Yesterday was the first session of the Fall Reflection Series I am offering this fall at the University of St. Thomas School of Law. The reflection series is titled Jesus Speaks and it is designed to deepen our appreciation of fundamental Christian teachings drawn from the words of Christ. Each session includes a talk, time for individual reflection and some sharing of the prayer experience.
The focus of today’s session was the Lord’s Prayer, perhaps the most well-known prayer in the Christian tradition, although as i shared with the participants the prayer comes almost verbatim from the Talmud. After giving a brief introduction to the series, I offered some thoughts about the various petitions of the prayer.
You can access a recording of my talk here or stream it from the icon below. (The podcast runs for 25:44.) A copy of the the handout I distributed to participants for their prayer this week is here.
Our session continues next week with a focus on the Beatitudes.
What might be the petitions of the prayer from our brothers and sisters in Heaven?
Susan’s posting on the 10th of this month, the anniversary of my maternal grandmother’s birth (1885), brought to mind her, her sister’s and their husband’s (brothers also) Kohrt Brother’s Pine Street Market in Old North Hibbing (1903). They were newlyweds relocating from the Twin Cities, with their fledgling new business opened in the midst of the nation’s most booming iron mining community – a new chapter in their lives that tested both faith and resolve – old photographs, prayer and reflection returned thoughts to Perpetua’s relationships with the workers, domestic help, craftsmen and builders at her father’s estates, and the shop keepers and merchants of her native Carthage.
Whether it be influence of ‘spirit’ or ‘demon’ that formulates thought, I know not which. Recurring reflections continually return to Perpetua as an only daughter, whose early years played out amongst the young servant and slave girls under her father’s roofs. The Holy Spirit, ever present within, was manifested in her relationships with others before she was introduced to Jesus.
Reflecting upon an earlier post of the Baptist’s incarceration, Perpetua’s journal speaks of her own confinement to spaces damp, dank, amidst a dearth of decency and comfort that both challenged and strengthened her faith – she whose loving, merciful heart and example introduced and brought others to Christ during her imprisonment, on the day of her martyrdom, years following through the telling of her and her fellow martyr’s suffering and death, and her lasting Spiritual presence among those residing at her family estates, and the families tending the markets, booths and shops of Carthage – The same Spiritual presence that came into my life 1,750 years later.
Upon her introduction to Jesus, she eschewed the privacy and protection of her litter captain, no longer carried to and fro with customary curtains closed – she, wrapped in a modest palla with radiant hints noticed of smile, a twinkle in her eyes, and splashes of her colorful embroidered silk stola visible with each step she took, Lady Perpetua introduced herself to the proprietors and their workers who had previously served her mother’s and her own servants on behalf of the noble Vibii family.
Appearing in public as a vibrant, yet humble Christian woman, confidently navigating the streets and narrow passageways of her hometown, glances, attention, and complimentary conversation followed as Perpetua paused to honor, thank, began to forge friendships unaccustomed, and in time each embraced their relationships forged out of the love of Jesus witnessed through experiences shared.
Reverent respect for those who served saw stooped shoulders straightened, chins uplifted, eyes brightened, smiles appearing and generosity shared as the favored or prized from vendor, merchant and craftsperson was often reserved and initially offered to Lady Perpetua. The finest of produce, fruit, meat, fish of the day, fashion accessories, fabric and much more offered – often more than needed did she purchase and portions she returned to the proprietor’s children and family – all graciously sharing in the Lord’s splendid bounty.
In many ways it appears that the continuum of Perpetua’s Spiritual relationship with her Carthaginian brothers and sisters in Christ and her and my relationship with our brothers and sisters since I was four years old are recurring inspirations of insight, creativity, and skill generously ‘Gifted’ that are manifested daily amongst many while responding to our Lord’s calling to share our ‘God given Gifts’ with all of His children.
The early Church leaders, were and some to this day, struggled with the attention given and affection shown to Saints Felicity and Perpetua, questioning why the four men also imprisoned and martyred were not as revered.
