatican II, or with Pope John XXIII.  (John: I understand this is a Secret Society…, cult like…)

By the time of the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, a time of the Vietnam War Cold War, the Church was becoming more relevant to the world.  How would the Church respond to these crisis?  John XXIII called for nuclear disarmament in 1959 & 1960.

“A world Transformed” section of this series brings up and records words of Jim Douglass, (a like-minded acquaintance of John Cooper.)  Jim was interviewed in this section of the videos.  See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_W._Douglass.

John XXIII was mediator between President Kennedy and Castro.  John XXIII wrote “Pacem in Terris.”  “In any situation, modern warfare is unreasonable,” said that there can no longer be any idea of “just” war.

Phillip Berrigan, Catholic priest, peace activist, and poet, is interviewed at times in this tape.

Jim Douglass wrote to Vatican Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes,” which came out with the only negative view on war mentioned by Vatican II.  This document states that any act of war of complete destruction, of an entire city or area, is a crime against humanity and God Himself.  Pope John XXIII was disappointed with Vatican II on the status of war and peace.  Vatican II still allowed for “just” war.  Vatican II was under pressure from the some in the U.S. – and altered statements so as not to imply condemnation of U.S. policy.

Pope Pius XII, before the Council, had discouraged Catholics from being conscientious objectors… Pope John XXIII – encouraged conscience as a basis for the world of justice.  People like Jim Douglass now can open lives to the power of the Spirit.

Blasé Bonpane – Vatican II – Faith is not just a matter of what you know, what you memorize.  Faith is a matter of what you do.  Are you willing to participate in history?

Cardinal Spellman – very much in support of the Vietnam War.  (John: Dorothy Day & Cardinal Spellman, very much on opposite ends of the social justice menu.  See: http://www.nypress.com/cardinal-spellmans-dark-legacy/.

The video goes over the civilian deaths – napalm of innocent civilians by U.S. (little naked girl running from napalm, attacked, and burned by napalm, one of the historic photos of the world) (John: The same thing is happening today, but on a probably broader scale.  Even as we speak, U.S. backed forces are bombing Mosul with phosphorus laden bombs, killing over 475 civilians just this past month, and over a thousand innocent civilians a couple or three months ago, and no one seems to care, even though these type of things are being chronicled by the United Nations and others.)

In early 1968, Fr. Daniel Berrigan, S.J., Catholic priest, peace activist, and poet, helped found with his brother, Phillip, and 7 others, the Cantonsville 9.  (John: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catonsville_Nine) What to do, they asked?  (John: These were the days of the daily body counts in the Vietman War.) They broke into a government facility and took a lot of draft cards and burned them with Napalm.  They were arrested and sentenced to prison, serving about 2 years of a three year sentence.  After being arrested, Fr. Daniel Berrigan, when asked why he was doing this, said something like, we are only doing with papers, (draft cards,) that is burning them with napalm, what was lauded by others to do with human beings.

(John: I am reminded of a house mass I was invited to at the home of Jim and Shelley Douglass, at St. Mary’s House, their Catholic Worker House in Birmingham, AL.  The mass was officiated by Fr. Alex Steinmiller, and was in celebration of the recent death of Fr. Daniel Berringan who had died in April of 2016, aged 94 years old.  I John, was a conscientious objector to war back in these days.  I was not one to be demonstrating, but served my alternative service as a conscientious objector beginning at Spain Rehabilitation Center, which took care of the paralyzed, in Birmingham.  I had left the Catholic Church for matters of conscious in these years, joining an historic peace church, The Worldwide Church of God, while coming to another and continuing conversion experience.  (I grew up on the farm in Illinois, and attended a small town Catholic Church, and I cannot recall how much of Vatican II had filtered down to our small church in the spring of 1967, when I left Illinois to attend Samford University in Birmingham, AL.  I don’t think much of Vatican II had filtered down.)  I certainly did not know of the option for a Catholic to be a conscientious objector.  Pax Christi, https://paxchristiusa.org/, a Catholic Organization that could have helped me with these matters of conscience, which Vatican II finally allowed for in the Catholic Church, did not come to the United States until 1972.  I am afraid most Catholic youth know little of Vatican II, and know little of right of Catholics to believe in non-violence, and object all war, or any war, for that matter.)

VHS mentions Howard Zinn, who said something like “Someone had to do something.” (regarding the wars at that time in history.)

Vatican II’s last paper was unplanned, it was about the Church in the world today.  It was titled “Gaudium et spes,” and freed Catholics to take social action.  (John: See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaudium_et_spes)

Bishop Foley, D.D., of Birmingham, was also interviewed and said that Vatican II stirred many priests, other priests it did not touch, likewise for the Bishops.  (John: I am afraid this remains the case, as I see some movements, seemingly back to pre-Vatican II in the Catholic Church since I have returned to the Catholic Church.)

When out of prison, the Berrigan’s began a movement called “Plowshares,” which was an anti-nuclear weapon movement.  He broke into, with others, a GE facility that made nuclear warheads, and pounded on the fragile ceramic heads with hammers in a symbolic move to turn swords into plowshares, and they poured their own blood on the weapons, and began a worship service until they were arrested.

Bishop Foley – The Civil Rights Movement challenged Catholics to do something about Vatican II.  – Children took to the streets in Birmingham, dogs were set loose, the 16th Street bombing killed four little girls, (John: how much worse is it today in the world?)  Fr. Berrigan said that the Catholics were kind of a ”Johnny come lately” to the Civil Rights Movement.

One more statement from Jim Douglass, “Discern the will of God, and then do it.”

End: “A World Transformed,” a one hour VHS.

Begin: “The Dynamic Hope,” a one hour tape.

Pope Paul VI supervised the implementation of Vatican II.  He seems to have backpedaled somewhat on the birth control issue from what Vatican II recommended.  He was trying to keep both camps on this issue happy.

Pope John Paul I’s papacy only lasted 33 days.  Then, from Polish background, Pope John Paul II was elected.  He combined the names of Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI into Pope John Paul II.  He, as Cardinal, Wojtyla, had participated in Vatican II and had substantial input into parts of it.  John Paul II heavily was heavily influenced by Vatican II and the openness of the Church to the world. He was a Pope of the Council.  He helped improve relations with other Faiths.  John Paull II was the great hope of the Catholic Church.  He wanted to unite all Christians and bring the churches together, bringing God’s love to all people.

What is the role of the Church in Politics?  There were to be no religious in political positions of power.  The church was to be the advocate of the poor.  The Church was to strive to be Universal.  The Church in Latin America reinterpreted Vatican II for implementation in Latin America.  There was concern about the indigenous population, the poor Indians.  For Latin America, “Liberation Theology” opposed “Imperial” Theology which derived from the Church’s conjoining with Constantine, and accepting political power, which resulted in terrible programs like the Inquisition. Imperial Theology is a Theology of the sword.  Liberation Theology, on the other hand attempted to connect Charity and Justice for the poor.

In Latin America, the implementation of Vatican II concentrated on how to change the system of the lives of the poor, or in other words, the preferential option for the poor.  This seemed to get mixed up somewhat with Marxism.  Bishop Ruiz, was one of the last of the Vatican II proponents in Latin America.  He concentrate on serving the indigoes Indians in his Diocese.  Some complained he served them and left out others.  The Vatican was about to relieve him of his duties, but the Sandinista Rebellion occurred and he was the only one who could help resolve this problem.  Bishop Ruiz position was that since Vatican II, the native Indians now have human dignity. 

In theory, Vatican II abolished the pyramidal structure of the Roman Catholic Church.  WE are the Church.  The Church is everyone.  Collegial and collaborative decision making was to occur.  However, this was not exactly how it happened, and it has not happened yet.  In practice, the Roman Curia ruled over the Bishops.  For instance, in about 1995, 30 years after Vatican II, the Church basically stripped Bishop Gailott in France, of his Diocese, and assigned him to a historic diocese which had not existed in many years.   Bishop Gailoot had taken opposing positions the positions of the Church.  His opinion was the Church was to be a Church to the marginalized of society, but I think he spoke only to the marginalized, and not to everyone. 

Dialog is talking to people in love, and to look for this love in all people.  We still need dialog to discern the meaning of Vatican II and we must recognize the human dignity and equality of each other. 

Msgr. Glenn D. Gardner: “When all is said and done, the real call of the Church is simple, it is to love people as Jesus loved them.”

Msgr. Capovilla: “The only force we can use is the force of love and fraternity.”

In 1995, about when these VHS tapes were produced, about 30 years after Vatican II, many changes were to come as the documents of Vatican II continued to unfold.  Vatican II regenerates one Billion people for the third millennium of the Church.

Conclusion:

 (John: The Holy Spirit is always working to unfold God’s will and will unfold what remains to be understood and implemented of the Vatican II papers.  To me, this is the Hope which remains.  Also, the Holy Spirit is not limited to “just” Catholics, but works or at least can work in every man and women in which She desires to work.  The Holy Spirit is the Universal Power, with the Father and the Son.)

John Cooper, Tuscaloosa, AL

19th Annotation Spiritual Exercise

Painting by Peter Paul Rubens

Warning: Taking this Exercise effectively requires your willingness to give up everything to live only in God’s love and grace. One must commit to 34 weeks of prayer and discernment each day for about one hour or more each day. Do not undertake this matter lightly. You are likely to suffer loss, even of the self. You may need Spiritual Companionship. To join a small group to take the 19th Annotation or to arrange for monthly Spiritual Companionship via Zoom, email jcooperforpeace@gmail.com

(This Exercise is available in Spanish, Arabic, and other languages. See links for details.)

To preview the 19th Annotation 34 week Spiritual Exercises review the links below: https://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/RetreatintheRealWorld/

https://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/cmo-retreat.html

Contemplation on Woundedness

Pix: Public Domain


Contemplation on Woundedness

(A Spiritual Exercise)

  1. I make a gesture of reverence like a bow, folded hands in prayer, or the Sign of the Cross.
  2. I enter a period of silence and meditation.
  3. I think about what I desire, that I desire to discover and be healed of my woundedness.
  4. I remember how God has always been with me, helping me and healing me.
  5. I read the Prayer Texts below:

Hebrews 13: 5 Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never leave you; I will never abandon you.” 6 Let us be bold, then, and say:

“The Lord is my helper,

I will not be afraid.

What can anyone do to me?”                    

John 20:26 A week later the disciples were together again indoors, and Thomas was with them. The doors were locked, but Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands; then stretch out your hand and put it in my side. Stop your doubting, and believe!.” (GNBDK)

1 Cor 12:12 Christ is like a single body, which has many parts; it is still one body, even though it is made up of different parts. 13 In the same way, all of us, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether slaves or free, have been baptized into the one body by the same Spirit, and we have all been given the one Spirit to drink. (GNBDK)

I meditate in silence, thinking about the prayer texts above.

Are there any physical, mental, or spiritual wounds God can help me with today?

I wonder why Jesus kept his wounds when he could have been resurrected in a perfect body.

I wonder if my wounds are a part of Jesus body and his a part of my body.

