Archive for February, 2018


AMDG

Speyr, Adrienne vonI think I’ve fallen in love with Adrienne Von Speyer – a Swiss mystic, and founder of the community of St John with Fr. Von Balthazar.  I’m also very jealous that God gave her so much….. but not so jealous that she experienced so much suffering

Here’s some quotes from her many books as dictated to Hans Urs V.B.  …..

If there had been no JudasPeter would be the great betrayer. It is only because he stands in the framework of a still greater betrayal that we find a thousand excuses for him and for the faults of the Church continuing and occurring over and over again.

When the Son on the Cross promises paradise in his company to the good thief, when he promises the future feast in Heaven to the Apostles, when he speaks of the kingdom of the Father, he is always pointing toward eternity. However brief and close to the earth his words sound, they echo throughout infinite eternity and permeate the faith of his followers with their eternal content. He knows what he speaks of, what he brings with him and what he promises; and he can convey it to those who know it not. The very words he uses are designed to awaken in them a new sense: the sense of the eternal.

(On meeting St.Ignatius when she was 6 on Christmas Eve) As I climbed the steps that went alongside a sort of lumberyard, a man was coming down the steps toward me. He was short and rather old, and he had a slight limp. He took my hand, and at first I was really frightened, but I began to look at him. He said, “I thought you would come with me; don’t you want to?” I said, with a kind of fear (was it good to say No to a poor person?): “No, Sir, but merry Christmas.” He let go of my hand immediately; I thought he looked a little sad. I continued on my way, and throughout the days that followed I said to myself: “Perhaps I should have said Yes, but I really had to say No.”

[About Francis of Assisi] I saw St. Francis at first in his old age, at prayer and sickly, of an indescribable cheerfulness and purity and humility. Everything in him, everything that constituted his life, all his difficulties, are now transfigured and have become translucent. And this happened through prayer. The things that occupy him no longer contain anything at all that is purely personal, not a trace of annoyance or injury or resentment for the unjust things inflicted on him. God alone is left, as well as perfect service in the indescribable happiness of one who serves and in uninterrupted contemplation.

  • [About Edith Stein] I see her groping, wonder-filled prayer, which in the beginning resembles a conversation she is conducting with herself and is very managed. ………. And God truly answers. She prays more and more and finally receives a victorious certainty and rejoices. From this moment of victorious certainty on, everything is perfectly simple and unambiguous. She will follow the path God shows to her; she belongs to him; she has rediscovered her childlike cheerfulness, which has increased and become clearly manifest through love and faith.

AMDG

Milton Erikson,  a  psychiatrist, would ask patients who were experiencing depression to count chimneys.  It proved to be surprisingly successful.  First of all, it got people out of their houses (rather than sitting inside and letting negative thoughts rotate around their heads.  Secondly, when they were outside counting chimneys they lifted their heads up ensuring the maximum amount of daylight was entering their eyes.  This simple act would lift their spirits in a very effective way.  By forcing his patients to get out of their head and be more present to the environment a desolating spell had been broken.  This is exactly what happens every time we deliberately get out of our heads and engage with the present,  in the popular pseudo-Buddhist language it is a form of mindfulness. In the language of Pope Francis and Evangelium Gaudium, ‘Realities are more important than ideas’ 231-233.

Returning to the world of ideas, maybe the next step then would then be developing a mindfulness of gratitude – or ‘gratefulness’.  Start the day in gratefulness of a hot shower. For me, it is something that I am especially aware of when I come back from travelling, particularly in the developing world.  I find myself standing in a powerful hot shower in the morning, thinking about all that has gone into this working. It helps me start the day in a good mood, grateful for all that has gone right to put that in place, trying not to feel ‘entitled’ to have a hot shower when so many of the billions on the planet don’t have a luxury like this to start the day.  I think of friends I have lived with in India, Peru, the Philippines, East Africa all whose morning ablutions are very different.

When I am actually standing in the shower I think of where the water is from the Thames or the River Lee? What journey has it been on, from Teddington Weir or closer? How does it get to Tottenham in the first place?  All the infrastructure that comes into play to get clean water in my shower, all the thing that have to go right for it to be a reliable supply.  Then I think about the thermostat hidden away somewhere that constantly adjusts the temperature so that I’m not boiled like a lobster or frozen like a penguin, especially when someone else is using water in the building.  Having experienced a fair amount of showers that are alternately too hot or too cold, this feels like a blessing.  Then the electric pump that makes sure that high-pressure water comes out which is so refreshing.

It’s a simple exercise but a great way to start the day.

AMDG

Linda Woodhead is a sociologist of religion based in Lancaster in N.W.England. She is particularly interested in examining how religions confirm or challenge power relations in wider society.  Recently she has focused on showing how new ‘post-confessional’ ways of being religious have eclipsed a traditional ‘Reformation style’ of religion in Britain. Her observations are always worth reading and I enjoyed recently finishing her ‘Christianity – A Very Short Introduction’.  It is actually not that short, about 120 pages, which in our attention-deficit age is reasonable. It is one of the excellent ‘VSI’ series (very short introductions) that Oxford Uni Press produce, which currently numbers over 510 titles. My main ‘takeaway’ from the book is her theory about the ‘two modernities’ and how Christianity has responded to them.

The first modernity – often referred to as ‘The Enlightenment’, dominated Europe in the Eighteenth Century.  Woodhead explains how this led to the rise of ‘Liberal Christianity’. Challenged with a development in historical sciences, driven by the concern that modern people would be alienated from Christianity, the Gospels underwent a process of demythologisation by influential liberal theologians such as Rudolf Bultmann.  This was controversial and lead to the ‘explaining away’ of miracles and an undermining of the supernatural. According to ‘form-criticism’, the events narrated in the gospels had their origin in preaching, so the actual narrated event is secondary, a mythological development. So for instance, many liberal Christians would question the need to believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus.  I remember studying theology in Edinburgh and was in a minority in the undergraduate class who believed in the historicity of the resurrection, the others believe it only had a symbolic or even metaphorical value.  The emphasis of this liberal current in Christianity was rational & ethical.  This was the Christian response to the intellectual flourishing of the enlightenment and according to Woodhead was successful for a hundred years, but it seems now that this form of Christianity, particularly liberal Protestantism is in crisis, perhaps even dying.  Recently it has been Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict) who has offered a credible critique of this method.

The second or ‘late modernity’, started in the 1960’s was a rejection of all authority and a turn to the individual and subjective. Church-going started to fall precipitously, as a result of this, as religious and moral duty and social conformity no longer had any ‘pull’.  Liberal theology found itself on the defensive, and conservative Bible-based churches started to grow, with the emphasis being on personal-experience.  A Christian ‘sub-culture’ started to emerge and grow, fundamentalism started to thrive, with radio and network channels and held its own against the corrosive influences of popular culture and became more and more politically influential.  Evangelicals started to grow in this climate too – reinforcing family values, dissolving confessional differences, focusing on the ‘born-again’ experience.  Charismatic Christianity started also to emerge in this climate.  Christianity – once part of the establishment has become a conservative counter-culture.

I find Woodheads account much more nuanced and convincing that the blanket ‘narrative of decline’ that I often come across in the UK and even more sharply in Ireland.  If you have time to read this accessible and fairly cheap book I would recommend it.