Perpetua became a bride of Jesus not through an overt act of expelling demons, of miraculous healing, of conversion from sin or of a profound vision to follow the Lord. She came to Christ upon the awakening of the precious gifts of the Holy Spirit dwelling within since her birth and the further manifestation of Our Lord’s unconditional Love forever endowed.
During her day, to have been a beautiful, young women from a noble family immersed in Roman culture and pagan beliefs, practices and celebrations, fluent in Latin, Greek and her native Punic language, steeped in Socratic philosophy and argument, accomplished in mathematics and the sciences, and inspired by the Classics – and to have remained chaste until twenty was most unusual.
Noticed since childhood for her ‘Gifts’ given and shared, her gentle heart and voice, her charismatic personality, and her strength of virtue she was and remained a ‘beacon’ to both emulation and derision.
No wonder her ‘Light’ shown brighter once she encountered Jesus and in a quietly-loud profession of her new Christian faith she softened and change hearts, introduced others to Christ and ultimately sealed her own death.
Her quietly-loud profession of faith from centuries past, and her diary entries encouraged giving voice to many who have professed their faith similarly since then, as she continues to help give voice to everyone who professes their faith quietly-loud to this day – The voices whose lives she touched, and the voices over the centuries of those who have recalled and passed on their inspiring encounters with her, and many like her, are voices we continue to hear today.
Some believe a schism has been germinating within the Roman Church since Vatican II, and that Pope Francis is leading his flock forward to a calamitous collision during this the age of ‘New Evangelism.’ For whom does the Holy Spirit speak?
Blessed individuals like Gail Buckley, founder and president of Catholic Scripture Study International (CSSI), affectionately known as ‘The Bible Lady’ on Radio Maria for her lay ministry. Her ‘calling’ from the Holy Spirit as a protestant woman to establish and publish a Bible introduced her to the Catholic faith, RCIA, and led to her conversion – and gave birth to an inspiring Bible that is ‘completely’ faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church, and with the ‘Apologetics’ she authorized to be included has become the foundation for CSSI. CSSI whose “. . . study commentaries are written by leading Scripture scholars and authors and each study contains references to the ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church, papal encyclicals and writings of the early Church Fathers and the saints.” –CSSI.
Though why a Bible focused on defending the faith from inquiries of Christians not of the Roman Church and from non-Christians inspired in life by another or unnamed ‘Spirit’?
If faith’s journey leads one to, or through, the Diocese of Oakland an opportunity to attend Mass at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Brentwood would be a blessing. The Pastor Fr. Jerry Brown, a former Episcopal Priest ordained to the Roman Catholic Priesthood in 2001, at age 54, exemplifies answering Jesus’ calling to ministry – a calling to minister to all of His children non-Catholic and Catholic alike. . .
Father Brown “was born in Napa, Northern California’s wine country, to two non-religious parents. He developed an interest in the Catholic Church through some friends, even considering the priesthood. His father persuaded him to instead become a priest in the Episcopal Church. He was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1970, and served for 25 years. He married, and had four children (two of whom are surviving; one died as a small child, the other as an adult in an auto accident).” – The Catholic World Report (04-15-14).
In his years as an Episcopal priest, Father Brown saw the Episcopal Church change dramatically. “The church I left,” he said, “was a different one than the one I joined.” Socially, the Episcopal Church “embraced every liberal cause,” such as the ordination of women, acceptance of homosexual behavior, no-fault divorce, and abortion. Theologically, it “had abandoned the historic faith, and is now getting in to New Age stuff.” – TCWR (04-15-14).
Before his ordination he was required to obtain an annulment of his marriage in order to consecrate and receive the Sacred Eucharist – a marriage that had ended in divorce some 15 years prior, though both had remained friends and were active in their children’s lives. Before proceeding, the Church’s requested his estranged wife give her consent to an annulment. She was initially reluctant, fearful that doing so would imply their children illegitimate. Assured by the Archdiocese’s Office of Canonical Affairs and The Tribunal that an annulment would not declare them illegitimate, she gave her consent.
