Thursday, July 31, 2008

Baby tomatoes!!!

These are two baby Purple Cherokee tomatoes -- I love the long green, lash-like leaves that spread from the top of the fruit. Hanging from below are the spent blossoms. Up above and to the right, you can see another yellow flower that will soon become a tomato!

These are the black Krim babies that had already started before the tomato food fiasco. If they will only ripen, I can harvest the seeds...I had to amputate the dead bottom of the plant and then plant the top part into the ground with a generous splash of rooting hormone.

Here is a view of the Cuore di Bue plant that survived. It has two baby tomatoes and several blossoms...

Another view...

You can already see the striations on the surface of the oddly-shaped Cuore di Bue...

A volunteer plum tomato that sprouted by my grape vine, all tangled in the vine.

And some volunteer cherry tomatoes...

Tour through the garden today

Pope Benedict's intentions for August


VATICAN CITY, JULY 31, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI will be praying this August that all may be more aware of the gift of creation.

The Apostleship of Prayer announced the general intention chosen by the Pope, "That the human family may know how to respect God's design for the world and thus become ever more aware of the great gift of God which Creation represents for us."

The Holy Father also chooses a missionary intention for each month. In August he will pray, "That the answer of the entire people of God to the common vocation to sanctity and mission may be promoted and fostered, with careful discernment of the charisms and a constant commitment to spiritual and cultural formation."

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The miracle of Christ's presence

This evening we had the GS kids over for a cookout and to read one of Joshua Stancil's letters from prison together. It was another beautiful evening, so we were able to eat out on the front porch. After dessert, we stayed where we were to read the letter and discuss it. There were ten high school kids gathered with us -- the largest group we've ever had -- four of whom had never heard of CL before this evening. We found ourselves returning to the following passage, trying to understand what it could mean for our lives:

...until recently my experience of our faith has been more or less solitary: I converted alone, attended Mass alone, had no Catholic family members or friends, my girlfriend was Jewish–my spiritual journey has, for the most part, been a solo flight. I learned about the faith from books, which is fine, I guess–I’m grateful to have been given the grace to know of Jesus at all, even through books–but it produced in me a tendency to look at Catholicism, at faith, at God Himself, as merely a cerebral exercise. I reduced Jesus to a set of doctrines, a rigorous and strict moral code (a moral code, by the way, I consistently flaunted). Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not downplaying the importance of doctrines and morals, not at all. Rather, my whole approach to the faith, by making it a dry, academic exercise I could engage in privately, almost reclusively, robbed those doctrines and morals of any real hold or effect on my life. My encounter with CL, which is ongoing, is showing me a manner and a method of living those doctrines and morals, not merely knowing and reciting them. Before encountering CL and the charism of Father Giussani, I never gave much thought to Presence, that this Presence could touch me and mold me and rebuild me, and that I could do all of that because It–rather, I should say “He”–loved me and loves me still, now, in spite of my repeated failings and frequent ingratitude. God was for me a concept, not a Presence. He was Somewhere Else, a benevolent but distant figure I’d perhaps get to meet some day after my body had assumed room temperature. I never thought of Him as a Presence that can be experienced–that wants to be experienced–here and now, in this life, at this very moment. It certainly never occurred to me that this Presence could be experienced through other people, even through the most unlikely of people. In my world there was me and only me: no room for anyone else, not even a Presence. Now, much to my delight, I find my world greatly expanded and I find myself open to it all. (from "Letter From Prison")
The words in bold were particularly striking to us. We began to think about our own here and now, as we sat around the table together -- this unlikely group of teenagers -- and what a miracle it is that we were in this place, gathered in his name. It is hard to tear oneself away from the idea that God is a private affair, that we feel his presence when we're alone with him, in our thoughts. It is particularly hard to recognize him when he sits in front of us, but this is precisely what it means to be Catholic!

After we had spoken about these things, we sang together, there at the table. One of the teens had chosen songs and created song sheets for the occasion. She led us in the singing, too. We managed to sing for a long time and with a great deal of enjoyment -- GS a cha cha cha, Povera voce, A New Creation, You, Folsom Prison, Wonderwall, Can't Help Falling in Love, Viva la compagnie, Romaria, Oh Freedom, Waitin on the World to Change, You Won't See Me, Wild Rover, and others. I am always so moved and grateful to be able to sing with friends. These opportunities are so fragile! They rest on the willingness of others to step away from their personal self-consciousness to build something beautiful together.

We are going to get together again on Saturday to go swimming and to read one of the Pope's homilies from WYD in Australia together. Maybe the kids will even be willing to sing by the pool!

What is power?

