Will the Real Pope Francis Please Stand Up?

*This is probably going to be a longer post than usual, partially because I need to quote a lot of people in it. But I’d really appreciate your thoughts if you can spare them.*

source: thesestonewalls.com

Hopefully you read this already – Pope Francis’ interview in America Magazine.

If you haven’t, then go do it now. Pray before you read it and then pray after you read it.

If you have been reading media soundbites from “the left” or “the right” on what the pope said and what he must have meant, but you haven’t read the actual interview in its entirety, then drop everything and go read it.

Okay? Okay.

Both the Catholic and the non-Catholic blogospheres are erupting over this interview (and other things Pope Francis has said and done). People from all sides love him, and people from all sides are starting to really really dislike him, too.

Which, for me, generally speaking, is always a good sign. As Chesterton says:

And then in a quiet hour a strange thought struck me like a still thunderbolt. There had suddenly come into my mind another explanation. Suppose we heard an unknown man spoken of by many men. Suppose we were puzzled to hear that some men said he was too tall and some too short; some objected to his fatness, some lamented his leanness; some thought him too dark, and some too fair. One explanation (as has been already admitted) would be that he might be an odd shape. But there is another explanation. He might be the right shape. (G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy)

I really do understand the general discomfort, though. Mostly because I am feeling the discomfort myself. To be honest, I personally prefer Pope Benedict’s reserve and style. But my personal preferences have nothing to do with it.

Just glancing at the Huffington Post’s article on Pope Francis excommunicating an Australian priest who had started his own church, advocated for same-sex relationships and women priests (I mean… what did you expect the pope would do? This man had already excommunicated himself) will tell you a LOT about how a lot of people are being duped (as usual) by the media. Looking the plethora of horribly misinformed comments, I can  sympathize with Father Dwight Longenecker’s concern (although not with his rather strange use of the term “homosexualists”):

Rod Dreher in the NY Times suggests that the effect of Pope Francis’ America interview is that American Catholics (and the rest of the liberal gang) now assume that Catholic bishops need to simply shut up about abortion, same sex marriage and contraception because the Pope has told them to. Read the article here.

I fear he is correct. I’ve already read articles by homosexualists Catholics who have said (in effect) “I’m so glad Pope Francis has finally said that he accepts me as I am.” Which means “he condones my lifestyle.”

Yes, yes I know that’s not what the Pope said, but that is how it is being misinterpreted.

I can even sympathize a little with SOME of the things George Neumayr says in his troubling assessment, “When Paul Corrected Peter” … although, as I will explain below, I believe he is fundamentally mistaken about his main argument:

Some future Edward Gibbon should devote a chapter or two to this grimly comic episode: a Jesuit pope chatting about the appeal of diluted orthodoxy and “pastoral” effectiveness with the least pastorally effective and most heterodox order in the Church. We can’t “obsess” over abortion, contraception, and gay marriage “all the time,” he said, telling his fellow Jesuits exactly what they wanted to hear. They don’t even talk about those issues some ofthe time. (Neumayr)

But this is what Pope Francis actually said about his own order, the Jesuits:

The Society must always have before itself the Deus semper maior, the always-greater God, and the pursuit of the ever greater glory of God, the church as true bride of Christ our Lord, Christ the king who conquers us and to whom we offer our whole person and all our hard work, even if we are clay pots, inadequate. This tension takes us out of ourselves continuously. The tool that makes the Society of Jesus not centered in itself, really strong, is, then, the account of conscience, which is at the same time paternal and fraternal, because it helps the Society to fulfill its mission better. (“A Big Heart Open to God,” America Magazine)

And also:

So now, more than ever, the Society of Jesus must be contemplative in action, must live a profound closeness to the whole church as both the ‘people of God’ and ‘holy mother the hierarchical church.’ This requires much humility, sacrifice and courage, especially when you are misunderstood or you are the subject of misunderstandings and slanders, but that is the most fruitful attitude. (Ibid, my emphasis)

Maybe certain Jesuits (and others) choose to hear only what they want to hear from the pope’s words. But so did the Pharisees and many others in Jesus’ time when He was preaching. “Those who have hears to hear, let them hear” (Mark 4:9, Matthew 11:15, Revelation 3:22).

