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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Upholding the Ideals

   Over the past few days the Vatican has issued a statement regarding a restructuring of the way that business is done between nations and by the banks.  Also the pope gathered in Assisi with religious leaders of many different faiths from around the world to pray for peace, marking the 25th anniversary of a similar gathering by Pope John Paul II.  I have been surprised by some of the reaction to both the document and the papal gathering, though maybe I shouldn't be.

   Some folks have criticized the Pope for praying with non-Christians.   Granted that we need to be careful of a one religion is as good as another approach to things but what is so wrong about gathering with people of good will to pray.  If people believe in God and wish to pray that is a good thing, especially if they are praying for peace.    Remember the greeting of the angel at the birth of Christ--"Peace to people of good will", a line we repeat in the Gloria at Mass. The witness of a gathering like this also tells those who would distort religion to justify violence that they are wrong.  Also I have had several friends remark to me that war will probably always be with us.  This may unfortunately be true but I believe that Christians, and above all Franciscans, need to keep holding that ideal of peace before the world, and supporting efforts that do achieve some level of peace, or at least the cessation of violent hostility between peoples.

   As for the Vatican document on the economy I have heard two criticisms.  The first may be somewhat valid in that it cites the lack of a deeper understanding of economic principles.  Maybe (or maybe not) the Vatican needs to do more homework on the subject.  What I don't get are those who say that because it was issued by a Vatican office and not the pope it is not infallible and does not need to be taken seriously.  I'm sorry but the last time a pope spoke with infallibility was the 1950 declaration of the dogma of the Assumption.  Does that mean that everything that popes have said since then, or that Vatican officials have said since then, is not to be taken seriously.  I thought that as Catholics we should take it all seriously even when we disagree.  Critique the statement to be sure, but do not dismiss it.  I personally believe that while some parts of the document may be flawed from a technical point of view that it enunciates some important principles of Catholic social teaching that should not be ignored, and that indeed should be put into practice if we are to live in a more just and peaceful world.  What think ye of all of this?

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Gift of Imagination

   As one who strives to keep up with the advances in technology both to advance my ministry as a preacher and for personal enjoyment I was fascinated by the extensive coverage of the death of Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs the past week.  One of the blogs that I follow and that is referenced on this blog is Whispers in the Loggia, a site which puts out news of what's going on in the Church these days.  Last week I noticed that "Whispers" carried an article from Osservatore Romano about this extraordinary man.  You can click on the link here to see this article--Steve Jobs.

   Several things struck me about this article the most important of which is the fact that with the exception of world political leaders  the Vatican does not usually reference the deaths of people outside the Church.  In this case however there is a recognition that this man, who did not share our religious beliefs, was a true visionary who made a significant contribution to life in our world today.  This is an example of something that I prefer to call "The Catholic vision of Life."  What I mean by this is that when we Catholics are at our best (something which is not always the case) we are able to look out at the world and acknowledge the gifts that God has given to scientists, artists, politicians, etc. and affirm the results of their contributions as blessings from God even though many of them are not of our faith or even of no faith at all.  At a deep level I think that this is because we look at humanity and creation in general as inherently  good in spite of human sinfulness. With this belief in mind we can appreciate music, art, theater and scientific accomplishments as blessings and as ways of drawing us closer to God and each other.

   Now some might point out, and correctly so, that Mr. Jobs inventions as well as other advances in modern technology can lead us down the wrong path.  That is where it is up to us, a creatures of free will to use these gifts properly.  In this case this Franciscan advises that we keep the motto of the Jesuits in mind--Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam--For the Greater  Glory of  God.  If we use our computers, smart phones, etc. with that in mind a lot of good can come of it.

    A second thought on Mr. Jobs and on the above mentioned article is the fact that he was called a visionary, a term often used for saints and mystics.  While the Vatican was certainly not trying to canonize this man I find this term interesting because it gives praise to a faculty which I think that we humans don't use often enough--the gift of imagination.  When I'm doing a parish mission and speaking to school kids I encourage them to take time to daydream (though cautioning them not to do so while in class), to use their imagination to think about possibilities for their life and to ask God to guide their dreaming.  Steve Jobs is an example of what dreams can do and a challenge to all of us to strive to imagine a better. more just and peaceful world.

   So lets thank God for the life of Steve Jobs and let us as well, as good Catholics, pray for the repose of his soul.
PS--thought you'd enjoy this cartoon