Friday, May 24, 2013

A bit on Popes, Francis especially

It is pleasant and right I think to have a blog to God and such as are thoughts in his direction, given that one finds oneself to be in the nature of a "practicing" Christian, and are running other blogs, publishing online, etc. It is right in that one can write to this purpose unencumbered by audience or expectations. It is right, insofar as divulging oneself is right. I see no point in imagining otherwise.

These are heady times, with an outwardly non-conformist, anti-corporate Pope. It is mildly amusing to hear people wonder at the importance of the Pope. The clearest commentary I can give on this point is to suggest that one turn to the title pages of any Catholic Bible, where among this and that you will see a list of the Popes. The first Pope is a gentleman named Peter. That's Simon Peter, the fisherman, the first chosen disciple, the leader of the disciples, martyred in Rome. Hold in mind the Catholic's resolute belief in the practice of the laying on of hands to confer the Holy Spirit, and you have the succession of Popes until the present day. So, we take the Pope only as seriously as we take our Lord's instructions to Peter, that he lead his (the Lord's) flock. Guess how seriously we take that point of instruction. If you guessed, "very," you are right.

So, we Cathlics move with the Pope, we listen and love and pray and heed the Pope. Now, some of us (like me) are quite sure that we are free to disagree with the Pope. After all, the Pope may be chosen, but he is not the Lord. He is a human being, like myself, and he is not entirely free of human influence, in all its varied forms, like myself. So, when the Pope says something we consider contrary to our life in the spirit, we are not - or should not - be afraid to express it.

But  this posting is not a set-up to disagree with Pope Francis. Since the day of his election, I have held strong feelings that he might be special. Very special. It is not for me to say what that could mean, except to say that I hope it is so, for all our sakes.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Particular to Saints, perhaps Others

I would have liked to meet St. Stephen - or, Stephen, we will say, A deacon to the disciples. One of a few or many, perhaps. We do not know.

We know from Acts that Stephen was a deacon when the disciples of Christ were in Jerusalem, soon, or fairly soon, after the Ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit. According to the chronology of Acts, Stephen loudly proclaimed the Word - the Gospel - the person and trust of Jesus Christ - after the Disciples had been warned by the Jewish authorities to cease. For his efforts, Stephen was stoned. He dies and was thereby the first Christian Martyr.

St. Stephen was a punk, a trouble-maker, the kind of person who, when he feels it, says it, regardless of consequences. I feel it to be a grace that I belong to a church dedicated to St. Stephen, here in Portland. I really like St. Stephen.

I also like St. Joan of Arc. A lot. I carry a Holy Card for her in my wallet as a reminder of her, and to pray for intercession. Like St. Stephen, she was (according to accounts) a fearless believer, even unto death. If you can't admire such a woman as Joan of Arc, well, I can't help you.

Or, maybe I can.

If we can admire such women as Joan of Arc for their devotion, their sacrifice - the ultimate sacrifice in the name of our Lord - are we not obligated to consider all women in this light? It is critical to consider our obligations as we recognize and acknowledge such truths as a young woman dying for Christ. I don;t mean to consider women in merely an ideal light, but as with St. Stephen, to consider their lives and their sacrifices in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

I trust in the heart and faith of any woman that she loves as I love, as our Lord loved.

I believe and support any woman in the choices she makes in her life to live life as it should be lived, with joy, freedom, love.

I  ask of God that I respect women and care for their needs as I do my own, all the while aware of my own ignorance and prejudice.

I love and admire St. Stephen, St. Joan of Arc. But it does not stop there, does it? No, my obligations do not cease with specific endorsement or care. Respect and love cannot cease with the individual. One is carried in one's heart beyond the individual to humanity as a whole. To love and respect St. Stephen, St. Joan of Arc, is to admit to care for anyone, all persons, who love God as they loved God. Man and Woman, then as now, the human heart - that willingness, the Spirit - to love without reserve.

Saints Joan of Arc, Stephen - the innumerable Spirits and Guardians who accompany us - who are we to draw lines or differentiate? As a man or a women feels, considers, decides, believes. How does God operate? We cannot know as does God, and so are called.

To believe, defend, even unto death.