Vatican II, Synod on the Family … two Popes

And Guadium et Spes  or The Church in the Modern World. (document of Vatican II).  

Three months after his election,  Angelo Guiseppe Roncalli,  the new Pope John XXIII surprised the world by convoking the Second Vatican Council.

There had not been a Council in nearly 100 years … and this was to be an Ecumenical Council with  the Bishops of the universal church in attendance, not just European and Italian prelates.

His famous words open these windows and let the fresh air in’,  were a prelude to the historic event that has been  pivotal for the Catholic Church.

Opening the windows would no doubt raise the dust of centuries that had settled on the Church. There was, as can be expected, opposition and prophets of doom!

Prophets of Doom

Despite all naysayers, this great visionary inspired the Universal Church to reflect on how she could build and strengthen the faith in the cultural changes following two World Wars. The Council Fathers were inspired by two principles:

aggiornamento (Italian for “updating”) and ressourcement (French for “going back to the sources”).   So the reforms either returned to more ancient practices or took on modern practices and approaches.

The deep introspection and sharing that was the spirit of Vatican II, led to many changes in religious practices so that the light of Christ could shine out visibly.  The pot in which the seed of faith had been transplanted from Rome to distant lands was broken so that the seed could germinate, be in-culturated in,  and draw its nourishment from the local soil

In essence, St. John XXIII believed in the sacramental nature of the church as a sign and instrument of communion with God and unity amongst all men.

It is the same spirit and belief which our beloved Pope Francis carries vocally and visibly in his core message :

“The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds. … And you have to start from the ground up “

I pray that the Spirit that led to the convening of this Synod, and the declaration of a Year of Mercy, will continue to guide all Bishops in their decisions.

On this October 11 anniversary of the commencement of the Council, also declared as the Feast of St. John XXIII,  I wish to honour his memory by recalling his words as he lay dying on his bed in May 1963 :

Today more than ever, we are called to serve mankind as such, and not merely Catholics; to defend above all and everywhere, the rights of the human person and not merely those of the Catholic Church…’

‘It is not that the Gospel has changed: it is that we have begun to understand it better … the moment has come to discern the signs of the times, to seize the opportunity and to look far ahead. “

Thank you beloved Papa John XXIII  for giving us Vatican II   … and thank you Papa Francesco for the Synod on the Family.  May the Spirit continue to lead you in steering  the barque of the Church into Kingdom waters.

Opening - Synod on the Family 

Synod on the Family, Rome October, 2015.  Source : www:catholicnewsagency.com

Praydreaming about patience!

Came across a new word  “Praydream” *  i.e.  prayerfully day dream in a short and helpful flip book titled  “Naming the Grace“.

I praydream about the joyful moments when I meet the challenges of life in a grace filled way  – with courage, patience, kindness, concern, wisdom, justice, gentleness, understanding  …. LOVE.

Our Lord did say .. ‘seek and you will find‘   and what you ask will be given to you if it is for your good.

Just for today then I seek patience, understanding and wisdom in my responses to the things that irritate me.  It is definitely not good for someone seeking spiritual maturity to be so short on patience 🙂

God please grant me

** Flip book Naming the Grace @  http://media.loyolapress.com/assets/examen/grace/

Tips for Photography, Prayer … and Life.

I have been participating in a Mundane Monday Challenge created by Jithin @ Photrablogger

 “to find beauty in almost everything. The challenge is simple :  find beauty in everyday mundane things, capture the beauty and upload the photographs.”

I came across this during my ‘retreat’ time today and would like to share with all those participating in the challenge.  It is a great tip on AWARENESS AND PAYING ATTENTION. 

Advice That Applies in More Than One Context

photographer in silhouette

My advice: Slow down. Pause to savor the moment. Breathe deeply. Think about how things smell, what the air feels like on your skin, and look at what you’re seeing: the colors, the shapes, the shadows. Think about how it came to be.

Sound like advice for prayer? It certainly could be applied to that, but the advice comes from Josh Noel in an article on taking amazing travel photos.

At this time of year, when many of us are looking forward to summer vacations, the advice to slow down and pay attention is well-timed—and appropriate for both photography and a life of prayer.

And if you get that great travel shot in a prayerful moment, please share it with us at our sister blog, Picturing God.

Bury me in ….

Seems like a strange topic to write on … but a post by Annarashbrook on the death of her friend Paggy set me thinking.