6. I enter into silent meditation, touching my healed wounds and scars and if I am in a group. I show my scars and allow others to touch them and touch others’ wounds and scars if appropriate.

7. If doing this exercise in a group, I gently share my thoughts in confidence, and whether alone or in a group, I verbally forgive any who have wounded me. I will write these matters down in my Journal when I am finished for future reflection and action.

8. I am silent again, this time hoping to enter a state of thoughtless contemplation, allowing God to heal any remaining wounds in my heart, body, and mind in the way he chooses.

9. I resolve to share in the sufferings of others, of the world, of those who are dying and the poor, of those alone, and the sufferings of Jesus whom I and others disappoint when we sin.  

10. I recite the Lord’s Prayer myself or in my group together in communion with others.

11. I smile because I know I am healed and forgiven, as wide and long a smile as appropriate, and maybe I laugh because now I know God is big enough to take care of me solve my problems.  I can’t believe I perhaps thought he was not big enough to solve all my problems.

12. If anything is still unresolved I will share the matters with my Spiritual Director, Pastor, or counselor, or friends. I resolve to take this exercise again as often as needed. I will share this exercise with others as appropriate.

John Cooper

Tuscaloosa, AL

Contemplation on the Mystical Roots of Unconscious Prejudice

(Pix: Public Domain)
Contemplation on the Mystical Roots of Unconscious Prejudice…

(A Spiritual Exercise)

  1. I make a gesture of reverence like a bow, folded hands in prayer, or the Sign of the Cross.

2. I enter a two minute period of silence and meditation.

3. I think about what I desire, that I desire to discover and be healed of prejudice.

4. I take an item or symbol of my ancestors and hold it in my hands.

5. I enter into silent meditation for two minutes, holding the item and if I am in a group, sharing the item I am holding with others.

6. I read the Prayer Texts below:

Gen 1:31 God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (NRSV)

Gal 3:28 So there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, between slaves and free people, between men and women; you are all one in union with Christ Jesus. (GNBDK)

1 Cor 12:12 Christ is like a single body, which has many parts; it is still one body, even though it is made up of different parts. 13 In the same way, all of us, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether slaves or free, have been baptized into the one body by the same Spirit, and we have all been given the one Spirit to drink. (GNBDK)

Lev 19:32 “Show respect for old people and honour them. Reverently obey me; I am the LORD.

33 “Do not ill-treat foreigners who are living in your land. 34 Treat them as you would a fellow-Israelite, and love them as you love yourselves. Remember that you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God. (GNBDK)

Deut 5: 9 I bring punishment on those who hate me and on their descendants down to the third and fourth generation. 10 But I show my love to thousands of generations of those who love me and obey my laws. (GNBDK)

“…so much is hidden in the unconscious…Below all this is the vast unknown world of corporate memories inherited from our families, our culture and our race…However there is a time for amassing information and a time for letting it go into the hands of God to allow him to illuminate, draw out and bind together what we already know…the works of the memory become in some way divine if they are controlled by the Holy Spirit.” (Door Through Darkness: John of the Cross and mysticism in everyday life, pp. 104-105, 133, Sister Eileen Lyddon, New City Press).

7. I meditate in silence, thinking about the prayer texts above.

8. If doing this exercise in a group, I gently share my thoughts in confidence and confess my sins of prejudice and unconscious inheritances I may have received of which I am now aware.  I speak aloud my pain, my grief, how I have been hurt and how I have hurt others.  If I am privileged, I resolve to give something back, love, prayers, money, or what I may be inspired to pay forward for my future generations.  If I am exercising privately, I write these matters down in my Journal when I am finished for future reflection and action.

9. I am silent for two more minutes, this time hoping to enter a state of thoughtless contemplation, allowing God to do His work silently and passively in my heart and mind.

10. I and others, if I am in a group, moan as if we were dying, perhaps even crying out loudly, AGHH! I grieve. I moan…

11. I recite the Lord’s Prayer myself or in my group together in communion with others.

12. I enter silence for 46 more seconds, making a total of 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence and resolve to pray in silence about these matters at other times and the exercise ends without comments or additional discussion, but I will discuss what I have experienced with my Spiritual Director, Pastor, or counselor or friends and I resolve to take this exercise again as often as needed.

John Cooper

Tuscaloosa, AL

Cats Go To Heaven

Cats go to Heaven!

This short essay is inspired by my friend, Rennie Jones’ post where he shared a link, https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/do-dogs-go-to-heaven.html about dogs going to Heaven.

Some know of my fondness of St. Francis, who urged nonviolence and the love of all of creation, and that I am a Spiritual Director and promote Ignatian Spirituality, one of whose core tenants is “finding God in all things.” See: https://www.loyolapress.com/our-catholic-faith/ignatian-spirituality/finding-god-in-all-things.

Recently our beloved cat, Ossie, passed away. He had quit eating and we took him to the Vet after he had not eaten much for several days. It was found he had a problem in his gall bladder the Vet thought was gall stones, but when we took him to the animal hospital in Starkville, MS, he ended up having E-coli in his gall bladder. For three days he was on intravenous IV and seemed to be doing better and one time seemed to be his old self again and he was released after three days and sent home with plenty of medicine to continue his recovery. We began giving him the medicine but in about a week or so he lost his appetite again. I thought I knew what was happening and begin to make a cat casket for him, although I did not tell Wink until after he died what I was making.

 

We took him to the Vet again and the Vet worked with him and gave him more medicine and we ordered more from the Mississippi hospital for his little gall bladder, but it was too late for him. His time had come to die. When he got home from the Vet, he was so weak. I took him out on our deck where he used to love to be, but he wanted to come back in the house and lay behind one of our sofas. When he came out to go down the hall, he was so weak he walked a little then sat down to rest. He ended up under my Great-Great Grandfather’s chest of drawers which he had made during the civil war period. It came time to give him his medicine and while Wink was preparing the medicine, I went in to get him out from under the chest of drawers. He groaned and rolled over when I awakened him and rolled over again and groaned. I knew he was dying. I called Wink in and I gently slid Ossie out from under the chest and Wink and I watched him die, both of us crying. I told Wink he is dying, but she held out hope to the end. “Watch out.” I said, “Sometimes a dying animal will bite you.” But little Ossie was always so gentle. “He is still breathing,” Wink said. “He is dying,” I said. Ossie let out one last “Ahhh?” as loud as he could and groaned loudly and his little spirit went to heaven. “His eyes are still open,” Wink said. “That’s the way it is after one dies,” I said.

We are still grieving, especially Wink, and we have not yet put his ashes in his casket. Bill Remmert is to come and bless him and the casket when we are ready to experience more closure. Here is a link to where he will rest:

Notice the oil painting of Ossie Janelle Avery did before Janelle died. Both Janelle and Ossie are gone way too soon, but I believe God knows every sparrow which falls to the ground and he can do all things, including reuniting all our loved ones in Heaven.

Rest in Peace,

John Cooper

Let God In: One Ignatian Journey

My book, Let God In: One Ignatian Journey, is to be printed on October 30th.  If you are wondering about the afterlife, Ignatian Spirituality, or the Spirituality of inner peace, consider reading my book.

It may be ordered at: Amazon

Or from the publisher: Austin Macauley

Thanks!

John Cooper

Finding Peace in the World: An Interfaith Retreat for Muslims and Christians

 

Preface:

I wrote the inter-faith retreat below as an extra paper for the final class I took in the Summer of 2019 at Spring Hill College in Mobile, AL to fulfill the requirements for my Certificate in spiritual Direction. I sent it out to a few people to see if there might be some interest in it and so far, there is no interest expressed that this might be useful at this time.  I am not surprised.  I often come up with what some consider off the wall ideas or maybe some of the ideas are just a bit ahead of their time and may be useful later. At times like this, I just hang my ideas up on a peg on the wall for the future.  My Blog site, http://www.jcooperforpeace.org is the peg on the wall from which I hang such matters.  Lest one think me completely bonkers, I would like to point out a predicted inter-faith event that may happen, at least by principle sometime in the future.  This year, the Feast of Tabernacles, (Sukkot to the Jews) will be observed from the evening of October 13th to the evening of October 20th, with what some observe to be the Last Great Day, or the 8th Day, to be observed on October 21st.

Zechariah 16-19:

16 Then all who survive of the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the festival of booths. [49] 17 If any of the families of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, there will be no rain upon them. 18 And if the family of Egypt do not go up and present themselves, then on them shall [50] come the plague that the LORD inflicts on the nations that do not go up to keep the festival of booths. [51] 19 Such shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not go up to keep the festival of booths. [52]

NRSV, Catholic Edition Bible, eBook . Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

 

08/21/2019

John Cooper

 

 Finding Peace in the World: An Interfaith Retreat for Muslims and Christians

Preparation and Instructions:

This retreat for finding peace in the world draws from the well of Ignatian Spirituality, modified for interfaith usage.  Before taking this retreat, certain prerequisites are helpful.  One prerequisite is to read and bring Finding Jesus among Muslims: how loving Islam makes me a better Catholic, by Jordan Denari Duffner, Liturgical Press, 2017, ISBN 9780814645925.  Another is that you bring your own Qur’an and Bible with you to the retreat.  Another prerequisite is that you ask Allah, God for the spiritual poverty to receive the grace of humility so your retreat will bear the spiritual fruits you desire.  What is it you desire by attending this retreat?  Please fill out the application to attend below.  Additional handouts will be provided once you have registered to this retreat.  It is recommended that if you are Christian, you attend one Islamic Friday Prayer Service, with the prior approval of the Prayer leader who may mention to you proper etiquette for attending.  If you are Muslim, we recommend you attend one Christian worship service, preferably Roman Catholic, with prior approval and familiarity with the etiquette needed to attend.

Please print clearly

 

Last                             First                                         Middle

Street                                                               City                             State                Zip Code

Email Address _______________________________________Cell Phone_____ _____________

Cost of Retreat Is: __________________ Contact: __________________________ for payment.

  • Past retreats: Briefly summarize all retreat experiences:

 

 

  • Professional/Personal background: Briefly summarize your work history, ministry experience, and living situation.

 

 

  • Intent: What do you hope to find or gain from this retreat experience?

 

 

 

Retreat Information: The Retreat for Peace in the World will be held at: ____________________________________________________________________________

On the dates of: ________________________________________________________________

This is a retreat of 4 days, Thursday night, all day and night on Friday, all day and night on Saturday, and ½ a day on Sunday.  Please use no cellphones, or anything that makes noise.  This is a silent retreat excepting for designated times of conversation.  Parts of this retreat will be spent in just listening for God, Allah.  Listen and silence are spelled with the same letters.

 

Formation and Preparation Days:

For your convenience please review the book annotation below in preparation for reading our textbook.  You may wish to study the essay, Promoting Peace in the World: An Introduction to Living at Peace with the Other, and refer to the Bibliography for additional books to further your spiritual quest.

 

Book Annotation For: Finding Jesus among Muslims: how loving Islam makes me a better Catholic, by Jordan Denari Duffner, Liturgical Press, 2017, ISBN 9780814645925 (pbk).

