A Vessel of Love filled with fire

IMG_0884January 25th, 2017 ~ The Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle

Paul was an amazing man. He was small of stature; he refused to depend on charity–thus, he worked as a tentmaker wherever he went.  After he was severely beaten, he was in constant pain, but went on and on and on, because, as I learned  tried to learn from him . . . .

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

~ Philippians 4:13

Paul before his conversion was known as Saul of Tarsus, and as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles he says, “I persecuted this Way to death, binding both men and women and delivering them to prison.” And then he tells the story of his conversion on the way to Damascus, that a great light blinded him and he heard a voice asking, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (You can read the rest of the story in Acts 22: 1:16.)

I enjoyed what St. John Chrysostom, a bishop in the early church says about Paul in the divine office for today . . . .

Paul, more than anyone else, has shown us what man really is, and in what our nobility consists and in what virtue this particular animal is capable.  Each day he aimed even higher; each day he rose up with even greater ardor and faced with new eagerness the dangers that threatened him.  He summed up his attitude in his words: “I forget what lies behind me and I push on to what lies ahead.” 

I never paid much attention to Paul until my later years.  And suddenly, I fell in love with him; thus, I’m writing this blog in his honor, despite the passages that show his Hebraic attitudes toward women and the misuse of his words about gay people. Here’s the reason . . . .

Chrysostom goes on to say that the most important thing of all that St. Paul knew himself to be loved by Christ.  Enjoying this love, he considers himself happier than anyone else . . . . He preferred to be thus loved and yet the least of all, or even among the damned, than to be without that love than be among the great and honored.  So too, in being loved by Christ he thought himself as possessing life, the world, the angels, the present and the future, the kingdom, the promise and countless blessings. Apart from that love nothing saddened or delighted him; for nothing earthly did he regard as bitter or sweet.

A few years ago, a priest-friend of mine sent me a Christmas card with a favorite quote from St. Paul on the cover that I framed and still sits on my dining room table that I often glance at.  As I have had my own cup of suffering from long years of manic-depressive illness it means a great deal to me . . . .

My grace is sufficient for you,

for in weakness power reaches perfection.”  

And so I willingly boast of my weaknesses instead,

that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  

For when I am powerless, it is then I am strong.  

              (2 Cor. 12:9-10) 

You see, Paul has helped me love my Lord–or rather to deeply and richly realize in tears of joy that Jesus loves me–as I am, weak and sinful.  He has raised me up and heals me, granting me the wonderful grace to share his love as best I can at the tip of my cursor, if in no other way.

And so, dear friends, know that you, too, are loved, whether you know it or not.  Our God is love!  Know that–despite whatever else you’ve been taught, despite how guilty you may feel or how unworthy you think you are.  YOU ARE LOVED!  THIS IS A MEANINGFUL UNIVERSE! And if you want, call me and I’ll try to help ~ 904-315-5268.

We’ll let St. Catherine of Siena have the last word that really grabbed me, Paul “became a vessel of love filled with fire to carry and preach God’s Word.   Amen.  Amen!  

And now, before you go, here are the St. Louis Jesuits singing the Prayer of their Founder, “Take, Lord, and Receive.”  It’s a beautiful prayer and a beautiful song. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen for the slide show that accompanies it.

And here are all of today’s mass readings if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

Roe v Wade 44 years later

20160119t1527-1525-cns-chicago-march-life-690x450I’d like to follow up yesterday’s blog on a Nine Days of Prayer for Life with two stories I found today on the online Catholic news site Crux. The first one has some very good news . . . .

According to a new Marist College/Knights of Columbus poll, a strong majority of Americans and even a narrow majority of Americans who identify as “pro-choice” support substantial restrictions on abortion, including limiting abortion to the first trimester or not using taxpayer money to fund abortions.

Overall, the poll found that 74 percent of Americans support one or more such restriction, including 54 percent of those who call themselves “pro-choice.”

“The labels really don’t get at people’s actual positions” in abortion debates, said Barbara Carvalho, director of the Marist Poll, in a Monday conference call with reporters.

“Generally people are only given two options,” Carvalho said, referring to identifying as either pro-choice or pro-life, “but the reality is more complicated.”

The poll was conducted Dec. 12-19, 2016, in English and Spanish among a random sample of American adults.

The poll found that 83 percent of Americans oppose the use of tax dollars to support abortion in other countries, and more than six in 10 oppose the use of tax dollars to fund abortions in the United States.  This includes almost nine in 10 Trump supporters, 87 percent, and even nearly four in 10 Clinton supporters, 39 percent.

In terms of limiting abortion to the first trimester, a majority of Clinton supporters, 55 percent, and more than nine in 10 Trump supporters, 91 percent, say they would approve.

Nearly six in 10 Americans say limiting abortion to the first trimester is either an immediate priority or an important one. That total includes 78 percent of Republicans and 47 percent of Democrats. Among those who say they’re pro-choice, 44 percent say restricting abortion is an immediate priority or important.

Among those who want restrictions, 74 percent also want the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in favor of those restrictions.  According to the poll-takers, this equates to about 55 percent of Americans who support such action by the Court.

“There is a consensus in America in favor of significant abortion restrictions, and this common ground exists across party lines, and even among significant numbers of those who are pro-choice,” said Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson.

“This poll shows that large percentages of Americans, on both sides of the aisle, are united in their opposition to the status quo as it relates to abortion on demand. This is heartening, and can help start a new national conversation on abortion.”

