Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Charged with the Grandeur of God

In Hopkins arguably most famous poem God's Grandeur (I don't think it's his best one, personally), the opening line reads:

"The world is charged with the grandeur of God."

Curiously, I began to think about this poem while reading from the philosophy of Karl Marx, who holds religion to be the opiate of the masses. Religion as the ideological skin that humanity must shed if it is to realize its true nature both individually and as a society.

Of course, as a Jesuit, I do not agree with such sentiments. Yet, such sentiments arguably arise because religion can become an all-too-comfortable boys club that is no longer able to bear witness to its true spirit. God becomes a means to an end. The message of the Gospels becomes stripped of its vitality in order to further personal, political agendas. Clothed in religious language lie hearts of pride, selfishness, and greed.

Yet, I do believe that the world is charged with the grandeur of God--a world radiating with the light of Christ. The spirit of the Trinity is found in creation, in each and every one of us. God animates and electrifies the life of this world--past, present, and future. And we are charged with the task to bear witness to the spirit of God within us--a task done at its best with alacrity and joy.

I do not believe that humanity attains its true being when it casts off belief in God. On the contrary, I believe we become alienated from our true selves, selves that ultimately only make sense when we are in relationship with God--God who loves us incredibly, radically, unconditionally. When we bear witness to that true love, we should have no need to defend our actions or our faith. Our actions should speak for themselves.

Despite our sinfulness, I believe there is great good found within all of us. I have seen this and experienced this with my own eyes. If we can recognize this good--this divinely-charged life--within our brothers and sisters and draw out that goodness from within humanity, we are well on our way towards the Kingdom of Heaven, where all the world is embraced with Bright Wings.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Lenten Blog on the Spiritual Exercises

Since there have been a number of generous souls who have promoted my blog on their site, I thought I would pay it forward and promote a new Lenten blog where one of the contributors is a fellow Ciszek brother, David Paternostro S.J. For those who would like more contact with the deep treasure of the Spiritual Exercises, this blog may provide you with a rich opportunity to learn more about Jesuit spirituality.

An excerpt from their site:

Welcome to the Spiritual Exercises blog! This blog is a collaborative effort between David Paternostro, S.J., John Brown, S.J., Deacon Kevin Dyer, S.J., and Fr. Chris Collins, S.J. In it, we will offer daily reflections over the course of Lent based on the prayers proposed by St. Ignatius Loyola, S.J., in his Spiritual Exercises. By Easter, one who has followed these reflections regularly will have a basic introduction to the whole of the Spiritual Exercises.

Definitely check it out! Especially as we soon enter into the season of Lent, I'm sure this blog can enrich your prayer during this upcoming Liturgical season. You can find it here

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Gift of Inspiration

"The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being (Genesis 2:7)."

I was recently attending to my private night prayer, slowing myself down and consciously breathing in the Holy Spirit, when I felt the consolation of noticing God's inspiration within me. From the Latin word Inspirare (In-into + spirare-breathe). One might also define inspiration as grace--a gift freely given by God.

In a fragment of his poem The Blessed Virgin compared to the Air we Breathe, Gerard Manley Hopkins writes:

"this needful, never spent,
and nursing element;
My more than meat and drink,
My meal at every wink;
This air, which, by life's law,
My lung must draw and draw
Now but to breathe its praise."

Artists, in the most general sense of the term, derive their life's work from inspiration. There is something about much art that goes beyond the artist. Somehow, the art taps into the Divine, is charged with the grandeur of God. God breathes into the artist, and through the art-form, that inspiration is channeled timelessly into the many that come into contact with the inspired creation.

How wondrous is the inspired event of the breaking of the bread?

We do well to take notice, to humbly receive the ever-present gift, and to offer exhalations of thanksgiving.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Homily from My Vow Mass

I've been wanting to upload this audio file to my blog for quite some time, and I figured I'd use this restless night as a time to do that.

Over the past few weeks, I've been occasionally re-listening to the homily from my Vow Mass in August '08 by my current provincial, Fr. Pat Lee. I find this prayerful recording to be a source of great wisdom that helps me more firmly ground my understanding of this vowed life I live.

The scriptural references come from Daniel 3:39-42 and Mark 12:28-34

Sunday, February 7, 2010

My Class Schedule

Since I am currently missioned to study philosophy, I thought I would share my class schedule this semester. We are already two weeks in, but I am thinking that this current semester will be my most difficult semester here at Fordham. After this semester, I hope never to take four classes again in the MAPR program. (It's a bad sign when you feel stressed the first week of classes)

Anyway, I thought I would give little excerpts from my syllabi:

Nineteenth Century Philosophy (required):
"Situated between Kant's Copernican revolution and Nietzsche's perspectivism, the nineteenth century experienced a radical questioning of the nature of truth and human understanding. The major reflections on the problem did not occur primarily in the abstract discourse of epistemological theory but in the concrete discourses of religious, social, and cultural critique."

I will be reading in this class from Hegel, Marx, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche.

Philosophy of Literature (elective):
"Philosophy of Literature is a doctoral-level graduate course devoted to examining central questions pertaining to the philosophical assessment of literature and the relationship between philosophy and literature as contested since the beginnings of the Western philosophical traditions...Issues to be addressed include the autonomy of literature, the nature of literary language, the distinction between poetry and prose, the relation of literature to history, the distinctions among literary, scientific, and everyday language, ontological and phenomenological accounts of the literary work of art, and, quite prominently, the status of author and reader in the constitution of the literary work."

Most of the philosophers I will be reading here fall under the realm of Continental Philosophy.

Introduction to the New Testament (elective):
"In this course we will study the origins of Christianity by analyzing its most important literature, now known as the New Testament, in historical context. Theological themes--such as doctrine of God, Christology, sin and salvation--will occupy our attention as they arise in the texts, but they are not our only concern. We will also explore issues of social history, contemporary hermeneutics, religious identity formation, Jewish-Christian relations, gender and sexuality, and political power."

We are reading a lot here.

Analysis for Ministry (required):
"Analysis for Ministry" is meant to foster the reflective habit and analytic ability called for by the Society (of Jesus). This course will attempt to bring faculty together from across the curriculum in order to engage students in a vigorous conversation on social justice and the methods of social and cultural analysis in the Christian tradition. The seminar will begin with a reading of the entire corpus of papal encyclicals on Catholic social doctrine. The course will then progress to relate the principles of this extensive body of magisterial teaching to theology and to economics."

We have about 5 professors team teaching this course. This course helps to form our "habit of reflection in a serious and systematic way on the experience of our human condition in the light of the Gospel."

I think overall that this should be a good semester content wise, but I just need to be able to keep up with the mounds of work already piling up for myself.