Getting Together With St. Martin’s — Part II

For many years, the St. Martin’s Men of Emmaus have been doing a one-day mini-retreat at Sugar Loaf Mountain. They meet at Sugar Loaf, a St. Martin’s priest celebrates Mass with them, and then the priest leads a morning of discussion/reflection. The morning ends around noon and they start their day. Although I have never made it myself, all I have heard are rave reviews from others.

This year they are doing it again on May 22, 2010 and have been gracious enough to invite us and any other St. Francis guy who might be interested. It would be great if we were able to get a group together and to take advantage of the opportunity for fellowship. I will follow up with more details as I get them.

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Meeting Rerminder — Bread of Life Discourse

Our next meeting is tomorrow, May 1, 2010 at the regular time in the regular place. We will be discussing the Bread of Life discourse in John 6:22-71. The passage is long and extremely important so we may linger over it next week as well.

Family Life Center International

For years Family Life Center International has dedicated itself to supporting family life throughout the world. Society can only be renewed through strong, moral families, and we aim to support and promote traditional family life. We believe that in this high-tech world, there is a place for “moral media”. The “moral media” of Family Life Center International provides a wealth of resources geared toward deepening a family’s love and knowledge of their faith and thus hopes to impact today’s society. We place a special focus on fatherhood and providing resources which aid fathers in fulfilling their vocation.  Check it out:  http://www.familylifecenter.net/

A Church Guy Makes Peace With Catholic Social Teaching — Intro

“Social justice.” The slogan send chills down this Church Guy’s spine. I went to a Catholic high school during the heyday of liberation theology — with its image of Jesus as Marxist revolutionary carrying an AK-47. I still remember the enthusiasm of one of my teachers, William P. Flanagan, for everything social justice (he is now a partner in a major law firm whose profits per partner are well over six figures). The more I heard, the more I was turned off. If the Church demanded that I be a communist, well, then, I could ditch this church thing. And I did.

Over time, I came back to the Church, but I never came back to Catholic Social Teaching. People with whom I had political disagreements always kept citing it and whenever I heard it applied to a particular, concrete problem, it lead to (or seemed likely to lead to) harmful consequences. My unease only increased as I became more active within the parish community. I had no problem with memorizing the corporal works of mercy and teaching them to my kids and trying to do them. I had no problem with the concept of “love thy neighbor as thyself” (I take the Fifth as to how well I practice it). But this CST stuff, ugh! My disquiet peaked when I saw the promo to “Just Faith,” an excellent teaching series for CST, and a person (whose very persona said that she and I had never voted for the same candidates) said that Just Faith helped her to understand how her politics was justified by her faith. Ugh! If that’s CST, it was definitely not for me. Since being an orthodox Catholic was important to my view of how my religion was to be lived, I decided simply to ignore CST as much as possible and hold my nose (and my tongue) when I couldn’t avoid it. This strategy worked very well for a while.

Then I looked in the mirror. What I saw was a Cafeteria Catholic. If the Church is correct about transubstantiation (as she surely is — see the earlier post about the Easter Vigil mass), how is it that she happens to be wrong whenever her opinion makes me uncomfortable? Why was I willing to let the Church teach me that some of my actions were objectively wrong, i.e., sinful (a pretty offensive thing on a purely human level if you think about it), but wouldn’t let her teach me about social issues. Not only that I support some of the teaching on social issues — I am pro-life. I was picking and choosing — a cafeteria Catholic.

So I started reading. What I learned (and still am learning) is that CST is not what I thought it to be. I found, as I did much earlier with its teaching on individual morality and theological issues, that all of the objections that I have ever made to CST are addressed and have been worked into its teachings. Thinking about why I missed this, it occurred to me that most presentations of CST are not very comprehensive and sometimes amount to an exhortation to support this cause or that cause, which is like looking at a Church steeple, but ignoring the Tabernacle.

As a result, I thought it would be interesting to explore CST over time through weekly posts. The purpose is not to change anyone’s politics, but to give folks a safe, non-confrontational opportunity to think about these questions in the quiet of their homes and hearts. To make it more interesting and to get another perspective, I’ve asked Charles McCarthy, St. Francis’ social concerns director, to respond and/or share his reflections. We are planning to post once a week on alternating Tuesdays (I will post one week, he will post the next week and so on). At first, we will reflect on the foundations of CST, then later we will start analyzing a particular topic (we’re still deciding). It should be interesting because Charles and I are both pretty orthodox, but I suspect we have different perspectives on many things. Hopefully, our discussion (either on joint topics or of each others’ posts) will illuminate issues for those who read them and help each Church Guy, other parishioners, and anyone of good will to contribute to the building of the City of God. Also, we strongly invite comments. Our perspectives are as limited as others’; the more discussion, the more chance we have of addressing the concerns that are important to everyone and not just the two of us.

