The Patron Saint of Doubters, Mother Theresa of Calcutta

Sometimes I get ahead of myself, I think we all do at times, we project what we want to see, over and against the reality of what is, as in the title of this piece.

Mother Theresa of Calcutta; the patron saint of doubters.

In truth, the Church has named Mother Theresa the Patron Saint of World Catholic Youth Day, and that is fair: in her time the good mother inspired many young people, providing that inspiration through her life of austerity and selflessness; she inspired many of us to good things, to want to be good people, to emulate her in that way.

She was a tiny woman, but she was strong. She inspires through her strength and her commitment to her ideals, despite the painful realities that she experienced and despite her understanding that the suffering she sought to ease would never cease, and her knowledge that the suffering of the world has no end.

We must be like the wise mother and pray for strength, pray for wisdom, for understanding and perseverance. Mother Theresa did not expect that by praying for these things God would transform her, or that God would give her supernatural powers, but that the act of praying would fortify her, that it would give her the strength she needed to get through the day, her day, each and every day.

Mother Theresa was sainted for her life-long commitment to the good, to serving the poor, for setting an example of patience and endurance; for setting such a strong example that if each of the rest of us were able to approximate a small degree of her fundamental stance toward justice and compassion, to give a small part of ourselves over to the healing of the world, the world might stop spinning in its spiral of violence and in that moment we might see something of the true glory that belongs the God of peace and mercy and grace.

It is right and good to praise God, the creator of the universe, because creation is miraculous and mysterious, and beyond the scope of human comprehension.

And while it is right and good to praise God, to doubt God’s purpose in the world is not a sin. Mother Theresa taught us this, she taught that doubt it is a natural movement the heart, beating within the breast of a person who loves, of someone who confronts the pain and suffering in the world and subsequently falls into despair.

It is not sinful to doubt God or God’s purpose in the world, neither is it sinful to doubt the traditions of the Church, its doctrines and decrees and decretals.

The Good Mother taught us this, and so let us be clear about a few things:

God is not a giver of victories. God has no enemies. In God, within whom all things exist and have their being…there is no conflict.

It is not God’s justice that is shown in the work of human beings, it is human justice, and when human justice approximates the justice of God, it is expressed in mercy and compassion and that is good, The Good Mother taught us to aspire to things even in the midst of human misery and despair.

Pope Francis, canonized Mother Theresa on September the 4th, 2016, on the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, her feast was celebrated for the first time and from that day forward, on the 5th of September, which is today.

Christians of every stripe, and non-Christian alike, remember Saint Theresa for her desire to embrace all people, no matter how flawed or marginalized they might be, and all people will remember this brilliant woman, servant and sister, this theologian; they will remember her for her brilliance which grows even greater in her afterlife.

God chose her, as God chooses all of; God chose her from the beginning, to receive the sanctifying spirit, he created her in the divine image, placing within her a seed of the eternal Word to enliven her. God made her this way, in the same way that God makes everyone, but what made the sainted mother different from most of the rest of us was that she saw the truth of it clearly, and in seeing it she understood her purpose in the world. The Good Mother saw the divine image in the people she bent down to serve, she saw the face of God in the poor and the sick, in the blind and the leper, she saw God suffering in them and she responded with the love God had instructed her in.

Mother Theresa is famous for her service and her impressive life, and the inspiration she gave to millions of people, and when I reflect on the life of Saint Theresa of Calcutta, it is her memoirs, which were published after her death, which had the greatest impact on me.

Saint Theresa struggled, like all of us do, with the sense that God had abandoned her, She felt at times as if God had abandoned the world. She managed to do the good works she did, to serve the Church and all of its members, to fulfill her commitment to her order, to lead them; to make of her life a daily sacrifice even in the midst of her own profound doubt and great personal suffering, as she experienced the suffering of other’s (which she shared).

In consideration of her experience she lived with a deep-felt sense of alienation from God.

