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

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

Grace and the Middle Voice of Spirituality

Grace and the Middle Voice of Spirituality

 

As a little cradle Catholic boy, I think the first prayer I learned was “Bless us oh Lord, and these thy guests, which we are about to receive, Amen.”  I thought I used to hear that around our farmhouse table.  I always wondered, for a long time, “When are the guests coming?”  We did not have any guests yet, but we were about to receive them.  They never seemed to come.  We called this saying Grace.  Those who know me know that I am very hard of hearing.  I began to wear hearing aids in my early 40’s.  I don’t think God disparaged my prayer of blessing the way I understood such a “simple” prayer.  Actually, the words are “Bless us oh Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive, Amen.”  Either way, the prayers we do, whether “simple” “verbal” payers in the Mass or at your worship service, or even deep contemplative prayer, should never be disparaged.  God receives us where we are, and loves us as sinners as he gazes upon us as a mother gazes upon her nursing child at her breast, or as an eagle takes its babies under its wings.

Whether we are “saying” grace before we eat or are receiving the “gift” of the Eucharist, we are all in God’s grip of grace.  Grace has a lot to do with Spirituality of any type, whether one is Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, etc.  Even Atheists have to face Grace, although they may deny it or call their spirituality “mindfulness.”  Still, grace is involved.  My intention for linking the two, grace and the middle voice of spirituality, comes from my studies of Ignatian Spirituality during the Fall Semester of 2018 as I study for a certificate in Spiritual Direction via Spring Hill College.  One of the statements that got my juices flowing is from the book, Candlelight, by Susan K. Phillips.[1] Dr. Phillips states:

Linguistically, we have lost the middle voice that lies between the active and passive voices.  In using the active voice, one speaks of initiating an action.  In the passive, one receives the action that another initiates.  … In the middle voice, the person actively participates in the results of an action that another initiates.[2]

 

In Spirituality in the terms of the English language, one thinks of contemplation as “active” contemplation where we mentally think thoughts about God, Scripture, etc. actively in our minds.  We think this contemplation can slip into what is called “passive” contemplation whereby we are supernaturally given thoughts to think by God, or perhaps given no thoughts at all and slip off into a thoughtless state of unknowing, or a state of union with the Divine Presence.  What if we thought of spirituality and contemplation in terms of the middle voice, which we do not possess in the English language?  This spirituality would be a participation in a gift that God has already given to us, a gift of Grace.  Referring to Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address at the looming of the Civil War where Lincoln urged Americans to heed the “better angels of our nature,” Phillips states:

 

It is, rather, siding with the “better angels” of a person’s nature, his or her middle-voice willingness to participate in God’s grace.[3]

 

I think back to the creation story, where God made mankind in His image and likeness, placing in mankind a Divine essence, a spirit in man that was the action of God, that gave mankind a receptor, a sixth sense, or a taste for God.  This image came from God and is set to autopilot back to God upon our death.  It is in fact, eternity set in our being.  It is an act of God’s grace with which we should long to participate, in a middle-voice way, the action that another, God in us, in whom we live and breathe and have our being, initiated.

Another book we have read in our studies, Moving in the Spirit, by Richard J. Houser, S.J.,[4] refers to this grace and essence of God within us from an Eastern point of view:

The Western or Pelagian model is clearly at odds with Scripture, misunderstanding the origin of our inner desires and movements toward good.  In this model all inner experiences moving toward the desire to love and serve God and others are seen to flow from ourselves apart from the grace of God within us.[5]

 

Below is a wonderful illustration that pictures what Hauser is speaking of:

 

Scriptural Model: Self in God:

Houser Divine Union cropped[6]

God initiates: Self Responds

Grace and the middle voice of our participation in the gift of the Spirit that God has initiated are absolutely critical to beginning to understand Ignatian Spirituality.  Let us keep the illustration above in mind as we proceed.

