Friday, October 31, 2014

A Reformation Ghost Story

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis to the door of Wittenberg Church leading to the Protestant Reformation. On October 30, 1534, English parliament passed the Act of Supremacy, breaking with Rome placing the king as head of the church. Is there something in the chill of autumn air that leads to fracture? Did the Lutherans and Anglicans plan to leave the Church just before All Saints? And why do they celebrate bad break-ups? I find Reformation Day much scarier than any Halloween tale.

One of the reasons that attracted me to the Catholic Church was the fracturing of denominations. I do believe that there should be a unified church. It did not have to be the Roman Catholic Church, but I needed a little-c catholic church, one that did not have origins in breaking off from an earlier church. I dream of a mended schism, reuniting the East and West and drawing the Protestant pieces back together into the Church. I know it’s a rather impossible dream. I look at the Reformation and see Pandora’s box. There is no going back. 

There continues to be more splintering, more fractures. New leaders emerge promising to set things right, but they just create a new cult of personality, another Christian flavor of the week. I’ll admit that their intentions are (usually) sincere; they love Christ and are trying to do follow him to the best of their understanding. They are my brethren in Christ. But my heart still hurts looking at all the fractures of what should be a “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.”

As a child of the 90s, I’ve always been taught to celebrate diversity, that differences are good and should be celebrated. So I feel guilty for not finding the positive in the many denominations. But I don’t see it as diversity. Diversity is how different cultures add their unique spin on shared traditions; how chant sounds in Egypt versus England, how Mexicans celebrate Dia de los Muertos with marigolds and Slovenians celebrate All Souls with candles, how Japanese bow and Americans hug during passing of the peace. However, the diversity of hundreds of heresies? That just makes me sad. 

The Reformers (the ones wanting reform not revolution) did not envision the fracturing upon fracturing that would befall Western Christianity when they began. They wanted to fix the Church that needed fixing. The Counter-Reformation addressed several of those issues. I don’t blame Luther for the state we’re in now. I don’t blame anyone in particular. I blame pride. I blame arrogance. I blame evil permeating the flock and pitting brother against brother. I see Pandora’s box leaking for 500 years, and I want to lose hope. 

But despair will not help the problem. God would not approve of me planting myself in a corner and bemoaning the state of things. So even if it seems impossible, I should still dream of reconciliation. I should do my part to mend ties where I can, draw people to the Church when I can, and be willing to whatever I can to work toward unification. Maybe it will take another 500 years, but I’ll continue to dream of a Church where the fractures are nothing more than faded battle scars and where the one true faith has put a lock on a pagan goddess’ box.

Friday, October 17, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 92)

1. I meant to do Quick Takes last week, but I scurried home to celebrate my dad’s birthday and never got around to it. I am most unproductive when home. 

2. Which doesn’t bode well for this weekend. I’m home dog-sitting and recovering from an eye problem while still trying to get about 10 pages written by Monday. Ha.

3. This semester is going way too fast. All the end-of-year projects are picking up, I need a thesis topic, and I’m quickly falling behind on things. The beginning of December seems much too close, yet the middle of December seems much too far.

4. While trying to stay on top of work, I’ve been listening to a lot of music and podcasts. But I find myself just overanalyzing everything. For example, last week I concluded that “Bare Necessitates” was a criticism of certain parenting styles whereas “Land Down Under” had some theological positions on how strangers/sinners should be treated.

5. I caught up on this season of Doctor Who. I was amazed at how pro-life the episode “Kill the Moon” was. The women have to make a decision about killing a creature before it hatches, the world votes to kill it, but Clara does the right thing anyway. Then she’s angry that the Doctor left the decision up to her in her moment of need. I think it made a really good case for the beauty and importance of life, as well as showing the triumph in choosing life in a situation of danger and fear.
Clara: “Doctor, what is it?”
Doctor: “I think that it’s unique. I think it’s the only one of its kind. I think that is uttering beautiful.”
Lundvik: “How do we kill it?”

