Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Random Musings of Faith - July 30, 2014

"Just do it."

I'm trying to take two walks a day on the beach. Unless I'm with somebody else, I listen to something on my iPhone. Right now, I'm in the middle of one of those free courses one can get on iTunesU, "A History of Modern Philosophy." It's always good to go back to basics ...

Yesterday and today, the professor has been presenting on Pascal's Christianity and Spinoza's Deism. At one point, the prof was discussing Pascal's "Pensées" and his famous "Wager." Pascal concludes that to act as if one believed in God and his commandments, even if one did not believe, was a logical choice - a good wager - because it was ultimately in one's eternal best interest to do so. But he doesn't just leave it there. He goes on to further say that the very act of choosing to believe in God and follow the teaching of Christ - to act in that way ethically and morally - will ultimately lead to belief. Just as one can smile at times even though one does not feel like smiling, if you smile enough you will eventually become happy. To act is to become ....

While there is a lot of room for debate here, there is also a lot of truth. How do I come to know and love God? - by serving him. In my own efforts to know and love Jesus in a personal way, there is prayer, there is Scripture, there is the teaching of the Church, the Fathers, the saints, good authors, great art and poetry.  Yet, there are also the corporal works of mercy by which I serve my brothers and sisters in need. I come to know Christ and love Him in them. To act is to become ....

Monday, July 28, 2014

Random Musings of Faith - July 28, 2014

- Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary as I pray for peace in the Middle East today.

- Interesting article on "The Tablet" webpage today. Among the discussion of the future Archbishop of Chicago is the ongoing discussion of the impact of Pope Francis on the worldwide Church and more particularly on the Church in the United States.  For me, Pope Francis has not in any way changed the content of the Church's Faith, so much as he has changed the conversation. By this I mean that he has helped all of us engage the world, cultures, other religions, believers, unbelievers, etc. not by being defined by what we are against, so much as what we are for. We are for those on the margins, the poor, the sick, the immigrant, the homeless, the unloved, the prisoner. We are for peace. We are about mercy and forgiveness. We are for Christian reconciliation.  But most especially, we are about the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Good News as gift offered for the salvation of all who come to believe in Him as their Lord and Savior.

- Just finishing an interesting book on the Carmelite martyrs of Compiégne who were guillotined in 1794 during the reign of terror because they refused to renounce their faith and join the revolution. I highly recommend it because it not only is a powerful story but it sets straight the historical record that has been somewhat distorted by the earlier novels and an opera.

Bush, William. To Quell the Terror: the True Story of the Carmelite Martyrs of Compiégne. Washington DC: ICS Publications, 1999.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Random Musings of Faith - July 27, 2014

(The rain is coming down and folks are fleeing the beach ... )

"Yet just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me empty, but shall do what pleases me, achieving the end for which I sent it."  Isaiah 55: 10-11

This is one of my favorite Bible passages along with the Parable of the Sower. It reminds me that at the end of the day, the response of others to the Word of God and the call to Faith is out of my hands. All I can do is try and nurture the Word and the seed by my witness to the Lord Jesus Christ in the faith of the Church, trusting that the Word will not return to God empty or the seed fall only on barren soil.

Which reminds me of one of my favorite stories ...

A young man is walking along the ocean and sees a beach on which thousands and thousands of starfish have washed ashore. Further along he sees an old man, walking slowly and stooping often, picking up one starfish after another and tossing each one gently into the ocean.

“Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?,” he asks.

“Because the sun is up and the tide is going out and if I don’t throw them further in they will die.”

“But, old man, don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it! You can’t possibly save them all, you can’t even save one-tenth of them. In fact, even if you work all day, your efforts won’t make any difference at all.”

The old man listened calmly and then bent down to pick up another starfish and threw it into the sea. “It made a difference to that one.”

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Random Musings of Faith - July 26, 2014

(I'm on vacation with a bunch of priests friends.)

Last night's table conversation at one point meandered into a discussion of Ross Douthat's latest blog posting on Cardinal Walter Kasper's interview with Commomweal magazine a few months back. Among many things which Cardinal Kasper spoke about was the question of Communion for Catholics who were in a second, invalid marriage. As you can well imagine, our conversation went back and forth across a whole range of discussion r.e. both Douthat's blog and the Cardinal's interview.

At one point, we were talking about the practice in Eastern Orthodox churches of allowing, for various reasons, a second or even third marriage — and thus access to Communion — while still considering the first marriage sacramentally valid. I began to think back to my studies in Rome when I was pursuing my doctorate in Sacred Liturgy and all the courses I took on Eastern Rite liturgies and theology. I wonder if the practice of the Eastern Orthodox churches as regards remarriage and communion would be, in the end, something that could "fit" into our Western Latin church?