Hauser states:

Those of us living with this Western understanding of the self and God will never appreciate the all-pervasiveness of the presence of grace in our life. … they do not acknowledge that the initiative toward the good comes from the presence of grace.[7]

 

Ignatius was a product of the period in which he lived.  The Western Church as a whole may have understood grace in a proper manner but errored in some parts of the Church concerning Pelagianism.[8]  An attempt, at the Council of Trent, in the general period of Ignatius’ lifetime, tried to solve the problem of Pelagianism, or semi-Pelagianism.[9]  Ignatius himself speaks of the grace that is crucial in Ignatian Spirituality:

 

When one is in desolation, … He can resist with the help of God, which always remains, though he may not clearly perceive it.  For though God has taken form him the abundance of fervor and overflowing love and the intensity of His favors, nevertheless, he has sufficient grace for eternal salvation.[10]

 

Even from the very start of Ignatius’ Exercises, it is very clear that the crucial understanding is that it is God who first calls us and it is God’s grace that first initiates the acts of God in us, in which we participate.  The human Spiritual Director is to keep his or her “teaching” short and allow God’s grace to work directly with the directee.

The one who explains to another the method and order of meditating or contemplating should narrate accurately the facts of contemplation or meditation.  Let him adhere to the points, and add only a short or summary explanation.  The reason for this is that when one in meditating takes the solid foundation of facts, and goes over it and reflects on it for himself, he may find something that makes them a little clearer or better understood.  This may arise either from his own reasoning, or from the grace of God enlightening his mind.[11]

This may remind us of one of God’s first intentions for mankind, spoken of us in the Garden of Eden, that we are to be dressers and keepers of the earth, which by extension would include each other.  We are like a tree, planted in the garden, planted by the water.

 

7“But I will bless those

who put their trust in me.

8 They are like trees growing near a stream

and sending out roots to the water.

They are not afraid when hot weather comes,

because their leaves stay green;

they have no worries when there is no rain;

they keep on bearing fruit.[12]

 

We are to bear the fruit first nourished by the water of God’s image and Spirit, given us by God, not of our own doing, it is by grace.  We are created by God’s grace, we are sustained by His grace, and we are renewed by His grace, bear fruit by His grace, and are saved by His grace for good works.  We take of God’s grace, of his sustenance, and give back the fruits of His grace.

 

In the season of fruition, there may be the experience of enhanced night vision.  Suffering may render the world dark, and certain forms of suffering include losing the sense of God’s presence.  …  We are to bear fruit by loving our neighbor, setting the captive free, giving food to the hungry, sheltering the homeless, loosing bonds of injustice, clothing the naked.  By doing so, we will be light in the darkness, well-watered gardens, and pilgrims guided by the Lord.[13]

 

As we consider our years, what we have done, and what we have failed to do, we think back to the Sabbath, also initiated by God in the Garden, when God rested.  Are we not called to rest with God too, to rest our egos as he works by grace in us?

 

28 “Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. 30For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light.”[14]

 

Are we not called to give up our ego, to reject the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, to be a tree of life, to bear fruit for our fellow humans, for God, and all the angels and saints?  We are pilgrims on this earth.  We are just passing through. We are aliens to earthly kingdoms and citizens of a Kingdom to come.  This Kingdom lives in us, a Kingdom for and in which we participate by bearing fruit, by grace, the middle voice of spirituality.

So… Why should we be concerned about this matter?  See:

 

3I thank my God for you every time I think of you; 4and every time I pray for you all, I pray with joy 5because of the way in which you have helped me in the work of the gospel from the very first day until now. 6And so I am sure that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished on the Day of Christ Jesus.[15]

 

Try doing a computer search of an online Bible, using the words, “Christ in you,” and you will soon find that any spirituality we may claim to possess was because God began the work in which we participate.  In other words, I may serve my friend, or I may have been served by my friend, but I also take service in a middle-voice way as I share actively in the service that another, God, first initiated.  He placed His Image in us, and continues to sustain this image.

Even a little Catholic boy or girl can receive and participate in this grace.

 

John Cooper

[1] Candlelight: illuminating spiritual direction, by Susan Phillips, Morehouse Publishing, 2008, ISBN 978-0-8I92-2297-8 (pbk.)

[2] Ibid, p. 168

[3] Ibid, p. 169

[4] Moving in the Spirit, Becoming Contemplative in Action, by Richard J. Hauser, S.J., Paulist Press, 1986, ISBN 0-8091-2790-3 (pbk.)

