Random birthday thoughts

Sixty-five years young today. My prayer and reading this morning has awakened in me a wide range of thoughts, filled with gratitude.

Here are a few thoughts, randomly chosen:

The reading, 1 Timothy 6: 7-8, for Vigils from  Benedictine Daily Prayer was most fitting:

…we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with there.

I am content here in Honduras. Though I have much more than most Hondurans, what I really need I have – a ministry I love, people whom I love and respect and who love me, enough food and more than enough clothing, and now Social Security checks!

Today the feast of Saint Justin, patron of philosophers. He was probably the first who sought to bring together faith and philosophical reason. He seems to have been very open to the possibility that God saves all those who seek the Truth. In his  Apology,  he wrote:

We have been taught that Christ is the First-begotten of God, and have previously testified that he is the Reason [Logos] of which every race of humans partakes. Those who lived in accordance with Reason are Christians, even though they were called godless, such as, among the Greeks, Socrates and Heraclitus and others like them.

Does this sound a bit like Karl Rahner’s notion of “anonymous Christians”?

Justin was born of Greek parents in what is today Nablus, in Palestine. I cannot help remembering my visit to Palestine and Israel years ago and the great affection I feel for the Palestinians, matched with the great concern I have had for many years about the failure of the institutional Church and many Catholics to stand up strongly and with courage against the Nazis when the Jews were being deported and killed. Yes, there were many individuals but the public institutional witness was weak – or almost non-existent.

The first reading for the feast of St. Justin is 1 Corinthians 1, 17-25, which ends with a phrase that has struck me for many years, and even more so here in Honduras:

the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

If anyone has been reading what I’ve been writing recently, this theme is a theme that has become central to my understanding of God and the world: God uses the wisdom of the poor to confound the intellectuals and those who think they know it all; God’s strength is made perfect in the weakness of the poor, who, in Mary’s words, “casts down the mighty from their thrones and raises up the lowly.”

Speaking of the lowly, today is also the feast of Blessed John Baptist Scalabrini, founder of the Scalabrini priests and sisters whose major ministry is to migrants.  He lived for 1839 to 1905. An Italian  bishop he was moved by the many Italians leaving for the US and other places and began many efforts to assist them. He even visited the US in 1901 where he met with President Theodore Roosevelt where he spoke about the injustices against Italian immigrants and defended them.  How much we still need people like him to defend immigrants.

Today is also the anniversary of the burning at the stake in 1310 of Marguerite Porette. She was a member of the Beguines, groups of women who led a community life of prayer and charity, without religious vows.  They were mostly in Belgium and the Netherlands where you can still encounter the beguinajes where they lived. She was tried by the Inquisition, which was threatened by her writings, claiming that her spirituality set aside the church in favor of direct communication with God.  Two years after her death, the church formally suppressed the movement. (This account is taken from Robert Ellsberg’s  All Saints.)

Today, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, castigated by the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith (the successor of the Inquisition), released a statement about their response, noting

The board members raised concerns about both the content of the doctrinal assessment and the process by which it was prepared.  Board members concluded that the assessment was based on unsubstantiated accusations and the result of a flawed process that lacked transparency. Moreover, the sanctions imposed were disproportionate to the concerns raised and could compromise their ability to fulfill their mission. The report has furthermore caused scandal and pain throughout the church community, and created greater polarization.

A press release with a link to their statement can be found here.

I am blessed to know the current president of LCWR, Dubuque Franciscan Sister Pat Farrell, a woman devoted to Christ and the poor, who spent many years in mission in Latin America (Chile and El Salvador) during perilous and dangerous times. May God give her strength in this new challenge.

These are the thoughts I will carry with me today as I go first to the Dulce Nombre  parish for the meeting of the leaders of the liturgical ministry in the villages. Then I’ll come back to Santa Rosa to Caritas, where one of the programs is being evaluated. I’ll probably treat myself to pizza tonight.

God is good.

Gracias a Dios.

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