The Knights of Columbus are Crux’s principal partner.

The findings are broken down by multiple categories, including religious affiliation. For Catholics, results are further refined to distinguish between “practicing” Catholics, meaning those who attend Mass at least once a month, and non-practicing.

Among Catholics, 60 percent of practicing Catholics identified as pro-life, as opposed to 37 percent who said they’re pro-choice. For non-practicing Catholics, the totals were inverted – 64 percent said they’re pro-choice, and 31 percent pro-life.

Among both practicing and non-practicing Catholics, large shares support abortion restrictions, especially the idea of limiting abortion to the first trimester of pregnancy. Seventy-four percent of practicing Catholics, and 68 percent of those who are non-practicing, also would like to see the Supreme Court rule to allow such a restriction.

Seventy-one percent of practicing Catholics, and 57 percent of the non-practicing, either oppose or strongly oppose using taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions, and more than 80 percent of both groups oppose using public money to fund abortions overseas.

Practicing Catholics overwhelmingly believe that abortion does more harm than good for the woman involved, 62 to 18 percent with the remainder unsure, while the margin is much narrower among the non-practicing – 40 percent say abortion improves a woman’s life, while 42 percent say it does more harm than good.

Seventy-five percent of practicing Catholics agree that, apart from whether it should be legal, abortion is morally wrong, with 51 percent of non-practicing Catholics saying it’s morally wrong and 48 percent saying it’s morally acceptable.

There’s strong support among both groups for the idea that government regulations should not require businesses and their insurers to cover abortions, with 66 percent of practicing Catholics and 59 percent of the non-practicing saying the government should not have that power.

Andrew Walter, Vice President for Communications and Strategic Planning for the Knights of Columbus, argued the results point to a “real groundswell of support” for limiting, if not eliminating, abortion rights.

“The labels don’t correlate with the policy positions,” Walther said. “Many people who identify as pro-choice support what’s usually seen as pro-life legislation.”

IMG_0243And a second story from Crux was written by Lucia Silecchia is a professor of law at The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law, specializing in elder law, ethics, and Catholic social thought. It’s more negative                           The loss of millions of lives to abortion is not the only casualty of Roe. Rather, the callous acceptance of — and, in some quarters, celebration of — the right to abortion has also planted the seeds for a broader disrespect for vulnerable human life. 

When it began in the aftermath of Roe v. Wade, the March for Life turned the nation’s conscience toward the particular horror of abortion and the taking of human life that it entails. The four decades since have seen millions of deaths from abortion in the United States alone.

In each of those deaths, the world lost a unique and irreplaceable person.

Unfortunately, the loss of those lives to abortion is not the only casualty of Roe. Rather, the callous acceptance of – and, in some quarters, celebration of – the right to abortion has also planted the seeds for a broader disrespect for vulnerable human life.

Those seeds are now bearing bitter fruit in the way in which the lives of those who are disabled, ill and elderly are being treated in fact and in law.

The new legislative year brings the question of physician-assisted suicide to the legislative docket of several states, which will consider whether or not the lives of those who are ill, elderly or otherwise vulnerable should be protected or not.

Sadly, even the nation’s capital recently joined the small but growing number of jurisdictions that have answered that question with a resounding “no, those lives shouldn’t be protected.”

These legislative proposals that are brewing would allow physician-assisted suicide with such scant safeguards that they would be laughable if they were not tragic. However, the arguments in favor of these legislative initiatives have their roots directly in the soil of Roe.

They reflect Roe’s legacy that some lives are worth defending and others are not. In the context of abortion, an infant who is eagerly anticipated by loving parents is celebrated, fought for, and loved months before birth. Yet, a similar infant who is not so fortunate and who is not wanted is easily discarded as a matter of right.

In the context of those who are ill, those who have access to health care, a loving, supportive family, treatment for pain, and access to emotional and psychological care are encouraged to fight against deadly diseases.

However, those who are impoverished, who believe that they burden loved ones, or who are not well treated for physical and emotional pain, are given the opportunity to end their lives. In many cases, they are encouraged to do so by circumstances in which insurance may cover the costs of their suicide but not their medical treatment.

In the context of those with disabilities, a similar inconsistency reigns.

Nationally and internationally, advocacy groups celebrate the passage of legislation, the enactment of programs, and the funding of initiatives to enhance the lives of those who live with disabilities. Yet, these advantages apply only to those who have survived a prenatal diagnosis that indicated the presence of the disability.

Just when legal protections for those living with disabilities increases, the sad reality is that more advanced prenatal diagnosis techniques condemn many with disabilities to an early death. Stunningly few children with Down syndrome are born each year, and this is a result likely to be replicated as prenatal testing for other conditions increases rapidly.

Ironically, even some fierce pro-life advocates who would defend the lives of healthy infants have been willing to concede an exception for those children who will live with a disability.

They reflect Roe’s legacy that personal autonomy is to be valued at all costs – even over life itself.

The circumstances that may lead to an abortion are complex, often heart-breaking, and agonizingly difficult. The circumstances that may lead someone who is struggling with advanced illness, living with a painful disability, or suffering from the limitations brought on by age are also complex, often tragic, and frequently accompanied by an understandable despair.

Yet, the rhetoric of those who advocate for the end of life in these circumstances argues that the autonomy of the woman carrying the child or the suffering patient should be the value that prevails.