[5] Ibid, p. 26

[6] Ibid, p. 27

[7] Ibid, pp. 26,27

[8] https://www.britannica.com/topic/Pelagianism

[9] http://pauliscatholic.com/2009/07/canons-of-the-council-of-trent/

[10] The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, a New Translation Based on Studies in the Language of the Autograph, Ludovico Puhl, S.J., Loyola Press, 1951, ISBN 978-0-8294-0065-6. P. 143, – 320. 7. (emphasis mine)

[11] Ibid, p. 1, 1. 2. (emphasis mine)

[12] https://www.bible.com/bible/431/JER.17.GNBDK

[13] Candlelight, p. 172

[14] https://www.bible.com/bible/431/MAT.11.GNBDK

[15] https://www.bible.com/bible/431/PHP.1.GNBDK

Moods

Moods

            A few years ago one of my nieces lost her little boy, Cole, to brain cancer.  It was a terrible time for all seeing little Cole suffer.  He was only 5 or 6 years old but he put up his bravest fight, and the best attitude he could, only to lose in the end as we all will one day.  At his funeral his mother, right before they closed his little casket, somewhat impulsively rescued one of Cole’s little teddy bears from the little casket to save in for her memory.  I can’t imagine the desolations and moods she was feeling.

In our lives we all live with streams of consolations and desolations like the birth of one’s child or the death of a loved one.  We also die our own little bitty deaths each day, offset by good moods and attitudes.  I transferred my business to someone else about a year and a half ago and this person has decided to move out of a smaller building my office has been in for over 40 years.  I am still a consultant, but my office will now be in another building. I am feeling a bit driven.  I quote Margaret Silf, “Did we say yes because we felt we really, deep down, wanted to do it, or did we go along with it to please someone else or to avoid conflict, but against our deeper inclinations?” … “If we are feeling driven, then the prompting that gives rise to it is not from God, but from the force fields of our own (or other people’s) kingdoms.” [1]

It is human that we face challenges and turmoil.  “We all know that we are subject to moods.”[2]  There are “good” moods and “bad” moods, “consolations” and “desolations.” It is likely that feelings of turmoil are “not of God but has to do with our own kingdoms.”[3]  Chapter 7, Tracking our Moods, of Inner Compass speaks to evaluating our moods in Examen prayer.  Desolations and Consolations, Examen Prayer and discernment in relationship to The Spiritual Exercises have been the focus of our classwork.  I will speak primarily to this chapter, yet keeping in mind some of Silf’s foundational thoughts in other chapters of Inner Compass.

How can we know which are consolations and which are desolations?  Silf recommends centering ourselves in stillness, (p. 79) reviewing our moods in prayer.  Turmoil, fear, and apprehension are indicators of desolations that draw us away from God.  Periods of peace, insight, and stillness of heart are indicators of consolations.  We Examen our moods daily, making a “review of consciousness” (p. 81) our prayer priority.  Silf lists indicators of consolation and desolation (pp. 84-85).  Moods that are inward driven, or downward driven, or selfish, are likely to be desolations and lead us away from God.  Visions and moods for greater good, uplifting and joyful thoughts, are likely indicators our moods are motivated in consolation to draw us closer to God.

However, we might just be tired and need a good night’s sleep.  We can’t be happy all the time.  “Consolation is not the same as happiness.”[4]  I spoke with a woman today whose mother had 7 children and a Doctorate degree, teaching at Loyola University.  She was also a Spiritual Director.  She discovered she had cancer and joyfully faced her death.  In her latter stages, when she would wake up, she would smile and be happy until she discovered she was still alive.  She was looking forward to death, but this is an exception…  Or is it?

We can choose how we react to pain (p. 89).  We can focus outward and Godward.  “When this begins to happen, we may experience a real breakthrough, leading to the discovery that God is actually drawing us closer to him through the very event that appears (at the Where level of ourselves) to be so destructive.”[5]  It is possible to joyfully face death, to have our bags packed and believe all is well, but it is not guaranteed that this is what is going to happen.  An indicator that we might die well may be how we die daily.  “Every day of our lives will bring its own share of little dyings, and in the sense we are called to rebirth every time we react by turning toward God instead of in upon ourselves.  To be born again is truly a continuous process.”[6]  Maybe we should consider how we face our daily dying, how we address all the little losses, how we age and if our moods are turning inward upon ourselves.  Even in daily death we can garner up a smile, opening our arms to the God of our consolations.  Maybe memories of all our past consolations and good moods where we felt we were in the arms of the God of unconditional love are stored up for the times of desolations.

