28 February 2014

One Year Post-Benny

It has been one year since Pope Benedict XVI resigned from the papacy and dispelled any thought that his announcement was all part of an elaborate joke. Truly, though, I do not stand in shock now but instead respect his big decision, which I trust was aided by God. As desolate the situation seemed, I've realized it isn't a huge deal in the grand scheme of things: though men tend to leave the papacy by death, they all leave it eventually. The papacy still continues as it has for thousands of years and there is a sense of peace in that.

Benedict has in the last year committed himself to a life of prayer, from which we certainly benefit. We should also continue to pray for him. For those nostalgic as I am, I've found this f
rom Pope Benedict's final general audience 27 February 2013 (you can go here to hear it in English):
Dear Brothers and Sisters,I offer a warm and affectionate greeting to the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors who have joined me for this, my last General Audience. Like Saint Paul, whose words we heard earlier, my heart is filled with thanksgiving to God who ever watches over his Church and her growth in faith and love, and I embrace all of you with joy and gratitude. During this Year of Faith, we have been called to renew our joyful trust in the Lord’s presence in our lives and in the life of the Church. I am personally grateful for his unfailing love and guidance in the eight years since I accepted his call to serve as the Successor of Peter. I am also deeply grateful for the understanding, support and prayers of so many of you, not only here in Rome, but also throughout the world. The decision I have made, after much prayer, is the fruit of a serene trust in God’s will and a deep love of Christ’s Church. I will continue to accompany the Church with my prayers, and I ask each of you to pray for me and for the new Pope. In union with Mary and all the saints, let us entrust ourselves in faith and hope to God, who continues to watch over our lives and to guide the journey of the Church and our world along the paths of history. I commend all of you, with great affection, to his loving care, asking him to strengthen you in the hope which opens our hearts to the fullness of life that he alone can give. To you and your families, I impart my blessing. Thank you!

22 February 2014

Rules VS Relationship: Why Not Both?

Okay. This "debate" has been going on everywhere lately (well, earlier than "lately;" I know I'm late on the game but this subject just keeps coming up) thanks to a YouTube video. Religion vs spirituality. Rules vs relationship. Which one's right?

The answer, I feel, can mostly be summed up by:

 Since when is being religious and being focused on God a contradiction? What is being religious? Let's make it official and throw in some Merriam-Webster.

  1. relating to or manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality or deity <a religious person>
  2. of, relating to, or devoted to religious beliefs or observances <joined a religious order>
  3. scrupulously and conscientiously faithful
  4. fervent, zealous

What exactly is wrong with these definitions? In your "personal relationship with Jesus," do you not have faithful devotion toward Him? Do you not hold beliefs about Him and about faith? Do you not stick to those beliefs thoughtfully and fervently? Religion is concerned with the spiritual and supernatural, not opposed to it.

And in the other boxing ring (rules vs relationship), do you not follow rules yourself, like "You must believe in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and profess Jesus Christ as Lord, who suffered, died and rose again for the salvation of the world."? Or isn't "You should have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ" a rule as well? Attesting to certain beliefs and being guided by a framework does not ruin your relationship with God. Guidelines should strengthen our faith because we become one united Church and because we are forced to evaluate our faith. Why do I want to have a relationship with someone if I disagree with the truth He has laid out?

I do not see why the two cannot go together. Religion has nothing if it does not address spiritual and supernatural subjects. We do use "religious" to describe someone's behavior about things which are not spiritual or supernatural, however. "He watches soccer religiously," for example. But what does this mean? In one way, it refers to the intense, fervent way in which one should encounter and approach faith. He is passionate about and devoted to soccer like one is passionate about and devoted to God. In another way, it refers to the obsessive behavior one acquires. Unhealthy for non-faith matters, but shouldn't we have a bit of obsession when it comes to God?

What does one have instead when they possess spirituality without religiosity? How is a spiritual life oriented toward God without a guide? Is one sporadically tapped into God's grace without action? Is it problematic that "spiritual" may not even necessitate "God?"

Rules guide one's relationship with God. It is natural to have and obey rules. When we were children, our mothers told us to stay away from the stove and to clean up our toys. We likely protested by touching the stove or scattering our toys about even more (I certainly did), but these rules have good purpose. They tell us the best way to live our lives (not burning our hands and not stepping on a Lego, which everyone knows is the worst pain that can be experienced this side of eternity), and even if the rules do not make sense at first because our immature selves have selfish desires, they are ultimately put in place to make our lives better and more enjoyable.

I saw this video months ago and have read several posts and comments since then which all end up sounding like an attack against the Catholic Church more than anything else. I take this view because the Catholic Church has been the longest standing church with unchanged "rules and regulations." There are, instead, enough several thousands other churches which make finding one you can agree with, which won't tack on new rules, much easier than trying to change the Catholic Church. And really, this leads to one of the major problems I still would like to resolve in my attempt to better understand Catholic-other faith relations, and that is greatly summarized by the Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen:

I think a lot of what people think about when they think about Catholicism (and haven't given much thought to it before) is ornate churches or the Pope or its opposition to popular public opinions. Likely, the views people have about the Church are inaccurate because the Church says something quite different than what they assume. Much of this assumption is based on the idea that the Church is all about "rules and regulations." However, the point which is missed is that the guidelines of the Church are to bring people's hearts and minds closer aligned to God. This is the only way one can have a (good) relationship with God: we need to try to meet Him where He is as He draws us closer to Himself. "Draw nigh to God and he will draw nigh to you." (James 4:8)

09 February 2014

2014 Reading Goals

I've been meaning to write this post for ages, but it keeps slipping away from me. Between finding a good list of books "you should read," and rooting through to find the ones that actually look like something you'll enjoy...it's a process. I've even kept Haley's blog post as an open tab to motivate myself to write it. She wrote that post almost a month ago...and I'm just now getting to it. #oi

Anyway, as this army from Monty Python would say:
"Get on with it!"
Never Let Me GoKazuo Ishiguro
The Cuckoo's CallingRobert Galbraith (JK Rowling)

Story of a SoulSt. Therese
Hunchback of Notre DameVictor Hugo

The Four LovesCS Lewis
ConfessionsSt. Augustine

ConfessionsSt. Augustine
Picture of Dorian GreyOliver Wilde

OrthodoxyGK Chesterton
Brideshead RevisitedEvelyn Waugh

OrthodoxyGK Chesterton
Twelfth NightShakespeare

As You Like ItShakespeare
Mansfield ParkJane Austen

Til We Have FacesCS Lewis
The Brothers KaramazovFyodor Dostoevsky

The Brothers KaramazovFyodor Dostoevsky
Why Matter MattersDavid P Lang

Consuming the Word: The New Testament and the Eucharist in the Early ChurchScott Hahn
The Seven-Storey MountainThomas Merton

Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy NarrativesPope Benedict XVI

Catch up + find a good Advent devotion

So there we go! I feel like this is a bit of an ambitious list, but I'm looking forward to the challenge. If I can accomplish all of these readings, I'll be pretty satisfied and I think I'll feel way more cultured and educated. ;)

If you have any reading suggestions, please leave a comment! Especially if it has anything to do with marriage preparation (gotta work on that) or French kings/queens (very interested in that right now)!