There is much to be said for autonomy, and in most circumstances it is a value to be cherished and protected in a nation that values freedom.

However, in the context of abortion, this autonomy does not take into account the autonomy of the child. It ignores the fact that what appears to be free choice is, all too often, a “choice” compelled or influenced by others – including the father of the child, the family of the woman, or the circumstances of the pregnancy.

In the context of those who are ill or elderly, the celebration of personal autonomy in a decision to end life does not take into account the financial pressures that often drive that decision or the overwhelming desire not to burden others that leads to the ending of life.

Contrary to common perception, it is not physical pain that drives the decision to take advantage of physician-assisted suicide. It is fear of being a burden or losing autonomy that tops the list. More importantly, an exaggerated sense of personal autonomy belies the fact that the individual is not the only one with an interest in his or her life.

Autonomy notwithstanding, the world is the poorer for all those who have not been born. The world is the poorer when those who are not young and strong are devalued. And the world is at risk when autonomy is allowed to justify the taking of life. Indeed, autonomy is often restricted when far lesser things are at stake than life itself.

They reflect Roe’s legacy that legal requirements, procedural protections, and seemingly detailed guidelines can legitimize acts that, for the vast majority of human history, were recognized as wrong. Perhaps they reflect the way in which Roe can dull the conscience into believing that legality can create legitimacy and that a society can satisfy itself that there can be a regulated, rational way to do a wrongful act.

Abortion statutes split hairs over the meaning of a partial birth abortion and assisted suicide statutes feign certainty about the disinterestedness of witnesses or the absence of depression. Yet, the veneer of legality in both cases belies the fact that the underlying and irreversible acts that they facilitate raise grave moral concerns.

Roe’s legacy of devaluing unwanted human lives, misconstruing autonomy, and dulling the conscience with legalisms is one that has left four decades of lost lives in its wake.

However, it has also laid the groundwork for more tragedies to come.

But let’s not end this Blog on a negative note. This has also been a Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Pope Francis will conclude it in Rome with an ecumenical Vesper service on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul this Wednesday.  So in honor of that celebration we will conclude with a word from St. Paul followed by a hymn.

I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.  [ . . . .]

And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ, so that we may no longer be infants, tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery, from their cunning in the interests of deceitful scheming.Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head,  Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the body’s growth and builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:1-16)  

And now,  before you go, here’s a Catholic hymn inspired by this text. Click here.  

With love, 

Bob Traupman 

contemplative writer

 

Nine days of Prayer for Life

 

Taken in St. Augustine, Florida in February 2007. Each cross represents 1 million unborn children. Image taken by Bob Traupman.
Taken in St. Augustine, Florida in February 2007. Each cross represents 1 million unborn children. Image taken by Bob Traupman.

Nine Days of Prayer for Life

I always publish this blog near the time of the anniversary of  Roe v. Wade. And I always have this to say . . .  .

Let us stand down, stop the condemning and judging and seek light and understanding, forgiveness and wholeness, kindness and compassion for the young in desperate situations who have no one to turn to and who may themselves be abandoned.

We live in a world that will not recognize the inviolateness and sacredness of every person on this planet.  And that may include those who say  they are against abortion.

My sense is that the sin of those who are quick to condemn others is as great as those who bring violence and bloodshed into their very own bodies.

We ALL have much for which to ask forgiveness.  We ALL need to ask God to increase our capacity to love and turn away from hate ~ especially this year after this awful election campaign. The hatred still hasn’t stopped and the President has not taken the lead to crush it.

There is too much hate in this world — sometimes even from those who minister the Body and Blood of Christ at the altar.

The ones Jesus loves the most are the lost sheep of this world.  He would reach out to those who have had abortions and offer his mercy and forgiveness.  And Pope Francis keeps telling his priests he wants them to have the “smell of the sheep,”   and get out there and minister to them.

The enemies of Jesus are those who justify themselves, the self-righteous, the hypocrites, the ones who know nothing of compassion, those who would not think of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes but would lash out with their tongue (or a tweet?)

President Trump says he will defend the unborn and appoint Supreme Court justices who will do so. But Pope Francis is more concerned with what Cardinal Bernardin  spoke about as “a consistent life ethic,”  that’s more than just about abortion. It also includes policies that are anti-war, anti-poverty, pro-prison reform, pro-immigration, pro-environment, anti-death penalty, and for compassionate end of life care. So, Catholic bishops and the U. S. Church in general may not be so much  in lockstep with his policies.  In fact surprisingly, they’ve already asked him to go slow on repealing the Affordable Care Act.

This year Cardinal Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York has  opened up the one day of Prayer for the Legal Protection for Unborn Children to Nine Days of Prayer for Life and it’s been widely adopted by other dioceses. Here is an outline of the themes for each day. . . .

Nine Days of Prayer for Life

Day One ~ Monday, January 23rd . . . For the conversion of all hearts and the end of abortion.

      ~ How can we build a culture that supports women and respects life?

Day Two ~ Tuesday, the 24th . . .  May each person (woman or man) suffering from the loss of a child from abortion find hope and healing.

       ~ God is ready to forgive each of us! Don’t be afraid. Draw close to his heart.

Day Three  ~ Wednesday, the 25th . . . May all people embrace the truth that every life is a good and perfect gift and worth living.

        ~ How will (or did) you show someone today that their life is a gift?