Saint Theresa persevered in goodness even in the face of her doubts, she admitted to the pain that she brought to others, even as she tried to serve them, she confess and ask forgiveness and they allowed her to lead them. She bore witness to the suffering of the world, she held God accountable for it in her heart, and yet she still followed the calling of the Spirit despite her indictment of the divine, and that is why she will be known as the Patron Saint of Doubters.

Mother Theresa was different from the disciples who followed Jesus and witnessed his miraculous life. Her example of how to fulfill the Christian life in the face of the deepest doubts is what makes her life exemplary, a life that will continue to shine on us long after the sun has collapsed and human beings are scattered throughout the galaxy.

We will carry the memory of Saint Theresa of Calcutta with us, as a light shining in the darkness.

There is something historically significant about her relationship to her doubts that we would all do well to be mindful of. We see it reflected in the history of Christianity in India, which has always been connected to the missionary work of the Apostle Thomas, who is in fact the patron saint of doubters, who struggled to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead, and did not accept it until he placed his own fingers into the wounds Christ bore, the wounds which still marred his body even after he was reborn.

09.05.2020

Observation – September 5th, 2020, Saturday

The long September sunlight reflects off the sandstone and red brick of the building across the street, filtering back through the green leaves of the maple outside my window.

The window is open; there is traffic on Bryant and a rhythm to the sound of tires on pavement, as car after car rolls by; Kitty is sleeping on the ledge by the sill, curled up on her side.

I see patches of blue sky through the limbs of the tree.

The air in the apartment is cool.

There scent of cinnamon and cloves lingers in the air, I made eggrolls.

Vote VII – Editorial, The Week in Review

Analysis, Commentary, Opinion

09.05.2020

Vote VII

There are fifty-nine days until election day, keep it cool and we will get through this.

This week, among a slew of despicable and nefarious statements that the orange menace made, one thing stands out. He is encouraging his voters to vote twice, to vote by mail, and then to vote in person.

Voting twice is illegal, it is a crime. Encouraging people to violate election laws is also a crime. There should be consequences, but there won’t be.

Be mindful of what the tyrant is trying to do, he wants to create the maximum amount of chaos on election day as possible, he wants that chaos to extend into the entire counting process, which could take days, and even weeks. He wants to sew as much confusion as possible, cast as much doubt on the vote count as possible, because he believes this will give him an opportunity to hang on to power.

Pay attention to this, and don’t let it fool you.

Prepare yourself and everyone you talk to for the inevitable, there will not be a clear winner of the election on election day. Trump will try to claim victory but his rationale for it will be hollow.

Research the election laws in your own state so that you are not surprised by the process.

Ensure that those responsible for managing your election and tallying the vote do so within the dictates of the law.

Be patient, its going to get ugly.

Prepare to organize, remember the 2000 recount in Florida. Republicans bussed in hundreds of angry white men to occupy the facilitates where the votes were being examined. They succeeded in shutting down the count.

We can’t let that happen.

We have to be prepared to respond.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien – Author

I learned how to read novels by reading Tolkien.

 

My mother had a beautiful edition of The Hobbit, hard bound in a green case with gold leaf and gilt pages. There were lovely illustrations in the book, and maps drawn by the author himself.

 

I pulled it off the shelf when I was in the third grade and I read it. Then I read the Lord of the Rings, followed by the Silmarillion, his Unfinished Tales edited by his son Christopher, and then a biography of the man himself.

 

Before I began to read his other works, I began to re-read those books. I read them all, many times over: eight, nine, ten times.

 

I remember a sensation I had on my third time through the Silmarillion, I experienced a heightened sense of understanding that came to me because I had become a better reader. It wasn’t just that I was re-reading the same material, but my vocabulary had expanded and I was able to comprehend more of the material.

 

The picture was filling in and the world that Tolkien created was coming to life.

 

I added his smaller lesser known works to the corpus of material I consumed, when I was still in the seventh grade I read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Beowulf. These works resonated with my other reading interests, such as the collected and various tales of King Arthur, they also put me in touch with the broader tradition of the Viking sagas.

