What does a distinctively lay spirituality look like?
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Just a note to let you all know about a new essay of mine that's up today on Catholic Exchange entitled The Great Divorce and the Challenge of Faith (click on the title to go there). It's a meditation on faith and our heavenly destiny, based on C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce with insights from Fr. Luigi Giussani's new book Is It Possible to Live This Way?
Fr. Giussani thus radically reorganizes the categories of the faith vs. reason debate. Since faith is the foundation of our knowledge about the world, faith is the most reasonable choice to make when evaluating the testimony of someone you know and trust — especially if the encounter is exceptional in some way. He continues: “From a rational point of view, it’s clear that if you become certain that another person knows what he or she is saying and doesn’t want to deceive, then logically you should trust, because if you don’t trust you go against yourself, against the judgment you formulated that that person knows what he or she says and doesn’t want to deceive you.”[v] For Lewis’ fellow bus travelers to the heavenly valley, faith is actually the most reasonable response to the extraordinary encounters they are having, but in denying and rejecting the new vision, the visitors are acting in a most tragically irrational, unreasonable way. The human bond of trust they had with their now Bright friend or loved one should have enabled them to trust the information they were receiving and to allow themselves to be led by that love and trust into the mountains. But alas — they could not overcome their pride, their bitterness, their greed — that is, their insistence that Heaven’s infinite glory conform to their finite conceptions. And they go against themselves.
You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments." Mt 22:37-40.Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are practices meant to help us fulfill these two commandments. Our natural tendency is to focus on ourselves - to love and care for ourselves first, then our neighbor, and to place God last. Of course, the neighbor we tend to care for is the one who is like us, or who has demonstrated some love for us first. And while God's expectations of us are clear in the Scriptures, He doesn't seem to force them - or Himself - upon us from day to day.
Is this the manner of fasting I wish, of keeping a day of penance: That a man bow his head like a reed, and lie in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?Again, we see that almsgiving also focuses our attention away from ourselves. The "fast" Isaiah describes requires us to see the needs of the oppressed, the imprisoned, the hungry, naked, and homeless. It demands that we expand our understanding of "our own" beyond the narrow confines of family and friends.
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own. Isaiah 58:5-7
Catholic writer David Delaney has posted some of his thoughts here on Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist. This paragraph really struck me:
Then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger wrote the following observation in a forward to a book on the demonic titled "Renewal and the Powers of Darkness" published in 1983 by Cardinal Suenens. "What is the relation between personal experience and the common faith of the Church? Both factors are important: a dogmatic faith unsupported by personal experience remains empty; mere personal experience unrelated to the faith of the Church remains blind." I find that combination of dogmatic faith and personal experience to be crucial in my own developing faith. Let me explain a bit.
Amy Wellborn's "Open Book" blog has an interesting post on "Reverts", that is, Catholics who left the Church, then returned (click on the title of this post to go there). The "dirty secret" is a journey of faith (and doubt or disinterest or disdain or disillusionment, etc.) that, believe it or not, everyone seems to have. We Catholics seldom ask for permission of one another to talk about that journey, which is why I'm jokingly calling it a dirty secret. There are quite a few stories of reversion there, but I'd like to make a few observations about what I've seen on that thread. However, I encourage you to go see for yourself!
How many of you are planning on watching the NFL playoff games?