Day Four ~ Thursday the 26th . . . May those near the end of their lives receive the medical care that respects their dignity and protects their lives

        ~ How will (or did) you show someone today that their life is a gift?

Day Five ~ Friday the 27th . .  For an end to Domestic Violence.

      ~ 75% of Americans are reported to know a victim. Learn the warning signs.

Day Six ~ Saturday the  28th . . .  May those affected by pornography receive the Lord’s mercy and healing.

       ~ Only God can truly fulfill our hearts. How can we invite him into ours?

Day Seven ~ Sunday the 29th . . . For those who long for a child be filled with trust in God’s loving plan

        ~ Lord, help us to see the ways you love us today.

Day Eight ~ Monday, the 30th . . .  For an end to the use of the death penalty in our country.

        ~ How can we bring hope to others and be examples of God’s merciful love?

Day Nine ~ For an end to Human Trafficking and modern slavery.

         ~ Smile and speak the name the clerk in stores you visit today and say “thank you!

 

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       Dearest Lady, mother of Jesus,

whose tender love brought Love Itself into our world,

  help those who have never known the tender embrace of their own mother’s love

  to receive the same tender care and love you wish for each of them. . . for each of us . . .  as you offered the strict, yet tender, love of a Jewish mother upon  Jesus, the Son of God 

     who was nourished at your tender breasts,

              cradled in your arms,

         bounced upon your knee;

                   whose booboo was kissed by your lovely mouth,

              whose dead body you received come down from the Cross.

You were the one from Jesus learned the joys of human love.

  Receive today all of Jesus’ brothers and sisters on this planet, born and unborn.

  Draw us all into that one great mystery of divine/human love which is the glory of our Christian faith,

  the Incarnation of the son of a young beautiful woman, Son of God,

       our Brother, our Friend, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!  

                      Amen. 

And now, before you go, here’s the penitential hymn “Remember Your Love”  Click Here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

Bob Traupman

 contemplative writer

And P.S.  Don’t worry about the aborted children;  the innocent ones will shine like the stars in God’s kingdom.

The tragedy is that they will never set foot on this beautiful planet.

Will America be great again?

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Tomorrow, we will inaugurate the 45th President of the United States of America—Donald J. Trump.  Some folks are rejoicing in his victory, while others are quite concerned about how he will govern or even quite nervous about his qualifications.

I’ve musing about what his inaugural address might be like.  Will he make an effort to bring our nation together?

I came across some ideas while reading the alumni magazine of my seminary—Theological College of the Catholic University in Washington, D.C.  They just got a new Rector—Sulpician Father Gerard McBrearity P.P.S. this past fall and I gleaned some ideas from his inaugural letter.  He wrote . . . .

Every time we bring hope into a situation, every time we bring joy that shatters despair, every time we forgive others, and give them back their dignity, every time we listen to others and affirm them and their life, every time we speak the truth in public, every time we confront injustice, we are practicing resurrection. (Resurrection is about bringing new life where there’s decay or listlessness or despair.)

Father McBrearity was quoting the words of the spiritual writer Megan McKenna in his opening remarks. He goes on to say,  “I hope that in everything I say and do I will practice resurrection, that I will be able to bring joy where there is only hurt or anger, that I will be able to listen, that I will be able to speak the truth and confront injustice.”

Wouldn’t it be lovely to hear words such as this—healing words, words of hope, inspiring words, uplifting words, from the next President of the United States?  That he would be able to listen?

Perhaps we will.  I hope and pray we will.

One of the roles of a president is to inspire the people of the country. Yes, to bring about resurrection.  To show us the way forward.  To offer hope.  To bring life!

It is up to the President to lead us in the work of healing. Should it not be one of his first orders of business to bring us together? To reach out to those with whom he disagrees and be magnanimous, though in the last few weeks he has stubbornly gotten into Tritter wars with people, behavior  unbecoming of a man who will tomorrow take the oath office of the presidency of the country he says he wants to make great again.   Wouldn’t be great if he were able to make a grand gesture of goodwill to the people he’s offended?  Wouldn’t be great if he would tell us he’s going to be a president for all Americans—whites and blacks, Christians, Jews and Muslims, men and women, the poor and the rich; Latinos, LGBT folks, immigrants, and so many more?

There’s something else that I want to add that gleaned from  my reading preparing for Mass last Sunday.  Bishop Robert Barron, an assisting Bishop in the LA Archdiocese, often has a brief lesson in the Magnificat liturgical magazine, as he did last Saturday evening.  He had this to say . . . .

One of the distinctive marks of our culture is a tendency toward self-exculpation (excusing ourselves) and self-exaltation.  “I am beautiful in every single way,” declares a popular song. Everyone is a victim, and yet no one is morally to blame for anything.  One’s personal desire reigns sovereignly over politics, nature, and religion. This attitude is not only wrong-headed—it is adverse to Christianity, which has to do with salvation.  For if there is nothing to be saved from, who needs a Savior?   (Magnificat, Jan. 2017, p. 188)

In the Middle Ages, when Popes were installed as Pope three times a papal master of ceremonies would fall to his knees before the pope, holding a silver or brass reed, bearing a tow of smoldering flax. For three times in succession, as the cloth burned away, he would say in a loud and mournful voice, “Pater Sancte, sic transit gloria mundi!” (“Holy Father, so passes worldly glory!”) These words, thus addressed to the pope, served as a reminder of the transitory nature of life and earthly honors.  (Source: Wikipedia.)

