Compassion Should Guide Our Discussions

This weekend I entered into a twitter conversation with some people that expressed fear of those that are Muslim and spoke in a disparaging way about the Qur’an. It always seems that fear of others leads to the great evils in our society. We then use that fear as justification to attack the other. Some attack physically and other with words. Yet there is something particularly worrisome to me when the words used to attack are from sources meant to be our guides to faith. I’m always struck by people who choose to pick a single verse and interpret it in the most negative possible manner. In truth, Christians also do that with Bible verses. We take them out of the context of the time or the situation and we use them as evidence of our own views most often that the other is wrong.

Rather than approaching  the Bible or the Qu’ran with fear, embrace it with compassion and love.

In my conversations, I always try to remember what imprint I will leave on a person. Even if the person leaves the conversation thinking me a fool, too liberal for my own good, or merely misguided, I hope they also leave the conversation believing me to be compassionate, kind, and patient.  I hope they see my faith and my love for humanity.

Today in Mass we were challenged to remember that the Shephard left his imprint on the sheep and so they will always be able to find him. It is important for us not to fill the air with so much foul discourse that the sheep loose the scent of the Shephard because of our actions.

Can we loose the strident denunciations of the other and be a littler closer to Shephard? – Fr. Brown

I choose not to measure any human being by their neighbor, relative, fellow citizens, or co-religionist. It is your words and your deeds that matter to me. I will always first reach for what is Holy in you.

Sad Divisions Cease

I was reminded in Mass to bid our sad divisions cease and to seek the God of Peace.  Maybe this year we should sing all verses of O Come O Come Emmanuel and meditate on the words.

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Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Oh, bid our sad divisions cease,
And be yourself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Self-Potriat

Can a picture reveal one’s spirit as a symbol reveals God? The flowers remind us of the gift of life, the water blesses life, and the fire reminds us of God’s presence.

And then, as fires like jewels germinate

Deep in the stone heart of a Kaffir mountain,

So now our gravity, our new-created deep desire

Burns in our life’s mine like an undiscovered diamond. (Freedom as Experience, Thomas Merton)

 

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My Catholic Faith and Politics

The beauty of the Catholic faith is visible in the love and charity shown by the faithful. It is in our openness to all that seek and share our path that we grow into one body and spirit.

I refuse to buy into the rhetoric that there are good, bad, or nominal Catholics. We are all one, and we are all flawed, yet we seek God and strive to understand our path.  As we enter the final months of the election season, there is one Catholic on the ticket and yet by my count two. One can choose to worship elsewhere, but does that mean the person’s Baptism into the faith is invalid, or his confirmation is null? Our searches for faith, spiritual partners with whom to share our path, and meaning in life should be encouraged and embraced with love.

I left the Baptist faith I embraced as a teenager to become Catholic and in the process grew stronger in faith and love. I sit at a Zen center and as a result am more aware, focused, and able to hear. Life is a spiritual journey. I embrace the joy of the journey and embrace those that are on the path even when they don’t seeing the same things.

One would think that we would celebrate when we share something in common with those that are willing to stand up and lead. However, there are vocal groups that started hate filled attacks on the faith of not only Tim Kane or Mike Pence, but also Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  It is unfortunate when in our musing we even take a moment to consider the validity of the faith of people we do not personally know or worship with, but it is a tragedy when we speak those thoughts and malign the faith of another.

The richness of our faith allows for the exercise of conscience. We need to trust that in the search for God and meaning that people are being led by the Holy Spirit. Your path is not mine, and mine not yours, but we share the path just as we share 99.9% of our DNA. As Pope Francis said, it is boring walking alone. For me, it is the most natural thing in the world to be able to lift up in prayer anyone that seeks to find meaning in faith, spiritual wholeness in God, and enlightenment through understanding. I am happier by looking for the joy in their path and trusting that it is their path inspired for their needs. Our paths are like our DNA. They are 99.9% the same as every other human being and 0.1% different. Let us accept the blur that exists and embrace the reality that at any given moment the path that is clear to us may appear blurred to others.IMG_1551

Photographing True Self and No Self

Last week I set out on a journey to be a better photographer or at least that is how I sold it to myself. In reality, I was trying to find a calming activity that helped me to focus on something other than the stresses of work. In a very short two week period, I submitted my first two IMG_0803photography assignments and realized that my journey was more about finding my spiritual center. It began with the image of and in the empty grotto. Is a grotto every empty or is what is there always present even when one sees it as empty? Or, is it telling me to empty self.

