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Archive for the ‘Spirituality’ Category

5 Keys to enlightenment

Posted by jytmkh on November 12, 2008

By Steven Aitchison

Are we all born to be enlightened, are some people there to help others become enlightened, do we really care about being enlightened and what the hell does being enlightened mean?

I would like to try and answer some of those questions here, but let me start by saying that enlightenment is a purely subjective experience and I cannot tell you what it means I can only tell you what I think.

What is enlightenment?

With all the books I’ve read, the TV programs I’ve watched,  and the seminars I’ve attended about self help and spiritual awakenings etc enlightenment has been described as a state of being.  There are some books that describe it otherwise and it is the latter of the two groups definition I will be working with.  So my definition of enlightenment is:

Enlightenment is a brief awakening of the mind when all prejudices and discriminations are momentarily set aside, and the world around you becomes a source of wonder.

The emphasis here is on ‘brief’.  I don’t think it is possible to be in a constant state of enlightenment but I do believe we get a glimpse of it from time to time and we can learn to experience more of these brief moments.  The trick is recognising the glimpses.

Have you have had an enlightened experience? It’s an experience hard to describe to people, one in which you were happy with your lot just for being alive, just for having the people in your life and just for having the intelligence to appreciate it all. It’s like momentarily waking up from a state of grogginess to a state of heightened awareness.

Think of the time when you first get out of bed in the morning, really groggy, you stumble about with your eyes half closed, you’re groaning as you try and fumble for the bathroom light, you stub your little toe off the end of the bed, the light from the bathroom hurts your eyes and eventually after half an hour or so you are able to function well enough to have a conversation.  Now, think of the time of day when you are at your peak, usually just before lunchtime, all your senses are working properly, you are able to do lots all the things you need as you go about your work day, you are in a state of heightened alert and your brain is in gear and ready for the rest of the day.  Enlightenment moments are the difference between the first scenario I described when you first get up in the morning and when you are at your peak in the middle of the day.  We are all half asleep in our lives and we are waking up year by year with little moments of enlightenment.

An example of one of my enlightened moments is when I first awoke from having a lucid dream.  Lucid dreams are the dreams when you consciously wake up in your dream, you know you are dreaming but you continue to stay in the dream and you can actually control it, it’s amazing.  I woke up that morning amazed, astonished and full of wonderment at the power of the mind, the brain and the possibilities of this amazing type of experience. I was elated and the world suddenly became a source of wonderment.  I looked at people with deep compassion, I looked about my home town and the beauty of it’s architecture , it’s art and it’s sense of culture.  I was on cloud nine for about a week and it was truly amazing, the world never looked the same after that and the people in it would never be the same.  I was much more confident and felt I had a place in the world and had something to contribute.  I didn’t concern myself about how people would react to me when I spoke or did certain things I previously thought they might disapprove of, I was totally myself and loving the experience.

That’s just one example of one of my enlightened moments and it changed my life forever, that’s how powerful an experience like this can be.  To you it might sound a little out there and you might not understand what I am talking about but when you have one of these experiences you will know exactly where I am coming from.

5 Keys to enlightenment

  1. Recognise that enlightenment is a purely subjective experience,  nobody can tell you how to become enlightened  as it is your own inner journey.
  2. Learn to recognise the little moments when you do become enlightened as they are moments you suddenly grow as a person and your brain suddenly plugs you into another part of the universe.
  3. Don’t go chasing enlightenment as it comes to you when you least expect it.  It could be something as simple as seeing your baby walk for the first time, feeling compassion for someone, reading a book, kissing your spouse.  Don’t chase it but learn to recognise it.
  4. Write your enlightenment moments down in a special book.  You might only write in that book once a year but you’ll be glad you did.
  5. Try and resist the temptation to tell everyone about your enlightened experience as nobody will understand it and they will think you are losing your mind,  which will detract from the experience itself.  By all means tell the people who are closest to you and the people who really understand you but not your work colleagues or your drinking buddies, trust me they will think you are losing it. 

I would love to hear you stories of enlightened experiences so feel free to leave a comment about your experience of enlightenment.

Enlightenment

Enlightenment

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Vatican’s New Guidelines for Seminarians a Good Start

Posted by jytmkh on November 1, 2008

Psychological testing has been used as far back as the 1960s in some seminaries. The new guidelines are meant to help church leaders “weed out candidates with psychopathic disturbances,” as well as “confused and not yet well-defined” sexual identities.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Inside Catholic) – Today the Vatican issued new guidelines for the screening of seminarians. They are in response to the call for more strident criteria in the wake of the clergy sexual abuse scandal.

Psychological testing has been used as far back as the 1960s in some seminaries. The new guidelines are meant to help church leaders “weed out candidates with psychopathic disturbances,” as well as “confused and not yet well-defined” sexual identities.

Pre-screening is necessary, but not enough for a healthy priesthood. Parish priesthood is one of the most difficult and lonely lives on the planet — especially in some areas. (Full disclosure: One of my brothers is a parish priest.)

I’d like to see bishops consider restructuring things in their dioceses to foster greater fraternity among priests and lay leaders. Priests need relationships as much as anyone, and they need consistent familial-like community to provide support and feedback, hold them accountable, and call them to holiness.