As for the big controversy over the pope’s ‘minimizing’ the moral issues that have characterized much of the culture wars, pause for a moment and think. Pope Francis was actually saying that Jesus Christ is the most important part of the Christian message, and we cannot let other (albeit important) parts overshadow Him.

In his own words:

The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all. The confessor, for example, is always in danger of being either too much of a rigorist or too lax. Neither is merciful, because neither of them really takes responsibility for the person. The rigorist washes his hands so that he leaves it to the commandment. The loose minister washes his hands by simply saying, ‘This is not a sin’ or something like that. In pastoral ministry we must accompany people, and we must heal their wounds. (Ibid)

During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge. By saying this, I said what the catechism says. (Ibid)

The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow. (Ibid)

One point that is repeatedly being made by even orthodox Catholics is that the Pope needs to be more careful, that because the media (and others) are twisting his words, he needs to take that more into account when he speaks. Some Catholics, while they do not disagree with the content of the Pope’s message, are very unhappy about his tone. They are afraid the pope is (inadvertently) misleading people, and giving them the wrong idea about what the Church actually stands for. There is definitely some merit to this concern.

source: iowakofc.org

But I cannot help but think of John 6, where everybody LOVES Jesus because He just has multiplied the loaves and the fishes. Wow, what a great guy! We were hungry and he fed us! (Think of Pope Francis when he was first elected, and how even the media were impressed by his humility and his nearness to the poor).

But of course it does not last. Jesus shortly there afterward totally scandalizes everybody when He announces He is going to give them his flesh and blood to eat and drink. When people start being horrified (cannibalism?), and even when the majority of them misunderstand Him and walk away … He does not change his message. He does not say, “Oh… wait… I was just using this weird metaphor for believing in me. Come back. You misunderstood.” In fact, He makes His message more extreme and more emphatic:

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.54Whoever eats* my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.55For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.57Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. (John 6: 53-57)

source: nunspeak.wordpress.com

And — perhaps hitting more closely to home when we think of Christ’s Vicar on earth, Pope Francis — remember all those people who were scandalized that Jesus spent all his time with tax collectors and sinners? (cf. Matthew 9:1, Luke 5:30, Mark 2:16) I mean, sharing a meal with other people is a sign of intimacy, of solidarity, of closeness. Can’t you imagine the Pharisees saying, “But Jesus, really. Now all the other prostitutes and tax collectors are going to think that what they’re doing is okay! They’re going to think your new version of Judaism approves of betraying our people to Rome! They’re going to think that one should not be punished for adultery! You’re going to be misunderstood!”

And… they were right. He was misunderstood. All the time. At almost every turn, every interaction, Jesus is confronting people who misinterpret what He says or simply refuse to listen.

Think about His trial, and all the ridiculous and inconsistent testimonies they leveled at him. A blasphemer, a rebel, an insurrectionist, etc.

And, even more perplexingly, Jesus does not defend Himself at his trial. He does not say, “Wait, you guys, you’re totally misunderstanding me. In fact, you didn’t even quote me right. You quoted me out of context with that whole ‘destroy the Temple’ thing.”

Jesus did NOT say that. Instead:

The chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus in order to put him to death, but they found none.56Many gave false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree.5715 Some took the stand and testified falsely against him, alleging,58″We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands and within three days I will build another not made with hands.'”59Even so their testimony did not agree.60The high priest rose before the assembly and questioned Jesus, saying, “Have you no answer? What are these men testifying against you?”6116 But he was silent and answered nothing. (Mark 14:55-61)

Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Jesus replied, “You have said it.”