If I were a mother or father who had lost a little boy to cancer, If I had clinged to his little teddy bear pulled from the casket, maybe I would know more about these things.  If I were God, and lost even one of my beloved children to eternal death, maybe I would know His moods and feelings.  If I were my little bitty great-niece looking down from heaven, maybe I could be glad and rejoice in the trials I have had, even death.  Maybe Cole, my great-nephew, could tell me more about facing death each day, which I need to know, and how it is to live in heaven.  An inner compass points us in the stillness of our hearts, centered in and pointed in prayer, to God who loves us to and awaits us. The compass is the Spirit in us, (p. 102) who knows how to connect us and lead us to the Divine Mystery, three-in-one.

John Cooper

[1] Inner Compass, by Margaret Silf, Loyola Press, 1999, ISBN 0-8294-1366-9, p. 86.

[2] Ibid. p. 79

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid. p. 86.

[5] Ibid. p. 89.

[6] Ibid.

Respect for Prayer

Respect for Prayer

            I was once a little Catholic boy…  I recall verbal prayers such as, “Bless us, Oh Lord, and these thy gifts…”  “Our Father,” “Hail Mary,” the “Apostle’s Creed,” etc.  One of the most effective prayers I experienced, although I did not understand much of it as prayer at the time, were the long walks in the woods.  The wonder of the things of God and the non-verbal sense of peace and communion with nature were cherished in my youth.  I also recall the prayers of Penitence Monsignor Donahue gave to me.  I was a sure fire sinner and he gave me plenty of those types of prayers.

At a conversion experience in life, I left the memorized, rote prayers for what I thought was a “better way,” verbal prayers on my knees.  Sometimes I had lists of petitions I prayed about, in long, drawn out, and I am sure, boring prayers.  I thought I was doing my duty.  Still, on occasion, the walks in the woods and thinking about the things of God were prayers interspersed with those verbal prayers.

At another crossroads in life, a renewed prayer experience was the 19th Annotation.  I was gradually being drawn back into the Roman Catholic Church of my youth.  This drawing included new types of prayers to me, Lectio Divina, and meditation, which occasionally slipped into contemplation.  Then I discovered Centering Prayer, the thoughtless communion with the Divine Mystery, a resting in the Presence of God.  This seemed like a journey into Eternity, a fathomless, non-verbal communion with God, for longtime.  More often it was just a few minutes, but to me, it was enough.  One might think that, “Oh John, now you are really going somewhere up the ladder of ascent…  I even imagined myself I was making good progress in understanding how to pray, leaving behind the “banal” memorized payers, the lists of petitions, and now entering a “more advanced” state of prayer.

Hart speaks of the motivation to pray as being a call to union with God (The Art of Christian Listening, by Thomas N. Hart, p. 49).  The reason we pray is love (p. 51).  As to the methods of prayer, he speaks of many methods (p. 60-61).  Hart respects all methods of prayer, “Hindu, Buddhist, and Sufi traditions” (p. 49). As I mature in years and spirituality, I also respect all methods of prayer.  I wish I had known earlier in life, but one has to begin again when and where the grace is given, even if it is late in one’s life.

Teresa of Avila understood ways to pray at a higher level and at an earlier age in life.  She had a journey into stages of prayer which she likens to watering a garden.  She says, “I am one who underwent them for many years. [Beginner stages of prayer] When I drew but one drop of water out of this blessed well, I considered it was the mercy of God” (Teresa of Avila: Life, Ch. XI, Note 13).  I am a kindred soul on the same journey as her.  I like her tongue in cheek sarcasm, “I am a woman,” “write simply,” “you see my stupidity,” “my memory is bad,” etc. (Avila, Note 9).  Her explanations place some methods of prayer as for beginners (Avila, Note 10).  It isn’t that she disrespects anyone’s journey in prayer, but she points out we might want to advance a bit in how we draw water out of the well and how we water our spiritual gardens. We might like to be given the grace for prayer requiring less work on our part and more grace on God’s part for us.  Never-the-less, I respect the ways I used to pray, and the combination of ways I now pray.  It is crucial to respect all people’s prayers,

We are guests of this earth.  Our soul is a guest of our body.  Back when I was a little boy I must have been hard of hearing then too.  The first prayer I memorized was “Bless us, Oh Lord, for these Thy guests…”  I wondered for a long time, “When are the guests coming?”  I learned later it is really “Bless us, Oh Lord, and these Thy gifts…”  I think God respected both prayers and, since we are just guests on this earth, and our souls are just guests of our bodies, maybe God respected the first prayer I learned more than any prayer since….