 A "Rite" (capital "R") is a particular, distinct church with all of its history, culture, language, rituals, etc, like the Maronite Rite or the Mozarabic Rite or the Greek Orthodox church. One of the riches of a Rite is the whole entanglement of its Christian life. One cannot simply lift a rite (small "r") or practice out of a Rite and fit it into an other Rite. So much of how it (the "rite" or a "practice") is understood and lived is found within the whole of the life of those who live as Christians within that Rite.  It doesn't migrate well.

So my question is how does a ritual practice (allowing for a second or even third marriage) of the Eastern Orthodox churches with its wholly different liturgical, sacramental, ecclesial, and theological foundations migrate into the Western Latin church and its own foundations without selling the richness of each Rite and its traditions short? I don't have the answer, of course, but I am willing to engage the question. There may even be some who would challenge the validity of my premise here and that's a good thing too....

Friday, July 25, 2014

Random Musings of Faith - July 25, 2014

Today's thoughts while walking the beach:

In my conversations with many people both in and outside the Church, I have found a profound difference between those who have a deep relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and those who do not. I was recently on a long walk with a young man who is married and soon (very soon) to become a father. His profound love for Jesus was so clear in our conversation. He loved the Lord personally and had come to know him communally in the Church. All of the other relationships, all of the choices he made in his life, the direction in which his life was moving flowed from that deep, abiding love of Christ and his Church. So much of what our Faith held and taught made sense to him precisely because his life was Christ-centered. I hadn't had such a wonderful four-mile walk in a long time ...

Some clarity flowed in my own thoughts as a result of my time with him. One cannot begin to understand why the Church teaches what it knows to be the truth and then accept and live her discipline as a disciple with gratitude and joy until one "sits at the foot of the Master" and says, "Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that you are the way, the truth and the life."

The work of evangelization is first and foremost a personal witness to the profound love that I have for Jesus Christ so that others may know and love Him as well.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Random Musings of Faith - July 24, 2014

Some thoughts and prayers while on vacation on the coast of Maine:

- Over the past three years as I have lectured and preached on the call to evangelization that is being directed not just "ad gentes" ("to the nations") but "ad Occidentem" ("to the West"), it has become more and more clear that here in the United States we are dealing with a culture and country that is no longer Judeo-Christian at its foundations but is in fact "missionary" territory. This has caused me to make radical shifts in my assumptions: I cannot assume that basic concepts like God, faith, and salvation, for example, are understood even remotely in the same way between the person or audience with whom I am speaking - unless in limited, faith-filled settings - and myself. I almost have to approach it as if I have landed on the shore of a new land that has never heard anything of our Faith.

- In another direction, as I walked along in the shallow water of the beaches edge in a light rain this morning, I prayed the Rosary (the "Luminous Mysteries") and offered my prayers for the suffering churches in the Middle East. On this day on which the Church honors and calls upon the intercession of St. Sharbel Makhluf, a Maronite priest and monk of Lebanon, I couldn't help but feel great sadness for these ancient churches that have been facing so much persecution and destruction over the past decades.  Over on the Anchoress' blog, Elizabeth Scalia is offering some suggestions on what each one of us can do in response to what is happening. As for this morning, prayer will have to suffice ....

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

You never know ... A powerful story about my invocation at the Indy 500

I've received a lot of good feedback on my invocation at the Race of Sunday but this one just blew me away ...

"Hello Bishop Coyne:

I had to write to you about your invocation at the 500, which was incredible and much needed for me personally due to what I witnessed walking into the speedway that morning. Westboro Church was out front of the South Chute with absolutely horrible signs, no need to recap them, I'm certain you know their agenda. I was walking with my junior high school aged son and his best friend and had to try and answer their questions as to why they were there. The best I could come up with was something along the lines of that hate is like acid inside a person, we just brushed up against them a got a small burn, they feel that that 24 hours a day. The best thing to do is just pity them, because what they are saying is completely false. However, inside my head I wanted to walk over to them and give them a piece of my mind.

Inside the track, other people were talking about the scene as well. Then you spoke and began asking "can I get an amen". What I saw next was incredible. People of various countries, dialects, spiritual beliefs, opposing political views and any other difference you can name all became one loud voice, a positive voice in which no one was excluded. I know the protestors had to hear this. I don't know if that was something you had intended, but it was much appreciated."

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