This blog started out as a companion piece to my book, Musings from the Christian Left (excerpts of which can be found in the July 2004 link) and to support a planned radio show. Now, its simply a long term writing project from a Christian Left Libertarian perspective (meaning I often argue for liberty within the (Catholic) Church, rather than liberty because the church takes care of a conservative view of morality.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Good Sheppard/Vocations Sunday

Today is Good Sheppard Sunday, now called the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Because I don’t like the service music used at my home parish (and can’t tolerate my daughter’s eight year old inattention to what is going on), I go to an earlier Mass at St. Mary’s in Alexandria without music (like my father before me – although he brought me because I was not a squirmier by that age).

St. Mary’s is a bit more conservative than I would like, which is why we are not registered there. Among other things, the Pastor (who said Mass today) does not permit girls as Altar Servers, mostly because he believes that it would send the message to girls that there is a chance that they could serve one day as priests. I actually agree with him on the messaging, which is why I favor allowing girls to serve (although my daughter seems to have no ambitions in this area to follow in my or my father’s footsteps).

Father talked about his experience as a boy spending summers at his aunt’s dairy farm, helping with the chores – including herding cows from behind and contrasted that with how sheep are led from the front. He then bemoaned the extent to which in our culture we are no longer taught obedience and followership. Frequent readers will guess that I disagree with him on that point. Indeed, this view flies in the face of the Vatican II doctrine of the universal priesthood of the people from Vatican II.

Like his mother, my mother grew up on a farm, at least some of the time. When I was a child, the farm was long gone. My grandfather was a painter, however, and in my bedroom as a teenager there was a painting in my room of my mother herding sheep (although she won’t admit that this is her). While in ancient times, there were not female sheppards, there certainly are in modern times. Girls can herd sheep as good as boys nowadays, at least if given an American diet.

In this year where the theme is Evangelization, it is worth noting that this is a universal task, not one just left to the priests. Indeed, my mother’s family, the Allens, are one of the great Protestant families in America. George Allen, our progenitor, was Constable at the Plymouth Colony for a time. His son, Ralph Allen, was a prominent Quaker convert (who spent time in jail, probably locked up by his father – although Ralph got the last laugh by burying George in the Quaker cemetery). A later ancestor, John Wing Allen, is the descendent on his mother’s side of some of the original Anabaptist pastors.

My mother, however, became a Catholic – and not just to marry my very Catholic father. Here is where the sheppard part comes in. Both her younger sister and her mother followed her into the faith – her sister when she also married a German Catholic and her mother late in her life when she came to live with our family when she could no longer take care of herself. She also was a strong influence, equal to my father, in raising us Catholic. She was and is no less a Good Sheppard than the Pastor of St. Mary’s.

Monday, April 09, 2012


Easter by MSW

My meditation:

The resurrection of Jesus is the most radical of acts, since it reminds us that the social message of love, tolerance and equality Jesus delivered is endorsed by the Father. It also validates the fact that the Jesus who promised not to drink of the fruit of the vine on Holy Thursday, but did so after he echoed the cry of the Suffering Servant in Psalm 22 was justified by God, so that it is in his emotional suffering rather than his bloody death that we are saved - that God offers solidarity rather than demanding obedience, with a moral law that is for our purposes rather than some incomprehensible divine purpose.

Actually, considering alternatives to the resurrection strengthens faith in it. The alternatives all involve annihilation, either because we cease, we experience some kind of godless Nirvana or because we are nakedly exposed to the immensity of an eternal God in an eternal instant where we can't help but be absorbed into God in an eternal and unceasing perfect moment beyond time (which is the scariest prospect of all). Rather, we are resurrected as ourselves with a Christ who joins us in death so that we may join him in new life. You can't get to that place, however, unless you consider the alternatives. That is the difference between believing in the resurrection and believing in the belief of resurrection.

In order to really believe in resurrection, you must pass through suffering and despair - and not just by experiencing the sacraments of initiation. This is why we have Lent - to give those whose lives do not crush them the opportunity for self-mortification. If Luther had realized that, we would be living in a different world.