 

Then I began to read books about Tolkien and Middle Earth written or compiled by other authors, The Tolkien Companion, the New Tolkien Companion, along with various encyclopedias, bestiaries and anthologies depicting the arms and armor of Middle Earth.

 

Reading Tolkien put the idea in my head that I wanted to be a writer. Reading his work over and over again gave me a deep appreciation for the care and the craft he put into the work of devising his fantasy world.

 

Through Tolkien I came to have an early appreciation for the power of myths, their malleability, and the potential that we have as creative people to fashion our own myths and communicate them to the broader world.

 

Through his writing Tolkien dramatized the basic conflicts he saw at work in our civilization, conflicts between the bucolic and pastoral life with the forces of industry that seemed to be destroying the planet, the disasters of modern warfare and the suffering they visit on the world.

 

The collected stories of Middle Earth are a form of social criticism that is more relevant than ever in the twenty-first century.

 

Tolkien 

 

Given First – 2020.09.02

The Empty Set

Bound by doctrines of freedom, independence

Shackled to the ideal of autonomy, its contradictions

Waiting for a savior to emerge, living in the empty set

 

Alien priests and charlatans descend from the stars

Bargaining for the future with a wink and a nod, con-men

Selling pyramid schemes, bridges to the promised land

 

Remember the dream we were promised by Monroe

Manifest-destiny, genocide and terror, Westward Ho!

 

We blew the tops off mountains and set the prairie on fire

We cut the forests to the root, burying the grassland in dust

We poisoned the water, laced the air with toxins

 

Burning coal, pumping oil, smelting ore, splicing the atom

Celebrating freedom, liberty and progress, even as it kills us

 

We leapt from our peak, wings spread and falling in lament

A short flight for the broken-spirit, drowning in the lake of fire

Each and every aspiration, an occasion for disaster and ruin

 

We indemnified the priest who pushed us from the ledge

We circled the sun in tightening rings, decaying in our orbits

 

They sold us a seat at the electric circus, fed us styrofoam

We chased it with bile, a poor substitute for the body and blood

The synthetic eucharist, a gray-scale facsimile of the Son of Man

 

We abandoned the table of Mithra, the music of the spheres

Trying to recall the set of pinholes, piercing the curtain of night

The bright-silver lights, blinking in the dark, ghost of dead stars

 

 

A Homily – The Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

First Reading – Jeremiah 20:7-9 ©

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 62(63):2-6, 8-9 ©

Second Reading – Romans 12:1-2 ©

Gospel Acclamation – Ephesians 1:17, 18

The Gospel According to Matthew 16:21 – 27 ©

 

(NJB)

 

The Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

 

 

Listen!

 

Do not ask God to administer the justice you desire. God’s justice is patient, taking place in eternity. God’s justice is loving and kind, and works toward the benefit of all creatures; rather, find it in your heart to administer the justice that God desires.

 

Consider the words of the psalmist:

 

It is right to thank God, the creator of the universe, it is right to thank God for all the good things that come our way, but do not blame God for the hardships we suffer in this life.

 

Good things and bad things come to us irrespective of who we are, regardless of what we do or what we have done, or who we might become. There is no plan to it; God is no respecter of persons, and God does not love anyone of God’s children more than God loves any other.

 

Praise God and give thanks for the good things, do not dwell on the bad.

 

Be mindful!

 

There is peace to be had in patience, in contemplation, meditation and prayer.

 

Make your life a constant prayer for the grace which comes from God, for the grace that brings peace to the spirit.

 

Let the peace of God within you bubble up like a fountain and overflow with abundance so that others may quench their thirst and be nourished by it

 

Consider the words of the apostle:

 

The essence of faith is trust in God, it is the belief that God, the creator of the Universe, the belief that God loves you, that God knows you and that God has a plan for you beyond this world. You must believe that this is true for you, and true for every one of God’s children.