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FROM FOUR LAWS TO FOUR CIRCLES

Posted by jytmkh on October 29, 2008

Interview by Andy Crouch with James Choung |

James Choung has found a way to tell the old, old story to a new generation.

Can you summarize the “Big Story” that your four-circles diagram is designed to tell?

I call the diagram the Big Story because it sums up the plot points of the larger story in which we live and breathe. The most essential parts are the phrases: designed for good, damaged by evil, restored for better, and sent together to heal. They follow the biblical narrative: creation, fall, redemption, and mission.

As I’m drawing the four circles, I’ll tell a story like this: The world, our relationships, and each of us were designed for good, but all of it was damaged by evil because of our self-centeredness and inclination to seek our own good above others’. But God loved the world too much to leave it that way, so he came as Jesus. He took everything evil with him to death on the cross, and through his resurrection, all of it was restored for better. In the end of time, all will be fully restored, but until then, the followers of Jesus are sent together to heal people, relationships, and the systems of the world.

The diagrams you use in your book, True Story: A Christianity Worth Believing In, join a long line of evangelistic tools. What motivated you to create a new one?

I used many of those tools when I became serious about my faith in college, and found that I was the only practicing Christian in my fraternity. When someone was either curious or drunk enough, I wanted to have something ready to share. Sometimes the conversation would go nowhere. But other times, one of these diagrams would actually help someone make a decision to follow Jesus for the first time. And we’d both be surprised!

These tools obviously aren’t magic wands that will automatically cause someone to pledge allegiance to Jesus. But they are aids that offer a clear explanation in a memorable format. And when we’re nervous, having something to hold on to will help us be clear in what we present. Even if we don’t use the tools themselves, they give us helpful reminders to know what’s essential in a presentation and what’s not.

I think of them as modern-day iconography. Icons and stained glass windows helped preliterate Christians understand biblical stories and themes. Evangelism diagrams have the same function today: they help us understand the core message of the faith.

Your version, though, has a different emphasis from some previous diagrams.

Well, what was missing from the diagrams I had learned was anything substantial about one of the most important themes in Jesus’ own preaching: the kingdom of God. I was reading a lot about the kingdom of God, in the Bible and in recent scholarship, but when it came to sharing the core message of the faith, I’d always fall back on an evangelistic diagram that didn’t include it. And it dawned on me: Even though there are tons of books out there about the kingdom of God, very few people will be able to share it with their friends unless they are given some tool or aid—some icon—that will help them remember the key points. So even though I’m not a fan of canned presentations, I felt that creating a diagram was essential to help us understand a bigger picture of the gospel that Jesus taught.

Are you also reacting to a change in the religious landscape, especially among college students?

I’ve been in college ministry for 13 years now—16 years if you count my student days. And college students today seem really different from when I was in college.

In the early 1990s, most of us were marked by a high level of distrust. So campus ministry meant building trust. It was not easy. I had to beg people to hang out with me even to start a mentoring relationship. And evangelistic approaches back then focused on authenticity and community. The overriding spiritual question of the day was: What is real?

But the so-called Millennials (Generation Y) on campuses today seem much more trusting. Freshmen come in looking for mentors. And they’re a civic generation. They’re ready to volunteer, because they really think they can change the world. They’re far more optimistic. And our evangelistic approaches that have worked are far more civic as well, such as dealing with the AIDS pandemic or sex trafficking. Our best approaches mix global concerns with spirituality, and many people come out for it.

The overriding spiritual question today is: What is good? What will really help the planet be a better place? And our faith better have an answer for it to be relevant today.

At the same time, the environment on campus can shift quite quickly. Just in the last five years, my sense is that campus culture has turned against Christians. People seem more negative about Christians than at any time I can remember since the scandals of many Christian television personalities in the 1980s. We are perceived by many as intolerant, overpolitical, and homophobic. We have to work hard to overcome that.

Wheaton College evangelism professor Rick Richardson has observed that the best evangelistic strategies challenge contemporary idolatries—for example, Campus Crusade’s Four Spiritual Laws challenged the idol of the autonomous self. What idolatries does the Big Story take aim at most directly?

The heart of the real challenge is in the parallel lines that prevent going straight from Circle 2 (damaged by evil) to Circle 4 (sent together to heal). In our field-tests we found that many people want to jump right to the mission of healing and restoring the world. They say, “We want to be about healing the world, but why does it have to be with Jesus?”

But our diagram says, “No, you can’t do this without Jesus. We need Jesus to help us become the kind of good we want to see in the world. Only he can fully help us put to death our self-centered ways so that we can truly live. So if you really want to be a part of healing the world in a way that lasts, you have to go through Jesus.” You have to go through Circle 3. It’s at this point that we may bring up Christian history that many have forgotten—that Christians have been at the forefront of lasting social change, such as the abolitionist movement and women’s suffrage and the civil rights movement.

But it’s here that people will walk away from us and say, “I like everything you’ve said, but I still don’t see why Jesus needs to be a part of it.” The postmodern idolatry is that all spiritual ways of life lead to the same place. Any local truth is a valid truth. In the postmodern mind, they’re all paths to being good and doing good.

