Tag Archives: Roman Catholic Church

Optimism and Belief

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In my life, there have been two things standing as constants: optimism and belief. I have embraced these two guiding principles, and striven in due course to live a better life as a part of the wider human community through them. For me, my faith as a Catholic and as a Christian is an inherently positive one; it is a faith in Resurrection, in Union with the Divine Essence, in the fulfilment of the circle and restoration of humanity to paradise.

Yet to allow this faith to persist I have found myself inherently optimistic, always expecting the best from people, and looking at even the darkest of situations with the hope that is required to believe in something greater than Reality. True, this is blind faith, something entirely counter to the principles of our scientific age, yet in the end is not blind faith equally necessary in a scientific setting? After all, we have yet to learn all that there is to know about nature, our sciences are as of yet unfinished in amassing the totality of reality. Therefore, if we are to accept science as an effective and prosperous measure of nature, then we must also accept that that measure is man-made and limited in its scope.

I see those things measured by science each and every day, and I am in awe of their wonder. I see how the Sun rises in the east and sets in the west, how the stars circle in the sky as the year passes. I hear the wind bristling through the leaves of the trees, and across the tall grass prairies. I have known what it means to be caught on the beach at high tide, and to be at the mercy of the awesome tempestuous power of lightning. Past generations might well have worshiped these forces of nature, seen them as gods like Zeus, Taranis, or Ukko, yet I see them as terrestrial, as natural, as real. The true force, the veritable essence to be worshiped is far greater than even the rolling thunder or bristling lightning.

In these circumstances I am reminded of the American hymn How Great Thou Art, yet in the smallest of moments too I am reminded of God’s coming to Elijah on the softest breath of wind in the cave. Divinity and the essence that made all that we know and love is so far beyond our own understanding, yet in that realisation I find my peace.

Often it can be said that I find my belief renewed through music, through that purest, most mellifluous of sound. Some of the most sacred moments of my life, the most moving moments in the story of my belief have come in moments of music, from operas like Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte to the Pilgrim’s Chorus in Wagner’s Tannhäuser to great orchestral outbursts of emotion as in Stravinsky’s Firebird and most all of Mahler’s symphonies; yet equally spiritually potent for me are the more recently composed naturalistic Mass settings that I sang with the Rockhurst University Chorus while an undergraduate student there from 2011 to 2015. Music has long been said to be the Voice of the Heavens, and certainly it has appeared to be so to me.

Yet what I find the most fulfilling to my belief in the Divine is humanity. In the Christian tradition we believe that humanity was “Created in the Image and Likeness of God.” For me, this means that our souls particularly were made in the Divine Image, but that our bodies also have Divine inspiration. When I see humanity, with all our faults, all our problems, all our pain and anguish, I can’t help but be swept off my feet in grief. Yet at the end of the day I always remember the old adage echoed by Little Orphan Annie, “Tomorrow will be a brighter day.”

I believe that one day that will come true, that one day all will be sorted out in our capitals, our courts, our executive palaces. I believe that one day we will march through our cities, not in protest or in anger, not out of anguish or to alleviate our suffering, but because we are celebrating that most essential characteristic of our humanity: liberty. I believe that someday all humanity will walk together, singing in unison, a multitude of voices, of languages, of cultures and creeds making one song. I believe in optimism, and I am optimistic about my belief.

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The Pope and the President

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Today a rather oddly stacked meeting took place in the splendid halls of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. It was a meeting between two men who could not have possibly been more ideologically or culturally opposed to each other. Yet there they were, Pope Francis and President Trump standing side-by-side. Their meeting was a diplomatic affair, in part to appease the conservative Catholic base that had aided Trump in winning the presidency in November 2016.

I was unsurprised when a few weeks ago the news broke that Trump would be visiting Pope Francis in the Vatican, after all every American president since Eisenhower had made a visit to the Holy See to meet with every pontiff since Pope Saint John XXIII. Yet I found myself hoping, even praying, that Pope Francis would bend traditional diplomatic protocol ever so slightly and arrange for his meeting with the new president not in the splendour of the Apostolic Palace where all the temporal power and wealth of the Church is to be found. Rather, I hoped the Holy Father would invite the President to meet him in one of the Vatican’s charitable centres, perhaps in the homeless shelter that Pope Francis opened in January of this year, or in one of the city-state’s soup kitchens.