Anna’s question on the fate of our possessions, reminded me of one of my pet peeves … how I wish to be buried !! 🙂

But let me deal with Anna’s question first.  I have a twin plus two siblings who have six children between them.  Since my twin and I have no direct heirs, we leave everything in trust for ‘the six’ to share as they think fit. ‘Everything’ for me consists of a property and some ‘investments’ to live on since I retired.  Not a fortune but sufficient for the day …

I have no idea how my other day to day possessions will be disposed of.  I do not have much in any case except books, books and more books – theology mainly.  Maybe they might give them to a library or keep them as keepsakes of their aunt, who they teased would be a ‘popess’ 🙂  … MAYBE !!!

Now to my idiosyncrasy – my anathema of local tradition to bury females in a long dress with socks on!  I do not wear long dress and can’t stand to think of being so dressed with white socks.  Uggghs!  But I am yet to see a female corpse in – denims or pants. (It did make me wonder how they dress women in other countries?)

So I have said I would like to be dressed in a sarong: viz. a couple of yards of cloth wrapped round me somewhat like this:  the first an olde world style, and the next a trendier version.

My siblings say it is “not allowed/ nice/ practical/ polite/ ’done’ ” for a corpse to have her shoulders and legs bare … and toes sticking out …  so I have said, in that case, wrap the sarong like a shroud. That should take care of both shoulders and toes 🙂   I could not find a picture to show this except this ‘sculpture’ – which my sister says won’t work either as I will have to die in a seating position!  I suspect she is laughing, but you get the idea …

Option to sarong

Then put me in the cheapest box you can find with no frills or fancy work – just straight chip board box …. and lay me down in the family grave.

That is how I would like to be buried.

Oh …  I took for granted the Catholic rites but with more ‘upbeat’ hymns.  I’ve been thinking that it would  be nice to have a marching band with cymbals clanging and trumpets blowing.  Or at least a whole lot of voices singing lustily and heartily something like Glory Glory Hallelujah – for my life’s hope is that I will be in the presence of my Creator, My Lord  … Transcendent Almighty Triune God.

And I will be finally and totally ONE  – “May all be one.  As you, Father are in me and I in you”  John 17:21

And that I believe is a moment for the greatest celebration of all.

Picture credits : 1worldsarongs.com;   www.3dartistonline.com/

Can you feel the love tonight ?

Uncannily, as I was reflecting on the Last Supper of our Lord, I heard a station playing “Can you feel the love tonight” (From the Lion King.)  Listening to the words, I thought of the love that must have been present on Jesus’ final night on earth; that (Maundy Thursday) night when he commanded his apostles to love and instituted the sacrament of Love.

The song echoes in the background – Can you feel the love tonight? How its laid to rest.  It seems so appropriate .. a love hymn of worship.

Jesus knew his life and mission will soon end. He loves his friends so dearly but the hour has come to return to His Father.  It is time to say goodbye.

It is the most momentous farewell in the history of man. God became man and dwelt among us.  And now he is leaving us.

The success of Jesus’ entire mission  could hinge on what memories, message and instructions he leaves behind.   What is the single most important instruction or act in the final hours of his life as he bids farewell to his beloved friends?

I try to imagine his feelings in that  Upper Room, to understand the extraordinary chain of events and His command  “Love one another as I have loved you”.

He has worked with these disciples, loves each in a different way . He has planned a very special ‘passover’ meal, made preparations well in advance.  It will also be his own ‘passover’.

Judas:  who he knows will betray him – yet he does not leave him out of the farewell meal. Rather, looks at him with love and understanding – “Go and do what you have to do.”

Peter:  Jesus knows that Peter is weak and cannot be relied on as a friend in times of trouble, yet He draws him close for the final hours in the garden;  looks  with compassion on his weakness.  Peter, you will deny me three times. Left unspoken – I still love you. I have still chosen you to lead my flock.

Power hungry “materialistic” apostles:  who just before the meal were arguing about who would hold the most favoured position.  Perhaps they were following Jesus for some personal benefits.  Yet He loved them and gathered them close in those final hours.

Perhaps the only ones not included in that circle of love that night were the “self righteous ones” – the Pharisees who followed the letter of the law.  All the others were there:

  • Simon the Zealot – the political agitator against Rome.
  • The tax collector who betrayed his people to the Roman authorities;
  • The apostles on the periphery , those we do not hear much about;
  • Also Thomas – the one who was forever doubting and wanting proof  – someone much like me who wants to see and touch with my own eyes and hands.

What a motley crowd Jesus chose to love and impart his mission to 🙂

How could he express his love for them before he leaves? On the morrow,  they will be confused, empty, frightened.  How could he reassure them of his continuing love? How would we react if we were with our loved ones in our final hour?

Acts of love, words of love, pour out of Him that night. Surely it should be called the night of love?