But we are asking people to “repent”—literally, to “change their mind” or to have a new way of thinking, to see that they need to let their selfish lives die with Jesus—so they can have a new life of loving him and their neighbor. That’s a huge call to faith for this generation.

How does sin—a central part of the biblical vocabulary—enter into your presentation of the gospel in the Big Story?

Evangelicals have traditionally assumed that we have to start every gospel message by helping people see they’re sinners. If we don’t, then we can’t move on to salvation or how Jesus gives them assurance that they will be in heaven when they die.

It’s not that this message isn’t true, but the approach is jarring. We haven’t created any common experience or authority so that our message will have any weight. We just come out and say it’s the truth. And in a postmodern setting, that sounds arrogant. How do we know it’s the truth? Have we ever been to heaven?

So at the beginning of the Big Story, we instead talk about our common perception: the world is not the way it’s supposed to be.

We all agree with that. And we all agree that it makes us sick to our stomachs when we think about it. No one thinks that our world is great as it is. We hunger for a better world. And up to this point, there is no disagreement. We all experience this.

It’s from this point that we can move on and say that our hunger actually must be evidence that a better world did exist, or will some day. Because our hunger points to food, and our thirst points to water—shouldn’t our hunger for a better world point to something? And then we can share that the world was “designed for good.”

But we still come back to the concept of sin in the context of a broken world. Each person contributes to the mess. We all do. And when we present sin in the context of the results we see in the world (instead of, to a postmodern, an arbitrary set of rules that one tribe happens to live by), then our sinfulness is much easier to accept. It’s still sin: our failure to love our neighbors is ultimately our failure to love God. And then sin seems much deeper and more real. And our need for a Savior becomes stronger, not weaker.

Jesus’ invitations into the kingdom seem to be summed up in a couple of words: “Follow me.” Jesus didn’t always require people to see the depths of their sin before they started a journey with him. They just needed to be willing to change.

How do you hope this tool will change the way Christians themselves think of evangelism?

I hope we will move from decision-oriented presentations to ones that have more to say about transformation. As we were developing the Big Story, we wanted a diagram that wouldn’t just be binary—in or out—but would represent the journey that all of us are on.

We also wanted to move from an exclusive focus on the afterlife to the mission-life. Immediately after Jesus’ invitation, “Follow me,” he added, “I will make you fishers of men.” From the outset, he gave his disciples a mission. Without the mission in our gospel presentations, we do people a grave disservice. We imply that they can be Christians without being on a God-given mission to love others in his name. And that’s just not true. In Jesus’ summation, we are all called to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. In Micah’s version, we are called to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. We need to allow the reign of God to continue to grow in us and around us.

That’s not to say that life after death isn’t important. But it’s not the whole story. It’s the final chapter, but there are still many chapters to be lived out.

Tools are pragmatic things, so here is a pragmatic question: Has this tool worked?

We have been field-testing it for several years, and the answer is yes, it has. We have had people come to follow Jesus through this. One of my favorite stories comes from another student, who had met a self-proclaimed atheist. After sharing the diagram, the atheist said, “I knew God would be like that.” And they met together to study the Scriptures after that. A skeptic became a seeker.

In partnership with InterVarsity, World Vision, and La Jolla Presbyterian Church, we were able to put up massive tents on our eight San Diego campuses to raise awareness about the AIDS pandemic and how spirituality fits into the picture. We presented the Big Story at the end. If we had come with a more traditional approach, it would’ve felt like a bait and switch, but instead, the Big Story felt very much in line with the global concerns we were exploring.

Equally important, this tool has a message that Christians are proud to share. We see Christians who don’t fit the stereotype of an evangelist and haven’t really shown any previous interest in sharing this story, share this message immediately with their friends and even strangers after being trained. For them it finally feels like good news, so they share it.

Ultimately, I don’t think I’m saying anything new here. If it were new, I’d be a heretic. This diagram has come out of my love for Scripture and the desire to share the whole story that I’ve found in it. It’s the same old gospel truth, the one we embraced when we first started walking with Jesus. None of us fully grasped the whole truth when we started our spiritual journeys, and if we’re honest, we still don’t. But each day, we see something more fully and more clearly. And we’ll find that it’s the same gospel that’s been in these pages of Scripture for a long, long time. (source:The Christian Vision Project)

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There’s a saint in each one of us

Posted by jytmkh on October 17, 2008

Sister Alphonsa, a native of Kerala, has recently been canonised by the Vatican.

Canonisation did not make her a saint, she was already a saintly lady. It means that she is allowed to be publicly celebrated in the Christian ceremony of liturgy. For every Sister Alphonsa, there are many more holy persons who have not been recognised by the Church, but they are no less admirable for that.

Saint Alphonsa had a difficult life full of suffering, but she never complained. She lost her mother as a baby and was brought up by a harsh and violent aunt. She burnt her feet as a youth, becoming deformed. She suffered many illnesses, and died at a young age of 36 with an agonising tumour. Yet she was not bitter at her misfortunes, but charitable to those in need. Although dedicated to the Christian god, she made genuine friendships with peers of other religions. Whilst in wretched pain, she offered hope of healing to people suffering around her.

