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…it is difficult for poets to remain acceptable or contented party men; they ask too many questions.
Dorothy Sayers, in the Introduction to her translation of Dante’s Purgatorio
I just feel it would be a shame to let all these questions just disappear. I wish everyone in the archdiocese would give the Bishop their own answers. If we have 100,000 people (I have no idea how many Catholics in the Archdiocese of KCK), I bet we’d have a hard time getting 100 people to respond. In other words, there’s really no danger in asking questions, because so few people will even answer. And the upside is that you discover the nth % who do respond. They are likely to be willing to do other hard things.
Plus, even a few answers to good questions is better than 1000 answers to lame questions. And, yes, I’m asserting that the questions asked in the Bishop’s listening meeting were lame. Their focus was on eliciting pats on the back for the Bishop, who definitely deserves many, many pats on the back. My point is not that any positive feedback was wrong, as there is so much to be glad for in our archdiocese, but that much helpful feedback was omitted from the process due to what I believe is an unnecessary avoidance of tension. If we cannot be comfortable among ourselves, as Catholics, voicing things that are hard to say, how in the world will we learn to say hard things to the world that is dying for lack of those truths??
I’m sure the archdiocese and the world will go on without my input, and I really do believe that God is at work here. I do not so much despair of some good being done as remain sad for the much more that might be done if we could all communicate with more honesty and effectiveness. I am tired of being told I am ahead of my time. Christ has come, so the time for Christians is now.
Once more, and in conclusion, I would like to reassure everyone who sees a post like this and worries about me (Is she angry? No. Is she dissenting? Absolutely not. Is she disrespectful? Not a bit of it. Is she upset? Nope.). I am fine, happy, content, respectful, orthodox, cheerful, and confident that I’ve done all I need to do in response to the questions I was asked, and those I was not asked. Meanwhile, I will, if you don’t mind, remain sad, because Fr. Giussani taught us that sadness is the opposite of despair. Because I do hope, I hope for better communication and visioning in our archdiocese.
May God bless and keep Archbishop Naumann, and make His face shine upon him, and give him peace.
Remember the scene in The Hobbit in which we see the vast pile of treasure guarded by Smaug, the dragon? That’s me in St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians – I’ve barreled in and now am wading knee-deep and slowly through a blow-your-mind pile of treasure! (Links to previous posts in this series:
So far, blessings galore, and Liturgy as sort of an Iron Man suit, making me supernaturally able to do wonders. To wit: keep standing in the very Presence of God, transmit His glory without exploding, touch the Ark of His Person without dying on the spot. Try it without suit – no superpowers!
So here we are, Jesus and me, having this love fest – blessing flowing to me, praise flowing to Him, me growing holier, me forgiven constantly, me rolling in the riches of His grace, me living the abundant life. But there’s more. God’s got a plan, and He has made it known to the Church, presumably because He intends for it to be accomplished through us.
For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him, according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will, we who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Eph 1:9-14)
I count fifteen references to this section of Ephesians in the Catechism (CCC), so we’ll be taking it slow-and-serious-like.
Whenever I hear “God’s got a plan for your life,” I remember how glibly we evangelicals told people that, and how much I struggled to figure out how to put that plan into practice. “I’ll do anything, Lord. Just tell me The Plan.” He never quite did.
What we meant was to reassure non-Christians that God valued their lives, could help them accomplish worthwhile things, cared about them in a way they might not have cared about themselves. All good. But, in practice, I wanted marching orders, a plan of campaign, a job description, even a Mission Impossible. What is the actual plan by which I am to take my next step?!?!?! It’s one thing to know there’s a plan, but it can be a nightmare trying to figure out what it is. If generals did battle this way, the soldiers would pack up and go home in frustration.
Let’s see what answers the Church could have given that struggling new Christian to shore up her understanding. I’ll take the references in order, and see what we come up with.
The Plan is that I receive His life, and become like His Son. (257) Creation and human history are to be fulfilled through Christ…in me…in the Church. (668) The Holy Spirit has something to do with it, (693, 698) holding ‘our inheritance’ for us until we possess it [Christ-likeness] (706) The Plan is “to unite all things in Christ” through the Church (772) and that (the renewal and transformation of humanity and the world) will be fully realized at the end of time as the new heavens and new earth. (1043) God wants this Plan accomplished “for the salvation of the world and for the glory of His name” (1066) “The Holy Spirit’s transforming power in the liturgy hastens the coming of the kingdom,” giving us life, hope, and the guarantee of ‘our inheritance’. (1107, 1274)
This guarantee, or seal, of the Spirit – His presence in our hearts – assures us we belong to Christ. (1296) Christ sets the example for us of adhering “in His human heart to the mystery of the will [The Plan] of the Father.” (2603) “Uniting all things in Christ” is the same thing as “recapitulating all things in Christ” (and we’d want to study Christ’s priestly prayer in John 17 for more on this) – the reconciliation, or re-uniting of “God and the world; the Word and the flesh; eternal life and time; the love that hands itself over and the sin that betrays it; the disciples present and those who will believe in Him by their word; humiliation and glory.” (2748) (In Christ, The Plan is completely fulfilled (CCC 2749), in us it is being fulfilled, and in the Church’s perfect union with Christ as His Bride, it will one day be utterly fulfilled.)
When we pray, “hallowed be Thy name,” we are drawn “into his plan” and “immersed in the innermost mystery of his Godhead and the drama of the salvation of our humanity.” (2807) His work “is realized for us and in us only if his name is hallowed by us and in us.” (2808) His desire? His will? His Plan? “To gather up all things” in Christ. When we pray “Thy will be done,” we are asking “for this loving plan to be fully realized on earth as it is already in heaven.” (2823)
Whew! It was hard not to get sidetracked as each one of those references led to so much more (much of it connects with Ephesians chapters to come!), but I wanted to power through all of them to get a clear description of The Plan. What stands out for me is the gathering in, the re-collecting of all being – sort of a scavenger hunt, where we go out collecting bits and pieces, bring them to Christ, and He puts them all back together in some way that makes sense of it all, and pleases God.
Well, if He can collect all the broken pieces of me, and put me back together, whole and beautiful, I’m betting on Him to accomplish The Plan whether or not I fully grasp the mystery! Oh, and it’s Christ who does the accomplishing. If I’ll just live for the praise of His glory, He’s got the whole Plan in His hands.
This description of The Plan makes it sound less like a fill-in-the-blank test (God wants me to ____) and more like a huge adventure (Here, grab my hand and jump on the moving train!!). I’m excited about going on to re-read all of my favorite book of the Bible through Catholic eyes.
Next: End of Ephesians Chapter One – Christ to the Third Power
This is a shameless plug for my own book! I’m so excited that Angelico Press has published Souls at Work, and I have high hopes that it will be a blessing to readers. Someone has asked “What kind of book is this?” and it’s hard to put it into a typical category.
It is ‘self-help,’ because I enjoy talking to people who enjoy self-improvement. It is ‘educational,’ because I look at the world through the lens of the classical Trivium and suggest this as a model for self-educators and for teachers. It is ‘Catholic spiritual direction,’ because I strongly believe that your interior life will be much improved by taking on reality in all its forms – art, persons, subjects, buildings and more.
It is ‘poetic,’ because it is meant to give you entrance into my own lived experience, and so is written with a richness of vocabulary and diction that is sadly missing from many 10-bullet-point books. It is ‘hard,’ because it invites you into the adventure of working out your salvation in the rough and tumble tensions of things that are difficult for you. It is a ‘workbook,’ because I ask you to do the work of writing it for yourself (!), or, at least, responding to its questions to make it truly your own.
It is ‘dangerous,’ because there is no true growth or education possible apart from venturing into the unknown territory of the Real World with only our imperfect realization of Christ to guide us. It is ‘Catholic,’ because it is deeply indebted to and respectful of the Faith, and is predicated on my own love for Christ and His teaching magisterium…without being at all a work of theology.
What else? A fountain of youth? Yes. A great conversation starter? Yes. A fun romp through science, art, literature, architecture, and more with, not an expert, but an interested fellow student? Yes. A help in understanding relationship dynamics? Yes. A new perspective on the new evangelization? Yes!
So, as one who is obviously totally unbiased about this book, I highly recommend you get a copy and share the news that it is available. THANKS to all who take the plunge and wade into this ‘invitation to freedom’. Together, Catholic writers and readers must discover what it means for an artist to be, not a law unto herself, but a member of the Body of Christ. I so look forward to your response to this book. Please tell me what kind of book it is when you know!
Thanks to Jill Stanek, pro-life activist, for publishing this Guest Post about the 50 Million Names Project!
50,000,000! When we reached that abortion toll, I woke up, in a way, to the horror of this ongoing holocaust. I wished then, before Internet, email, and computers in every home, there was a way to give names for all those babies. No way!
One of my all-time favorite G.K. Chesterton quotes, this has grown into an important part of my ‘philosophy of life.’
To take myself lightly is not to disrespect, or dismiss myself. I must take myself seriously enough that others may also respect and benefit from my existence. But if I hold self lightly, I’ll have the humility to let the bubble of illusion pop, or the balloon of reputation fly off, without whimpering.
Flying is about light. Not just being light enough to rise, but about seeing clearly – through the lens of truth, in a way that corresponds with reality and is unclouded by self-delusion, sin, or selfishness. Lightness is about detachment – from my comfort, from my demands being met, from the promise of outcomes or progress.
Flying like this requires real gravitas – real and deep connection to the ground of being, to place, history, virtue, reality. Angel flight is about high humor – the Divine sense of comedy in which we stumbling, fumbling heroes turn out all right and even save the day. Perhaps angels can fly, mostly, because they know that in the end (as St. Juliana of Norwich said) “All manner of things shall be well.”