Purpose: In Finding Jesus among Muslims: how loving Islam makes me a better Catholic, Jordan Denari Duffner discusses the experiences of interfaith dialogue helping her personally in three ways explained as threefold blessings of growing in friendship with Muslims, encountering God in Muslims, and the blessing of reconnecting herself to and deepening her own Catholic Faith.

Important Points:

Meeting God in Muslims:  Duffner begins by discussing common ground she has experienced in relationship with Muslims.  She mentions the important part Mary plays in both Catholic and Muslim traditions and Scriptures (pp. 15 & 16). She sees common ground in the good works individuals of both Faiths accomplish (p. 18). She recognizes the “’White Helmets’” who serve selflessly in the Syrian Civil War (p.20) and quotes the Quar’an, “”You will find the closest to the believers in affection to be those who say: ‘We are Christians,’ – the reason being that among them are priests and monks, and they are not a people given to arrogance” (5:82)” (p. 20). This accommodation of Christianity is crucial for us to keep in mind when we discover there are also differences between Christians and Muslims. The commonality of belief in one God, and God being a God who is Mercy is another commonality (pp. 21-26). Duffner also labels Islamophobia as a form of racism (p. 39) and challenges the Islamophobic assumption that Islam is inherently violent (p. 41). However, just as history has chronicled the fact that Muslims have gone to war, Duffner admits that Christianity, including her own Catholic Faith, “particularly Catholics,” she states, have done and are doing exactly the same, resorting to all kinds of violence throughout history, and in today’s world (p. 50).

Encountering God in Muslims:  Duffner deeply appreciates Muslims’ five times per day prayer practices and sees the image of God in them, appreciating the loving and personal relationships she has with Muslims. (pp. 56, 57, etc.). She mentions that Nostra Aetate, a document of Vatican II, appreciates “what is good and true in other religions” (p. 57). Also important to her is that Islam has helped her more deeply encounter God in creation (p. 58). Islamic prayer practices have positively impacted her Faith (pp. 62, 63). Chapter 4 is titled, “The Width of a Hair.”  She argues that our theological differences with Muslims are not really that great (p. 69). Quoting both Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis, she affirms that both Muslims and Christians worship the same God, are impacted by the same Holy Spirit, and that praying together is a good thing to do (pp. 70, 71).

Reembracing God in Christianity: Duffner explains how interreligious dialogue and seeing God in Muslims renewed her own Catholicism (p. 84). The salah, Muslims’ five times a day prayers, renewed her interest in the Ignatian Daily Examen prayer (p. 87, 88). “I grew to love my Catholic faith again” (p. 88).  “I am not sure I could have remained within the fold of the Catholic Church if I had never encountered the church teaching on other religions formulated during Vatican II” (p. 91, 92).  She thinks Muslims will be in heaven and a part of “The ‘communion of saints’” (p. 92, 93). Near the end of her book, Jordan Denari Duffner returns to her thesis, mentioning the “threefold blessing” acquired through dialogical relationships with Muslims, how we “encounter God” in in Muslims, and the blessing of being able to return to our own faith tradition reinvigorated and with “fresh eyes” (p. 108).

Application: Finding Jesus among Muslims broadens one’s mind to see those of other faiths as like us, created in the image of God. Duffner’s book is a foundational and needed insight for inter-religious dialogue.  This book is a prerequisite for our retreat, Finding Peace in the World.

Recommendation:  Whether or not one participates in the Finding Peace in the World retreat, all who are longing for peace in our world, and desire to view mankind as brothers and sisters and love each other as such brothers and sisters, should inculcate the heartfelt knowledge in this book into their lives.

Part I – The Blessing of Meeting God in the Other

Thursday Night:  We will have greetings, fellowship, introductions, with snacks   and beverages that are appropriate and culturally sensitive to Muslims, and Christians.  Snacks will begin at 6 PM with a meal and conversation at 7 PM. We will check your customs, but generally no alcohol, no pork, shellfish, etc. will be provided. If we miss something, just don’t eat it if it is against your conscience.

Part II (A.) – The Blessing of Encountering God in the Other

Friday Morning: (Section AJ  (Section B will be Sunday morning) Following breakfast at 8 AM, we will have a call to worship by our Muslim co-host: _____________________. An appropriate interfaith service lead by our Muslim co-host, _____________________ will occur.  The rest of the day will be spent in silent prayer and reflection with the Noon meal in silence and the evening meal at 7 PM in silence.  Silence in spiritual retreats is an Ignatian tradition.  Prayer handouts with Qur’an and Bible verses for reflection will be given out for your assistance in preparing yourself for dialog.

Part III – The Blessing of Reembracing God in your Faith Tradition

Saturday: Breakfast with normal conversation will be at 8 AM. Our Muslim co-host will give a presentation on Islamic prayer practices, followed by our Christian co-host explaining Ignatian Prayer.  Handouts on Muslim prayer and Examen prayer will be distributed. We will have Noon lunch with discussion then we will have small group breakout sessions discussing the handouts with Qur’an and Bible verses and reflection questions.

Promoting Peace in the World: An Introduction to Living at Peace with the Other

This summer, 2019, Spring Hill College in Mobile, AL[1] offered its Summer Institute of Spirituality[2] classes and I participated in SPT571/471 Spirituality of Inter-Religious Dialogue, taught by Dr. Matthew Bagot.  The required text was Finding Jesus among Muslims: how loving Islam makes me a better Catholic, by Jordan Denari Duffner,[3] Liturgical Press, 2017.  The class was modified for me to two credit hours which I need to complete my Certificate of Spiritual Direction (CSD) degree.[4] In preparation for this class I also read and/or referred to other books and articles listed in the Bibliography at the end of this essay.

Dr. Bagot and I agreed that for the additional one hour credit to make two total hours credit, I would write a three day retreat promoting inter-religious dialogue for Christians and Muslims using Finding Jesus among Muslims as the primary text, alluding to other recommended books I have read and refer to in the Bibliography. This research paper was to be ten to twelve pages, using Duffner’s thesis that “Interreligious dialogue allows us to grow closer to God in three ways: through the people we meet, through their religion, and through our own Christian faith.”[5]

I was attracted to this course particularly due to the linkage I recognized between Ignatian Spirituality, Duffner’s book, and Islamic thinking.  This commonality of spiritual life is discussed by Duffner, “Noticing the strong faith community that my Muslim friends had, … I felt compelled to engage these aspects of my own faith tradition …Forms of prayer like the Daily Examen, devised by the founder of the Jesuit order of priests, St. Ignatius of Loyola, helped me to notice God more in my daily life.”[6] [7]

I set out to write an Ignatian style inter-religious retreat that both Muslims, Christians, and Jews could attend together in a common quest for Finding Peace in the World. I soon ran into a fork in the road, having exceeded my page limit and word limit, and I am now writing this document as an introduction to the retreat, Finding Peace in the World: An Interfaith Retreat for Muslims and Christians, which I will continue writing and post on my blog site[8] when it is finished.  I plan to share the actual retreat with retreat houses and others who might like to find peace in the world through inter-religious dialog using a retreat format.  In this introductory paper to that retreat I will expand on the spirituality of Duffner’s thesis and reexamine her thoughts in the lens of Ignatian Spirituality.

One of the features I appreciate about Jordan Denari Duffner’s writing style is the way she blends her life experience with her knowledge. This mix speaks to our common humanity and enlightens our soul as well as our mind.  In Always Discerning, Joseph Tetlow, SJ quotes Richard of Chichester, “’O most merciful Redeemer, Friend, and Brother, may I know Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly, and follow Thee more nearly, day by day.’”[9]  It is this combination of knowledge, of love, and human interaction that speaks to the spiritual meaning of Duffner’s three part book.  Part I is Meeting God in Muslims; Part II is Encountering God in Islam; and Part III is Reembracing God in Christianity. This combination of knowledge, love, and human interaction is a day by day task that also speaks to us in an eternal voice if we believe Muslims will be a part of the Communion of Saints. Duffner’s book is her personal testimony to knowing God in the eyes of the “other,” following God in the eyes of the “other,” and loving God in the eyes of the “other.”  If we continue thinking like this book seems to hint at, maybe one day we will find there is really no “other” and that we are already in communion with each other and the One Divine Mystery, if we can only imagine it.

We must address the meaning of Islam itself.  “Islam is the act of giving one’s self over to God, and aligning one’s own will with God’s; a Muslim is a person who willingly undertakes this act of devotion, and experiences the peace that comes with it.”[10]  The heart of true spirituality is the giving up of the self, Kenosis, or self-emptying. It is this submission and giving of the self that creates peace that is often thought of when the word Islam is used. “Submission to God’s will is the sole basis of any authentic religion.”[11] This is why when we speak of Islam and speak of authentic spirituality we must at the same time speak of peace.  Hence, the title of this essay is Promoting Peace in the World: An Introduction to Living at Peace with the Other and the title of the retreat I am writing is Finding Peace in the World: An Interfaith Retreat for Muslims and Christians.

            If we are going to discuss the threefold blessings[12] of interfaith dialogue, we may ask, “What is this type of dialogue? “The Catholic Church teaches that interreligious dialogue is part of our vocation as Christians.”[13] Duffner mentions Pope John Paul II’s encouragement for each person to engage in this type of dialogue to further the mission of the church. God is in dialogue with humanity, the one God we commonly believe in and as Catholics view as One Trinitarian being is Himself in a dialogue of love, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. “The goal of dialogue, like the rest of our life, is to grow closer to God.”[14] Half of this dialogue is to listen, and half is to speak. The job of a Spiritual Companion is very much to listen. To be a spiritual companion with Muslims, in dialogue with them in prayer, in action, in worship, in life experience, and in eternity, is to fulfill our mission in life of drawing closer to God and sharing His love.  It is Duffner’s goal to focus on this dialogue with Muslims, because that is Duffner’s personal experience, but the principles we discuss are applicable to other faiths, particularly to Abrahamic faiths.

Beginning with Part I of Finding Jesus among Muslims is Meeting God in Muslims. Normally when we meet someone for the first time, our focus is find some common ground.  “Where are you from?” “What do you do for a living?” Finding common ground is fundamental to our task of meeting God in the “other.” From a Spiritual perspective, Christians, (especially Catholics) have much in common with Muslims (especially Shia Muslims). Surah Maryam is one of the longest surah’s in the Qur’an. The respect Muslims show for Mary and their devotion to her is a wonderful beginning point for finding, as Catholics, commonality with Muslims.  The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius is heavily laden with Marian prayer. When we think of Mary, perhaps in our Ignatian prayers of imagination, we might pick up the Qur’an and contemplate what Mohammad wrote about her. “The Qur’an speaks more of Jesus and Mary than of Muhammad, though less than of Abraham and Moses… He [Jesus] is called God’s word cast into Mary, and he is God’s spirit blown into her to effect Jesus’s fatherless conception.”[15]

Duffner also speaks of the commonality of good works, justice, and mercy that Christians and Muslims share.  Mercy is crucial to Islam.  When one meets a Muslim, one should meet Mercy.  “In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful”[16] begins the surah of Maryam, and Mercy is mentioned at the beginning of every surah in the Quran but one.[17] From a spiritual point of view, what if when a Muslim meets a Christian, the Muslim should meet unconditional love?  Would that this would happen in every case, then Mercy and Love would walk the face of the earth together.