As a young trainee nun (a postulant) she wrote in her diary: “I want to be careful never to reject anyone. I will only speak sweet words to others. No matter what my sufferings may be, I will never complain.” These beautiful sentiments are ideal for a harmonious life.

Christians believe that after death, a person’s soul continues to live, either in heaven (for a good person) or hell (for a bad one). Canonisation is the Pope’s recognition that Saint Alphonsa is living in heaven. Yet compassion and goodness is respected by all religions. A saint-like person bears witness to her faith by honouring both gods and fellowmen. In their respect they allow people to live as they would like, acknowledging that happiness is a goal for everybody. Love is the ghee in the frying pan of society, making life more palatable.

Even the ordinary person can perform small miracles in his own life. It’s easy to forget how much you love each other when you are tired, or sick, or in a bad mood. It seems only natural to snap and growl when we don’t feel good. But that only increases our problems, because now we have our aches and a sore family.

Take, for example, the neighbour’s family. The father has a reputation for welcoming newcomers to the block, showing a ready smile whatever caste or creed they are. Offering advice and help, he becomes a good friend to all who need one. The grandmother ages gracefully, smiling and not complaining, so garners sympathy and caring. People are pleased to help her out, because her feebleness does not make her disagreeable.

Joy, love and charity are balm to the spirit, allowing people to live happily together. This is true of religious communities as within a family ^ which are so often set at each other’s throats by hatred. If we love each other, we cannot kill or maim. We cannot incite others to do the same. If we find joy in ordinary and simple things, we would not seek to seize the power of life and death over others. Nor would we lust after moving great crowds of people to our will.

If we are charitable, we deserve charity in return, but more than that it will enrich our soul. Those who give away the most are the wealthiest among us. Saint-like people help in their own everyday way to bind together families and communities. We cherish the small saints that we meet, and every group has their fair share of these precious people. The writings of Saint Alphonsa offer us a glimpse of what it means to be saintly, and how we can all aspire to these human ideals.

 

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Anti-Catholicism and Anti-(whatever)

Posted by jytmkh on October 16, 2008

Steve Bogner

For quite a while now I’ve wanted to write about anti-Catholicism but just never got around to it. Then an article from the New York Times comes to my attention: Is Anti-Catholicism Dead?

The article describes a panel discussion held recently in New York; nothing really new to my ears but it provides some good background. Is anti-Catholicism dead? No, not even close, and probably never will be.

People have biases, stereotypes, prejudices, and simple misunderstandings about Catholicism, and also with various other groups of people. It’s human nature and I don’t see it going away any time soon. Life has become better for American Catholics, but prejudice is still out there, and probably closer than you think.

My inlaws were, and probably still are to a degree, anti-Catholic. Back in my small-town Kansas high school days, when my (future) father-in-law found out his daughter was casually dating a Catholic boy, well he was not pleased at all. But I thought I was a pretty good catch! Good grades, class president, headed to a good private college with a scholarship, school newspaper editor, voted most likely to succeed… I still impress myself! I would have been the perfect package had I been a Protestant fundamentalist/evangelical sort of guy. We’ve worked through all that now and I’m probably their favorite son-in-law (sorry Martin)… but prejudice is so deep-rooted in most folks that it may take generations for it to go away. After all, we’re taught to be anti-whatever by our parents and our community.

So as I sit here talking about feeling the sting of anti-Catholicism, I’ll admit that there is still a strain of ‘anti-Evangelical’ in my heart. It’s there, and I’d be lying to say it wasn’t. If we search our hearts, we’re likely to find some sort of prejudice at some level; we all have work to do there. And it’s tough work because it can be hard to forgive and difficult to swim upstream against our family’s influence and our peers’ influence. Awareness is a great first step, and then working to keep from messing our kids up with our own prejudice is a wonderful second step. It takes some conscious effort though, and a willingness to love our neighbor more than ourselves.

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Principles, change and fear – oh my!

Posted by jytmkh on October 16, 2008

There’s a fine line, I think, between being principled vs stubborn, between being confident in yourself and fearing change. At that fine line, we learn something that disrupts our principles (or beliefs, assumptions, or worldview); instead of examining that disruption to determine if it’s a valid reason for us to change, we reflexively reject it because we can’t accept a change, or a challenge, to our principles. Instead of being secure in our confidence, we end up holding our ground because we’re afraid of what change may bring. That’s what came to my mind as I considered the Gospel reading for this Sunday:

Matthew 21:    28-32

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders, ‘What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He went and said to the first, “My boy, you go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not go,” but afterwards thought better of it and went. The man then went and said the same thing to the second who answered, “Certainly, sir,” but did not go. Which of the two did the father’s will?’ ‘The first’ they said. Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, tax collectors and prostitutes are making their way into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you, a pattern of true righteousness, but you did not believe him, and yet the tax collectors and prostitutes did. Even after seeing that, you refused to think better of it and believe in him.