Does Mr. Trump who is known for his—um—rather large ego–which also bruises like an overripe peach,  recognize that he is not the Savior?

He would do well to have something like this ceremony to remind him that THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENCY IS BIGGER THAN YOU, MR. PRESIDENT!

So, let’s sum up then. . . .

From  St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians for all of us . . . .

Dismiss all anxiety from your minds.

Present your needs to God in every form of prayer and in petitions full of gratitude.

Then God’s peace which is beyond all understanding, will guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, Brothers and Sisters, your thought should be directed to all that is true, all that deserves respect, all that is honest, pure, admirable, decent, virtuous, or worthy of praise.

Live according to what you have heard me say and seen me do.

Then will the God of peace be with you.  (Phil. 4:6-9)

And now my prayer . . . .

Almighty God, Creator of the Universe,

We thank you for the 239 years we have been a strong, vibrant country.

We’ve been through wars—one that almost sundered our own land, and many of our young have fallen so that we could be free.

We’ve been through droughts and depressions, hurricanes, and all sorts of tests to our national will; but we’re still more or less in one piece, dear God.

And now, we come to another moment of peaceful transition of power in our land.

Almighty God, we ask your blessing on Donald J. Trump and Mike Pence as they assume their office tomorrow..

Please open them to your guidance.

Send upon them your Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Wisdom,

the Spirit of justice, peace, and unity for all in our land.

And finally, dear God, we ask your blessing on all the peoples of our great county,

from east to west, from north to south, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.

For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours!

Amen!

And finally, dear Mr. Trump . . .

The Lord bless you and keep you!

The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!

The Lord look kindly upon you and give you peace!

     (Numbers 6:23-26)  

And now, before you go, here’s the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing America the Beautiful with great slide show. Click here.  Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

 

One Nation – Under God

The Jefferson Memorial at Night; the statue of Jefferson faces the White House.
The Jefferson Memorial at Night; the statue of Jefferson faces the White House.

This week began with a Memorial tribute to the martyred Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and will conclude with the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States ~ Donald J. Trump.

Nine years ago, the June 2007 edition of my Arise Reflection / Letter was entitled, WHAT HAS BECOME OF OUR BELOVED COUNTRY?

I wrote,

Those of you who have been with me for some time  (this was Volume XVIII) know that I occasionally write something difficult to deal with.  The following topic I have been thinking about and praying about for years.  I was alarmed about three issues

1.) Technology and unbridled consumerism have become our false gods.

2. ) Our country was saturated in violence on TV, video games, Virginia Tech. to Abu Ghraib.

3.) We have taken for granted our freedoms in this country, as I warned the Patriot Act was beginning to do.

This is how I concluded that issue in June of 2007:

And the sad thing is we let it happen.  We are so self-absorbed we ignore what we see. We become complacent. Yes, we could lose our democracy.

But we can let our voice be heard in the political process in this coming election year.  (Barack Obama’s)  We can take our country back from the special interest groups.  We can show them that America is not for sale!

This is the America I believe in:  the America which is not just out to make a buck but puts people first—and God—first; that goes below the surface of things to find life’s meaning and purpose; that leads the world not because what we have but by the ideals we hold sacred; that is not deluded by false gods but knows and serves the God of Love.

As a result I’ve had a category in my blogs, entitled “Transforming our Nation, “ that I’ve only used on patriotic holidays. But what I propose to do is, over the next month or so, to post occasional blogs on that topic as we see how the Trump administration fulfills the responsibilities of their office. I want to look at all of this prayerfully from the perspective of the Gospel from a spiritual point of view.

My overarching theme is In God we trust?  And that was prompted by an email someone sent me informing me that there’s a new dollar coin cast that no longer has the words “In God we trust” imprinted upon it.  Where are we going as a nation?  Since 2007, I’ve been pleading with my readers to pray for the transformation of our nation, as I do with you now

And for our first entry,  take  one I received Sunday from the website of Association of United States Catholic Priests,

Dear Mr. Trump: Will You Advance a Moral Agenda?

Campaign created by
Rev. Dr. William Barber II, Rev. Dr. James Forbes, Rev. Dr. Traci Blackmon, Sr. Simone Campbell, with over 15,000 clergy signed on.

Dear Donald Trump,

As you prepare to take an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the U.S. Constitution, we write with deep concern and prophetic hope for our nation and world. This letter is to share a commitment to meet with you in a house of worship prior to your inauguration, if you desire to hear our voice of counsel and challenge.

At the heart of our religious traditions, the moral values of love, justice and mercy compel us to seek the common good in society. When you place your hand on the Bible and promise to fulfill the duties of the office to which you have been elected, you will assume leadership of a government that exists to “form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and to our children.”

Why is this important?
Pursuing a more perfect union is serious work for any human being. We want to pray for you because we know this is an especially difficult task today.

In the prophetic tradition, we want to exhort and challenge you because you cannot do this work alone. Our sacred text honored by Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike declares we must do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before God. America’s Constitution begins “We the people…” because it points toward a form of government that requires a broad and engaged coalition of citizens in order to thrive. We want to pray and point towards these essential goals.

Mr. Trump, we hope it is your desire to be successful. Success is measured by how we welcome the stranger, care for the sick, care for the poor, and care for the hungry in practice and in policy. In order to be successful in the eyesight of God, leaders must repent when they are wrong, and they must be committed to promote that which is rooted in justice and good will. As clergy dedicated to the care of souls, we know you can neither succeed in a way that pleases God nor fulfill the duties of your office unless you repent. All of us, even persons who hold powerful positions, are called to repent when we violate the deep principles of love, justice, and mercy towards all, especially the least of these.

