Saturday, July 30, 2011

Moments of Recognition

You ever have one of those moments that speaks to something universal in humanity?

I remember once in college when one of my mathematics professors, who was kind of a mean guy--mean in a soccer-coach-esque way, not really in a bad way--had a brief moment of confusion and stumbled while trying to finish a proof during a class.

I remember his disappointment with himself at the time. I remember getting an e-mail later on which finished the proof. It was a moment, as I recall, that spurred me to compassion, as I realized that all of us--even those of us who are normally quite confident and clear-headed about something--sometimes fail to be so. And our weaknesses are shown to the world.

It is good for all of us to recognize those moments in others, those moments of understanding, when hearts are, however briefly, worn on sleeves. But what do we do with that moment of understanding, when the weakness or ugliness or beauty of someone else is revealed in a way we're not used to?

Of course, the Scripture speaks of a time when all secrets will be revealed to God*--whether to the rest of us, it is unclear, or at least something I currently un-remember. Of course, one would suppose that at least for those of us in Heaven there will be no need to hide our hearts. But what do we do in the meantime, when we reach a moment of recognition, a secret weakness or ugliness or even beauty that we didn't know was there before?

I'm curious about the theology of secrets. In particular, does the Confessional have anything to teach to us (particularly those of us who are Catholic, but perhaps in other quarters) about secrets and secrecy vis-a-vis the divine? And how do we--or do we need to--reconcile the keeping of secrets that are ugly with the call to transparency?

Obviously I don't think it's so simple as "transparency trumps anyone's desire to keep a secret, ever," or I wouldn't be asking the question.

If anyone has a relevant verse or theological reflection to share relating to secrets, feel free. I'm curious to see where my explorations go.


* I should clarify, based on a Facebook message from someone who was having trouble commenting, that I think I am thinking of the notion of having to give an account of oneself on judgment day, though I ought to add that if there's a Scripture which says this plainly, it's not coming to my mind right now.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cynical Hope and the "O My Jesus" Prayer

While this reflection concerns (partially) a prayer that is a part of Roman Catholic tradition (little-t), the author considers the "O My Jesus" prayer to be worthy of meditation and reflection in its own right and invites all readers regardless of denomination to try and follow the trains of thought running on all the twisted tracks in his mind in this reflection.

It is said that when the Virgin Mary appeared at Fatima, she gave the children who were the visionaries a prayer that, for a Marian apparition, might seem strangely Christocentric (though if we Catholics are right about the purpose of Marian devotion, we shouldn't necessarily expect otherwise.) This prayer also, for an appearance more associated with conservative Catholicism, seems strangely universalist in its hope, even though it hardly advocates universalism. I suppose in that respect it resembles the Scripture.
O My Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy.
I would advise anyone who thinks that sounds universalist to remember that the same tradition has Our Lady instructing us all to pray for the conversion of Russia, indicating that the leading of souls to heaven is, to say the least, far from complete.

I am in one sense a rather cynical Catholic; I find myself somewhat unsure that the world will be able to recognize the truths of Christianity and its ethos until it's too late not to go to hell in a hand-basket. On other hand I am believer and I walk by faith in Christ, the Sacraments, and Resurrection--and so even if the world is going to hell in a hand-basket, even if we're past that point of no return, there can be salvation for its people. Thank God. Perhaps if we pass that point of no return, as a society or as a world, it will shock a few more people into seeing the beauty of Christ. Sometimes I think people need to be nauseated by the Gospel--or perhaps by the radical absence thereof--before they realize something is wrong with a Gospel-less life. I'm not going to lie, I often feel like I ought to be trying harder at the whole "evangelism" thing.
O My Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy.
At the same time, the world created by God is surely good, and I hope, sometimes against my senses, that it isn't actually going to hell in a hand-basket. That maybe society hasn't passed that point of no return. But I guess with all the wars, strange relativism and culture of death floating around it's sometimes hard to be optimistic. And yet I do try, in accordance with good Christian hope, to hope for the salvation of all, and not to despair too much. After all, the creation is still beautiful, even if sometimes its beauty is obscured by the sinfulness of man.
O My Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy.
As we draw further on in a given society, there will be those who serve Christ and life, and those who serve the Enemy and death. Those attempting to be 'tolerant' or in the middle will need to pick a side. There is a strange connection here to the personal "last things," as we continually near our deaths. Let us hope that as many as possible will find themselves on the side of life and Love in the end, both in their personal end and the end of their respective societies, if they are around to see it.