As I read that I thought about the humility to accept change, and the discernment to see if that change is God’s will for us. Humility and openness to change are not one-time gifts or decisions we make that stick with us for a lifetime. Well, not for me anyway. I have to continuously cultivate them in myself. And it’s not easy because I’m very confident in my principles. Or am I stubbornly fearing change?

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Guest Commentary: Anti-Christian Violence in India: A Perennial Calvary

Posted by jytmkh on September 10, 2008

By Santhosh Sebastian Cheruvally
9/10/2008

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

“In the wake of this latest violence, it seems that for Christians in Orissa and elsewhere in India, their daily life and existence have become a Perennial Calvary.”

 

Even in Refugee camps, suffering Christians are being harassed by Hindu extremists and being coerced into what the radicals call
Even in Refugee camps, suffering Christians are being harassed by Hindu extremists and being coerced into what the radicals call “re-conversion” under dire threat to life, limb and freedom.
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ROME (Catholic Online) – This article is based upon a talk given at St. Paul’s Pontifical College in Rome after the first cycle of anti-Christian violence was unleashed by Hindu fanatical organizations in Orissa, India last Christmas season. The second cycle of anti-Christian violence,apparently perpetrated by the same Hindu fanatical organization, was unleashed after the condemnable murder of Swami Laxmananda Saraswati, a Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader of the Kandhamal area.

The violence is a sign of growing venomous hatred against the Christian community in India among Hindu extremists. In a preplanned, nonsensical and very undemocratic manner, Christians were wrongly accused of the murder. As citizens they have a right to the constitutional protections of the legal system of this Nation. Their poor treatment raises serious questions concerning the democratic structures of India. In my speech I observed that ‘Christians do not celebrate Good Friday on Christmas Day. But for the Christian brothers and sisters in the district of Kandhamal and its adjacent areas in Orissa, India, Christmas turned out to be a Good Friday, ‘a veritable Calvary’!’ Now, in the wake of this latest violence, it seems that for Christians in Orissa and elsewhere in India, their daily life and existence have become a Perennial Calvary!

Orissa has a dark history of communal violence and hatred. There is the burning to death of Graham Staines and his two young sons in 1999. His family was engaged in the care of leprosy patients. However, this time, the intensity of the violence has grown into inhuman and unimaginable proportions. It has also done great damage to the age old coexistence and diversity of India, both at home and abroad. The gang raping of nuns, burning alive of human beings, destruction of churches, setting fire to the orphanages and houses of the poor, beating up and public humiliation of priests are not marks of a humane culture and true democracy. Yet in India, they thrive and survive!

The trump card of forced conversion has also been played by the fanatics this time. Certain media ‘analysts’, of a pro-Hindu fundamentalist nature, have been vocal in demonizing missionaries and even the Pope, who is the supreme spiritual head of the Catholic Church. A close scrutiny of these articles reveals them to be a bundle of lies patched together. They forget centuries of differences coexisting. Some portray missionaries as only engaged in the tribal areas; conveniently forgetting the fact that majority of urban India is served and supported by the missionaries and benefits from their energy through a chain of elite schools and affordable hospitals.

The fanatics have tried to portray the missionaries as devilish, making others forget they are sons and daughters of this country and are constantly engaged in groundbreaking humanitarian services for the promotion of human dignity. The perpetrators appear to be right wing Hindu radical organizations such as VHP, RSS, Sangh Parivar and Bajrang Dal. The hate talk continues as reports show that the security situation is vulnerable. That is despite the lofty assurances of the central and state governments. Because of the helplessness felt by the Christian community at the hands of the prevailing governments, the archbishop of Cuttack-Bhuvaneshwar was forced to approach the Supreme Court seeking a CBI enquiry into the masterminding and commitment of violence against the Christians. A question must be asked here: was not this tragedy avoidable if the governments had acted in time? This must be answered by the citizens of India who still have faith in the power of the constitution of this Nation. The nature of the problem of the ongoing antichristian violence calls for a deeper reflection at three levels.

1. As a Political and Social Problem

The Christians in India are law abiding citizens. India guarantees the freedom to practice and propagate one’s faith. They are attacked without respect for Indian law or human dignity. Hence this amounts to a constitutional violation of the rights of an entire community. It is therefore highly condemnable and an offense under Indian law. Accordingly, the Church has drawn the attention of the authorities at the state and central level. The Church feels that the ‘inaction’ of the state machinery to intervene effectively and pacify the situation, despite the repeated representation of these concerns, was akin to a political condoning of the actions. As a socio-political problem, various political parties and national organizations for minority and human rights, along with other NGOs, have strongly reacted and sought swift action.

2. As a Christian Missionary Issue:

The Christians are falsely accused and brutally targeted specifically because of their Christian faith. At this level, our response must be spiritual, praying for the suffering communities and for the perpetrators, as we pray for our enemies. As Christians when are attacked, in our martyrdom of suffering, we are bound to witness to the Love and Forgiveness of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Church in India, from the South to the North and East to the West has demonstrated spiritual and charitable solidarity. Thus, the ongoing sufferings of these innocent and poor Christian brothers and sisters continue to augment our faith and sense of ecclesial identity and shared mission. This is obvious from the recent pastoral words of Archbishop Cheenath and Mar Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil, CssR.