“While the Church does not have the power to divorce those who have been united by God, a ‘Decree of Invalidity” states that the sacramental bond of marriage was never present.” – OFCA.
Which one of the 21 Canon Laws identified as grounds for an annulment could have been so liberally interpreted and cited to have allowed this mature and mentally competent couple to have been granted an annulment? Through the most trying of times between married couples, like the death of their small child, the Church teaches that faith, obedience to Church teaching and truth, and suffering must be endured for the sake of the family and the children.
Is it the Canonical Office and Tribunal or ‘married’ couples that abuse the annulment process when sexual, physical, alcoholic, drug, and other abuses are not grounds to leave an unsafe marriage citing divorce as the convenience of a liberal society often seeking self-gratification and selfish pursuits – while expediency and ‘the means justifying the ends,’ in cases similar to Father Browns, are defended as examples of the sacramental bond of marriage never present, and ‘not’ liberal interpretations of Canonical Law?
Obedience to whose interpretation of ‘The Truth’ are we called to embrace? To whom should the Eucharist be withheld? The upcoming ‘Year of Mercy’ offers opportunities to be merciful and in Love return the Sacred Sacrament to those deserving. . .
During the Pope’s visit to the Americas for the Festival of Families many a Cardinal, Bishop and clergy will bow to kiss his ring having previously pledged, and marshalled their forces in preparation to counter Francis’ liberal agenda during the synod in October – similar to the hypocrisy often privately proclaimed after Ecumenical gatherings for the reconciliation of the Faiths when prayer and supplication is offered by the Roman Church for all to one day be in full communion with the ‘One and True Church’ – the Roman Church. . .
Who answered, somewhat sarcastically, “You were there. . .” To my lament, “Lord if only you were here!” during the homily after the Gospel (The Samaritan Woman at the Well) on the third Sunday of Lent, March 23, 2014 that transformed a Scriptural message of acceptance and inclusion into one of ‘there is but one path to salvation’ through obedience to the teachings of the ‘One True Church.’– The devil, the Holy Spirit, Jesus, our brothers and sisters in Heaven, whom?
Recalling Perpetua’s and my visit to the orchards of Carthage where the ‘master’ shared the story of harvest assures that ‘Good Fruit’ is not the bounty of a single orchard – The ‘tap root’ of ancestry was planted by God encompassing all corners of the world, with the roots of history quenched by His ‘Living Water’ nourishing ‘one and all’ no matter origin, race, religion or faith.
The appearance of the ‘Good Fruit’ is not all telling. Appearance reveals not the love, charity and mercy of the heart – assuredly not revealing transgressions committed or forgiven concealed within. As the New Covenant brought fulfillment to the ‘Old’ with God no longer writing upon stone tablets, but writing upon our hearts, we have been called to embrace, harvest, share and partake of the ‘Good Fruit’ with everyone.
Might the ‘quietly-loud voices we continually hear – encouraging us to share our God Given Gifts with all of His children, and to continually be of service to all as Pope Francis proclaimed in his Homily in Havana’s Revolution Square this morning – be our brothers in sisters, of all beliefs, in Heaven confirming that since birth we (‘You were there’) were with Jesus spiritually, through His unconditional Love and Gift of Spirit, during all of his encounters and teachable moments – called as He proclaimed,
“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” John – 14:12
We are continually called by our brothers and sister who have also gone to the Father to bring about his Kingdom on Earth – to participate fully in establishing His One Family, on earth and in Heaven.
“Truly I tell you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.” Mark – 14:25
Which family is next ‘October’s Synod of Bishops on the Family’ to include? Have our brothers and sisters in Heaven not waited long enough for His Kingdom Come?
Acceptance, Inclusion – Schism? . . .