Since your election, our communities have been fractured by harassment and intimidation. People of color and religious minorities are afraid. Poor working people who you appealed to in your campaign are disappointed that you have attacked their union leaders while appointing Wall Street elites who use them to your Cabinet.

We are deeply concerned by the policy vision that your Cabinet selections suggest. After inviting Steve Bannon’s white nationalism into the Oval Office, you nominated Jeff Sessions to head the Justice Department—a man who did not receive Senate approval for a federal judgeship in 1986 because of his long history of racial discrimination in Alabama. If he maintains his past positions on civil rights and voting rights, he could overturn and undermine years of victories and protections secured and signed in the blood of the martyrs. Equally insulting to African-Americans is your nomination of Ben Carson, a black man with no experience in government or housing, to head HUD.

But race can never be separated from class in America. We are equally concerned about Andy Puzder’s resistance to the movement for a living wage, which impacts over 60 million Americans and 54% of all African-Americans. We are concerned about Tom Price’s expressed commitment to repeal the ACA and take away healthcare from people with preexisting conditions, veterans, and nearly 30 million Americans. We are troubled that you have chosen several people to lead federal agencies that they have publicly attacked in the past.

Both this nation and the rest of the world desperately need your heart to grow into a source of courage, so you might work with all people of goodwill to uphold the most sacred moral principles of our faith and constitutional values, (I just summarise them here.)

1. Protecting and expanding voting rights and ending voter suppression and unconstitutional gerrymandering.

2. Pro-labor, anti-poverty, anti-racist policies that build up economic democracy through employment, living wages, the alleviation of disparate unemployment, a just transition away from fossil fuels, labor rights, affordable housing, direct cash transfers and other support for all families struggling to get by

3. Equality in education by ensuring every child receives a high quality, well-funded, constitutionally diverse public education.

4. Healthcare for all by expanding Medicaid in every state, ensuring access to Medicare and Social Security.

5. Fairness in the criminal justice system by addressing the continuing inequalities in the system for black, brown and poor white people and fighting the proliferation of guns;

We do not believe that these are left or right issues. They are right or wrong issues. And while we know no human being is perfect, we wish to speak with you about these moral issues because far too much is at stake for you to succumb to your worst demons while in public office.

Our faith calls us to love all people but this love can never refuse to tell the truth and stand against hate, systemic racism, and economic inequality. We cannot simply congratulate you on your victory and say, “Peace, peace” when there is no peace. We are bound by our vows to tell the truth in love and stand together for justice, love and truth.

As this tumultuous year draws to a close, we will hold a National Watch Night service on December 31st at the historic Metropolitan AME Church in Washington, DC.

Over 4,000 clergy have signed onto our Higher Ground Moral Declaration. On behalf of them and the millions of Americans they serve, we request a meeting with you in a house of worship to pray and discuss these matters. We are interfaith, interracial, intergenerational clergy. You may contact us through the Repairers of the Breach office to arrange a time and location.

And now, my prayer,

Dear God, as we used to stand each morning in grade school

and pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America,

and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God,

indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,

I wonder how many of us ~ maybe even the President – honor those words,

or really take them to  heart?  

One nation – under God.

Please, please bring us together, dear Lord.

I ask you to anoint our President-elect with a new Spirit, Lord.

A spirit of gentleness and reconciliation.  

A spirit that reaches out to all Americans and beyond.  

Please, Lord, Let it be so! Amen!

“Because you are God’s chosen ones, clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy, with kindness, meekness, humility, and patience. Bear with one another; forgive whatever grievances you have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you. Over all these virtues put on love, which binds the rest together and makes the rest together and makes them perfect.  . . .  Dedicate yourself to thankfulness. (Col. 3: 12-14, 16)

And now, before you go, here’s Celine Dion singing, God Bless America with a great slide show.    Click Here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. 

With love, 

Bob Traupman 

contemplative writer

The Legacy of a martyr

National Portrait Gallery
National Portrait Gallery

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

On this coming, Monday, January, 16, 2017, we will honor a great American ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was 39 when he was martyred on April 4, 1968.

On that fateful day, Dr. King was gunned down by an assassin’s bullet while he was leading a strike for sanitation workers.  He inspired and led the Civil Rights movement that achieved great change in our land.  This man is one of my mentors.  I was in his presence in 1963 when I was in the seminary in Baltimore.  Our Rector bussed a lot of us to hear him speak somewhere in the city. Today, I have an image of him near my desk.

He was a man who committed himself to nonviolence like Mohandas Gandhi and my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who died on the Cross for us, as the only way that justice and peace can be achieved.  Dr. King inspired ordinary folks, black and white, to stand up for their rights and to sit down and accept the vicious blows of police and others, and to have the courage to go to jail for what they believed.

On, April 5, 1968, I formally entered the service of the Roman Catholic Church as an ordained deacon.  I was a seminary student at the Theological College of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

The shrill sound of sirens all over the city mingled with the ancient chant melody of the Litany of the Saints as I lay prostrate on the floor with my brothers to be ordained. As I sucked in a deep breath  in the shadow of this man in whose ideal of justice and peace and freedom I also wanted to absorb into my soul and body, I pledged my life to Christ.