Then the leading priests kept accusing him of many crimes, and Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer them? What about all these charges they are bringing against you?”But Jesus said nothing, much to Pilate’s surprise. (Mark 15:2-5)

Here’s my point:

I’m not saying Pope Francis is Jesus. I am not saying he is perfect.

But I am saying that all of the things people are saying ABOUT him are reminding me a lot of what people said about Our Lord. He’s too liberal, He’s too conservative, He says one thing and does another, He does one thing and says another, blah blah blah.

When, if you examine the Pope’s own words, you discover how much they are centered on Jesus Christ and not upon himself.

If you want to read a really amazing article that expresses what I’m trying to say, please read this amazing reflection by Dr. Gregory Popcak: Papa Francis, the Prodigal, and the “Good Son”.

A taste:

I have, as long as I can remember, had a strong appreciation for the office of the pope.


Which is why my reactions to Pope Francis have bothered me so much.  On the one hand, I find much to admire.  His simplicity.  His heart.  His genuine love for people.  His obvious love for Christ.  On the other hand, I have been genuinely put off–sometimes even angered–by a lot of things he has said that, frankly, have made my job harder.

In the last several weeks alone, I have had people challenge me in ways I haven’t encountered before.  It used to be that when I made some statement about the Church’s positions on marriage, love and sex, people would accept it.  They wouldn’t always like it, but they knew it was true.   They knew it was true, because even if they didn’t exactly get it, they knew what I was saying at least sounded like what they heard Pope JPII or Pope Benedict say.    But now, all of a sudden, I’m getting a kind-of push back I haven’t experienced before.  “Well, the POPE, said…”  Or,  ”That’s not what Pope FRANCISsaid the other day….”  As if I haven’t read the same interviews.  (from Faith on the Couch)

Now go read it.


Also I have another homework assignment for you. (Remember, I am a teacher… I can’t get away from it). Go read this wonderful (and far more eloquent) synopsis of the situation by Michael Gerson over at the Washington Post (of all places!)

Pope Francis the Troublemaker

Experience as Knowledge

I just started a new unit with my students on Mythology AND Short Stories. Usually these genres are studied separately, but I thought it would be cool to discover what is most essential about human storytelling by looking at the chronological extremes — the most ancient human stories and the most recent ones. Why do we tell stories, anyway?

Before diving into our first myth as a class — the story of Prometheus — we did a “fishbowl discussion” in which we explored four main ideas. For bell work, my kids had to respond to these ideas (“I agree / disagree and this is why…”) and so they were able to gather their thoughts before the conversation began.

1. The best way to learn is through experience.

2. In the end, virtue is always rewarded.

3. To understand good, one must understand evil.

4. The purpose of the story is to entertain.

Here are the results:

1. Most of my students (unsurprisingly) agreed with this statement.

2. We actually skipped over this one, but I’m hoping we will talk about it later.

3. Again, unsurprisingly, most of my students agreed with this one too. Some of them went even so far as to claim, “Without good, there can be no evil; and without evil, there can be no good. Good and evil need each other.” (I was slowly dying inside, but I guess they are just in high school).

4. They were more divided on this one. Apparently they learned last year that stories/written works generally have three possible purposes: 1) to entertain 2) to inform and 3) to persuade. Their responses to this statement were therefore more nuanced, for the most part.

source: brandigirlblog.com

I think #1 and #3 really go together. Even when I proffered a more extreme example in my honors class – “Well, if you need to understand evil in order to understand good, does that mean that a sinner knows more about goodness than a saint does? Like, for example, Hitler knows more about good and evil than St. Therese does?”

Surprisingly (and somewhat disturbingly), a lot of my kids said yes. Because to them, knowledge = experience. If you haven’t experienced something yourself, how can you possibly know what it is?

For my honors class I paraphrased this statement by C. S. Lewis in response:

No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness — they have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means — the only complete realist. (Lewis, Mere Christianity)

Well, the “lie” may be “obvious” to Lewis, but it is certainly not obvious to most of the students I teach. I think a few of them saw what I (or rather, Lewis) was getting at, but not all of them.