Grace and Peace,

John Cooper

Grace and Spiritual Exercises

Grace and the Exercises

I know a man in his 90’s who has lived a good life.  He fought in WWII on the Beach of Normandy.  He told me bodies of his fellow soldiers were falling all around him but he was not killed.  Wow! I said, you must have a purpose in your life!  He told me if he does he doesn’t know what it is…  Ignatius tells us we all have a purpose in the Spiritual Exercises Note 23 called The First Principle and Foundation. (The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, by Louis J. Puhl, S.J., Loyola Press).  Ignatius states: “Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul” (SpEx, p. 12).

I began the 19th Annotation of the Exercises about five years ago under the direction of Sr. Madeleine Gregg, fcJ.  When I read the First Principle and Foundation, I looked at it thinking that this would be a work of our own doing to save our own souls by doing these things by our own works of praising, reverencing, and serving our Lord.  However, Sr. Madeleine’s instructions that we are all loved sinners satisfied me.

Considering the significance of the Principle and Foundation to Ignatian spiritual seekers today, I believe it is absolutely critical to properly understand the importance of Grace to the Spiritual Exercises and specifically to the First Principle and Foundation.  I intend to offer a modified grace based suggestion for reading the First Principle and Foundation more conducive to the both/and nature of Ignatian Spirituality and the unitive type of spirituality that calls us to Divine union with the One Mysterious God.  Grace and works will be discussed as a solution to the dilemma posit by the Principle and Foundation and St. Ignatius’ own words about grace will mollify the idea of saving souls by our own works.

Firstly, let us consider Ephesians 2: 8-10:

8.) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is a gift of God – 9.) not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10.) For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” (The Go-Anywhere Thinline Bible, Catholic Edition, NRSV, Harper Catholic Bibles, p. 1082).

We clearly see that the Apostle Paul tells us we are saved by Grace through Faith, not works and even the Faith is not of our own doing, but a gift of God’s grace.  In the same passage we are saved and created for good works which would include praising, reverencing, and serving God, our Lord, as Ignatius mentions.

We see St. Ignatius growing in grace and knowledge throughout the Spiritual Exercises.  Grace or a form of grace is mentioned about 40 times in the Exercises. Ignatius’ Rules for Thinking with the Church, his rule 366, 14 states:

Granted that it be very true that no one can be saved without being predestined and without having faith and grace, still we must be cautious about the way in which we speak of all these things and discuss them with others (SpEx p. 160).

The caution Ignatius urges is in view of Martin Luther’s reformation and the beliefs concerning predestination in his age, but Ignatius admits to the impossibility of salvation without grace but asked those in his care to be careful in discussing the matter.  He speaks of grace in rule 369, 17, arguing for free will, not predestination:

Likewise we ought not to speak of grace at such length and with such emphasis that the poison of doing away with liberty in engendered (SpEx p. 161).

            Throughout the Exercises the concept of God’s grace is promoted.  What could Ignatius do but admit to the primacy of Grace and Faith for one’s salvation even if he asks it be kept quiet so he can be obedient to the Church?  Some in high positions might have disagreed with St. Ignatius.  After all, Ignatius had faced the Inquisition several times and had spent time in jail for his radicality.  Perhaps this is why the First Principle and Foundation reads as it does.  One just cannot save himself.  Therefore, Ignatius gradually weaves in the doctrine of grace throughout the Exercises, here a little, and there a little.

For instance, let us look at Rules for the Discernment of Spirits 320, 7:

He can resist with the help of God, which always remains, though he may not clearly perceive it. For though God has taken from him the abundance of fervor and overflowing love and the intensity of His favors, nevertheless, he has sufficient grace for eternal salvation (SpEx p. 143).

