Would you?

conversion-of-st-paul_181Today is the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. We remember the monumental event of Saul of Tarsus, who was speeding to Damascus to hunt down some followers of the Way. The Way was what early Christians were called; at that time they were still by and large Jews who believed that Jesus was the messiah. This was a great affront to many in Jerusalem because it went against what their religion understood.

As I prayed with the Scriptures, I got thinking about what would I do if Jesus showed up in a flash of light asking why I was persecuting him.  It is a real trap to think that we are busy with God’s work with in the way we perceive that God wishes us to do it.

As I wonder what I would actually do if Jesus showed up with this question, I ask you the same. If Jesus claimed you were persecuting him, what would you do? Would you ignore him? Challenge him? Would you even be aware, flash of light or not, that he was Christ? Don’t worry, as I ask you these questions, I ask myself the same thing. Would you? Would you listen? Would you change? Would you follow?

Many of us think we are doing God’s work, and God willing, let’s hope that we are. But if God asked you to let go of how you saw that work and to do it God’s way, would you be able to follow? It’s a good question, because I am pretty sure that God shows up every day asking this to us, just minus the light and the blindness. Our road to Damascus is our daily way of being. Jesus wants us to all change. I’d like to think I would do so, but I’m not so sure. Would you?


Sanctorum Communio – The Communion of the Saints

(Cross posted from my parish blog. This is written from my Roman Catholic perspective and originally for my Catholic blog. I know others love the saints too and I am very grateful to all who shared their favorite saints on my Facebook page!)
 (Yes, everyone who reads my blogs knows that I have an obsession with John Nava’s Communion of the Saints tapestries at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles.)

Sanctorum Communio is Latin for the Communion of the Saints.  While I don’t get to daily mass like I used to, now that I am working, I remain influenced by Father Pat’s references to common union. (He makes these references on Sundays too, but that is not as frequent, at least not overtly!)

This morning I happened by one of my favorite spots in the blogosphere, dotCommonweal, the blog of Commonweal magazine. This is a rich place to read about all manner of things and I highly recommend it.

Today, Commonweal blogger, Father Robert Imbelli posted this:

Appropriately for this liturgical season, my graduate seminar has been reading Joseph Ratzinger’s great work, Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life. Here is a passage:

In all human love there is an implicit appeal to eternity, even though love between two human beings can never satisfy that appeal. In Christ, God enters our search for love and its ultimate meaning, and does so in a human way. God’s dialogue with us becomes truly human, since God conducts his part as man. Conversely, the dialogue of human beings with each other now becomes a vehicle for the life everlasting, since in the communion of saints it is drawn up into the dialogue of the Trinity itself.

This is why the communion of saints is the locus where eternity becomes accessible for us. Eternal life does not isolate a person, but leads him or her out of isolation into true unity with their brothers and sisters and the whole of God’s creation.

I thought that it was a great reminder of faith and community – our “common union.”  We are called to life in community and to live in relationship to and with one another.

What better illustration of this than the images of the Communion of Saints?

It is so easy to want to have a “God-and-me” experience, at least it has been for me. I am slowly, now that I am in “second half” of life, learning otherwise however. God is not linear and so often as humans, linear is where we are at. Go here. Do this. Get that. Learn this. Be this. It is all endless binary code in our lives.

Our faith practice as Christians, and in particular as Catholics invites us into community. The Trinity itself is relational and dynamic, not linear. We have our Trinitarian God, we have our Sanctorum Communio, we have each other.

Saints is what we all are in some fashion. You call me to my sainthood and I call you, we all call each other.  This not only precludes but rather prevents (or should prevent) this need to isolate or to reject that so many of us possess.

Well listen to me ramble on… Many paragraphs as I useless try to explain the words of Father Imbelli and Joseph Ratzinger.

Today I wish you prayers of hope that is found in community with God and one another, with the saints, canonized and otherwise, leading our way to the Lord.

Thanks be to God for that!  Have a blessed All Saints Day.

All You Holy Men and Women Pray for Us

I have returned to some Catholic blogging here. This is a slight variation on a post which I wrote for my parish blog. Read on or tune out – the choice is always yours. As always, I hope you stay.

The church gathers on November 1 each year to celebrate All Saints Day, which is coming up this Sunday. (The readings can be found here if you want to pray with them in advance.)

I was talking to a friend about the saints and what this means. While Catholic today, she grew up in another Christian denomination. As a result, her childhood experiences of the saints was quite different from my own, which was awash in Catholicism of both the reverent as well as the kitchsy.