1 In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. 2 Praise be to God, Lord of the worlds, 3 the Compassionate, the Merciful, 4 Master of the Day of Judgment. 5 Thee we worship and from Thee we seek help. 6 Guide us upon the straight path, 7 the path of those whom Thou hast blessed, not of those who incur wrath, nor of those who are astray.[18]

When one reads the Qur’an, one ought to remember that everything the Qur’an says and means is prefaced with the presupposition of the Mercy of God. Reading the Qur’an with spiritual eyes means reading the Qur’an with eyes of Mercy, Allah’s Mercy.  Even the “sword verse,” Qur’an 9:5 ends in Mercy.

Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wheresoever you find them, capture them, besiege them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they repent, and perform the prayer and give the alms, then let them go their way. Truly God is Forgiving, Merciful.[19]

We Christians have our own difficult Scriptures and “sword” verses too which should be tempered in God’s final Love, Mercy, and Grace.

In the process of expanding more on the Spirituality of the threefold blessings of interfaith dialogue in growing closer to God though meeting God in Muslims, through their religion, and reembracing our own Faith in God,[20] Duffner gives us her viewpoint on meeting the Image of God in Muslims.  Here is where we run into a little difficulty concerning God’s Image in Muslims.  Duffner fully believes God’s Image is in Muslims, “I have encountered God’s image and spirit in Muslims countless times.”[21] I fully agree with her and for that matter, I believe God’s Image is in every human.  Ignatian Spirituality asks us to find God in all things.[22]

Houser Divine Union cropped

[23]

The graphic above speaks to my personal view of the spirituality of God’s Image being in man.  This is the Eastern view, but others, even in the Catholic Church have a viewpoint of God being absolutely transcendent, as do most Muslims, to my knowledge.  “Naught is like unto Him (cf. 112:4) is among the most famous phrases of the Quran, as it provides a succinct and unequivocal assertion of God’s complete and utter transcendence (tanzīh). Like unto Him renders ka mithlihi, which literally reads “like His likeness.””[24]  I confirmed my inclinations that Muslims would not agree that the image of God is in us, with one of my Muslim friends, yet he explained God as being Omniscient, Omnipotent, and Omnipresent. I suggested that if God were omnipresent, He could be present in us too. The apostle Paul, speaking to the Greek intellectuals from whom some of our Western ideas about God come, stated, “From one ancestor [140] he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27 so that they would search for God [141] and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. 28 For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’”[25] He understood. For a more detailed viewpoint on this matter see Quran 50:16 “We did indeed create man, and We know what his soul whispers to him; and We are nearer to him than his jugular vein.”[26][27]

My friend, Mirza, may not agree about God’s Image being in mankind, but he did agree with me and would agree with Duffner about God’s Spirit being in mankind.  See Qur’an 15:28:

And [remember] when thy Lord said unto the angels, “Behold! I am creating a human being from dried clay, made of molded mud; 29 so when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My Spirit, fall down before him prostrating.”[28]

The Qur’an is full of references to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a key area of commonality for experiencing the Spirituality of finding Jesus among Muslims.

We have viewed the Spiritual Blessings of interreligious dialogue with individual Muslims.  This discussion has drawn us closer to God in many experiential ways.  Examining Part II of Finding Jesus among Muslims, let us consider how we encounter God in the religion of Islam.  Can the religion itself help us grow closer to God? When I grew up in the Roman Catholic Church I heard that the Catholic Church is the one and only true Church.  Subconsciously I think I realized some problems with that way of thinking, and for matters of conscience regarding war and the Sabbath, I left the Catholic Church at about twenty years old for another one and only true Church that I felt I was being called to join. That is a little humorous, looking back at it now, but before too late I realized that God is at work in the whole world and in people of different religions.  I did not know in 1969 that in 1965, Vatican II, in the fourth draft of Nostra Aetate addressed certain issues that are relevant to my concerns then and our discussion today.

The Church regards Muslims with esteem: they adore the one God, living and enduring, the all-powerful Creator of heaven and earth who has spoken to people; they strive to obey wholeheartedly His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham did, to whose faith they happily link their own. <break> Furthermore, as they worship God through prayer, almsgiving, and fasting, so they seek to make the moral life—be it that of the individual or that of the family and society—conform to His Will.[29]

Duffner mentions a similar passage on p. 57.  Vatican II contains clear breaks from prior Catholic teachings that for many, such as myself, who returned to the Catholic Church after many years, find refreshing and Spirit led. Signs of this Spirit, signs of God, are called ayat in the Qur’an. Duffner quotes the Qur’an regarding these signs of God in nature, in the birds of the air, the rain, the cattle, crops, and in humans.[30] We have already mentioned how well this viewpoint of seeing God in all things fits into Ignatian Spirituality.  In some mysterious way, God is everywhere, in all things, in all humans, and even in all religions!  Duffner quotes Pope Francis, “’The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face.’”[31]  Pope Francis was finding his inspiration from a sixteenth century Muslim mystic, Ali al-Khawas.

What a breath of fresh air has overcome the sometimes stale winds which the Spirit needs sometimes to stir up in our own religion. The Spirituality of the “other,” the Spirituality of the other’s religion, can sometimes help overcome legalistic hurdles set into our minds.  Thank God Pope Francis,[32] a Jesuit, schooled in Ignatian Spirituality, can accept these winds and speak like this.  I have thought several times as I write to mention how some of this spirituality fits into the beliefs of St. Francis.  Duffner mentions this association on pages 62 and 63, suggesting that some believe that St. Francis, while on a peace mission to sultan Malik al-Kamil in the thirteenth century, well before St. Ignatius, may have drawn inspiration for some of his prayers from Muslim sources.[33]

This brings up the concept of praying together.  We all live on the same earth, breathe the same air, and eat the same food.  Can we all pray together?  I think a prerequisite for Spirituality is humility. I have most of my life been much too proud and conceited, and probably in my best state, I am still so. While taking the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius about five years ago or so, I latched on to the Ignatian Spirituality idea of giving up everything to live only in the love and grace of God and started to tell others about it.  Before too long I ended up being wrung through the wringer, suffering a business bankruptcy, and getting relieved of some of that pride and conceit. Duffner’s chapter 4, The Width of a Hair, is now my spiritual view of what I know about things and what I believe all religions know about God.  If all mankind, and all religions were run through a wringer, stirred up in a washtub, and spilt into the ocean, our knowledge, and all we are so proud of, is just a drop in the ocean to what God knows, how much God loves, and how Merciful God is.  Duffner speaks to my idea under the heading “’The One and Merciful God.’”[34]

Duffner quotes Pope St. John Paul II’s 1985 address to Muslim youth in Morocco, “’We believe in the same God, the one God, the living God, the God who created the world and brings his creatures to their perfection.’”[35] From a spiritual point of view, isn’t this and other quotes from Pope Francis[36] in a similar vein refreshing?  What is so refreshing about it from a spiritual point of view is that if we believe these things, we relieve ourselves of our disordinate affections, giving up ourselves, emptying ourselves, of vanity, conceit and pride.  St. Ignatius often warned of the evils of riches, honor, and pride.  How much better off eternally would we be if we could rid ourselves of such evils?

We must now address the last section of Duffner’s book, and address how the spirituality of inter-religious dialogue has, or is going to help us reembrace our own Faith tradition.  When I left the Catholic Church, I did not leave Christianity.  Other Christians besides Catholics have God’s Holy Spirit too. The Spirit is an indelible sign of God’s Presence. It is a wind that blows where it will.  Eventually with the election of Pope Francis, I began to reexamine my relationship to the Catholic Church. Here is a man who thinks like St. Francis, I thought. Pope Francis is a part of my reexamination, the 19th Annotation is another part, and the Holy Spirit is the elephant in the room concerning why I came back to the Catholic Church.  I believe I needed to be set free to think like we are thinking right now.  The world is a big place, the Catholic Church is a big place, and Islam is a big place.  Nothing is always perfect, always right, always the one, true and only thing to consider, but spiritually, let us consider how big God is.  God is GREAT!

Perhaps Jordan Denari Duffner and Finding Jesus among Muslims has brought you to reexamine your thinking about your own Faith.  Perhaps just reading this essay has motivated you to reexamine some things you thought you believed.  Maybe something spiritual has touched you. I hope so. This is the reason I have written this essay, to expand on the spirituality of Duffner’s book and view it through the lens of Ignatian Spirituality.  Duffner explains how her interreligious dialog touched her inner being and brought her back to the Daily Examen,[37] an Ignatian form of prayer.[38] She says, “St. Ignatius of Loyola, helped me to notice God more in my daily life. I developed a deep personal friendship with Jesus, who became a companion to me…”[39]

Duffner looks back to over fifty years ago, to a crown jewel of her Catholicism, Vatican II. She quotes Lumen Gentium, “But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, first among whom are the [Muslims]: they profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us adore the one, merciful God…”[40]  She also mentions the essential dogma of Lumen Gentium that one must live by one’s conscience.  She mentions another Catholic term, the “communion of saints” and her heart’s desire is that heaven is full of Muslims.

Essential common ground we share with Muslims is the constant reexamination of our “self.” This is another spiritual aspect of our discussion.  “Muslims share with Catholics the foundational, basic parts of the spiritual life, things like a constant returning to God through prayer, and an emphasis on trust in God.”[41] The emptying of toxic self is essential to giving up everything to live only in God’s love and grace. This surrender is the root, s-l-m in Islam and Muslim, the surrender of giving up the self and our own selfish will to the One, true God, to enter this Divine and Mystical union, to continue living in Eternity, in communion with Him, and one another.  This surrender brings us peace. “’I am no longer legitimizing the violence that has been done toward the other group…I take on the responsibility of what has happened in the past from my own group, what my group has inflicted.’”[42] Therefore we return to the title of this essay, Promoting Peace in the World: An Introduction to Living at Peace with the Other. Will you join us in communion to experience the spirituality of our quest to enter dialogue and experience this peace with God and each other, in combination with the knowledge we now have about what we should be doing in this life and the next?