 

Trust God, and allow those beliefs to transform you now, in this world; live as God desires you to live: just, merciful and loving.

 

Remember the life of Jesus, and God whom he called father!

 

Is god glorious?

 

Yes!

 

God is the creator of the universe and everything in it, but God’s greatest place is in relationship to us; God’s children, God greatest glory is the glory of a loving parent.

 

Know this!

 

There is hope in the knowledge of God, and remember that the hopes you have for yourself and those you love are meant to be extended to everyone; even those you do not love, extend the scope of your hope to all people, that is the way God leads us.

 

Be mindful!

 

If you think that God has promised riches and glories as the reward of the saints, remember the words of Jesus: the first will be last and the last will be first, and that true riches are not counted in gold and silver and precious things.

 

Consider the gospel reading for today, the most salient point we should take from this reading does not concern the prophecy of Jesus regarding his death in Jerusalem, and the resurrection that followed,

 

That prophecy is merely an exercise in propaganda.

 

The most salient reading from the gospel for today is not the suggestion that those who follow Jesus must suffer and die for their faith as Jesus did, such a calling is situational not universal.

 

The most salient reading from today is not the notion that there is a divine quid pro quo, that life is restored to those who sacrifice it; the economy of salvation is not a system of barter and trade.

 

The most salient reading is not the notion that there is a reward waiting for us at the end of days, a reward meted out according to measurable behavior that are quantifiable as either good or bad.

 

It is important to note that the disciples, with Peter as chief among them, the disciples did not understand the mission of Jesus, while he was alive and with them they rejected it, even scolding Jesus for his intention to follow the mission he had accepted, because it placed his life at risk.

 

Jesus went so far as to name Peter the enemy, calling him Satan; shortly after that Peter would deny him and any association with him, in the hour of his greatest need.

 

Be mindful of this!

 

Peter and the disciples lived with Jesus, they were closer to him than anyone, they ate with him, prayed with him, walked with him, slept next to him, and even they were confused about his mission.

 

Take this away from the reading for today:

 

If you find yourself confused about the way, do not worry, you are in good company

 

 

First Reading – Jeremiah 20:7-9 ©

 

The Word of the Lord has Meant Insult for Me

 

You have seduced me, Lord, and I have let myself be seduced; you have overpowered me: you were the stronger.

 

I am a daily laughing-stock, everybody’s butt.

 

Each time I speak the word, I have to howl and proclaim: ‘Violence and ruin!’

 

The word of the Lord has meant for me insult, derision, all day long.

 

I used to say, ‘I will not think about him, I will not speak in his name any more.’

 

Then there seemed to be a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones.

 

The effort to restrain it wearied me, I could not bear it.

 

 

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 62(63):2-6, 8-9 ©

 

For you my soul is thirsting, O Lord my God.

 

O God, you are my God, for you I long;

for you my soul is thirsting.

My body pines for you

like a dry, weary land without water.

 

For you my soul is thirsting, O Lord my God.

 

So I gaze on you in the sanctuary

to see your strength and your glory.

For your love is better than life,

my lips will speak your praise.

 

For you my soul is thirsting, O Lord my God.

 

So I will bless you all my life,

in your name I will lift up my hands.

My soul shall be filled as with a banquet,

my mouth shall praise you with joy.

 

For you my soul is thirsting, O Lord my God.

 

For you have been my help;

in the shadow of your wings I rejoice.

My soul clings to you;

your right hand holds me fast.

 

For you my soul is thirsting, O Lord my God.

 

 

Second Reading – Romans 12:1-2 ©

 

Offer Your Bodies as a Living Sacrifice

 

Think of God’s mercy, my brothers, and worship him, I beg you, in a way that is worthy of thinking beings, by offering your living bodies as a holy sacrifice, truly pleasing to God. Do not model yourselves on the behaviour of the world around you, but let your behaviour change, modelled by your new mind. This is the only way to discover the will of God and know what is good, what it is that God wants, what is the perfect thing to do.