6. The diocese is investigating the claim of a medical miracle attributed to the intercession of Servant of God Isaac Hecker. Hecker founded the Paulists, one of the missionary orders present in the area. If the diocese determines that it was a probable miracle, the case will be sent on to Rome. If the Roman investigation determines it was a miracle, the incident will be added to Hecker’s case for canonization. I’m more interested in the process itself than the actual result.

7. This link was meant to be posted in last week’s list, seeing as it played into the Columbus Day weekend. Let’s remember that European explorers often were not very nice guys, and in commemorating colonialism, we have to also acknowledge how native populations were affected. And we should learn more about men such as Bartolome de las Casas.

Monday, October 6, 2014

St. Jane de Chantal

St. Jane Frances de Chantal was born in France in 1572. She married the Baron de Chantal in 1593 and lived in a castle. Her husband died in a hunting accident in 1601. She continued to manage the estate and care for the local needy.

During Lent in 1604, she met St. Francis de Sales, and he became her spiritual director. (After de Sales’ death, St. Vincent de Paul served as her spiritual director.) In 1610, after setting up support for her children, she left for Annecy where she established the Congregation of the Visitation. The order accepted women who had been turned down from other orders due to health or age. In its early years, the order did lots of public outreach, but there was opposition to a public female ministry, so Francis de Sales made it a cloistered community.

St. Jane Frances de Chantal died in 1641. Her feast day is August 12. She is patron of the forgotten, those with in-law problems, and parents separated from their children.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Uncomfortably Close

For the past week or so, I’ve felt God close by. I don’t know what it is, but I’ve just noticed his presence. There is nothing substantially different about my life. I can’t point to certain good things happening and say, “A miracle, a blessing.” But there has been a peace.  There has been a closeness. One that I didn’t particularly ask for. One that I don’t particularly know how to handle.

It feels so foolish, practically blasphemous, to stay that I’m uncomfortable with such attention. But it is uncomfortable. I wasn’t seeking God (at my own detriment), and he has shown up anyway. And I don’t understand why. Is he trying to tell me something, call me to some action, and I just can’t understand? Or is this normal and I’ve been distant for so long I didn’t realize it? It’s uncomfortable because this situation just points out how little I control. God comes barging into my life because of course he can. Of course he will. And it’s completely foolish of me to act surprised. And it’s awful of me to be anything but grateful.

If there is a particular reason, he’ll let me know. Otherwise, I should just be open. I should embrace these moments of love and support and joy. I should relish in this lingering presence. I should smile and sing. I should let myself be open to such love.

Because it does feel very much like being in love, where every moment is filled with a preoccupied sense of joy and where every song, or story, or phrase seems to overflow with personalized meaning. It’s the kind of love that won’t hurt. But it still burns bright. And that makes me what to shield my eyes and slide into shadows. To admire from afar. Love is vulnerable, and vulnerable is scary. Even when it’s a good love, a safe love, a happy love. Oh, that I should be open to such love.

Friday, October 3, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 91)

1. It's October 3.

2. Ah, the expected workload hit this week. Back to the grad school grind. I actually got an assignment when an unspecified page limit—just write until I have adequately covered everything. Commence the blaaaaah.

3. I also have to get a thesis topic together this month. I kept hoping something would leap out, but no. I’m thinking of taking one of my religion papers and expanding it, but I’ll have to run it by my adviser. I just my topic to be something I like writing 100+ pages on. I want to enjoy the research. Otherwise, I’ll be a grump for the next year.

4. I watched the Mighty Ducks 2 this week, because I was between TV shows on Netflix. It was good in a 1990s-“USA-USA-USA” way. But I genuinely liked the soundtrack. 

5. I normally don’t like Catholic girl lists. I think I don’t relate to a lot of them being raised Protestant. However, this one was pretty good. So much #10. And seriously, #17, can I take snacks to confession? And now I know what my team member was quoting when we were discussing the quality of wine used in church and she said, “This is church, that was Jesus, and you are a lady.” 

6. While it's not like sin can actually be quantified, I did enjoy these charts of the seven deadly sins in the U.S. And I thought the way each sin was calculated was interesting.

7. Balloon hats.