3. As an Ideological Problem. The Need for a theological and philosophical Response

We will examine these elements in my next installment.

Santhosh Sebastian Cheruvally belongs to the diocese of Gorakhpur and holds a doctorate in Christology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome.

– – –

Deacon Keith Fournier asks that you join with us and help in this vital mission by sending this article to your family, friends, and neighbors and adding our link (www.catholic.org) to your own website, blog or social network. Let us broadcast, we are PROUD TO BE CATHOLIC!

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CATHOLIC MYSTICISM

Posted by jytmkh on August 6, 2008

Mysticism is the ordering of one’s interior life to draw closer to God. It is an answer to St. Paul’s exhortation to pray without ceasing, encouraging a response to the love that God always shows us. As such, it is not dead or a relic of the Middle Ages, but a constantly renewed part of the life of Christians who seek a personal relationship with God. This interior life is a foretaste of Heaven.

These pages include information about the Catholic Church’s most famous mystics, such as St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Teresa of Avila, as well as modern mystics like Thomas Keating. They also include links to organizations that may help an individual on their own spiritual quest. These pages are especially directed to those who wish a richer interior life while living in the world

MYSTICS AND THEIR WRITINGS

For conveniece of reference, this page is organized alphabetically according to the mystic’s name. The division is completely artificial, seperating mystics who worked together, so it is recommended that one review the entire page before skipping around.

For a vast selection of other Christian texts, visit the Christian Classics Etheral Library or Catholic First.

St. Benedict, OSB

St. Catherine of Sienna
A Doctor of the Church, St. Catherine of Sienna is one of the most revered theologians of the Church. A nun who was an advisor to the Pope, she was also known for her visions. The Dialogue was dictated while in such an ecstatic state.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, S.J.
While recovering from a canon injury, Ignatius of Loyola studyied the lives of Christ and the saints. Deciding the saints’ examples were worth following, he began his life-long spiritual quest. On the way he founded the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), the largest order of the Church. He also wrote The Spiritual Exercises, a classic work of Catholic spirituality.

St. John of the Cross, OCD (1542-1591)
One of the first Discalced (Shoeless) Carmelites, a reform of the Carmelite Order, St. John of the Cross composed a number of works on Catholic spirituality, most famously his poem and commentary The Dark Night of the Soul (actually a sequal to his Ascent of Mount Carmel). His works were the subject of Pope John Paul II’s doctoral thesis.

Thomas Keating
A Trappist monk, Thomas Keating and others developed Centering Prayer as a way of combining Eastern meditation techniques with Catholic prayer. His most famous text on Centering Prayer is Open Mind, Open Heart. Many parishes have Centering Prayer groups and conduct retreats — contact your local church for details.

Lectio Divina Fr. John D. Dreher. The Danger of Centering Prayer.

M. Basil Pennington, O. C. S. O.

St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)
A Carmelite reformer, St. Teresa organized the Discalced Carmelites in her battle against laxity in monastic communities. She is also famous for her writings on the Interior Castles, stages one passes through in the process of spiritual growth.

Thomas à Kempis (1380-1471)
An Augustinian monk, Thomas à Kempis is famous for his landmark Imitation, a simple book of reflections and practices designed first to purge one of vices, and then to draw one to God.

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Becoming Prayer

Posted by jytmkh on August 1, 2008

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Through prayer, daily life takes on new meaning. It becomes a classroom of communion. In that classroom we learn the truth about who we are – and who we are becoming – in Jesus.

 

Prayer is an ongoing dialogue of intimate communion with God.Through prayer darkness is dispelled and the path of progress is illuminated. Through prayer we begin to understand why this communion seems so elusive at times; as we struggle with our own disordered appetites, and live in a manner at odds with the beauty and order of the creation within which we dwell only to find a new beginning whenever we confess our sin and return to our first love. Prayer opens us up to Revelation, expands our capacity to comprehend truth and equips us to change.
Prayer is an ongoing dialogue of intimate communion with God.Through prayer darkness is dispelled and the path of progress is illuminated. Through prayer we begin to understand why this communion seems so elusive at times; as we struggle with our own disordered appetites, and live in a manner at odds with the beauty and order of the creation within which we dwell only to find a new beginning whenever we confess our sin and return to our first love. Prayer opens us up to Revelation, expands our capacity to comprehend truth and equips us to change.
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CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) – “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit.” (1 Thess. 5:16-19)

St. Paul wrote these words to the early Christians in Greece. They did not live lives of ease, in any sense of the word. They had families, occupations, and real struggles, beyond what many of us could imagine. They also suffered greatly for their faith in a hostile culture.

He instructed them to “Pray without ceasing”. Did he really mean it? I believe that he did. The older I get, the simpler life gets. That does not mean it is “easy”. I speak of spiritual simplicity, the kind of attitude which gets right to the root of what really matters. I believe that Paul meant what he said to the Christians at Thessalonica and that his words are important to those who bear the name Christian today.We need to pray.

Prayer is an ongoing dialogue of intimate communion with God. God fashioned men and women as the crown of His creation, creating us in “His Image”, for this loving, relational conversation of life with Him. At the heart of understanding what it means to be “in His Image” is to understand the immense gift of human freedom and what has happened to our capacity to choose. Love is never coerced.