Grace is foundational in St. Ignatius’ eyes for salvation. Ignatius and the Jesuits were instrumental in the Catholic Counter Reformation and the Council of Trent.  Perhaps Ignatius’ obedience to the Church caused him to carefully insert his beliefs about grace later in the Exercises and not in the Principle and Foundation.  Because God first calls us, and allows us to freely choose our response to His initial Grace, I believe the first Principle and Foundation could be rephrased in view of God’s grace to read:

[By Grace] Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, [by grace,] and by this means [,grace] to save his soul [,by grace, through faith, the work of God.]

Our response to God’s saving work in us and our thankfulness for God’s first calling us is a desire to do more for God, thus works are respones to grace in every case.  It is crucial for those who give the Spiritual Exercises to others to understand the grace filled meaning of the First Principle and Foundation right from the start and let everybody know right from the beginning that we are all loved sinners saved by God’s grace to do good works.  Grace works!

John Cooper

Tuscaloosa, AL

 

 

 

 

I Can’t Breathe!

I Can’t Breathe!

            I can only imagine how a drowning person may feel.  My Uncle, Bill McCulley, taught me to swim on his farm in Illinois, in a pond on the Wilt Place.  He was a Navy veteran, and an excellent swimmer, and I trusted him to save me if anything happened to me.  The fish and snakes brushing up against my legs did not seem to matter.  One of Bill’s attributes, besides being very strong, was his ability to go under water, without breathing, of course, for a long, long time.  I know he loved me enough to save me if I went under water.  Jesus died because he could not breathe under water.  I can only imagine the suffering he felt.  I know Jesus loves me, and will save me, just like my Uncle, Bill would have.  We will get back to Jesus, and breathing under water later.

I am writing this reflection about Breathing under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps, by Richard Rohr, a well know Franciscan teacher and priest.  We are discussing addiction and will also draw upon Addiction and Grace, by Dr. Gerald May as appropriate.  I am specifically selecting one concept, extant in both books, concerning our addiction to war.  Refusal to submit to Satan’s political ploy, to fall down and worship Satan, cost Jesus His life, as we will see as we go along.  Because of our addictions to “oil, war, and empire; the church’s addiction to its own absolute exceptionalism;” (Breathing Underwater, p. xxii), among other addictions, Jesus had to die.  Because He died trying to breathe under water, Jesus is able to save us from our own addictions, all of them.

When we cannot breathe, and are under water for a long time, we must eventually surrender, or give up our life.  As Ignatian students we are aware we should give up everything to live only in God’s love and grace. Step three of the twelve steps in Breathing Underwater is about our decision to give up to turn our will and lives over to the care of God as we understand God (p.17).  We have not been taught this surrender by our nationalistic political systems, nor have our institutional religious systems as a whole taught us this surrender, but Jesus teaches us (Matt. 5: 39) (p. 19).  Bye, bye ego.  Addiction to the ego and to power must go (p. 21).  The devil wants to make us a great “deal”.  The art of Satan’s deal is to give us instantly the power without pain and without self-surrender (p. 21).  This was Satan’s third temptation which most institutional religions have accepted even to this day.  It is a myth, a myth of redemptive violence that we can personally save ourselves by violent means.  For thousands of years this myth has never worked.  Rohr calls it the “myth of heroic sacrifice” (p. 21).  It is the American “way”, and the way of most every nation.  We have learned well and are addicted to this myth of self and violence and our society, our nation, (p. 22) and in too many ways our churches are co-dependents to help us believe in this myth and be self-glorified as martyrs of the church (p.23).  True believers, we are giving up our body to supposed chastity, poverty, and obedience to look good, to fool many people, and to puff up the self (p.24).

To give up this puffed up, narcissistic self, as individuals, politicians, nations, and institutions including business and religious institutions is to realize we are sinners, yet loved sinners surrendered to the lover (God the Higher Power) who loves us (p. 24, 27).  As the Holy Spirit helps us, we are infected by the Spirit of Jesus (p.25).  Rohr says the Holy Spirit “sneaks in through the ducts and the air vents (p. 25).  In some ways we would rather just have someone tell us what to do, to manage our sins for us in the confessional booth or church sermons than surrender our will and accept God’s radical grace freely.  This grace is given to us by a higher power we understand to be God, as much as we understand Him, who loves us without expecting to be paid back.  He loves us because He is love (p. 27).  Only grace given in love can cure addictions.