Edgy, Hip, Cool – Faith On The Edge

They say Church Guys are edgy, hip, and cool. GODSPY is an online magazine for other Catholics who live their faith on the edge…..It explores the ideas and experiences that reveal God’s presence in the world.   http://www.godspy.com/.  Check it out.

Another Interesting Catholic Website

myCatholic.com is the first Catholic web portal that allows users to choose their own content, layout, and preferences. It offers daily Mass readings, reflections, news, commentary, custom RSS/Atom feeds, a Catechism study, links, tools, and more.  Check it out:  http://www.mycatholic.com/.

Amazing Grace: A Church Guys Discussion of John 6:1-21

Yesterday’s discussion focused on the two episodes recounted in John 6:1-21. The first was the feeding of the 5,000. Guys commented on several aspects of this episode. We noted St. John’s use of numerical symbolism — 12 baskets, 5 loaves etc. At the beginning, it seemed that interpreters were reading meaning not intended by St. John and not intrinsic to his witness. The constant appearance of meaningful numbers (the meaning of which may have been more apparent to St. John’s immediate audiencce) makes it more and more apparent that St. John did intend to use these numbers meaningfully.

Along these lines, we noted how this episode hearkens back to the Old Testament in so many ways and how the episode would have resonated with a person of St. John’s time and place in ways that are difficult for us to grasp just as people in 3020 A.D. will have a difficult time grasping our witness to the Risen Lord. We discussed manna — what is it? What is means for us? Its relationship to the multiplied bread.

We noted the connection to the Liturgy. The eucharist is the obvious connection, but it was noted that if one puts St. John’s description together with that of the Synoptic evangelists, we have a pre-figurement of the Mass: preaching and then breaking of the bread. It is not crystal clear, of course, but it is there nonetheless. Especially interesting was the connection to the Didache. The Didache is believed to be one of the earliest catechisms of the Church — its full name is “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles to the Nations.” Interestingly, the Eucharistic prayer that it records recalls this episode and connects it to the Old Testament. (This blog provides a link to the Didache).

We talked about much, much more.

The second episode was Jesus walking on water. John 6:15-21. Our discussion was not as wide-ranging because one of us offered an insight that opened it up in a wholly new and fascinating way. In fact, the passage was what convinced him that Catholicism was true. This is what he saw. Initially, we imagine ourselves in the boat. Remember, Sts. Andrew and John (remember St. Andrew was part of St. John’s community and was instrumental in bringing about the writing of this Gospel) were in the boat. This is the Sea of Galilee at sunset:

The Sea of Galilee is approximately 8 miles wide and very long. They should have been able to cross it easily (the majority were, after all, professional fisherman.) Yet, they only got between 3 and 4 miles after at least 9 hours of rowing (Mt. 14:25). This was hard work and they were having an incredible difficulty doing it on their own without Christ’s help (starting to sound familiar?). Christ then appears. What does He say to them? All the translations that we had said, “It is I.” The specific words that He is reported to have used — the words that reflect St. John’s and St. Andrew’s living witness — were “I AM.” To Jewish ears, “I AM” meant one thing: that Christ was asserting that He was God. When He said this, what happened? “They wanted to take him into the boat, but the boat immediately arrived at the [shore] to which they were heading.” John 6:22. Again, a more literal translation is more meaningful symbolically; instead of shore, the literal word is “land.” It reads: “[i]mmediately the boat reached the land at the place they were heading for.”

The echoes of “Promised Land” in “land” are evident. Remember, what happened when Moses and the Israelites first reached the Promised Land. They sent spies/scouts into the land to find out who and what was there. What they reported was fearsome (Numbers 13:26-33) (“ 31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”)

As a result of the report, the Israelites were afraid to enter the Promised Land. They were so afraid that they doubted God’s promise to them and God was not happy. Numbers 14:26 ff. In John, Christ reminds them “Do not be afraid” as they move slowly and labriously toward the “land” to which they are heading in the face of serious physical danger. But once He is present and makes Himself known as God, they arrive immediately where they are going (note how St. John give us this detail — they didn’t just run aground.)

What does all of this mean? Two messages leapt out at us and as always they are related to each other. First, God’s grace is essential; we cannot get to the Promised Land without His grace. The disciples went practically nowhere — they rowed for nine hours (roughly) and only traveled, at most, four miles. “I AM” appears, removes their fear, and supplies the grace they lacked. What does this tell us? That we need to get out of the way of God’s grace; we need to trust that when we put in all of our effort and that is insufficient, we need to ask for grace and “I AM” will supply the rest. Second, God’s grace is efficacious. Immediately, they reached the Promised Land. His grace changes things in the real world; what are signs, instituted by Christ, that efficaciously make present the grace they signify? Sacraments. St. John’s gospel is very sacramental and this is yet another example.

As always, once Scripute is broken open, it yields so, so much.