They have walked in to the party with dusty feet yet no-one volunteered to wash their feet, as traditionally done by the servant of the household.  Here is an opportunity to express love instead of bickering about prestige and position. Jesus takes up a basin and tenderly washes their feet. Then he gently advises them :

No slave is greater than his master; and no messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know this truth how happy you will be if you practice it.

 “Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples.

There are other words he speaks – all of them are words of guidance, direction, comfort, hope, consolation. He can’t give them enough.  They are words spoken by someone bidding farewell.  Listen carefully :

You cannot go where I am going.  Later you will follow me. 

Do not be worried and upset. 

Believe in God and believe in me also.  

There are many rooms in my Fathers house.

But Lord – We do not know how to get there ?

I am the Way the Truth and the life.  No one goes to the Father except by me.

If you love me you will obey my commandments.

His final words all carried nuances of love. 

 Love one another as I have loved you. 

A branch cannot bear fruit by itself; It can only do so if it remains on the vine.

 My Father’s glory is shown by you bearing much fruit.

 The greatest love a person can have for his friends is to give his life for them.

 You did not choose me, I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the fruit that endures.

His prayer was filled with love.

Father I want them to be ONE JUST AS YOU AND I ARE ONE. 

 He knew it was not going to be easy and so he promised to send the Helper to stay with the.  (With us!).  And he went one step further to assure them he would not abandon them : whatever you ask of the Father in my name he will grant you.

 And he yet again entreated : Remain in me; remain in my love.

The group of twelve amazingly managed  to remain in his love; to let the world know that they were disciples of love by the love that they showed one another.  They went out from that Upper Room and changed the world with that one commandment – “Love one another as I have loved you.”

It is not easy.  It takes practice. But it has to be done.  Jesus did not issue an invitation to love.  He issued a command.  “Love as I have done.” Dying so that others might live is another consequence of following this Man who set crazy, impossible standards.

The question is : Do we follow him in this manner?

The test of discipleship is hard if not impossible.  Yet, if you ask almost anyone how to become a good pianist, seamstress, painter, or tennis player, the answer is always the same: PRACTICE!

Similarly with discipleship  We have to work at it, practice and nurture it by means of grace until we learn to love one another as he has loved us.

The ‘night of love’, and the Sacrament of Love, has made this possible.

Can you feel the love 5

Credit: picture extracted and modified from utube video link above.

Bible quotes : majority from John 13 – 17.

 

Trust in God sailor …?

I ponder the situation the Catholic Church of Sri Lanka finds herself in as she celebrates Christmas, and prepares for two significant events in January next year – one secular, one spiritual.

A Presidential election just five days before a papal visit. That in itself is unusual for the Vatican steers clear of partisan politics and does not usually schedule visits within two months of an election.

So when, how and WHY did these diametrically opposed events collide?

Instead of spending the weeks leading to the canonisation of the Apostle of Sri Lanka in prayerful spiritual preparation, both Church and State are guilty of distracting Catholics from this holy event, and placing our beloved Pope in the tenuous and unsolicited position of being in the epicentre of an ugly and volatile political situation.

I am not privy to communications between Church and State but Vatican officially confirmed the visit in October.  It was very much later when preparations for visit were substantially under-way that Presidential elections were announced.

When rumours initially surfaced of pending elections, the Church voiced her concerns. Despite these please, a date was set just four days after the papal visit when the President had promised a much bigger window.

Broken promises to the Catholics of the country.  Nothing new in that. In politics, promises are empty before they are spoken.

For many Catholics, it seemed then a foregone conclusion that the visit would be postponed. However the Cardinal announced it would go ahead with “Trust in God”.  Although some priests advocated postponement to 2016, they were like the Baptist, lone voices crying out in the wilderness amidst the silence of many. Why did we not speak out and protest the broken promises? Perhaps we would have if the Bishops Conference had led the way but they passively asked us to trust God.

My question is not so much about trust (a sin qua non for people of faith), but about actions that are judicious and prudent, based on trust and faith.  Do we trust in God and remain in the eye of the storm? Or, do we follow the wisdom of the adage, trust in God (sailor) and row for the shore, away from the impending storm?   Do we trust that nothing is impossible with God and another opportunity for a  papal visit will present itself?  We would then be able to truly prepare spiritually for this holy visit instead of being caught up in these secular issues?

The question may be moot.  It may be too late to head for safe waters.  We may have no option but to ride out the storm.  Or we may just have a wee bit of time before the storm hits. Hence this letter.