Both Rohr and May speak of nonviolence and trust in a higher power for our salvation.  Jesus spoke Truth to Power when He refused Satan’s third temptation to fall down and worship Satan and did not accept the “deal” to be given earthly kingdoms before it was time.  As a result, Jesus had to suffer and die to save us, who are addicted, and complicit with this warmongering society.

Referencing May’s book, Dr. May echoes rule 98 of Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises when he states “detachment does just the opposite.  It seems liberation of desire, an enhancement of passion, the freedom to love with all one’s being, and the willingness to bear the pain such love can bring.” (Addiction and Grace, p.15).  This can be freedom from political slavery too, and freedom to love even our enemy, one of Jesus’ primary commandments (Matt. 5: 43, 44).  The Spiritual Exercises, rule 98, promotes the willingness to bear all wrongs.  It is this suffering love that brings detachment and personal freedom as it is greased by the wheels of grace.

See:

(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 (http://spex.ignatianspirituality.com/SpiritualExercises/Puhl#marker-p101)

True freedom is the freedom to love one another, including our enemy.  If we maintain our addictions to war and killing this is what May describes as a security addiction (p.31).  May states, “we can and should trust in God for our ultimate security” and he speaks of relaxing our grip about lessor sources of security.

It is Jesus, who is our ultimate source of security.  Rohr states “only people who have suffered in some way can save another” (p. 123).  Jesus died and suffered on the Cross.  He did not die of blood loss.  In excruciating pain, His feet nailed to the cross, and His hands too, Jesus couldn’t breathe unless He pushed up on His pierced feet, and said, “I thirst.”  He was given the fourth cup via the hyssop branch which should have been given at the Passover meal, and He surrendered just for you, and just for me, to save us from our addictions to sin.  His lungs had filed up with water and blood.  He could not breathe.  He had to die; He could not breathe, but now He saves us, we who think we can breathe, but are underwater with all our addictions.

John Cooper

 

 

Jesus Dies Everyday

Jesus Dies Everyday

This morning I greeted one of my church friends at St. Francis who has cancer.  He recently began chemotherapy. Today we said good morning, but I did not recognize him immediately until he passed by because either is hair had fallen out or he had his head shaved.  I exclaimed his name, when I recognized him.  He had just walked a long way from the parking lot into the church in order to faithfully worship with us, as is his habit.

Part way through Mass, he got up with two people, one on each arm to go out.  I was serving as an usher this day and I recognized the problem and started up to help, but seeing two people already helping, I sat back down. He collapsed to the floor, the people helping him not able to hold him up.  I rushed across the room, but he was already surrounded with others in his seating area helping him.  Silently I prayed, with tears, and assisted a woman who had called 911 in flagging down the fire trucks who arrived before the ambulance to help.  The ambulance arrived and he was put on a stretcher while conscious and rolled out of the sanctuary with applause by the congregation.

Later, after church, several of us held hands and prayed for him, and recited the “Our Father” at the end.  As I write, I don’t know how he is doing, but as I am doing my Examen this night a thought occurred to me:   Jesus dies every day!

What do you mean, John, that Jesus dies every day?  He died only once, on the cross, for all of mankind and Jesus said, “It is finished.”  Jesus also lives in each of us and the image of God lives in every man.  We can find God’s presence in everything that exists, in every sparrow which falls to the ground which God knows.  Why?  Because He lives, and in Him we live and move and have our being.  God is in all things.

By now you may have figured I am not going to thump on the Bible for scripture references concerning what I am writing, and what I am imagining.  Let’s just think about it, and if I imagine something wrong, I stand corrected.

Thus, I imagine that God who lives in us also dies with us when we die.  When we are in pain, so Jesus is in pain. He knows.  We are supposed to die daily to ourselves, putting away the old man of sin.  Why would a little of God not die when we die to, to be later resurrected?