I can imagine myself kneeling to pray and losing myself in what is visible and invisible. I can see the love and passion of the creator. And, I can feel my spirit as it is quite and at peace.

The next week arrived, and I went in search for a new picture. I was still focused on the skill with the camera rather than the meaning. I went for a walk in a nearby park that I had never visited. It was a beautiful sunny day, and I was on a mission for a picture that would allow me to practice, but what was I practicing?

Not far into the park I came upon a statue of children. Because the statue was under a tree, it appeared as if the children were planning tIMG_0816o climb the tree. It was what I expect of a sunny Sunday afternoon – children at play, trees to be climbed.

I liked the first picture. It was technically pretty good, especially since I was shooting in program mode and making manual adjustments.

The assignment required me to work the scene and find a second picture that captured a different perspective. I was at first amused by the optical illusion that the boy could almost reach the limbs as he was sheltered in the shade of the tree and looking up toward the elusive limb.

I probably made 30 pictures and in the end had to select the best alternate perspective. As I sat on the ground and looked up it appeared as if the boy could reach the limb, but now it was as if he was reaching for the blue sky. Aren’t we all reaching for something? How often does it feel that what we seek is just out of reach?

The tragedy is that our consciousness is totally alienated from this inmost ground of our identity. And in Christian mystical tradition, this inner split and alienation is the real meaning of original sin. – Thomas Merton

I believe that in my photography I’m recognizing how hard I’ve been reaching for spiritual meaning and in recognizing my reaching it is allowing the emptying of self.
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The Spirit of Higher Education Should be Equality

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Once a month I speak with a spiritual director. Today he was rather insistent that I am where I am supposed to be and am her for a reason. This came after a discussion of a need to see the mission as greater than any one individual and the need for a spirit of unity within any organization.

I am opposed to class systems that separate people. The separation in our culture is largely based on wealth, occupation, social network, and education status. While wealth in the United States is either earned or inherited and social networks are frequently associated with birth into a community, education should be available to all.  If one is so fortunate to be born with the necessary intelligence to pursue a university education, the person should not be treated unequally in any educational institution. We know that private schools sometimes offer preferential treatment for those who have parents that are alumni or sufficient wealth to influence the admissions process. This should never be the case in public institutions. It is the role of a public institution to eliminate even the perception of bias. Once enrolled it is the responsibility of the professors and leadership – legal, ethical, and moral – to ensure that system is equitable.

Allowing inequality in education, and establishing a system that rewards the privileged increases the likelihood that class bias is carried into our general society and perpetuated by graduates who had it reinforced in school.

Universities should be doing all possible to educate the whole person. Let us endeavor to educate students in a manner that demonstrates that God-given gifts do no justify preferential treatment.  By our actions, we should model our espoused values and implement policies and practices that make us stronger as a whole by respecting the individual and honoring equality.

Perhaps we lost our way when we forgot that the heart of leadership lies in the hearts of leaders. We fooled ourselves, thinking that sheer bravado or sophisticated analytic techniques could respond to our deepest concerns. We lost touch with our most precious gift-our spirit. To recapture spirit, we need to relearn how to lead with soul. How to breathe new zest and buoyancy into life. How to reinvigorate the family as a sanctuary where people can grow, develop, and find love. How to reinfuse the workplace with vigor and elan. Leading with soul returns us to ancient spiritual basics reclaiming the enduring human capacity that gives our lives passion and purpose [Bolman and Deal, 1995, p. 21 in Arthur W. Chickering;Jon C. Dalton;Liesa Stamm. Encouraging Authenticity and Spirituality in Higher Education (pp. 35-36). Kindle Edition].