 

 

Gospel Acclamation – Ephesians 1:17, 18

 

Alleluia, alleluia!

 

May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ enlighten the eyes of our mind, so that we can see what hope his call holds for us.

 

Alleluia!

 

 

The Gospel According to Matthew 16:21 – 27 ©

 

‘Get Behind Me, Satan!’

 

Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples that he was destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, to be put to death and to be raised up on the third day. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him. ‘Heaven preserve you, Lord;’ he said ‘this must not happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’

 

Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it. What, then, will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his life? Or what has a man to offer in exchange for his life?

 

‘For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and, when he does, he will reward each one according to his behaviour.’

 

 

The Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

RIP Chadwick Boseman – Editorial, The Week in Review

Analysis, Commentary, Opinion

08.29.2020

 

RIP Chadwick Boseman

 

I am a comic book fan.

 

I was in the Marvel camp, and the Avengers were my crew.

 

The Black Panther was an Avenger, but he was not in the regular part of the line-up. He came around when the team was in trouble, he would help them get out of jam.

 

He was a super-soldier, like Captain America, only different he powers came from another source, something ancient, something spiritual, something magic and African. He seemed to be the equal of Captain America in nearly every way, and Chadwick Boseman personified him perfectly.

 

I woke to the news of Mr. Boseman’s passing and it made me really sad.

 

Watching the news I saw a number of tributes to him and the sadness has not passed, it sticks around because Mr. Boseman did something unique through his portrayal of the Black Panther, something he did not achieve in his portrayal of Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall and James Brown; in the persona of the Black Panther he became a living icon.

 

He appeared in four Marvel movies as T’Challa, first as prince then as king of the mythical African country of Wakanda. The movie, Black Panther became the first superhero movie to be nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards, it was nominated for a total of seven, and won three.

 

Chadwick Boseman’s portrayal of T’Challa was the reason (as far as I am concerned).

 

One of his co-stars referred to him as regal, and I absolutely agree. He was positively regal, he walked like a king, not like the head of some sick old dynasty, but as a leader a person of substance, confidence and compassion.

 

His work generated the movement hashtag Wakanda Forever, he inspired people, and he is already missed.

 

He was a born and raised in South Carolina, a graduate of Howard University, a husband and a hero.

 

Wakanda Forever!  

 

OIP

Saint Augustine of Hippo, Angelic Doctor of the Church

Augustine of Hippo is arguably the most influential Christian writer of all time, with the possible exception of Saint Paul whose epistles are the earliest Christian writings, and which delineated for the nascent church its primary creeds and basic beliefs concerning who Jesus was and why his life and death were meaningful to us.

 

It is possible that Augustine is more influential than Paul because Augustine’s interpretation of Paul’s letters have dominated Christian thought since his time.

 

Augustine’s life spanned the mid-fourth century to the mid-fifth century CE. He entered the Church just at the Christianity was completing its transformation into the official religion of the Empire, and the indispensable administrative apparatus of the same. Saint Augustine’s fixed that transformative process into the structures that we recognize today.

 

Augustine was midway through his career as a public servant before he converted to Christianity, entered the priesthood and was made a bishop.

 

All of which happened in rapid succession. It only took him four years to go from priest to bishop.

 

His mother was a Christian, but his father was not, and his father had wanted him to have a regular career in the traditional Roman mode of life. Augustine adhered to his father’s wishes for a time, but at the beginning of the fifth Century the Empire was in a process of conversion and all of the good jobs were going to Christians. Eventually he converted, only after becoming convinced that he would have a good career in the Church, and would only encounter dead ends outside of it.

 

His gambit paid off, they put him on the fast track to Bishop.

 

Augustine was a prolific writer, in the modern day he is most famous for his Confessions, and his magnum opus, The City of God.

 

He worked tirelessly against heretical groups like the Manicheans, the Pelagians and the Donatists.