Today,  in this land of America, we have lost many of the freedoms and ideals of that other great man Thomas Jefferson that all men are created equal and have the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Today, not only young black men are listless and have no hope.  This is true of so many others as well.

Inauguration day is upon us; some welcome our President-elect; some are fearful of what is to come.   But the questions Dr. King ask of us are . . . .

Where are those today who will inspire us and lead us out of our complacency?
Who will inspire us to stand up and put our lives on the line for what we believe in?
Who still dreams the dream of Martin Luther King and Thomas Jefferson?
Who is willing to sacrifice to restore those ideals to our beloved country?

O God of Justice,
raise up men and women in our day who will inspire us                                                                                    
and restore us to the original ideals of our nation.
Enable us to wake up from our slumber and see what we have lost, and safeguard our freedoms.
Give us the strength and courage to pledge our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor to win this spiritual revolution of justice, peace and love that now lies before us in 2o17.
We pray to you, God,  for You are the God who cries for justice for your children
and who still hears the cries of those who know and realize they are poor without You.
We pray ~ for only You can can restore us to the ideal of freedom and justice FOR ALL.                   T
o You Glory and Honor and Power, now and forever, Amen!

St. Luke attributes has Mary sing these words in her Magnificat sung or recited every evening in the church everywhere in the world. Would  that we would believe it and commit ourselves to it!

“[God} has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servants
for he has remembered the promise of his mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers [and mothers]                                                                                             
to Abraham [and Sarah and Haggar]
and [their] children for ever.

But I call us more than a generation later to the principles of Nonviolence Dr. King instilled in his followers.

They were trained to sit down on the ground and take blows of the police because they knew that Nonviolence was a more powerful weapon than guns and bombs.

Dr. King held no public office.  He persuaded us by the power of his words and the depth of his conviction.

And his willingness to give his life for what he believed in ~ no matter what.

Is there anything you  are willing to give your  life for?

I continually ask myself the same question and pray the answer is Yes!  (Or at least I hope so.)

Now, since it’s been a generation since Dr. King delivered his most powerful and eloquent speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963.that led subsequently to President Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act into law on June 2, 1964.

For a brief excerpt of “the I Have a Dream” speech,    Click here.  It’s the original.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

The Feast of the Epiphany ~ Follow your Star!

dreamstime_s_35563699 [1]The Feast of the Epiphany ~ Sunday, January 8th, 2017

Today’s feast day has several meanings.  In the Roman Church we celebrate the story of the Magi visiting Jesus and offering him gifts.  In the Eastern churches, they focus on the story of the Baptism of the Lord.  Both celebrate the manifestation, the revelation of Jesus to the whole world.

Paul in today’s letter to the Ephesians proclaims that

“The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”  (Eph. 3:6)

We focus on the story of the Magi in our celebration today.  In the Gospel of Christmas, the angels proclaim the Good News of Christ’s birth  to the shepherds, who were uneducated and poor folk.  The story from Luke indicates that the gospel is to be preached to the poor.

Today’s story is from Matthew.  The Magi are scholars and learned men.  They  discern from their study of the heavens that the Messiah was to be born in their time;  they would risk the search for him and offer  their treasures.  The Magi represent all the peoples of the earth outside and beyond the Jewish experience.  Jesus is the Christ for everyone!

This Gospel story is about darkness and light. Brilliant light and terrible, fearful darkness.

The Magi were comfortable with the dark.  They knew how to find their way in the dark, because they could interpret the lights of the sky.  They were adventurers ~ seekers ~ explorers.

They represent all people who are at home in the world of the intellect.  All people who are willing to journey far to seek and find the truth. (Unfortunately, we live in a world of leaders who don’t bother with seeking truth.)

The Magi went out into the night following the light, the great star which marked a singular event in human history.

They stopped to see Herod, expecting that he would welcome the light.  He couldn’t; he was filled with diabolical darkness; he could not abide the light of truth.  He tried to snuff out the life of the God-Man ~ Jesus the Light of the world.

Herod, the guy in charge, a king, was worried about the birth of a baby.  Herod was powerful, and yet, as Matthew says, “ . . . he was greatly troubled.”

What was Herod afraid of?  He knew that Jesus was going to make a difference in his world and was afraid that a change would mean losing the power he had.  He wanted Jesus gone before any of that could happen.  He liked things just the way they were.

So Herod decreed that all firstborn males under two were to be killed.   Jesus and Mary and Joseph would have to flee into the night to find a safe place in a foreign land, the land of Egypt.  And so a shroud of violence would invade the innocence of the Christmas story.  Jesus and his family became political refugees. (Remember that fact if you are inclined to quickly condemn other political refugees.)

I’d like to try to penetrate the meaning of this sacred event by sharing excerpts of two articles that really impacted my faith and understanding of this great feast.

The great 19th Century  Danish philosopher /poet / theologian Soren Kierkegaard, in an article entitled, Only a Rumor, states,

Although the scribes could explain where the Messiah should be born, they remained quite unperturbed in Jerusalem.  They did not accompany the Wise Men to seek him.  Similarly we may know the whole of Christianity, yet make no movement.  The power that moved Heaven and Earth leaves us completely unmoved.

What a difference!  The three kings had only a rumor to go by.  But it moved them to make that long journey.  The scribes were much better informed, much better versed.  They sat and studied the Scriptures like so many dons, but it did not make them move.  Who had the more truth?  The three kings who followed a rumor, or the scribes who remained sitting with all their knowledge?