If the Lord wills, I will be, in the end, worthy of the Resurrection.
O My Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Christian Carnival: Wednesday, July 20

Welcome to the Christian Carnival for Wednesday, July 20th. Hope you all enjoy this.

Caveat: This is a Carnival open to Christians of Protestant, Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic persuasions. As such, it goes without saying that even as a host and as a Catholic I make no endorsement of any positions advocated in the linked posts; that's not to say I un-endorse them, so much as this is a Carnival of ideas, and there is certainly somewhere in these pages an idea with which I (or the Church to which I claim loyalty) will disagree. The Christian Carnival's Facebook page can be found at, well, here.

Scott Masters presents To Casey Anthony… We Are a People of Grace posted at The Jesse Lee Project, saying, "A Faithful perspective on the aftermath of the Casey Anthony Trial and acquittal"

Deano presents Discovering my test... Psalm 139 posted at My Jarrol Spot.

loswl presents The Eye is the Lamp of the Body – Part 2 posted at INSPIKS, saying, "I think a lot of Christians indulge in the sensual, thinking it is ok as long as they have not went far enough to commit the physical sexual sin."

Maryann Spikes presents Unintended Coincidences in the Bible by Tim McGrew posted at Ichthus77.

Createlive presents A Cross In The Sand posted at CREATElive.

Joe Plemon presents Book Review: Managing God’s Money by Randy Alcorn posted at Personal Finance By The Book, saying, "Randy Alcorn's newest book is, in my mind, a life changer. The review explains why."

Chris Price presents Ben Franklin, George Washington, and Christianity posted at American Church History.

Jason Price presents How Do You Define Generosity? [Christian Financial Alliance] posted at One Money Design, saying, "Christian finance articles help us learn the definition of generosity and explain it in their own terms."

Maryann Spikes presents Good without God? posted at Ichthus77.

Violet N. presents Treasure Book posted at Other Food: daily devos, saying, "Imagining life without the Bible makes one appreciate it more."

michelle presents oh that I will open the door? posted at going into all the earth....

Caffeine Coquette presents How Running Makes Me A Better Mother posted at The Caffeine Coquette, saying, "The strength I develop through running has benefits that go beyond physical. For me, running is like meditation, a way to connect to nature, grow closer to God, find inspiration and stimulate creativity."

Russ White presents The Modern Obsession with Confirmation posted at Thinking in Christ.

Ridge Burns presents The Power of Thank You posted at Ridge’s Blog.

Josh presents Bible Verses About Patience: 20 Scripture Quotes posted at What Christians Want To Know, saying, "Check out these 20 great Bible verses about patience."

Lastly, I (cheating a little, my post wouldn't have made it in under normal submission rules) am submitting from KBT, my entry, America the Beautiful - Appropriate for Church? in which the question on the tin is pondered and I humbly request your thoughts from within your particular "how we do Church" tradition.

America the Beautiful - Appropriate for Church?

I'm still up in the air about the appropriateness of lots of different songs at Mass.

But a few Sundays ago we had..."America the Beautiful" as our...closing song?

Granted I think the Mass was technically ended at that point. Granted that there are a lot of songs that do get sung that are questionable and sometimes heretical. But still. It's patently an anthem to the country, not to God. Now I do think a similar criticism (an anthem to the congregants, not to God) could be raised for some of the songs we sometimes sing. But at least the nominal point of those songs is, nonetheless, to draw the people into the worship of God. I hope.

Singing a patriotic song, on the other hand, had no legitimate place at that Sunday Mass. Yes, the chorus mentions God. But you're singing to America, which, of those songs was not like the others. And yes, technically, it wasn't Mass at that point, but given that to be "proper" I have to stay and am being encouraged to stay after that song to pray, I'm basically trapped with a non-worship song. Now I'm still up in the air about it, not because I'm an American, but because on further reflection the lyrics strongly imply that God is not done with our nation yet and petitions Him to do greater things for it. But again, on the other hand, if a song sung essentially to our congregation (even if in the first person plural) is inappropriate in that context, I'm tempted to say the same of a song sung essentially to our country (in grammar as well as in spirit.)

Thoughts? I'm curious about peoples' thoughts coming both from more liturgical and musically 'conservative' traditions as well as otherwise.