Our relationship with God was broken, separated and wounded through the first sin, the sin of origins or “original sin”. That sin, like all sin since, is at root a misuse of freedom infected by pride and self sufficiency. Our ability to exercise our freedom rightly, to live His Image by directing our capacity for free choice always toward the good, was impeded through the fall. Freedom was fractured.

The “Good News” is that through Jesus Christ, the way has been opened for an even fuller communion with God, one that is restored through His Incarnation, Saving life, Death and Resurrection. In Jesus Christ we are being re-created, re-fashioned and redeemed. He comes to live in all who make a place for Him within the center of their lives. This “making a place” is the essence of Christian prayer. It is not about doing, but about being.

The Lord wants us to freely choose to respond to His continual invitations to love. We will only find our fulfillment as human persons by entering into that kind of relationship. This is the meaning and purpose of life itself. As we grow in faith through our participation in the life of grace, lived out in the Church, our capacity to respond to His loving invitation grows as well, through prayer.

Prayer is about falling in love with God. Isaac of Ninevah was an early eighth century monk, Bishop and theologian. For centuries he was mostly revered in the Eastern Christian Church for his writings on prayer. In the last century the beauty of his insights on prayer are being embraced once again by both lungs, East and West, of the Church. He wrote these words in one of his many treatises on Prayer:

“When the Spirit dwells in a person, from the moment in which that person has become prayer, he never leaves him. For the Spirit himself never ceases to pray in him. Whether the person is asleep or awake, prayer never from then on departs from his soul. Whether he is eating or drinking or sleeping or whatever else he is doing, even in deepest sleep, the fragrance of prayer rises without effort in hid heart. Prayer never again deserts him. At every moment of his life, even when it appears to stop, it is secretly at work in him continuously, one of the Fathers, the bearers of Christ, says that prayer is the silence of the pure. For their thoughts are divine motions. The movements of the heart and the intellect that have been purified are the voices full of sweetness with which such people never cease to sing in secret to the hidden God.”

The Christian revelation answers the existential questions that plague every human heart and trouble every generation. Through His Incarnation, Saving Life, Death, and Resurrection, Jesus opens full communion with God for all men and women. He leads us out of the emptiness and despair that is the rotted fruit of narcissism, nihilism and materialism. When we enter into the dialogue of prayer, we can experience a progressive, dynamic and intimate relationship with God and He transforms us from within. We, as Isaac said, can “become prayer” as we empty ourselves in order to be filled with Him.

Through prayer, daily life takes on new meaning. It becomes a classroom of communion. In that classroom we learn the truth about who we are – and who we are becoming – in Jesus. Through prayer we receive new glasses through which we see the true landscape of life. Through prayer darkness is dispelled and the path of progress is illuminated. Through prayer we begin to understand why this communion seems so elusive at times; as we struggle with our own …disordered appetites, and live in a manner at odds with the beauty and order of the creation within which we dwell only to find a new beginning whenever we confess our sin and return to our first love. Prayer opens us up to Revelation, expands our capacity to comprehend truth and equips us to change.

Through prayer we are drawn by Love into a deepening relationship with Jesus whose loving embrace on the hill of Golgotha bridged heaven with earth; His relationship with His Father is opened now to us; the same Spirit that raised Him from the dead begins to give us new life as we are converted, transfigured and made new. Through prayer, heavenly wisdom is planted in the field of our hearts and we experience a deepening communion with the Trinitarian God. We become, in the words of the Apostle Peter “partakers of the divine nature.” (2 Peter 1:4) That participation will only be fully complete when we are with Him in the fullness of His embrace, in Resurrected Bodies in a New Heaven and a New earth, but it begins now, in the grace of this present moment.

The beloved disciple John became prayer. He writes in the letter he penned in his later years: “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure. Everyone who commits sin commits lawlessness, for sin is lawlessness” 1John 3:1-4

As we “become prayer” our daily life becomes the field of choice and we are capacitated to choose the “more excellent way” of love of which the great Apostle paul wrote. (1 Cor. 13) Pondering the implications of the exercise of our human freedom becomes a regular part of our life, as we learn to “examine our conscience”, repent of our sin and become joyful penitents. Prayer provides the environment for such recollection as it exposes the darkness and helps us surrender it to the light of Love, the Living God dwelling within us.

“Becoming prayer” is possible for all Christians, no matter their state in life or vocation, because God holds nothing back from those whom He loves. This relationship of communion is initiated by Him. Our part is to respond. That response should flow from a heart that beats in surrendered love, in the process of being freed from the entanglements that weigh us down. The God who is Love hungers for the communion of sons and daughters – and we hunger for communion with Him – because He made us this way. Nothing else will satisfy. The early Church Father Origen once wrote: “Every spiritual being is, by nature, a temple of God, created to receive into itself the glory of God.”