If there is one trait that the current United States President does not understand, let alone practice, it is humility. During his visit to the Eternal City he should take the time to visit the Basilica of Saint Lawrence outside the Walls (San Lorenzo fuori le Mura). It was here in the third century that Saint Lawrence, a martyr of the Early Church, was buried. When asked by the Prefect of Rome to hand over all the riches of the Church to the Imperial Treasury, Lawrence responded by gathering all of the poor and destitute who had benefited from the Church’s charity and brought them together to line the street leading to the centre of the old Christian Quarter.

When the Prefect returned, Lawrence announced that he had gathered the riches of the Church together in one place for the Prefect to view. Lawrence then led the Prefect down the street, showing him the great mass of people before him, announcing, “These are the riches of the Church.” For his efforts, Saint Lawrence was grilled alive, yet his message rings just as resoundingly now as it did eighteen centuries ago.

Donald Trump is a fairly successful man. He’s done well for himself crafting a business empire based primarily on his name brand. Yet his brand of gaudy luxury cannot compare to that which is truly worthwhile in life. I have found that as much as wealth, power, and prestige can bring me happiness in the short term, it does not bring me long-term fulfilment. I have found some other qualities, love, charity, compassion, and a general sense of goodwill to be the true key to happiness.

I have seen what power can do to people, and know all to well that I want as little as possible to do with it. All I want in life is to be with the people I love, to see that they fare well, and to ensure that the generations to come have a better life than I could possibly imagine. While having some wealth can certainly contribute to this, enough to ensure that in the confines of our economic system my family will not have to worry, that money ought to always be of secondary importance to all of us. We need money to live, but we should not live for money. Unfortunately for him, and for the rest of us it seems that President Trump has yet to figure that out.

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Why Kansas City’s Catholics must Come Together

Let me begin by admitting to the fact that I haven’t written anything for this site in some months. After having written so frequently, so fervently on many a topic, I found myself exhausted, unhappy with the prospect of setting my thoughts to ink and paper. However, the greatest, most pressing issue at hand for the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St Joseph, my home diocese, is one which brings my pen forth from its stupor.

As many will know, I have been highly critical of the now Bishop Emeritus Finn. His authoritarian leadership style, as well as his suppression of any official dialogue between social conservatives, liberals, and moderates within the diocese left me unwilling to offer anything but criticism towards his administration. All that said, I do not intend to demean his character. I have met Finn, on a number of occasions. On my first assignment as a journalist, at the 2009 National Catholic Youth Conference which was held here in Kansas City, I interviewed both Bishop Finn, as well as his counterpart from across the border, Archbishop Naumann. I found both men highly intelligent, and Finn in particular to be quite friendly and personable. For one thing he actually remembered my name, and stopped to ask me how I was doing the next time I was in the same room.

In most regards, as a liberal, I have frequently found myself in disagreement with my friends and colleagues. In recent years, as I have began to shed the scales of fear, I have in turn become more outspoken in my views, more willing to speak out when something that I find something good, or ill in the world. Let me be clear, though, to those who do not look on my views and persuasions favourably, that all that I believe, all that I espouse, is founded upon the two greatest commandments given by God to humanity: to love God, and love one’s neighbour. It is for this reason that I do not seek to insult Finn’s honour, only to speak out against his actions.
On Tuesday, I celebrated, and breathed many a sigh of relief. At long last, the leadership of the Catholic Church in my adopted city does not outwardly favour my fellow Catholics whose views are on the opposite side of the aisle from my own. Yes, I say yes, all things are political! All things are related to politics, especially in the Roman Catholic Church! Any body as old as ours, as powerful as ours, as wealthy as ours, any body with named “Roman” must be political by nature. We may not like that fact, but it is a fact nonetheless. It is better that we embrace the truth than continue to deny it.

I write today to my fellow Catholics in Kansas City with a simple request. We must work together again, as we have in the past. We must heal the wounds that have been wrought over the past ten years. We must reconcile, and as one body in Christ reunite our increasingly divided diocese. Liberals, conservatives, moderates, Tridentine Mass attendees, as well as those who prefer a more progressive type of Mass should come together, work together, to build a better diocese, a better community.

This coming Sunday, I will be at my home parish, Saint Francis Xavier, for Mass with the parish community that my maternal family has been a part of for five generations. I ask my fellow Catholics here in the Kansas City-St Joseph Diocese to do the same. Let us all pray for our diocese that we might reconcile and reunite. Let us also pray for our most recent Bishop Emeritus, as he moves into the next phase of his life, that he may think of his time here in Kansas City, and consider both what he did, and that which he chose to forgo doing. Let us also pray for our Pope, Papa Frank as I call him, that he might find the best candidate, with God’s guidance, to become our next bishop.

I thank you all for your attention, and ask God for his blessings upon each and everyone of you, no matter whom you are.