Jesus promised to draw all men unto himself.  Even if Jesus does not do that in our life time in this physical body, what prevents Him from drawing us to Himself at our (our and Jesus’) death?  He could just show us in brilliant light, in a love filled way, what with God is really like and let us choose life.  If you want to live forever as He draws us to the loving light and unto Himself, now is the time to believe. Don’t count on the unknown future.  I will overlook the objections that Jesus cannot save us immediately because we have to pay for our sins, or be purified in purgatory.  I wonder if Jesus does not in a way die again with us, experiencing our pain, our suffering, His hands held out in compassion and love for those who live in Him and Him in us, and if we fall, to raise us up again?

What about my friend who collapsed in church today?  He has lived a good life already. Every day is a gift to him from God who gave him life and who lives in him.  Maybe God will answer his and our prayers and miraculously heal him, or maybe not.

Either way, God knows how to die, every day.  He knows how to raise from the dead and how to take care of those whom He loves. In the interim, if there is an interim, let us trust in Him, as does my friend.

Grace & Peace,

John Cooper

 

Alabama Dreamin

Alabama Dreamin

Somewhere in the news a week or so ago I glimpsed at a report that some DACA Dreamers[1] had come to the U.S. Congress and attempted to wash the feet of congressmen outside the congressional offices.

A week or so went by and a quiet urging came to my mind that this is a wonderful idea for the whole State of Alabama, a State that is viewed by some as solid red, and less than progressive in social causes.  What can be done?  I brought the idea to my church, the Roman Catholic Church in Tuscaloosa, and copied several people who work with the Hispanic communities and other immigrants on the idea of having a footwashing event for and by the Dreamers in our midst.  I emailed to a contact in the Mobile Archdiocese and a contact in the Birmingham Archdiocese who work with the Dreamers and copied the Fellowship of Reconciliation[2] which I am a member of and which has been involved in non-violent social causes such as the Civil Rights Movement for decades.

I am merely offering my voice and the idea that came to me for a non-violent footwashing event or events organized and conducted by what we in the United States call Dreamers.  As a little background, we who are Christians will soon be celebrating Easter and just before Easter, before the Passover, some unusual to some events are recorded to have taken place, like Footwashing.[3] Footwashing has an ancient tradition and is viewed by some as a Sacrament.  A type of this tradition is observed by Roman Catholics on Holy Thursday.[4]

Mary Magdalene is said to have said to have done it with tears of love and remorse.  Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus is said to have done it too.[5]  Both women did it to Jesus and wiped His feet with their hair.  Jesus washed His disciples’ feet too.[6]  Jesus tells his disciples, if we consider ourselves to be disciples, to do it to, to one another.  Is this real?  Is it figurative? Is it both?  Footwashing does not have to be done in church, it can be done anywhere.  It can be done in our imagination too, which may be about as far as this idea goes at this time.

My vision, my dream for Alabama and I wish I could dream the whole world, is that we would want to wash each other’s feet all around the world, in North and South Korea, in Syria, In Yemen, Iran, and Qatar, Ethiopia, and everywhere.  I know this is all and grad idea that we should love one another and love our enemies, just like that, but forgive me, please, I am just Dreaming.

Let’s start little – just where we are…  All it takes is two pans, two towels, two gallons of water, a little Spirit, a little Love, to get the job done.  If a person cannot afford that, and some can’t in the world, take some tears with you and your hair, or your shirt off your back to dry another’s feet and just do it.  Do it to people you love and people you don’t love.  You ain’t gonna wash no feet if you got no Love. [Sic]

As for Alabama, I dream that this idea, this dream, would be seed for greater action beyond out State, and beyond politics and helpful to all immigrants.  I dream the Dreamers would take up this cause and offer to wash the feet of those in power, speaking to the powers,[7] and symbolically telling those powers, be they congress people, police, religious powers, educational powers, all powers, that we are here to serve you, that we love the United States, and all nations for that matter.  Let us serve you, pay our taxes, contribute to our society, support our families off the welfare system.  We want to work.  We want to love one another.  We believe America will be great again when America can love again.

Maybe, I am just Dreamin…

 

John Cooper

Tuscaloosa, AL

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DREAM_Act

[2] https://forusa.org/

[3] https://www.zionlutherannj.net/footwashing-in-the-old-and-new-testament-the-graeco-roman-world-the-early-church-and-the-liturgy-2/

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maundy_Thursday

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anointing_of_Jesus

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foot_washing

[7] http://www.quaker.org/sttp.html