What a vexation it must have been for the kings, that the scribes who gave them the news they wanted remained quiet in Jerusalem.  We are being mocked, the kings might have thought.  For indeed what an atrocious self-contradiction that the scribes should have the knowledge and yet remain still.  This is as bad as if a person knows all about Christ and his teachings, and his own life expresses the opposite.  We are tempted to suppose that such a person wishes to fool us, unless we admit that he is only fooling himself.

Father Alfred Delp, the Jesuit priest imprisoned and executed by Hitler in 1945, whom we recently quoted in a powerful Advent article before Christmas, The Shaking Reality of Advent  concurs . . .

The wise men. Whether they were really kings or just local eastern chieftains or learned astronomers is not important. The secret of these people is as plain as the shepherds. they are the men with clear eyes that probe things to the very depths. They have a real hunger and thirst for knowledge. They subordinated their lives to the end in view and they willingly journey the ends of the earth, following a star, a sign, obeying an inner voice . . . . The compelling earnestness of their quest, the unshakable persistence of their search, the royal grandeur of their dedication ~ these are their secrets.  

And it is their message for us and their judgment of us. Why do so few ever see the star? Only because so few are looking for it . . .   What are we looking for anyway? And where will we find a genuine yearning so strong that neither fatigue, nor distance, nor fear of the unknown, nor loneliness, nor ridicule will deter us?  Only such passionate desire can prompt the persistence which is content to kneel even when the goal happens to be a simple stable. 

And so, listen to these  powerful words  from Isaiah in the first reading:

RISE UP IN SPLENDOR, DEAR PEOPLE OF GOD, YOUR LIGHT HAS COME.

THE GLORY OF THE LORD SHINES UPON YOU.

This feast is about a light that penetrates the most stubborn darkness of our lives.

This feast brings a Light to us all, if only we, like the Magi, would seek.

SEE DARKNESS COVERS THE EARTH

AND THICK CLOUDS COVER THE PEOPLES.

Violence seems to shroud our whole planet at times.

Some of us too are swallowed up by darkness, enshrouded by night.

Some of us live in  dysfunctional families.  That too can be terrible darkness, though we may not recognize it.  We may think that yelling and screaming are quite normal.

Some of us get up and work hard day in and day out.  Perhaps it is work that we do not enjoy, perhaps even hate.  Perhaps our spirits are far away from our jobs.  We go to work trying to eke out a living, hoping to not be enshrouded by darkness.

And we know that there is darkness in the world.  Israelis refuse to seek peace with the Palestinians.  And there’s troubles in  Sudan, Iraq, Syria. Children are beheaded by ISIS.  Hate seethes deep in the souls of neighbors a few blocks away from each other.  Hate has followed even after the election.

BUT UPON YOU THE LORD SHINES

AND OVER YOU APPEARS HIS GLORY.

Don’t despair of the darkness, dear friends.  Know that there is a Light that can penetrate it.

There was sadness and a thick veil of darkness over my own life for many years.  I had the good sense to move to the little bit of light that I could find.

A candle flame can be as bright as a great Nova when one is looking for light.

WE need the light of God’s truth in the world today.

NATIONS SHALL WALK BY YOUR LIGHT,

AND RULERS BY YOUR SHINING RADIANCE.

We are twelve days away from the inauguration of the next President of the United State of America.   Whose light will he follow?   Whose truth will he obey?  To whom will he bow on bended knee?

And finally, dear friends, out of the darkness came the Magi bringing gifts for the Light of the World.  Gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for the Holy Child who was the Light.

But before we can give a gift, we must ~ often in the midst of the darkness ~ open our hands and our hearts to receive the gift that God would give to us.  We must first receive before we can give.

Out of the darkness of your lives, you  also can find gifts to give to the Lord and your family and friends.

What gifts do we bring?

Do we bring Jesus the gift of our adoration that the Magi did? The gift of our hearts?

These learned and influential people got down on their knees before this little child.

What or  who receives the gift of OUR adoration and allegiance?

The world does not know how to adore God.  We adore so many other things ~ a new sports car, a new home, a gifted child of our own, good-looking women or men.  Maybe we adore a favorite movie star or our favorite sports team when they’re winning at least.  Maybe we adore our career path, willing to do whatever it takes, even as we embrace the darkness along with it.

And so, this Epiphany Sunday, I pray . . . .

Dearest Lord,

When I get down on my knees on Sunday morning,

 I’ll be humbled by this story of the Wise Men who traveled from afar                                                                                                 and fell to their knees with their gifts for you.  

Please allow me ~ allow us – to be renewed in your love this day.  

May we live in your Light and share your Light                                                                                                                                             with our families, friends and neighbors, and, indeed, all the world!  

And please, as I’ve pleaded for years and years for our country, dear Lord, 

help us to remember that it is in You we trust.

and are the source of our justice,

and the reason for us to live in civility and good will.  

Renew us in your justice, love and peace.

To You be glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

now and forever. Amen.

And before you go, here’s an inspiring Celtic version of  O Holy Night.  Click Here.

You can find today’s Mass readings at this link. Click here.

Further, if you’re interested in the star of Bethlehem, you might read this article “Synchronicity and the Star of Bethlehem”  Click here.

And if you’d like an extra treat, do you remember the little drummer boy? Here he he is! Click here.

With love,  

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer