WHY?

WHY?

 

This past season of Lent, I felt led to observe Lent for the first time in 49 years.  I have not observed Lent since I was last a Catholic and I believe the last time I observed Lent was in 1967, 49 years ago.  In about 1968, I left the Catholic Church in response to a conversion experience that included observation of the Sabbath on Saturday, the 7th day of the week, and my developing beliefs in the Christ-centered ethics of peace and nonviolence, which were not at that time generally supported in Roman Catholicism, although there were a few cells of peace and nonviolence in Catholicism in the presence of Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement and the Jesuit Pacifist, Daniel Berrigan who just died this past week at the age of 94, a few days shy of 95 years old.  Also in France was at that time Pax Christi, which was not established in the United States until the 1970’s.

I don’t know why, exactly, that I felt I should observe Lent this year, and I surprised even myself in that I received an inner urge to return to the Catholic Church of my youth.  Why?  I don’t know why, but here are some ways and thoughts I would like to share.  I would view these as possible influences that led to the calling I received and I also leave all possibilities in the future open.  I list some possible reasons below; but I do not feel reason is the defining factor here, so I will change the term and answer to Why, concerning responses and possibilities, not reasons.

Possibly it was Pope Francis who has spoken to my heart and my way of belief and thinking since he first became Pope.  I love the man and his leadership.

Possibly it had something to do with long term relationships I have with Catholic friends like Fran Viselli, Nancy Green, and others.

Possibly it had something to do with the late life crisis of bankruptcy I have gone through and my research into St. Ignatius decision making.

Possibly it had something to do with Sr. Madeleine Gregg and her agreeing to become my Spiritual Director in leading me and a small group in taking the St. Ignatius Spiritual Exercises, 19th Annotation.

Possibly it had to do with a call from Christ the King, (The call of Christ the King is a section of the Exercises.), to write a book, “My Ignatius Journey”, about the exercises.

Possibly, even though it has been over a year since I took the Spiritual Exercises, it was a yearning for a deeper, different, and more mystical Spirituality which some find in the Catholic Church.

Possibly it was my concern for the refugee crisis and that the Interfaith Prayer service, “Just One”, which I wrote, was not accepted in Tuscaloosa and that my heart aches for something to be done regarding this matter on a grander scale.

Possibly it was all the transitions happening in my life and in the lives of others I know.

Possibly it had to do with a sermon Ben Tallmadge gave at Grace Church regarding the philosophy of Grace Church. I know this matter is not about doctrine, or about my not loving everyone, because I still do, but my philosophy of this Church stuff is more amenable to the Social Gospel ideals the Catholic Church “Just” seems to me much better at.

Possibly my work was just done at Grace Church, where I have attended for 10 years.  I think I am just too radical to do much good there.  I am not guaranteed 10 more years… The Magis, I began to understand and inwardly feel in the St. Igntian Spiritual Exercises urge me to do “more.”

Possibly my voice for peace and nonviolence will be heard in the Catholic community.  After all, at least Catholics pray for peace nearly every week in the Mass.

However, I think the real answer to the question “Why” is this………

I do not know why!

Possibly, faith walking in the dark where it sees the best will bump upon the reason, then we will all know ……..

‘WHY’

 

John Cooper

Peaceful Thoughts

Peaceful Thoughts

As a matter partially of time and chance this past week, I stopped by Panera Bread at a time of the day I would not normally be there because I was on my home to pick up a check out of my home office. I noticed as I sat down a Muslim man in the back of the restaurant. I have had several conversations with this man and his friend, Sammy, also a Muslim, when I used to go by Starbucks on the way to work early in the morning. (Since we were given a Keurig coffee machine, my Starbucks visits are virtually nil.) I noticed him sitting in the back of the restaurant in what appeared to be deep thought or meditation, so I did not greet him. After several minutes he came by me on the way apparently back from getting a drink refill and he asked my, knowing my beliefs in Peace and Nonviolence, this question:

“Have you had any Peaceful thoughts lately?”

“Yes, I have,” I said, and invited him to sit down with me at my table. I got out my small Samsung tablet and opened my You Version Bible App up to the place already in the memory, which I reflected on just the day before. I quote it below from Philippians 4:

1 And so, my most beloved and most desired brothers, my joy and my crown: stand firm in this way, in the Lord, most beloved.
2 I ask Euodia, and I beg Syntyche, to have the same understanding in the Lord.
3 And I also ask you, as my genuine companion, to assist those women who have labored with me in the Gospel, with Clement and the rest of my assistants, whose names are in the Book of Life.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say, rejoice.
5 Let your modesty be known to all men. The Lord is near.
6 Be anxious about nothing. But in all things, with prayer and supplication, with acts of thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God.
7 And so shall the peace of God, which exceeds all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Concerning the rest, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is chaste, whatever is just, whatever is holy, whatever is worthy to be loved, whatever is of good repute, if there is any virtue, if there is any praiseworthy discipline: meditate on these.
9 All the things that you have learned and accepted and heard and seen in me, do these. And so shall the God of peace be with you.
10 Now I rejoice in the Lord exceedingly, because finally, after some time, your feelings for me have flourished again, just as you formerly felt. For you had been preoccupied.
11 I am not saying this as if out of need. For I have learned that, in whatever state I am, it is sufficient.
12 I know how to be humbled, and I know how to abound. I am prepared for anything, anywhere: either to be full or to be hungry, either to have abundance or to endure scarcity.
13 Everything is possible in him who has strengthened me. (Emphasis is mine.)
The Muslim man studiously and respectfully silently read the text for several minutes in deep thought as I silently watched. After a while he looked up to me and said, “It is very Islamic, isn’t it?” “Yes, it is,” I agreed, and we started another long and mutually respectful and, by the way, Peaceful, conversation.

I told him about the Inter-Faith city wide Prayer Service I had attempted to activate a couple of months ago for the sake of the Refugees, both Christian and Muslim refugees and pointed him to my blog site, http://www.jcooperforpeace.org where I posted the Prayer Service. I told him my idea had already been shared with another of my Muslim friends, Mirza Beg, who was to forward it to the local Mosque, or Islamic Center as they call in here in Tuscaloosa. I asked him to talk it up and perhaps just a few of us could have a smaller event than the city wide event I had envisioned. Even though the Mayor of Tuscaloosa had agreed to help in any way he could, I could not garner support from the Christian churches I had contacted whom I was asking to host the event.

We continued our conversation and the Muslim man told me he had been looking into the Spirituality of the Native American Indians. One of the American Indian wise sayings, he said, is: “If God created you a crow, you do not have to become an Eagle.” I told him I liked that and many Indian Spiritual sayings and I had recently been through an 8 or 9 month St. Ignatian Spiritual Exercise Retreat. I told him of the many ways I personally think God can reveal himself to us humans, and concerning the Indians we were talking about, that God can reveal himself and to Indians as one walks in silence through the forest, even without a word written or spoken, God can do this, as one walks in Peace. I mentioned that to me, God has revealed himself sometimes as a Father, sometimes as a Son, and sometimes as the Holy Spirit, but still, I believe there is only one God. I shared my idea that one could take all the knowledge of the American Indians, and the Jewish religion, the Christian religion, and the Islamic religion, and all the knowledge of the Atheist religion, and put them all in a bucket, stir them all up and dump them into the ocean, and it would not be a drop in the ocean compared to the vast knowledge of an infinite God. He understood, and I mentioned again the Scripture we had just read, although I did not quote it again at that time. Here is a principle part of it below.

7 And so shall the peace of God, which exceeds all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)

I don’t think he would have agreed exactly with the Jesus Christ part of it, but then, apparently many Christians do not believe it either, not understand it, in that many Christian folk like to be guarded by weapons, guns, and “Peacemaking” six-shooters, not by the Peace of God. It appears in America that the “tougher” and more one believes in guarding oneself, the better, especially in the Political realm.

I cannot share everything now, we talked about, this is already too long, but the point I want to highlight especially at this “season” of Christmas 2015 is this:

“Have you had any Peaceful thoughts lately?”

If you have not had any, I ask, why not? Could it be the Prince of the Power of the Air is getting through to us through the Media and the Political systems of this world? Why not turn off the Media for an hour or two a day and silently reflect upon your Scriptures, either your Hebrew ones, Christian ones, Islamic ones, or, even just take a silent walk in the woods, just like the Indians and reflect on the Peace God has very clearly said he came to give us, which goes beyond understanding. This Peace is a gift of Grace and Mercy. Yes, it does sound Islamic, but it sounded to Abraham, like a gracious and merciful God, before the Jewish people, before the Christian people, and before the Muslim people. It is a Grace that has extended to all Abraham’s offspring, which by extension is all mankind.

Have you had any Peaceful thoughts lately? Accept this gift, get some of it; Let this be the year of God’s favor for you…..

Grace and Peace,

John Cooper

One Cup

One Cup

In asking for the grace to understand and appreciate the Eucharist’s as Jesus’ self-gift, my meditations today were on Matt. 26: 26-29.  This is where Jesus instituted the symbols that are elements of this observance.

“Take, eat, this is my body”. ..….

“Drink of it, all of you.”…..

Jesus stated “this is the blood of the covenant”.

I thought of ways people are remembered after they die, tombstones, pictures, stories, buildings, etc., but none of these things last like the living symbols and an ordinance or Sacrament Jesus gave us by which to remember Him.  I thought back to Psalm 22, which has been on my mind this week.  The Psalm which starts “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”, this Psalm was on Jesus’ mind too as he died on the cross.  Some think, and I have heard Fr. Joseph Tetlow say, that Jesus recited the whole Psalm on the cross.

 

The final verses of this Psalm are (v. 30-31).

“Posterity shall serve Him;
men shall tell of the Lord to the coming generation,

and proclaim His deliverance to a people yet unborn,

that He has wrought it.”

I do not think these symbols, the Eucharist; this Sacrament should be closed to anyone.  It should be shared with all who want and need Spirituality, and want to hear of this living story.  The Eucharist is exactly how Christians have told Jesus’ story as a living memorial for thousands of years to the coming generations.  Also I think there should be one cup, and we all drink out of it.  I am about tired of those little plastic Protestant types of cups 🙂 🙂      Oh, and for me, make that “real wine” 🙂 🙂

 

In addition to the above, which was a part of my St. Ignatius, 19th Annotation, Exercises today, I think these thoughts fit into the theme of Peace…  I understand that Islam is a religion of Peace, that it is really bad if a Muslim does not show hospitality to a stranger or a friend.  One of my Muslim friends, a Sunni, (one of those Pharisee types,) in fact, came with me to eat at a Hooligan’s , a Mediterranean restaurant here in Tuscaloosa, and brought his own tea, and cups, in a little kit with a thermos to keep it hot, and we drank together, and ate together.  He even attempted to evangelize me to the Muslim way.  I appreciated that he cared for me…    If it were up to me, which mostly it isn’t, but it used to be, and I were serving the Eucharist, I would offer the bread and the wine to him, but warn him first, if you take out of this One Cup, unworthily, you might die…  I think he would respect my beliefs, as I respected his, and we would continue to be friends, not enemies…

 

Love & Peace,

 

John Cooper