John Cooper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography:

  • Finding Jesus among Muslims: how loving Islam makes me a better Catholic, by Jordan Denari Duffner, Liturgical Press, 2017. ISBN 9780814645925
  • American Islamophobia: understanding the roots and rise of fear, by Khaled A. Beydoun, University of California Press, 2018, ISBN 9780520970007
  • Islam and Christianity: theological themes in comparative perspective, by John Renard, University of California Press, 2011 ISBN 978-0-520-26678-0
  • Peace Primer, Quotes from Islamic & Christian Scripture & Tradition, edited by Ken Sehested and Rabia Terri Harris, co-published by Muslim Peace Fellwoship & Baptist Peace Fellowship, 2002 (pamphlet)
  • Common Ground: Islam, Christianity, and religious pluralism, by Paul Heck, Georgetown University Press, 2009, ISBN 978-1-58901-507-4
  • Orientalism, by Edward W. Said, Penguin Classics, 2003, ISBN 978-0-141-18742-6
  • The Qur’an: a new translation, by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem, Oxford University Press, 2010, ISBN 978-0-19-95395-8
  • The Go-Anywhere Thinline Bible Catholic Edition, Harper Collins Publisher, 2010
  • Several articles, Ignatius of Loyola: Apostle to the Muslims, by Damian Howard, SJ; What is the Koran?, by Roby Lester, Jesus in the Quran: Pious, Obedient, Favored Servant of God, by Francis X. Clooney, SJ; Islam and Ignatian Spirituality, by Renato Oliveros, PHD; ‘The Study Quran’ and the Battle against Ignorance, by Francis X Clooney, SJ; On Pluralism, Intolerance, and the Quran, by Ali S. Asani, How to Read the Qur’an, by Ingrid Mattson; and The Human in the Qur’an, by Renovatio.

 

 

 

 

Discussion leaders will be chosen, and participants counted out, 1, 2, 3, 4, etc., with 1’s, 2’s, 3’s, 4’s going into separate groups. Discussion guidelines are below:

Discussion Guidelines:

Discussions go better when each person:

  • Respects the value of everyone’s observations or insights.
  • Allows everyone the opportunity to speak, if they so choose.
  • Focuses the discussion on the topic being discussed.
  • Share freely, but refrains from correcting or giving advice.
  • Keeps all personal sharing confidential.
  • Puts unanswered questions on the future study list.

After discussions in small groups, everyone will gather again with the small group leader sharing one or two significant insights.  Then, dinner at 7 PM with additional conversation.

Part II (B.) – Continuing the Blessing of Encountering God in the Other

Sunday: (Section BJ (Conclusion of Friday morning’s session) Breakfast with discussion will be at 8 AM.

Christian Mass at 10 AM. (Remember the customs of the other; for instance, during Communion, Catholics believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist, so those who do not believe this will want to go up too, with their arms crossed, to receive a blessing in place of the Eucharist.)

At 11:30 – Group pictures will be taken, farewells and appropriate expressions of affection will be exchanged.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Handouts

Notations:[43]

Finding Peace with Difficult Passages

 

It will be helpful right from the start to acknowledge we must accept the other right where they are.  Faith traditions have different Scriptures and we will never agree on everything.  We are seeking common ground for our spiritual journey.  Within the Muslim Faith are numerous divisions, Sunni’s, Shia, Sufi’s, just to name a few.  Within the Christian Faith there are also numerous divisions, Catholic, Protestant, Non-Denominational, Orthodox, just to name a few.  In all the divisions we find various hermeneutical methods.  Finding Peace in the world is not about finding complete agreement on every detail, but finding peace in the world in a spiritual sense is about seeking union with the One, Divine, and Mysterious  God together by seeking common ground. That being said, let’s begin our quest by examining some difficult to understand passages.

 

 

 

Notes:

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

 

 

I am Aware:

1.) Everything must be understood in context.

2.) Often I do not know the historical context.

3.) I must see everything through spiritual eyes.

 

Praying Today:

Scripture: Qur’an: Repentance Surah 9

5 … Slay he idolaters…capture them, besiege them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush. …. 6 …Then convey him to his place of safety. That is because they are a people who know not.[44]  (Read in context.)

Scripture: Bible: 1 Samuel 15

3 Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’” (Read in context.)

 

Scripture: Bible: Revelation 2:12, 16

 

12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword: …16 Repent then. If not, I will come to you soon and make war against them with the sword of my mouth. [45]

 

 

 

Finding Peace in the World

With Difficult Scriptures

 

Grace to Ask:

May I find Peace with people and Scriptures I do not understand?

 

 

I am thinking this today:

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

 

 

“Just” Thinking:

Honest differences are often a healthy sign of progress

– Mahatma Gandhi

 

 

Finding Peace with Mercy

 

What do you want?   Do you want peace in the world?  Do you want peace in your life? Do you want peace with justice?  How much justice?  Is it “just” justice for you and your family? Would it be “just” if everyone got what they deserved, finally?  Well, what about you own sin?  Do you want to pay for your own sins?  Wouldn’t it be “just” if you paid for your own sins? Can you think of when it was you first sinned?  Was stealing a cookie out of a cookie jar your first sin?  What was it?  Did you continue to sin?  How about when you were a teenager?  Did you have any improper sexual thoughts our actions?  Have you paid for them yet?  If there is such a state as Purgatory, do you look forward to paying for all your sins? What about the sins of your ancestors?  Would you like to pay for those sins?  Would you like to pay for the sins of the Catholic Church during the Crusades? Would you like to pay for the sins of your nation?   Should we give back the land to the American Indians, or Palestine to the Palestinians?  How far would you like to take this matter?  To your grave?  After you are dead? Mohammad and Jesus talked a lot about Mercy.  Every surah but one begins with “In the name of God, the Entirely Merciful, the Always Merciful.”  Jesus (Isa) was regularly getting in trouble about giving out Mercy instead of sticking to the law.  Where the love of God is, no law is needed.  Maybe you would rather be under some kind of law.  You decide.  You think about it… Are you at peace with mercy? Mercy for yourself” How about Mercy for everybody?

 

 

Notes:

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

 

I am Aware:

1.) I am a sinner.

2.) I am a sinner loved by God.

3.) God is so merciful to me!

 

Praying Today:

Scripture: Qur’an: Qur’an 1:1-3

1 In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. 2 Praise be to God, Lord of the worlds, 3 the Compassionate, the Merciful,

Scripture: Bible: Matthew 23

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!

Scripture: Bible: I Peter 2: 10:

 

10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Peace in the World

With the Merciful

 

Grace to Ask:

May I find mercy and peace in the world?

______________________

 

I am thinking this today:

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“Just” Thinking:

“Be like the sun for grace and mercy. Be like the night to cover others’ faults. Be like running water for generosity. Be like death for rage and anger. Be like the Earth for modesty. Appear as you are. Be as you appear.” (Rumi)

 

 

Finding Peace with Love

 

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?  Sometimes we wonder if we must perform well, obey our fathers and our mothers first, then they will love us.  Or, obey God’s will for our lives, then God will love us.  There are passages in the Bible and in the Qur’an which could be argued either way, but I think God’s love always comes first.  After all, “Mercy has also been a main topic in treatises of Muslim thinkers and poets throughout history, like the medieval philosopher Ibn Arabi, who wrote that God “mercified’ the universe into being.”[46] Did God know our spirits from before we were born? Did He know our spirits from eternity? Could he have put our being, our mind and spirit, our soul, into a different body?  Would you like a body that is taller, or shorter, or a skin that is not so dark, or not so light? Would you like to have a mind that is more intelligent?  Would you like a body that is not sick sometimes? God could have done it, but he didn’t, because God loves you just like you are.  Of course, we want to respond, to love Him back, and to love others too, just as He asked us to do, but, really, didn’t God love us first?

 

Notes:

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

 

I am Aware:

1.) God’s Spirit may cause love to arise in my soul.

2.) Allah will always love me.

3.) My parents loved, or love me.

 

Praying Today:

Scripture: Bible: 1 John 1:7

7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.

 

Scripture: Qur’an: 3:31

 

31 Say, “If you love God, follow me, and God will love you and forgive you your sins. And God is Forgiving, Merciful.”

 

Scripture: Bible: 1 John 1:7

 

15 “If you love me, you will keep [121] my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, [122] to be with you forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Peace in the World with Love

 

Grace to Ask:

May I find Love and Peace in the world?

 

I am thinking this today:

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

 

 

“Just” Thinking:

Day by day, dear Lord, of thee three things I pray: to see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly, day by day.

Richard of Chichester

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How can we continue to Find Peace in our World?

 

          We have covered all we can during our four day retreat.  Have we done anything to change our world? Perhaps we have merely begun a process. Perhaps we have received special blessings as a result of our participation. I have some suggestions for continuing this retreat for Peace in daily life.  Let us found our lives on prayer.  Let us explore other ways to pray, such as the daily Examen or the prayer of Moses.  Living our lives in balance is also crucial. We must work, take care of or families, and do charitable deeds to live our lives in balance. Whether we are Muslim or Christian, the Spirit is crucial to our lives and we should take time to recognize we are not alone.  God is with us.  God is everywhere. Maybe ten minutes a day could be spent in silence to listen to God.  Maybe while driving we could occasionally turn off the radio and contemplate how good Allah has been to us.  Maybe we can find a special place to pray.

 

Here are some of my suggestions for continuing as a group and multiplying our efforts to promote peace in the world and make a difference.  Let’s have a live internet conference once per month using Google Meet.  In this conference each of us can take turns adding to this retreat by writing additional handout pages using the format I have above.  The last two pages are a template for doing this.  Think of your own ideas, but in the next column are some ideas to consider.  Before long we will have a whole retreat book, if we just do one topic a month.  Then we can get the book published and share it with others.  That can make a difference in the world.

Suggested Topics:

Finding Peace in the World with the Spirit.

Finding Peace in the World with Isa (Jesus.)

Finding Peace in the World with the Kingdom.

Finding Peace in the World with Kindness.

Finding Peace in the World with Dialogue.

Finding Peace in the World with Truth.

Finding Peace in the World with Prayer.

Finding Peace in the World with Knowledge.

Now you have the general idea.  Let’s work together for Peace in the world one person at a time.  What the world needs now is Peace in the world!

Blessings!

John Cooper

Tuscaloosa, AL

 

 

 

 

Finding Peace with _________________

 

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Notes:

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I am Aware:__________________

1.)

2.)

3.)

 

Praying Today:

Scripture: Qur’an:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scripture: Bible:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Peace in the World

With _______________

 

 

Grace to Ask: __________

______________________

______________________

 

I am thinking this today:

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

 

 

“Just” Thinking:

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Peace with _______________

 

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Notes:

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I am Aware:__________________

1.)

2.)

3.)

 

Praying Today:

Scripture: Qur’an:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scripture: Bible:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Peace in the World

_______________________

 

Grace to Ask: __________

______________________

______________________

 

I am thinking this today:

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

 

 

“Just” Thinking:

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

 

[1] https://www.shc.edu/

[2] http://departments2.shc.edu/graduatetheology/summer-institute

[3] See Denari Explain book at: https://www.facebook.com/ReligionNewsSvc/videos/jordan-denari-duffner-on-finding-jesus-among-muslims/10155409024697799/

[4] http://departments2.shc.edu/graduatetheology/spiritualdirection

[5] Finding Jesus among Muslims: how loving Islam makes me a better Catholic, by Jordan Denari Duffner, Liturgical Press, 2017, ISBN 9780814645925, p. 7.

[6] Ibid., p. 88

[7] See Ignatius of Loyola: Apostle to the Muslims, by Damian Howard, SJ and Islam and Ignatian Spirituality, by Renato Oliveros, PHD referenced in the Bibliography for further development of the Ignatian and Islamic spiritual connections.

[8] http://www.jcooperforpeace.org

[9] Always Discerning: An Ignatian Spirituality for the New Millennium, Joseph A. Tetlow, SJ, Loyola Press, 2016, ISBN-13 978-0-08294-4456-8, p. 75

[10] Duffner, p. xi

[11]Islam and Ignatian Spirituality, by Renato Oliveros, PHD, p. 4

[12] One may also want to reexamine what one means by “blessing.”  See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blessing

[13] Duffner, p. 3.

[14] Ibid, p. 4.

[15] Common Ground: Islam, Christianity, and religious pluralism, by Paul Heck, Georgetown University Press, 2009, ISBN 978-1-58901-507-4, p. 34

[16] Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. The Study Quran . HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

 

[17] See Duffner, p. 22.

[18] Study Qur’an and Duffner, p. 22

[19] Study Qur’an, 9:5

[20] Duffner, pp. vii, 3, 7.

[21] Ibid, p. 31.

[22] https://www.loyolapress.com/our-catholic-faith/ignatian-spirituality/finding-god-in-all-things

[23] Moving in the spirit, by Richard J. Hauser, S.J., Paulist Press, 1986, ISBN 0-8091-2790-3, p. 27.

[24] Study Qur’an, Location 69660 of 126722

[25] NRSV, Catholic Edition Bible, eBook . Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition. (Acts 17: 26-28)

[26] Ibid. 50:16.

[27] https://www.al-islam.org/excerpts-from-the-holy-quran-an-eternal-guidance-to-mankind/allah-swt

[28] Study Qur’an, 15:28-29

[29] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nostra_aetate#The_fourth_draft

[30] Duffner, p. 58, 59.

[31] Ibid, p. 60

[32] In the tradition of his namesake, Pope Francis urges new approaches to dialogue here: https://international.la-croix.com/news/in-major-speech-on-theology-pope-urges-new-approaches-in-dialogue/10386?fbclid=IwAR0f1FmBtcUiPW8uV-ByxTHq_mb-dEJwEpJIL-MXFnz6xIs-3xNw5wDQlak

[33] Ibid, p. 62, 63.

[34] Ibid, p. 70

[35] Ibid.

[36] Duffner presents video of Pope Francis and little Muslim boy who wants to know if his Muslim Father is in heaven here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4mORSTC0QY

[37] https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-examen/

[38] Duffner, p. 88.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Ibid., p. 92.

[41] Ibid., p. 98.

[42] Duffner quotes Nayla Tabbara, p. 106.

[43] From this page on I credit the layout style I am using for these handouts to the general style of Finding Christ in the World, by Joseph A. Tetlow, S.J., The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2017, ISBN: 978-1-880810-82-4

[44] Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. The Study Quran . HarperOne. Kindle Edition. (Unless otherwise noted)

 

[45] NRSV, Catholic Edition Bible, eBook. Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.(Unless otherwise noted)

[46] Duffner, p. 23.

From Formation to Action

From Formation to Action

I came to Ignatian Spirituality via the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.  The 19th Annotation and my Jesuit based studies for a Certificate in Spiritual Direction at Spring Hill College have formed who I am.  I came as I was, with prior life formation already in place.  Although new formation has occurred, I also bring to the equation and to the Catholic Church to which I returned who I was and who I am.  One of the prior formation events that I brought to the table was my prior formation in nonviolence.  I became a conscientious objector to war at about 20 years old and left the Catholic Church to join an historic Peace Church.  I did not know at that time that Vatican II allowed for such matters of conscience.  In my studies of Ignatian Spirituality I have found links to nonviolence and social action.  See note 98:

 

(098)

Eternal Lord of All Things

Eternal Lord of all things, in the presence of Thy infinite goodness, and of Thy glorious mother, and of all the saints of Thy heavenly court, this is the offering of myself which I make with Thy favor and help. I protest that it is my earnest desire and my deliberate choice, provided only it is for Thy greater service and praise, to imitate Thee in bearing all wrongs and all abuse and all poverty, both actual and spiritual, should Thy most holy majesty deign to choose and admit me to such a state and way of life[1]

 

The bearing of all wrongs, all abuse, and all poverty is the heart of a nonviolent lifestyle.  Seeking to align our personal desires and discerning our choices only for God’s service and praise is the heart of Ignatian discernment.

 

Although some might attempt to change who they are to fit the constituency of a particular organization, Church, government, or group in order not to offend that group, or to be popular, the giving of the self (kenosis) to live only in the love and grace of God requires one consider what is the most loving thing to do and what will bring greater glory to God regarding one’s own birth, formation, life, burial, and resurrection.  To be popular, approved of, to value in essence riches, honor, and pride is diametrically opposed to the discernment which leaves one absolutely free to choose and do only what God wants and do what brings God greater glory.

 

The third degree of humility of which Ignatius speaks allows for one’s recognition of particular gifts, although not for one’s own conceit, pride, and vanity, but for service and praise to the Lord our God. See note 167:

 

(167) The Third Kind of Humility

This is the most perfect kind of humility. It consists in this. If we suppose the first and second kind attained, then whenever the praise and glory of the Divine Majesty would be equally served, in order to imitate and be in reality more like Christ our Lord, I desire and choose poverty with Christ poor, rather than riches; insults with Christ loaded with them, rather than honors; I desire to be accounted as worthless and a fool for Christ, rather than to be esteemed as wise and prudent in this world. So Christ was treated before me.[2]

 

Fr, Joseph Tetlow has this to say about the Third Degree of Humility:

 

The lover in this case is made greater by love. The Beloved chose to empty himself, taking on the ways and characteristics of a servant. He did not mind being told that he was seriously mistaken about God and the people. He did not mind being considered mad. And his way led to great suffering and death. The person who wishes to be meek and humble as Jesus was can say to the Father honestly, “Treat me as you treated your own Son.” Such a prayer has nothing to do with negative self-image or despising the gifts of the Spirit. On the contrary, heroic love is meek and humble, but it is also glorifying. Just look at what happened in the end to Jesus of Nazareth.[3]

 

It is possible one might be considered a little crazy, a little radical, and that one may be viewed simply as mistaken, but sometimes one’s particular gifts may not perfectly fit the spiritual needs of others.  In this case, it is better to let the Creator deal directly with the creature. In the end, all will be well.

 

In my case, I am not led to accept everything as is in the Catholic Church.  I am somewhat of an activist who desires change in some areas of the Church, like Women being Deacons, like Communion shared especially with non-Catholic mates of members, like something being done about the sex abuse scandal, like perhaps a married Priesthood, like a commitment to non-violence in Catholic cultures all around the world.  No more war. No more Catholics killing and bombing fellow Catholics because Catholics will be encouraged not to kill at all. I am feeling the most loving thing to do, and what will bring greater glory to God, is to not accept everything as is in the Church and try to “fit in,” but to promote Ignatian Spirit led change and improvement in the Church.  I have been able already to effect some minor changes.  I don’t think I am being prideful; I think I am being realistic that this may make me look down upon by some.  Good.  I have made some mistakes already on this path, and I am sure to make more, but I am willing to submit to correction and supervision and to realize that the time may not be right yet for such changes.

 

I am writing this essay as part of my discernment process concerning what to do with my CSD (Certificate in Spiritual Direction) degree.  I am led back to one of my Consolations without prior cause, which was to write a book which is now titled Let God In: One Ignatian Journey, and is soon to be published.  For Consolation without prior cause, see note 330:

(330)

God alone can give consolation to the soul without any previous cause. It belongs solely to the Creator to come into a soul, to leave it, to act upon it, to draw it wholly to the love of His Divine Majesty. I said without previous cause, that is, without any preceding perception or knowledge of any subject by which a soul might be led to such a consolation through its own acts of intellect and will.[4]

 

My consolation without prior cause was to write this book and to promote Ignatian Spirituality.  I think I need to stick with that consolation for now, and to wait to see what happens and where these matters lead.  If other consolations arise, and are like water dripping on a sponge, I remain open to considering them.  If they splash like on a rock, then no.  Getting too many things going, too many balls bouncing at once, could be thoughts of my own after the consolation without prior cause and such thoughts need to be carefully discerned.

 

Pray for me,

 

John Cooper

Tuscaloosa, AL

 

 

 

 

[1] The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Louis J. Puhl, SJ translation

[2] Spex, 167

[3] https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-spiritual-exercises/the-third-degree-of-humility/

[4] SpEx, 330

Promoting Peace in the World: An Introduction to Living at Peace with the Other

Promoting Peace in the World: An Introduction to Living at Peace with the Other

This summer, 2019, Spring Hill College in Mobile, AL[1] offered its Summer Institute of Spirituality[2] classes and I participated in SPT571/471 Spirituality of Inter-Religious Dialogue, taught by Dr. Matthew Bagot. The required text was Finding Jesus among to Muslims: how loving Islam makes me a better Catholic, by Jordan Denari Duffner,[3] Liturgical Press, 2017. The class was modified for me to two credit hours which I need to complete my Certificate of Spiritual Direction (CSD) degree.[4] In preparation for this class I also read and/or referred to other books and articles listed in the Bibliography at the end of this essay.

Dr. Bagot and I agreed that for the additional one hour credit to make two total hours credit, I would write a three day retreat promoting inter-religious dialogue for Christians and Muslims using Finding Jesus among Muslims as the primary text, alluding to other recommended books I have read and refer to in the Bibliography. This research paper was to be ten to twelve pages, using Duffner’s thesis that “Interreligious dialogue allows us to grow closer to God in three ways: through the people we meet, through their religion, and through our own Christian faith.”[5]

I was attracted to this course particularly due to the linkage I recognized between Ignatian Spirituality, Duffner’s book, and Islamic thinking. This commonality of spiritual life is discussed by Duffner, “Noticing the strong faith community that my Muslim friends had, … I felt compelled to engage these aspects of my own faith tradition …Forms of prayer like the Daily Examen, devised by the founder of the Jesuit order of priests, St. Ignatius of Loyola, helped me to notice God more in my daily life.”[6] [7]

I set out to write an Ignatian style inter-religious retreat that both Muslims, Christians, and Jews could attend together in a common quest for Finding Peace in the World. I soon ran into a fork in the road, having exceeded my page limit and word limit, and I am now writing this document as an introduction to the retreat, Finding Peace in the World: An Interfaith Retreat for Muslims and Christians, which I will continue writing and post on my blog site[8] when it is finished. I plan to share the actual retreat with retreat houses and others who might like to find peace in the world through inter-religious dialog using a retreat format. In this introductory paper to that retreat I will expand on the spirituality of Duffner’s thesis and reexamine her thoughts in the lens of Ignatian Spirituality.

One of the features I appreciate about Jordan Denari Duffner’s writing style is the way she blends her life experience with her knowledge. This mix speaks to our common humanity and enlightens our soul as well as our mind. In Always Discerning, Joseph Tetlow, SJ quotes Richard of Chichester, “’O most merciful Redeemer, Friend, and Brother, may I know Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly, and follow Thee more nearly, day by day.’”[9] It is this combination of knowledge, of love, and human interaction that speaks to the spiritual meaning of Duffner’s three part book. Part I is Meeting God in Muslims; Part II is Encountering God in Islam; and Part III is Reembracing God in Christianity. This combination of knowledge, love, and human interaction is a day by day task that also speaks to us in an eternal voice if we believe Muslims will be a part of the Communion of Saints. Duffner’s book is her personal testimony to knowing God in the eyes of the “other,” following God in the eyes of the “other,” and loving God in the eyes of the “other.” If we continue thinking like this book seems to hint at, maybe one day we will find there is really no “other” and that we are already in communion with each other and the One Divine Mystery, if we can only imagine it.

We must address the meaning of Islam itself. “Islam is the act of giving one’s self over to God, and aligning one’s own will with God’s; a Muslim is a person who willingly undertakes this act of devotion, and experiences the peace that comes with it.”[10] The heart of true spirituality is the giving up of the self, Kenosis, or self-emptying. It is this submission and giving of the self that creates peace that is often thought of when the word Islam is used. “Submission to God’s will is the sole basis of any authentic religion.”[11] This is why when we speak of Islam and speak of authentic spirituality we must at the same time speak of peace. Hence, the title of this essay is Promoting Peace in the World: An Introduction to Living at Peace with the Other and the title of the retreat I am writing is Finding Peace in the World: An Interfaith Retreat for Muslims and Christians.

If we are going to discuss the threefold blessings[12] of interfaith dialogue, we may ask, “What is this type of dialogue? “The Catholic Church teaches that interreligious dialogue is part of our vocation as Christians.”[13] Duffner mentions Pope John Paul II’s encouragement for each person to engage in this type of dialogue to further the mission of the church. God is in dialogue with humanity, the one God we commonly believe in and as Catholics view as One Trinitarian being is Himself in a dialogue of love, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. “The goal of dialogue, like the rest of our life, is to grow closer to God.”[14] Half of this dialogue is to listen, and half is to speak. The job of a Spiritual Companion is very much to listen. To be a spiritual companion with Muslims, in dialogue with them in prayer, in action, in worship, in life experience, and in eternity, is to fulfill our mission in life of drawing closer to God and sharing His love. It is Duffner’s goal to focus on this dialogue with Muslims, because that is Duffner’s personal experience, but the principles we discuss are applicable to other faiths, particularly to Abrahamic faiths.

Beginning with Part I of Finding Jesus among Muslims is Meeting God in Muslims. Normally when we meet someone for the first time, our focus is find some common ground. “Where are you from?” “What do you do for a living?” Finding common ground is fundamental to our task of meeting God in the “other.” From a Spiritual perspective, Christians, (especially Catholics) have much in common with Muslims (especially Shia Muslims). Surah Maryam is one of the longest surah’s in the Qur’an. The respect Muslims show for Mary and their devotion to her is a wonderful beginning point for finding, as Catholics, commonality with Muslims. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius is heavily laden with Marian prayer. When we think of Mary, perhaps in our Ignatian prayers of imagination, we might pick up the Qur’an and contemplate what Mohammad wrote about her. “The Qur’an speaks more of Jesus and Mary than of Muhammad, though less than of Abraham and Moses… He [Jesus] is called God’s word cast into Mary, and he is God’s spirit blown into her to effect Jesus’s fatherless conception.”[15]

Duffner also speaks of the commonality of good works, justice, and mercy that Christians and Muslims share. Mercy is crucial to Islam. When one meets a Muslim, one should meet Mercy. “In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful”[16] begins the surah of Maryam, and Mercy is mentioned at the beginning of every surah in the Quran but one.[17] From a spiritual point of view, what if when a Muslim meets a Christian, the Muslim should meet unconditional love? Would that this would happen in every case, then Mercy and Love would walk the face of the earth together.

1 In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. 2 Praise be to God, Lord of the worlds, 3 the Compassionate, the Merciful, 4 Master of the Day of Judgment. 5 Thee we worship and from Thee we seek help. 6 Guide us upon the straight path, 7 the path of those whom Thou hast blessed, not of those who incur wrath, nor of those who are astray.[18]

When one reads the Qur’an, one ought to remember that everything the Qur’an says and means is prefaced with the presupposition of the Mercy of God. Reading the Qur’an with spiritual eyes means reading the Qur’an with eyes of Mercy, Allah’s Mercy. Even the “sword verse,” Qur’an 9:5 ends in Mercy.

Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wheresoever you find them, capture them, besiege them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they repent, and perform the prayer and give the alms, then let them go their way. Truly God is Forgiving, Merciful.[19]

We Christians have our own difficult Scriptures and “sword” verses too which should be tempered in God’s final Love, Mercy, and Grace.

In the process of expanding more on the Spirituality of the threefold blessings of interfaith dialogue in growing closer to God though meeting God in Muslims, through their religion, and reembracing our own Faith in God,[20] Duffner gives us her viewpoint on meeting the Image of God in Muslims. Here is where we run into a little difficulty concerning God’s Image in Muslims. Duffner fully believes God’s Image is in Muslims, “I have encountered God’s image and spirit in Muslims countless times.”[21] I fully agree with her and for that matter, I believe God’s Image is in every human. Ignatian Spirituality asks us to find God in all things.[22]

Houser Divine Union cropped

[23]

The graphic above speaks to my personal view of the spirituality of God’s Image being in man. This is the Eastern view, but others, even in the Catholic Church have a viewpoint of God being absolutely transcendent, as do most Muslims, to my knowledge. “Naught is like unto Him (cf. 112:4) is among the most famous phrases of the Quran, as it provides a succinct and unequivocal assertion of God’s complete and utter transcendence (tanzīh). Like unto Him renders ka mithlihi, which literally reads “like His likeness.””[24] I confirmed my inclinations that Muslims would not agree that the image of God is in us, with one of my Muslim friends, yet he explained God as being Omniscient, Omnipotent, and Omnipresent. I suggested that if God were omnipresent, He could be present in us too. The apostle Paul, speaking to the Greek intellectuals from whom some of our Western ideas about God come, stated, “From one ancestor [140] he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27 so that they would search for God [141] and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. 28 For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’”[25] He understood. For a more detailed viewpoint on this matter see Quran 50:16 “We did indeed create man, and We know what his soul whispers to him; and We are nearer to him than his jugular vein.”[26][27]

My friend, Mirza, may not agree about God’s Image being in mankind, but he did agree with me and would agree with Duffner about God’s Spirit being in mankind. See Qur’an 15:28:

And [remember] when thy Lord said unto the angels, “Behold! I am creating a human being from dried clay, made of molded mud; 29 so when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My Spirit, fall down before him prostrating.”[28]

The Qur’an is full of references to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a key area of commonality for experiencing the Spirituality of finding Jesus among Muslims.

We have viewed the Spiritual Blessings of interreligious dialogue with individual Muslims. This discussion has drawn us closer to God in many experiential ways. Examining Part II of Finding Jesus among Muslims, let us consider how we encounter God in the religion of Islam. Can the religion itself help us grow closer to God? When I grew up in the Roman Catholic Church I heard that the Catholic Church is the one and only true Church. Subconsciously I think I realized some problems with that way of thinking, and for matters of conscience regarding war and the Sabbath, I left the Catholic Church at about twenty years old for another one and only true Church that I felt I was being called to join. That is a little humorous, looking back at it now, but before too late I realized that God is at work in the whole world and in people of different religions. I did not know in 1969 that in 1965, Vatican II, in the fourth draft of Nostra Aetate addressed certain issues that are relevant to my concerns then and our discussion today.

The Church regards Muslims with esteem: they adore the one God, living and enduring, the all-powerful Creator of heaven and earth who has spoken to people; they strive to obey wholeheartedly His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham did, to whose faith they happily link their own. Furthermore, as they worship God through prayer, almsgiving, and fasting, so they seek to make the moral life—be it that of the individual or that of the family and society—conform to His Will.[29]

Duffner mentions a similar passage on p. 57. Vatican II contains clear breaks from prior Catholic teachings that for many, such as myself, who returned to the Catholic Church after many years, find refreshing and Spirit led. Signs of this Spirit, signs of God, are called ayat in the Qur’an. Duffner quotes the Qur’an regarding these signs of God in nature, in the birds of the air, the rain, the cattle, crops, and in humans.[30] We have already mentioned how well this viewpoint of seeing God in all things fits into Ignatian Spirituality. In some mysterious way, God is everywhere, in all things, in all humans, and even in all religions! Duffner quotes Pope Francis, “’The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face.’”[31] Pope Francis was finding his inspiration from a sixteenth century Muslim mystic, Ali al-Khawas.

What a breath of fresh air has overcome the sometimes stale winds which the Spirit needs sometimes to stir up in our own religion. The Spirituality of the “other,” the Spirituality of the other’s religion, can sometimes help overcome legalistic hurdles set into our minds. Thank God Pope Francis,[32] a Jesuit, schooled in Ignatian Spirituality, can accept these winds and speak like this. I have thought several times as I write to mention how some of this spirituality fits into the beliefs of St. Francis. Duffner mentions this association on pages 62 and 63, suggesting that some believe that St. Francis, while on a peace mission to sultan Malik al-Kamil in the thirteenth century, well before St. Ignatius, may have drawn inspiration for some of his prayers from Muslim sources.[33]

This brings up the concept of praying together. We all live on the same earth, breathe the same air, and eat the same food. Can we all pray together? I think a prerequisite for Spirituality is humility. I have most of my life been much too proud and conceited, and probably in my best state, I am still so. While taking the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius about five years ago or so, I latched on to the Ignatian Spirituality idea of giving up everything to live only in the love and grace of God and started to tell others about it. Before too long I ended up being wrung through the wringer, suffering a business bankruptcy, and getting relieved of some of that pride and conceit. Duffner’s chapter 4, The Width of a Hair, is now my spiritual view of what I know about things and what I believe all religions know about God. If all mankind, and all religions were run through a wringer, stirred up in a washtub, and spilt into the ocean, our knowledge, and all we are so proud of, is just a drop in the ocean to what God knows, how much God loves, and how Merciful God is. Duffner speaks to my idea under the heading “’The One and Merciful God.’”[34]

Duffner quotes Pope St. John Paul II’s 1985 address to Muslim youth in Morocco, “’We believe in the same God, the one God, the living God, the God who created the world and brings his creatures to their perfection.’”[35] From a spiritual point of view, isn’t this and other quotes from Pope Francis[36] in a similar vein refreshing? What is so refreshing about it from a spiritual point of view is that if we believe these things, we relieve ourselves of our disordinate affections, giving up ourselves, emptying ourselves, of vanity, conceit and pride. St. Ignatius often warned of the evils of riches, honor, and pride. How much better off eternally would we be if we could rid ourselves of such evils?