What’s rather disturbing is that the idea that experience is the best teacher is so ingrained in all of us. There is, of course, a lot of truth to it — that’s why we have all these cliches about learning from your mistakes and walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. But it’s also the source of some big problems.

The cult of experience as knowledge, when taken to its extreme (as it usually is these days), ends up ignoring all other types of knowing or disregarding them.

“You’re not me! You don’t know what it’s like to be me!”

Although that is true, that does not necessarily mean another person cannot have some insight into your condition. Experience as knowledge often disregards sympathy. No, I do not know exactly how you feel, but I can put myself in your place imaginatively – without actually having to do what you are doing.

How many times did I experience this (see what I did there?) as a high school student? So many of my friends/acquaintances did not want to take me seriously because I hadn’t “experienced” enough things. I did not drink or smoke or have sex, therefore (they concluded) I could not possibly understand what they were going through.

And although in some sense that is true, in another way it is a lie –

The same lie that the snake told Adam and Eve in the garden.

For so many of us, mere “witness” or “sympathy” or “word” is not enough. The only thing (we say) we will listen to is Experience.

“Ah, but did God say ye may not eat of that tree? It’s only because He doesn’t want you to be as powerful as He is, and to know (i.e. experience) good and evil! Come on… taste and see for yourself…”

And so, because Eve became enamored of Experience – the Knowledge of Good and Evil – she hate the fruit and gave it to her husband.

Genesis tells us that indeed they learned something – “their eyes were opened” and “they saw that they were naked.”

But they also lost something – knowledge of a profound intimacy with God.

source: squareone-learning.com

Which is why faith is so difficult for us now – whether it’s having faith in another person or in God. We think we need to EXPERIENCE God before we will believe in Him.

Even certain (more modern) branches of Christianity fall into this trap. Faith itself becomes so much of an “experience” that they can even tell you the time and place it first happened. I know God is real because I have experienced Him.

But does that mean that those who *have not experienced* God, in the popular sense, are therefore off the hook?

One last thought:

God seems to get our whole need for experience thing. After all, He decided the best way to save us would be to *experience* being human for Himself – even though, being God and omniscient, He already knew what it was like. And furthermore, Jesus was able to reveal the Father to us because He Himself had *experienced* the Father from all eternity:

“No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him” (Matthew 11:27).

“No one has ever seen God; only the Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known” (John 1:18).

But the problem is, we do not trust Jesus’ experience. Nor do we trust the experience of the apostles who experienced Him. Nor the disciples of the apostles who experienced them. Nor the experience of the ones who came after that… and so on. Because experience, at this point, has turned into witness. And witness means believing what someone else says, whether or not you have directly experienced what they are telling you for yourself.

Like Thomas, we won’t believe our friends when they tell us, “He is Risen!” Nope, we have to put our fingers in His hands and side in order to believe.

Or we think we have to taste the fruit in order to have “knowledge of good and evil.”

But “bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness — they have lived a sheltered life by always giving in” (Lewis).

Forgetfulness – Or Memory and Faith Part II

I wrote a post a little while ago on Memory and Faith and I’ve found this theme appearing again and again.

My school, being the awesome place it is, had a retreat for all of the faculty at St. Mother Cabrini shrine. Even though it was only for one day, it was one of the best retreats I have ever experienced.

The speaker, a Franciscan graduate (and I confess, I am always a bit wary of Franciscan ‘charismatic’ spirituality – not because it is bad but because sometimes it makes my reserved, New England self a bit uncomfortable) did a fantastic job. He said many things that stood out to me, but the one I’ve been thinking most about is this: that sin is more often than not a matter of forgetfulness, and faith is a matter of remembering.

source: socratesnow.me

Wouldn’t Socrates be pleased? He similarly seemed to think that “sin” was often the result of lack of knowledge, or ignorance, or I suppose the sort of momentary ignorance that comes from forgetfulness. Didn’t he go so far as to say that “the only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance” ?

Yet I, and many other Christians, take issue with this because we know that sin is primarily an act of the will. An action is sinful precisely because we DO have knowledge of the good and yet we reject it.

Moreover, that whole “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” thing…

But our retreat speaker insisted that sin very often results from forgetting what we know – or what we ought to know. For example, Eve did not eat the fruit of the tree because she thought to herself, “I hate you God and I deliberately reject you and your rules” — but rather because she had turned her back on all of the other beautiful fruit trees in the garden and forgot God’s generosity. She was completely absorbed in how “ the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eyes, and the tree was desirable for gaining wisdom” (Genesis 3:6). She forgot who God really is, and so she chose herself instead.

And how many times do the prophets in the Old Testament tell the Israelites to remember! “Remember how I brought you out of the land of Egypt!” Remember all of these ways that I showed you that I love you.

And how much of the Jewish faith is tied up in memory? The Passover, Hannukah, Tabernacles.

And what does Christ say at the last meal He shares with his disciples before He dies? What does He ask them to do? “Do this in memory of me” (Luke 22:19, 1 Corinthians 11:25). Remember me! Don’t forget me!

And, sitting there, I realized I am one of the most forgetful people ever. How many times do I forget what God has done for me? In all of my anxiety about choices I need to make, I forget how He has been there for me in all of the difficult decisions I had to make in the past. Choosing the University of Dallas was a very tough decision for me, and not a decision that “felt really good” at the time. Choosing to do ACE was very similar. (“What did you say? Where in the world is Plaquemine!?”) Even choosing to move here to Denver was another stumbling into the dark… “Why are you moving to Denver? Do you have family there?” “Uh, no, but… well… it kind of seems like a good idea…”

And yet God was there for me in that uncertainty. He is here for me now and will be in all of my decisions.

So often, the reason we sin, and make bad decisions, is because we forget who God is. We forget how generous He is. We forget everything He has done for us, and out of fear and forgetfulness we choose ourselves.

I see this EVERY day when I teach.

I mean, really. So much of being a good student is just about remembering stuff! Remember to do your homework, remember to study, remember to turn in that paper, remember these due dates. And although laziness can be a big factor in doing poorly in school, I think forgetfulness is often the bigger culprit. Students are distracted. They forget what their chief vocation is. They forget what God is asking them to do. They forget that doing their school work actually MATTERS – not just in terms of grades and college, but in terms of what God wants – He wants us to do whatever task is set before us to the very best of our ability. Doing our “jobs” — in their case, being a student — glorifies Him.

So we are all high school students. We are those kids who forget to do the most basic things. “Uh, Ms. Shea, I forgot my pencil. Can I go to my locker and…?” or “Ms. Shea, I totally forgot we had a quiz today…” “What? That stuff was written on the board?” “Wait… we had to read that last night?” “Ah Ms Shea I’m so sorry, I forgot to come at lunch today to make up that test!”

I had a great conversation yesterday on the phone with one of my dearest friends from UD about this as well. In Lumen Fidei, the Pope emphasizes how much faith is tied up in memory:

Faith, received from God as a supernatural gift, becomes a light for our way, guiding our journey through time. On the one hand, it is a light coming from the past, the light of the foundational memory of the life of Jesus which revealed his perfectly trustworthy love, a love capable of triumphing over death. (Lumen Fidei, 4)

As a response to a word which preceded it, Abraham’s faith would always be an act of remembrance. Yet this remembrance is not fixed on past events but, as the memory of a promise, it becomes capable of opening up the future, shedding light on the path to be taken. We see how faith, as remembrance of the future, memoria futuri, is thus closely bound up with hope. (Ibid, 9)

In this regard, though, we can speak of a massive amnesia in our contemporary world. The question of truth is really a question of memory, deep memory, for it deals with something prior to ourselves and can succeed in uniting us in a way that transcends our petty and limited individual consciousness. It is a question about the origin of all that is, in whose light we can glimpse the goal and thus the meaning of our common path. (Ibid, 25)

So, so true. We all suffer from “a massive amnesia.” We forget who we are and who God is — and it is this forgetfulness, this inattentiveness, this distraction, that leads to sin.

As an English teacher, a lover of words, I particularly love this section of the encyclical:

Language itself, the words by which we make sense of our lives and the world around us, comes to us from others, preserved in the living memory of others. Self-knowledge is only possible when we share in a greater memory. The same thing holds true for faith, which brings human understanding to its fullness. Faith’s past, that act of Jesus’ love which brought new life to the world, comes down to us through the memory of others — witnesses — and is kept alive in that one remembering subject which is the Church. (Ibid, 38)

And John tells us that Jesus IS “THE Word,” the Logos. He IS the Word that we need to remember, and repeat, and tell to ourselves and to each other over and over again. As Pope Francis indicates, this is indeed what the Church does, and what Tradition really means. Scripture is part of the Living Tradition of the Church, Her very memory, which has been passed on from the apostles to us. That’s why Paul says,

For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,k that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread,24and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”25In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”l26For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

The “Developing Theology” of Women

One of my best friends from college, Molly O’Connor, has begun a series of posts at Catholic News Agency on the Church’s theology of women. She is responding to Pope Francis’ call: “We must therefore investigate further the role of women in the church. We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman.”

Check it out here: A Developing Theology by Molly O’Connor – CNA

source: kirkepiscatoid.blogspot.com

Since investigating Edith Stein’s spirituality of women recently, I too have been thinking about Pope Francis’ emphatic call. I remember reading John Paul II’s Mulieris Dignitatem several years ago in Rome. I stayed up for hours one night in a chapel during the silent retreat for women, because I could not put this beautiful text down. In particular I was struck by the pope’s emphasis on the “special sensitivity” of women to Christ, as reported by the Gospels. And I thought to myself – yes, this is what I am called to be as well – I have seen it in the other young women I am blessed to call my friends – I am called to be especially attentive to Christ – as His Mother was, as Mary Magdalene was, as Veronica was, as the weeping women of Jerusalem were, and the women who came with spices on Easter morning, little knowing what they would find.

And yet for all of the encyclical’s beauty, several other girlfriends of mine have expressed dissatisfaction with it. From what I understand, part of this dissatisfaction comes from a sense that “we have heard this before” – and that “yes, Mary is certainly honored in the Catholic Church — but to what cost? To the cost of more ‘practical’ and visible roles for women?”

I have three specific thoughts to share:

1) Although I am overjoyed at Pope Francis’ call for a deepening theology of women in particular, there is part of me that wants to caution everybody. This deepening of a theology of women must not be separated – in any way – from our theology of the human person. To be honest, I think this is where “feminism” (even in its more Christian manifestations) is ultimately lacking. In an effort to honor woman by devoting more study, research and attention to her, we may end up impoverishing our view further if we consider her separately from man. We can see this in certain distortions of Marian devotion that are separated from Christology. As Orthodox priest Father James Rooney puts it, “Mariology is Christology.” You separate Christ from Mary, you get certain versions of Protestantism – if you separate Mary from Christ, you get idolatry (which is ultimately a disservice to her as well). I think that as long as we continuously pursue a “developing theology of women” while contemplating the dignity of the human person “male and female He created them,” created in God’s image and likeness, we will not so easily go astray.

2) As such, it may be also appropriate to call for a deepening theology of men. This may sound strange at first, but  we cannot fully understand our “feminine genius” apart from our relationship with the other sex; likewise, men cannot fully understand their own roles without a deeper understanding of us. Jesus Christ is the source of all of our theologizing – because He shows us how to be human, whether we are men or women.

3) We must also be careful not to pursue a deepening theology of women as if we were trying to “make up for” the Church’s emphatic “no” to women priests. A “deepening theology of women” does not mean throwing the proverbial bone at disgruntled modern egalitarians who wish the Church were a democracy. Our task here is not to help all of us women feel better even though we cannot have certain “leadership roles.” If we approach it in such a way, as a sort of “well yes, we’ve been ignoring women too long, so let’s at least devote more books on theology just for them!” – then I think we will be making a false albeit unconscious concession – that theology (and everything else) is really about power after all, just as feminist critics of the Church claim. And ultimately, that would be a great disservice to those very people within the Church and outside of her who feel so deeply about women’s roles. They deserve better than just another theology of power, even if it’s dressed up in more “orthodox” garments.

A last thought, from our Mother herself – indeed, the last words she speaks in the Gospel:

“Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5).

source: marianews.net

You Need to Read This II

How is it possible that in a matter of days, there is something else about Flannery that you MUST read?

But yes, it is true.

Here are PRAYERS that she wrote in her journal, starting in 1946. Even I, who have read almost everything there is to read about Flannery, have never read these. A taste:

Dear God, tonight it is not disappointing because you have given me a story. Don’t let me ever think, dear God, that I was anything but the instrument for Your story—just like the typewriter was mine. Please let the story, dear God, in its revisions, be made too clear for any false & low interpretation because in it, I am not trying to disparage anybody’s religion although when it was coming out, I didn’t know exactly what I was trying to do or what it was going to mean. – See more at: http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/leithart/2013/09/09/oconnors-prayers/#sthash.nsWgFlRg.36YlIte6.dpuf

I find it intensely interesting that she writes these in the form of letters – almost as if He were another Correspondent among the many in The Habit of Being — though of course, her primary Correspondent.

Read more here:

First Things

The New Yorker


I cringe though, at her reaction upon discovering that somebody has posted her private journal entries. I think he or she may even have earned a short story out of it – and if you know Flannery, you know what having her write a short story about you would mean…


On another note:

Apparently a couple of my new students inadvertently found my blog online, and they were worried that I would be upset. Don’t worry, I’m not! I understand that anything I post on the internet like this is public and thus may be read by anyone … even some of my student’s parents (gasp)! So, hi, guys!

And, to all of my former students who may be reading this blog as well, hello and (clearly) I miss you!

You Need to Read This

Okay, a very very short post, whose point is to make you go read someone else’s blog.

If you love Flannery, or you don’t love Flannery, or you don’t know who Flannery is (gasp), please read this lovely post over at Carrots for Michaelmas:

10 Things I Love About Flannery O’Connor

Not convinced?

A taste:

5. She’s so darn funny. If you don’t laugh out loud when you’re reading Flannery, you’re not doing it right. Hazel Motes: “Nobody with a good car needs to be justified!” I just die.

Not convinced?

Read the above quote with a thick southern accent and a growl.

Now go read the blog post.

“Endeavor[ing] to Balance Myself”

Source: blacktagdiaries.blogspot.com

Happy September. A poem for you – and perhaps an especially poignant one, especially in light of ongoing events in Syria:

September, 1918
by Amy Lowell
This afternoon was the colour of water falling through sunlight;
The trees glittered with the tumbling of leaves;
The sidewalks shone like alleys of dropped maple leaves,
And the houses ran along them laughing out of square, open windows.
Under a tree in the park,
Two little boys, lying flat on their faces,
Were carefully gathering red berries
To put in a pasteboard box.
Some day there will be no war,
Then I shall take out this afternoon
And turn it in my fingers,
And remark the sweet taste of it upon my palate,
And note the crisp variety of its flights of leaves.
To-day I can only gather it
And put it into my lunch-box,
For I have time for nothing
But the endeavour to balance myself
Upon a broken world
On Sunday at the cathedral in Denver, the vicar of the Archbishop gave a beautiful homily on humility. And in a gesture of humility, he read to us the entire text of Pope Francis’ Sunday Angelus – which you should also read, in full. Here is a taste:
With utmost firmness I condemn the use of chemical weapons: I tell you that those terrible images from recent days are burned into my mind and heart. There is a judgment of God and of history upon our actions which are inescapable! Never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake. War begets war, violence begets violence.
I repeat forcefully: it is neither a culture of confrontation nor a culture of conflict which builds harmony within and between peoples, but rather a culture of encounter and a culture of dialogue; this is the only way to peace. May the plea for peace rise up and touch the heart of everyone so that they may lay down their weapons and be let themselves be led by the desire for peace.
To this end, brothers and sisters, I have decided to proclaim for the whole Church on 7 September next, the vigil of the birth of Mary, Queen of Peace, a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world, and I also invite each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative.
(Pope Francis, Angelus of Sept 1, 2013)
After reading us the full text, the vicar noted that, in honor of our Pope’s request, there will be Eucharistic Adoration and Prayer for Peace at the downtown Cathedral in Denver. Likewise, many other diocese are doing the same. Please go, even for a little while. Even if you aren’t Catholic. Go anyway and pray.
And on a different note:
I have begun teaching my favorite thing to teach ever – essays! I’ve revised the essay unit I have taught over the past two years, and I’m really excited to share it with my kids. Today, we learned about the differences between opinions, facts, “universal truths” and cliches.
I’m trying to find ways to additionally challenge and stretch my honors students. However, since I want to do this with ALL my students, sometimes I have a hard time differentiating and offering different assignments. I think all of them are important! To be honest with you, I don’t 100% believe in “Honors” classes, as much as I benefited from these in my own high school career, and as much as I benefit from them now as a teacher (totally makes it easier to teach).
A good friend of mine suggested this interesting blog post to me, and I thought I would share it with you. I am requiring my Honors class to read it for Thursday and to thoroughly annotate it.
A taste (don’t you love tastes? They really make you want to click those links, don’t they?):
Yes, words are wonderful things, a kind of shorthand. But words can also get in the way, especially when we think that because we have named something, we have fully described or comprehended it. Not so, reality is always richer than the words or thoughts that we “reduce” it to. It is perhaps necessary for us to do this sort of reduction in order to manage, and not be overwhelmed,  but, again reality is always richer than the thoughts or words we reduce it to. (Msgr. Charles Pope)
Okay, yes. But then he goes on to say:

There’s yet another old saying, likely from the far East, which says, “Those who know do not say, those who say do not know.” That is, words for fall short of the reality of what is known, and the wise person grasps this.

One of the Eastern fathers, when asked to explain this saying to his disciples said, “How many know the smell of a rose?” And all of his disciples raised their hands. But when he said to them, “Put it into words” everyone remained silent. (Ibid.)

I guess I’m causing my kids some “cognitive dissonance” with this one, because I just spent today introducing them to Flannery O’Connor’s intriguing description of her own creative process: “I write to discover what I know.”
In other words, despite my student’s common protest, “I know what it is, Ms. Shea, I just can’t put it into words”– Flannery would probably reply,
“Nope. Until you can put it into words, you don’t really know it.”
I want to side with Flannery here, although I agree that there are some things (most especially in the realm of grace) that human language cannot grasp or even remotely gesture toward. Nonetheless, “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1) and there is something of that fundamental desire (and ability!) to articulate in all of us, and in all of our languages. One of the first things Adam did, after all, was to name all of the creatures of the Earth (Genesis 2:20). God gave him that dignity, and that gift.
 And it’s that same ability to speak that lets me teach – that allows me to communicate with my students.
And it’s that same ability that allows political leaders to wage war, and seek peace, and kill thousands, and save millions.  The word indeed, in many ways, is “mightier than the sword,” though perhaps not in the way that Edward Bulwer-Lytton meant it.