 

He penned the controversial doctrine of creation ex nihillo, as apart of his seminal teaching on original sin. In addition to this, he gave the Church its teaching on sacramental theology, and he argued for the authority of the Church in all matters private and public.

 

His theology would dominate Christian thinking up until the scholastic period, but Saint Thomas Aquinas, the most influential of the scholastic theologians leans heavily on Augustine for nearly all of his views, which is to say that Augustine continued to exercise an indirect influence on the church as the preeminent standard of orthodoxy.

 

Scholastic theologians often deviated from the logic of Augustine, but on the occasion that they might draw a different conclusion from Augustine, they often ran afoul of the hierarchy.

 

By the time of the protestant reformation, both Martin Luther and John Calvin believed that their work represented a realignment of the church with Saint Augustine, and Saint Augustine’s theology continued to dominate protestant thinking.

 

In my own work, Saint Augustine stands as my principle opponent.

 

His doctrine of original sin, his doctrine of double predestination, his teaching that torture can be considered a form of charity if it brings someone to the point of conversion are anathema to the way, and represent a stark contradistinction to the life and ministry of Jesus.

 

Saint Augustine of Hippo has the title of Angelic Doctor of the Church, but he was a villain, he was brutal and cruel, and a hypocrite of the highest order. He should be read in that light.

 

Augustine

 

 

Given 2020.08.28

Dajian Huineng – The Sixth Ancestor of Zen

Huineng lived between the mid-seventh century and early eighth century CE. He is the author of the Platform Sutra and is the principle proponent of the doctrine of sudden enlightenment.

 

He was a Chinese Buddhist of the Southern Chan school, which became known as Zen Buddhism when it moved across the waters to Japan.

 

Huineng was a lay person, according to the legends which pertain to him, upon reading the Diamond Sutra he attained a state of perfect enlightenment and was able to expostulate his understanding of the teachings of the Buddha to Hongren, the Fifth Ancestor of Zen. Even though Huineng was considered to be an uneducated barbarian Hongren chose him as his successor over the monk who had been groomed to fulfil that role.

 

Huineng’s Platform Sutra recapitulates all the major teachings of Chan Buddhism including the Diamond Sutra, the Lotus Sutra and the Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana.

 

Huineng taught “no-thought” and the purity of the “unattached mind” which comes and goes freely, functioning fluently without any hindrance.

 

Be mindful!

 

The principle of “no-thought” does not mean that a person is not thinking, but that in the state of “no-though” the mind is a highly attentive to its immediate experience, unentangled by the exigencies of the past or the expectations of the future.

 

The state of ‘no-thought” is understood as a way of being, wherein the mind is open, non-conceptual, allowing the individual to experience reality directly, as it truly is.

 

Huineng criticized the formal understanding of Buddhism which suggests that the individual must devote themselves to a life of quiet contemplation, likening it to the same trap that the Gautama Siddhartha the Buddha sought to free people from when he taught them that they did not have to endure innumerable lifetimes and countless rebirths before they can be free from the wheel of life.

 

Huineng’s teaching on sudden enlightenment is a doctrine of liberation such as that taught by the Buddha when he instructed the people that they could experience immediate release by following the five-fold path.

 

The Buddha was a liberator and Huineng cast himself in the same mode.

Huineng taught this: When alive one keeps sitting without lying down. When dead, one lies without sitting up.

 

Observing that: In both cases, one is a set of stinking bones!

 

Asking the most important question: What has any of it to do with the great lesson of life?

 

When I was given my first Koan to meditate on, my teacher offered me the old cliché:

 

What is the sound of one hand clapping?

 

In the spirit of Huineng I understood the Koan to be meaningless and I replied: There is no sound.

 

He insisted that I answered to quickly, suggesting that I must meditate on the Koan further, which was unnecessary because in speaking from the immediacy of our experience we are able to understand that one hand does not clap.

 

HuiNeng 

 

Given First – 2020.08.28