What saints are your personal favorites? Maybe your patron, the saint who inspired your name? Or a saint that has helped you at different times of your life? We discussed this very topic in a small faith sharing gathering last night.

There were many troubled years in which I leaned heavily upon St. Dymphna, when I felt mentally stressed . St. Teresa of Avila has always been a great favorite saint of mine as has St. Therese of the Child Jesus, also known as St. Therese of Lisieux; They were strong women in different ways and this inspired me. St. Francis, my own patron has a special place in my heart. There was a time when I often turned to Blessed Margaret of Castello in great need, because I felt abandoned. Of course there is St. Anthony of Padua… If you are Catholic and of a certain age and have ever lost something, you have called upon him!

As you can see, I could go on and on. Our saints are a beautiful and beloved tradition of the church, they became saints in their humanity, which is so important to remember. The illustration above is from the tapestries of saints that you will find if you go to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. To say that this is a stunning representation of the saints would be an understatement. The first time I saw them there, I wept.

Want to learn more about the saints? There are no shortage of books, go to O’Connor’s here in Albany to have a look. One of my favorite books about the saints, as seen through the years of the author’s life is, My Life with the Saints by James Martin, SJ. You can see that the tapestries from the Cathedral have touched many of us as they are on the front of this book.

I will close with this Litany of the Saints for you to listen to if you wish. It is so beautiful.

Litany of the Saints – St Marys Music

Saints and Sinners – The Ted Kennedy Edition

“There are no saints without a past. There are no sinners without a future.” – Unknown

My blogfriend Deacon Greg Kandra tells me that Oscar Wilde said this. I trust Greg, but I could not find it attributable to Wilde, so I will just say unknown and keep looking.

**Update** Greg Kandra to the rescue… Here is the source for the quote. Thanks DGK!

Ted Kennedy, requiscat in pacem. A legendary man has left this earthly life and the quote at the top of this post really seems to ring true, along with the great editorial cartoon from John DeRosier, right here from our Albany, NY newspaper.

People often want to put someone on a pedestal or to throw them down the garbage disposal. You can see many instances of both of those things during this Ted Kennedy coverage. I have read some things that make him sound like a god, other things that make him out to be the devil incarnate.

Ted Kennedy did some messed up things – no doubt about it. Ted Kennedy also did some truly amazing things – no doubt about it. The question becomes whether or not one can be redeemed.

As a Catholic Christian I absolutely believe that we are all redeemable… In fact we have already been redeemed, it is ours to accept that grace and then to live it. I can’t enter the channels of anyone else’s soul nor can one enter my own.

And redemption doesn’t happen one day, like an item checked off of a to-do list. It is a daily journey and one that Ted Kennedy, like anyone else, had to make.

And in the end, it has nothing to do with what “I” can do. It is important for me to be the best person that I can be, something I fall woefully short of on a very regular basis. No wonder so many have no interest in God, worship and a life of faith seem an endless exercise of tasks that may or may not work.

Frankly all this endless do-gooding in order to please God can take the focus off of God. It is then put it on the humans doing these tasks, which results in a large number of very self-righteous people.

Ted was flawed and he was brilliant. Which is pretty much the human condition one way or another, saint and sinner all in one and he kept doing all those good works. He seemed to do them from a deep place and for that I have to give him a lot of credit. We will never know what happened in his heart and soul from the darker days of long ago.

So for me – in the end I think that Ted Kennedy redeemed himself. He never got to be president but he got to grow into a great man. That he did not get to be president may have been his greatest gift, that took a lot of pressure off! No matter what his station in life, he never forgot the little guy who, unlike the Kennedy family, had no money, no connections, no hope. Hope is the elemental Christian virtue and Ted and embodied hope, that is a gift. And that is also Catholic Social Justice teaching at its very best!

It occurs to me that Friday, the day this post goes up, is the Feast Day of Saint Augustine, one who knew his own sinner and saint path very well.

The words of the Song of Farewell come to mind… “May the choirs of angels come to greet you, may they speed you to paradise. May the Lord enfold you in His mercy, may you find Eternal Light…”

This song is frequently used as a song of sending at Catholic funeral liturgies; it is one of my favorites.

You can listen to that if you wish, click below. (Before I publish, I thank fellow blogger Contemplative Catholic, who has a post up that influenced what I wrote here today.

Song of Farewell – Duncan Archard [Organ]