We were made in the “image” of God and are now being recreated into His likeness in Jesus Christ. As we “become prayer’, that likeness begins to emerge. We give ourselves fully to the One who gave Himself to us and cry out with Jesus Christ “Abba Father.” No longer alienated, we participate in the inner life of God who now dwells within us. We also dwell in Him through His Spirit. This dwelling is prayer. It is not about doing or getting but about being, becoming, receiving, giving, and loving.

We will live the way we love and we will love the way we pray.
A wonderful spiritual writer of our own time, Henri Nouwen, understood the intimacy of prayer and the call to live in God. He wrote these words in his work entitled Lifesigns:

“Jesus, in whom the fullness of God dwells, has become our home by making his home in us he allows us to make our home in him. By entering into the intimacy of our innermost self he offers us the opportunity to enter into his own intimacy with God. By choosing us as his preferred dwelling place, he invites us to choose him as our preferred dwelling place. This is the mystery of the incarnation. Here we come to see what discipline in the spiritual life means. It means a gradual process of coming home to where we belong and listening there to the voice which desires our attention. Home is the place where that first love dwells and speaks gently to us. Prayer is the most concrete way to make our home in God.”
Let us learn to “become prayer”.

Deacon Fournier is writing a series of reflections on daily Catholic Christian living. Catholic Online will soon be offering these reflections, “Bread on the Trail: Daily Food for Daily Life” to all those who subscribe to a free newsletter.

Check back here often and sign up to receive your email delivered “Bread on the Trail: Daily Food for Daily Life” 

Deacon Keith Fournier serves as the Editor-in-Chief of Catholic Online which is committed to the New Evangelization, using the resources of the new technologies and convergent media to infuse the culture with the values informed by the Catholic Christian faith. You can join with us and help in our vital mission by sending this article to your family, friends, and neighbors and adding our link to your own web site, blog or social network.

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Jesuit Yoga II

Posted by jytmkh on May 17, 2008

Francis X. Clooney, S.J. One of the things that most attracts people to yoga, I think, is that it is wholesome, challenging, and able to bring a deep sense of well-being to body, mind, and spirit — all without seeming to impose an alien worship on the practitioner. Even in the ancient Indian traditions, and certainly now in America, it has always seemed possible to practice yoga and at the same time maintain, even deepen, our original and continuing faith commitments. But at the same time, this very point is a source of worry for others, since yoga seems blithely unconcerned about matters of religion: as if its energies were elsewhere, making religious commitment seem not so much a problem, as simply optional. If yoga is a powerful religious system, shouldn’t it conflict in a more direct way with Christian commitment? Or are we missing something?
    Since yoga is many things to many people, there are probably many answers to this question; much depends on where we learned yoga, how we practice it, etc. But I do find a certain wisdom and challenge again in the Yoga Sutras of Patañjali (introduced in my last entry). Early in the Sutras, Patañjali remarks on the efficacy of turning to God. In I.12, he had said that the fluctuations of the mind are calmed by constant practice, and by the learning of dispassion, detachment. After some intervening matters, he adds, Or –by turning to the lord. (I.23) The Sanskrit word for “lord” here — ishwara — may or may not refer to God as ordinarily understood, but certainly an important strand of the yoga tradition has assumed that Patañjali is here offering that option, as if to say, “If not constant practice and dispassion, then try turning to the Lord — that will work too.” For many people, perhaps, the most effective path is turning to the Lord; to the person who is attentive and focused, the divine person in turn responds graciously, giving him or her the calmness and clarity desired.
    Now it may be unsettling that Patañjali is so matter of fact about all this: bodily discipline can work; detachment can work; OR turning to the Lord can work. Being devotional is not the only way to achieve what one seeks, but it may indeed be your best way, so turn to the Lord. This openness may obviously be unsettling for some readers: you can find your way to peace through devotion — but you have other options too.
    Patañjali goes on to describe this Lord: he is “untouched by afflictions, actions, the fruits of action, or their residue;” he is omniscient, with a knowledge that will not be surpassed; all teachers have learned from him, for he is not limited by time. (I.24-26) One can reach him by repetition of the sacred word Aum, a practice that clears away obstacles and affords us heightened consciousness (I.27-29). There is no mention here of the ordinary resources of devotion, love, affection; rather, we find our way to this Lord through the holy word, which itself is effective in changing us. This is intriguingly like — and yet unlike — a Christian commitment to know God through the word of God.
    All of this — there is much more that could be said — should be at least bracing and stimulating for us who are believers, dedicated to Christ, and yet too seeking calmness, clarity, dispassion, and freedom. It may be inaccurate for any of us to claim that our spiritual well-being is solely dependent on God. The rituals, practices, moral virtues and dispositions we cultivate over time may well give us much of what we find wholesome and helpful in our religion. It might even be that the Bible, as Word of God, inspires us in its eloquence and, over time, with the words by which we live our lives. God is at the core of all this but Patañjali may be asking us, How does God –plus the ritual and scripture and other things of your religion — help keep your life together?
Or, even more basically, we might ask: have we ever been intent enough in our spiritual practice, or deeply dispassionate enough, that we might realize what is means to say that turning to the Lord is an alternative even to my religion? It’s a good question for a Jesuit too: detachment, poverty, obedience, chastity, energy, vision, love — plus turning to the Lord?
(American National Catholic weekly)

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