Reverend Cardinal and the Bishops Conference – look up, look out, look about.  Take your bearings.  It is certain that what was calculated as a passing shower is turning into a storm.  The elections were expected to be a slight blip.  The incumbent President would be re-elected. Life would go on.  He would welcome our Pope and we would prayerfully celebrate the canonisation of the Apostle of Sri Lanka.

But things have changed.  A serious contender with promise and potential for the powerful position has come forward.  Election violence is erupting.  The outcome of a free and fair election is by no means a foregone conclusion.  Skeletons are coming out of the closet. Pandora’s Box has been opened.

Things are turning ugly with accusations being hurled at the defender of the post who will use fair means or foul to retain power – including exploiting the much awaited papal visit.  The Cardinal has had to request that campaign posters exploiting the visit be taken down.  Whether or not this is heeded is also a moot point.

The Church, instead of being able to prepare spiritually for this momentous event,  is now fully caught in the midst of this political turmoil.  The Pope is being placed in the untenable position of endorsing the outcome of ‘dubious’ elections as he will be the first Head of State to visit.  ‘Dubious’ for how can valid elections be held when a sizeable populace displaced by floods is struggling for survival and may not be able to cast their vote?

Instead of preparing wholeheartedly in mind and spirit for the visit of our Pope, Catholics, as part of the nation find ourselves caught up and distracted with manifestos and election ‘fever’.

Our population has never been magnanimous in victory or humble in defeat. Post-election violence is inevitable irrespective of the outcome.  His Holiness will arrive in a nation caught up in the post-election emotions of victors and losers. Punitive measures, retribution, has followed every election and this can be expected in a far more dramatic way than previously,  especially if an unprecedented third term is obtained by the incumbent.  If the challenger wins, retribution is likely to be slower.

Either way, there will be cries of foul, and calls for recounts.  Either way, it is very unlikely the dust or mood of elections will settle in four days.

So … ‘Trust in God’ and stay ‘put’ … Or  ‘Trust in God sailor and row to safe waters ‘ before the storm hits and politics and religion are caught up in one ugly twister.  For aborting the visit any time after Election Day will appear as a politically partisan decision either way.

It seems to me a strange thing mystifying

That my Lord came to this earth “to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free” (Luke 4.18)

And yet we who call ourselves Christians because we wish to follow him, do the very opposite.

We get into our ivory castles where we are beyond reproach, and from the safety of this castle we throw stones at those who are not like us in religiosity, in piety, in following the letter of the law.

We are in fact, following the Pharisees rather than following Jesus.

In a recent homily, Pope Francis  exhorted that we ask ourselves the reason the doctors of the law (the Pharisees) did not understand the signs of the times and invoked an extraordinary sign. And he proposed several answers:

The first was “because they were closed. They were closed within their system, they had organized the law very well”. It was “a masterpiece. All of the Jews knew what one could and could not do, where one could go. It was all organized”. But Jesus caught them unprepared, by doing “curious things”, such as “going with the sinners”, and “eating with the publicans”. And the doctors of the law did not like this, they found it “dangerous”, putting at risk “the doctrine which they, the theologians, had been making for centuries”. This happens, said the Pope,  when you forget that you are people on a journey:

“when one is on journey  one always finds new things, things one does not know. And in the law, they had to accept these things in a heart faithful to the Lord”. But, also in this case, “a journey is not absolute in itself, it is a journey toward an end point: toward the definitive manifestation of the Lord”.

For this reason,  Pope Francis explained, Jesus defined them as an “evil generation”, inasmuch as “they did not understand that the law they protected and loved was a pedagogy toward Jesus Christ”. Indeed, “if the law does not lead to Jesus Christ, does not bring us close to Jesus Christ, it is dead”.

And this is why Jesus scolds the members of that generation “for being closed, for being incapable of recognizing the signs of the times, for not being open to the God of surprises, for not being on a journey toward the Lord’s triumphant finale”, to the point “that when he explains it, they think it is blasphemy”.

We who live in ivory towers, closed to the signs of the times, need to reflect on Pope Francis’ words:

Am I attached to my things, to my ideas, closed? Or am I open to the God of surprises?”.

“Am I a stationary person or a person on a journey?”.

May we lose no time  in seeking to bind up open wounds and to rekindle hope in so many people who have lost hope, in setting captives free, and doing the ‘curious things’ that Jesus did as we follow our Master and not the Pharisees.

“A heart that loves the law, for the law is God’s”, but “which also loves God’s surprises”, for his “holy law is not an end in itself”: it is a journey, “a teaching which leads us to Jesus Christ”.

Bible-Verses-About-Mercy

Excerpts (re-arranged with comments) from a homily by Pope Francis on 13 October 2014 on the God of Surprises.