We must now address the last section of Duffner’s book, and address how the spirituality of inter-religious dialogue has, or is going to help us reembrace our own Faith tradition. When I left the Catholic Church, I did not leave Christianity. Other Christians besides Catholics have God’s Holy Spirit too. The Spirit is an indelible sign of God’s Presence. It is a wind that blows where it will. Eventually with the election of Pope Francis, I began to reexamine my relationship to the Catholic Church. Here is a man who thinks like St. Francis, I thought. Pope Francis is a part of my reexamination, the 19th Annotation is another part, and the Holy Spirit is the elephant in the room concerning why I came back to the Catholic Church. I believe I needed to be set free to think like we are thinking right now. The world is a big place, the Catholic Church is a big place, and Islam is a big place. Nothing is always perfect, always right, always the one, true and only thing to consider, but spiritually, let us consider however big God is. God is GREAT!

Perhaps Jordan Denari Duffner and Finding Jesus among Muslims has brought you to reexamine your thinking about your own Faith. Perhaps just reading this essay has motivated you to reexamine some things you thought you believed. Maybe something spiritual has touched you. I hope so. This is the reason I have written this essay, to expand on the spirituality of Duffner’s book and view it through the lens of Ignatian Spirituality. Duffner explains how her interreligious dialog touched her inner being and brought her back to the Daily Examen,[37] an Ignatian form of prayer.[38] She says, “St. Ignatius of Loyola, helped me to notice God more in my daily life. I developed a deep personal friendship with Jesus, who became a companion to me…”[39]

Duffner looks back to over fifty years ago, to a crown jewel of her Catholicism, Vatican II. She quotes Lumen Gentium, “But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, first among whom are the [Muslims]: they profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us adore the one, merciful God…”[40] She also mentions the essential dogma of Lumen Gentium that one must live by one’s conscience. She mentions another Catholic term, the “communion of saints” and her heart’s desire is that heaven is full of Muslims.

Essential common ground we share with Muslims is the constant reexamination of our “self.” This is another spiritual aspect of our discussion. “Muslims share with Catholics the foundational, basic parts of the spiritual life, things like a constant returning to God through prayer, and an emphasis on trust in God.”[41] The emptying of toxic self is essential to giving up everything to live only in God’s love and grace. This surrender is the root, s-l-m in Islam and Muslim, the surrender of giving up the self and our own selfish will to the One, true God, to enter this Divine and Mystical union, to continue living in Eternity, in communion with Him, and one another. This surrender brings us peace. “’I am no longer legitimizing the violence that has been done toward the other group…I take on the responsibility of what has happened in the past from my own group, what my group has inflicted.’”[42] Therefore we return to the title of this essay, Promoting Peace in the World: An Introduction to Living at Peace with the Other. Will you join us in communion to experience the spirituality of our quest to enter dialogue and experience this peace with God and each other, in combination with the knowledge we now have about what we should be doing in this life and the next?

John Cooper

http://www.jcooperforpeace.org

Bibliography:

  • Finding Jesus among Muslims: how loving Islam makes me a better Catholic, by Jordan Denari Duffner, Liturgical Press, 2017. ISBN 9780814645925
  • American Islamophobia: understanding the roots and rise of fear, by Khaled A. Beydoun, University of California Press, 2018, ISBN 9780520970007
  • Islam and Christianity: theological themes in comparative perspective, by John Renard, University of California Press, 2011 ISBN 978-0-520-26678-0
  • Peace Primer, Quotes from Islamic & Christian Scripture & Tradition, edited by Ken Sehested and Rabia Terri Harris, co-published by Muslim Peace Fellwoship & Baptist Peace Fellowship, 2002 (pamphlet)
  • Common Ground: Islam, Christianity, and religious pluralism, by Paul Heck, Georgetown University Press, 2009, ISBN 978-1-58901-507-4
  • Orientalism, by Edward W. Said, Penguin Classics, 2003, ISBN 978-0-141-18742-6
  • The Qur’an: a new translation, by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem, Oxford University Press, 2010, ISBN 978-0-19-95395-8
  • The Go-Anywhere Thinline Bible Catholic Edition, Harper Collins Publisher, 2010
  • Several articles, Ignatius of Loyola: Apostle to the Muslims, by Damian Howard, SJ; What is the Koran?, by Roby Lester, Jesus in the Quran: Pious, Obedient, Favored Servant of God, by Francis X. Clooney, SJ; Islam and Ignatian Spirituality, by Renato Oliveros, PHD; ‘The Study Quran’ and the Battle against Ignorance, by Francis X Clooney, SJ; On Pluralism, Intolerance, and the Quran, by Ali S. Asani, How to Read the Qur’an, by Ingrid Mattson; and The Human in the Qur’an, by Renovatio.

[1] https://www.shc.edu/

[2] http://departments2.shc.edu/graduatetheology/summer-institute

[3] See Denari Explain book at: https://www.facebook.com/ReligionNewsSvc/videos/jordan-denari-duffner-on-finding-jesus-among-muslims/10155409024697799/

[4] http://departments2.shc.edu/graduatetheology/spiritualdirection

[5] Finding Jesus among Muslims: how loving Islam makes me a better Catholic, by Jordan Denari Duffner, Liturgical Press, 2017, ISBN 9780814645925, p. 7.

[6] Ibid., p. 88

[7] See Ignatius of Loyola: Apostle to the Muslims, by Damian Howard, SJ and Islam and Ignatian Spirituality, by Renato Oliveros, PHD referenced in the Bibliography for further development of the Ignatian and Islamic spiritual connections.

[8] http://www.jcooperforpeace.org

[9] Always Discerning: An Ignatian Spirituality for the New Millennium, Joseph A. Tetlow, SJ, Loyola Press, 2016, ISBN-13 978-0-08294-4456-8, p. 75

[10] Duffner, p. xi

[11]Islam and Ignatian Spirituality, by Renato Oliveros, PHD, p. 4

[12] One may also want to reexamine what one means by “blessing.” See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blessing

[13] Duffner, p. 3.

[14] Ibid, p. 4.

[15] Common Ground: Islam, Christianity, and religious pluralism, by Paul Heck, Georgetown University Press, 2009, ISBN 978-1-58901-507-4, p. 34

[16] Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. The Study Quran . HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

[17] See Duffner, p. 22.

[18] Study Qur’an and Duffner, p. 22

[19] Study Qur’an, 9:5

[20] Duffner, pp. vii, 3, 7.

[21] Ibid, p. 31.

[22] https://www.loyolapress.com/our-catholic-faith/ignatian-spirituality/finding-god-in-all-things

[23] Moving in the spirit, by Richard J. Hauser, S.J., Paulist Press, 1986, ISBN 0-8091-2790-3, p. 27.

[24] Study Qur’an, Location 69660 of 126722

[25] NRSV, Catholic Edition Bible, eBook . Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition. (Acts 17: 26-28)

[26] Ibid. 50:16.

[27] https://www.al-islam.org/excerpts-from-the-holy-quran-an-eternal-guidance-to-mankind/allah-swt

[28] Study Qur’an, 15:28-29

[29] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nostra_aetate#The_fourth_draft

[30] Duffner, p. 58, 59.

[31] Ibid, p. 60

[32] In the tradition of his namesake, Pope Francis urges new approaches to dialogue here: https://international.la-croix.com/news/in-major-speech-on-theology-pope-urges-new-approaches-in-dialogue/10386?fbclid=IwAR0f1FmBtcUiPW8uV-ByxTHq_mb-dEJwEpJIL-MXFnz6xIs-3xNw5wDQlak

[33] Ibid, p. 62, 63.

[34] Ibid, p. 70

[35] Ibid.

[36] Duffner presents video of Pope Francis and little Muslim boy who wants to know if his Muslim Father is in heaven here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4mORSTC0QY

[37] https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-examen/

[38] Duffner, p. 88.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Ibid., p. 92.

[41] Ibid., p. 98.

[42] Duffner quotes Nayla Tabbara, p. 106.

We are Not Alone

We are Not Alone

I went to Mass today, Wednesday before Psalm Sunday, 2019 and experienced what I believe to be a consolation without prior cause.  As a little background, I pray with the daily readings each morning (See: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/041019.cfm) and condense what I think is most important to me for this day into a short phrase to remember throughout the day and try to live out in daily life.  My condensations for the last three days are:

I am not alone!

Again, I AM, is in ME, I am not alone.

I am not alone in fiery trials!

            These phrases stem from parts of the readings from April 8th, 9th, and 10th, 2019,

“And even if I should judge, my judgment is valid,
because I am not alone,
but it is I and the Father who sent me.” [1]

“”When you lift up the Son of Man,
then you will realize that I AM,
and that I do nothing on my own,
but I say only what the Father taught me.
The one who sent me is with me.
He has not left me alone,”[2]

“”Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?”
“Assuredly, O king,” they answered.
“But,” he replied, “I see four men unfettered and unhurt,
walking in the fire, and the fourth looks like a son of God.””[3]

 

We often feel alone, even in our own families which may be experiencing times of alienation and stress.  We often feel alone in our national identities when rampant unchristian injustices like racism, nationalism, prejudice against immigrants and asylum seekers and peoples of other faiths, such as the Muslims, which desolations rear their ugly heads against our deep desires for peace and harmony and our deepest desire for God.  We can feel all alone in our own church groups, even with hundreds of people surrounding us, some of whom we know by name but with whom we may have only a superficial spiritual relationship.  We can feel alone when vices of financial or health difficulties tighten around us.

I wanted to tell someone at church today about this matter, to go out to eat with someone and to just talk about spiritual matters, but the occasion did not arise so I thought I would come in and tell you, the reader, about this matter:

We are NOT all alone!

We may be facing religious Pharisees, who want to judge and condemn us, but God is with us, and in us. Even if we face our death, our little daily dying’s, or walk in fiery trials, we are not alone!  To begin with, God is in everything, we can find Him in all things, so we are never far from God in whom we live and breathe and have our being.[4]  If we are Roman Catholic we may believe God is in the Eucharist in a special way, so God is with us and is in us in that way also, as well as in all in the congregation and in the Communion of Saints with whom we are also joined in a special and mysterious way. We are NOT alone!

I am a Spiritual Director in the Jesuit tradition and it is my job to help others connect directly to the Creator, who will work directly with the Creature, you, that is.  A big part of being a Spiritual Director is to listen, not just to the directee, but to listen to God too.  Let us listen for God in each other, in the wind, in the trees, in the birds, in animals, in children, in those we have been told are our enemies, in those of other Faiths, and in refugees and asylum seekers, in the poor, and in those of other races besides our own.  There are plenty of places NOT to be alone if one can listen like this.  Listen and silence are spelled with the same letters.  Maybe a little silent reflection on the daily readings will help us to listen to God speaking to us, to hear His voice, His call and His cry from the Cross where even the human side of Jesus thought he was all alone and forsaken, but it turned out He was not all alone, at least not for long.  No man is an island.  No man is all alone.

 

John Cooper

Tuscaloosa, AL

[1] http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/040819.cfm

[2] http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/040919.cfm

[3] http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/041019.cfm

[4] 1 Cor 8:6; Acts 17: 28-30