An excerpt from The Nazarene, by Sholem Asch; an exchange between Cornelius, second in command to Pilate and the narrator of the first third of the novel, with his friend, the Centurion whose slave had been cured through Jesus' word:

I [Cornelius] looked at him in astonishment and distress.
"These are fantasies, fantasies," I returned, vehemently. "Right sense, with its feeling for reality, can make nothing of them. Moods like these are fit only for fatalists who lack the will, energy, and power to command their own destinies. Such men have never known the privileges and never felt the characteristics which make up the Roman; they are devoid of prowess, and therefore do not know the delight of battle, and they have never drained the beaker of victory, they have never experienced the peculiar intoxication which comes with the conquest and mastery by the sword. And just as they are completely alien to such joys, so their character is alien to discipline. Submerged in their passion of submission, they know nothing of the true will to love, will to mastery, to revenge, to combat. They know nothing of life and the world. How, then, should one of them render judgment? This people has been content to accept as its lot the sands and rocky hills of its tiny country. Earth is niggardly to them -- so they lift up their eyes to the heavens and dream of a life above the clouds. What have we Romans to do with such things? Are our national heroes not enough for you? Would you exchange the great Marius, Sulla, Caesar, the god Augustus, our own commander Germanicus, who conquered the world for Rome, in favor of the Jewish patriarchs, so that you may sit with them in the kingdom of heaven?" I ended up jestingly.
But he answered me in full earnestness:
"The achievements of our heroes? Who can number them? They have planted the Roman eagles at the extremities of the world, they have brought under Roman rule countless peoples. Who shall deny their valor? But could they command spirits in the same way as they commanded their soldiers? Could they change their own destinies, determine new fates for themselves? Could they spread out a net beneath themselves to save them when they fell into the bottomless abyss of death? Could they with all their arms and armies dull the tooth of the invisible worm which is called time -- which gnaws so insolently the bodies of the great and the small? Or could they, with all their valor, conquer for themselves a single day, a single minute of time beyond their share, or demand as war tribute one more breath than had been assigned to their lives? Could their triumphs yield them one second of pure joy unembittered by the sick remembrance of the end? What is all their wealth if it consists of the realities which are measured with the gauge of destruction? What are their victories, if victor and vanquished share the same fate, are flung together into the same pit of endless night? What are their deeds, if they are ground by the millstones of destruction and carried away by the winds of the past and extinguished by the nothingness of our limited being? Victory is that which creates eternal values, which are not subject either to time or to poison. Victory is that which creates the eternal joy of ever-enduring possession. Prowess is that which conquers evanescent passions and desires, those that satisfy without fulfilling. Victory over yourself prepares you to receive the great benediction of belief in one perdurable power, which in the fullness of its grace has taken you under its protection, and keeps guard over you in all the worlds, through all time, in all the forms and existences to which you are consigned. Oh, they may crush my bones, my blood may run out on the battlefields of life: God will assemble my shattered bones and gather up my spilt blood, and weave them again into a single wholeness. What fires can destroy me then? What wars can prevail against me? I am the eternity in him. Only one kind of might can give me ultimate victory: the might which comes from fellowship in the union which the only eternal divinity has set up with man. And no one can assure me of fellowship in this union if I do not find it in the faith of the barbarians over whom we rule -- the Jews."
I was staggered by this speech. I took my friend's hand; I said:
"Centurion, what ails you? To whom do you belong?"
"Cornelius, you will not understand me. You are blind and you will not see. I feel that something is being born in me, a door is opening for me, and you cannot pass through it. The name of that door is -- faith."
I said no more to him. I saw that he was a lost man... (pp 176-178)

Today's Gospel reading...

Father Cantalamessa, published by Zenit:

However, the parable does not say "a man sold everything he had and started to look for a hidden treasure." We know how such stories end: One loses what one had and finds no treasure. These are stories of dreamers, of visionaries.


No, man found a treasure and, because of this, sold all he had to buy it. In a word, it is necessary to have found the treasure to have the strength and joy to sell everything.

Leaving the parable to one side, we must first find Jesus, meet him in a personal, new and convincing way. Discover him as friend and savior. Then it will be child's play to sell everything.

It is something that will be "full of joy," as the proprietor mentioned in the Gospel.

-- from Seek the Treasure That Awaits, Gospel Commentary for 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, By Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Nazarene, by Sholem Asch


This is one of the most moving novels I have read in a long time. Written originally in Yiddish by a faithful Jew, the book contains unusual first-person fictionalized accounts by three of Jesus' contemporaries: a Roman soldier, Judas Iscariot, and a young rabbinical student of the Pharisee Nicodemus. Here is a summary from Nextbook, A New Read on Jewish Culture:

Sholem Asch (translated by Maurice Samuel)
The Nazarene
Carroll & Graf, $15.95

This epic 1939 novel tells the story of Yeshua ben Joseph—also known as Jesus of Nazareth—through the dubious but compelling recollections of three of his alleged contemporaries. First, a notoriously fraudulent and anti-Semitic Polish historian relates his past life as one of Pontius Pilate's henchmen. He then shares a manuscript that he claims is the work of the infamous disciple Judah Ish-Kiriot. Finally, the historian's Jewish assistant records his own memories of a prior life on the fringes of Jesus' circle of believers.

The three accounts paint a vivid, anthropologically detailed picture of life in the Holy Land during Jesus' day, illuminating his most enigmatic sermons and contextualizing his controversial ministry to the poor and uneducated, whose ignorance of Judaism's complex purity laws prevented them from practicing their faith. Published at the height of Asch's fame, the novel won raves from the English-language press, but alienated his base of Yiddish readers.
In the end, the novel's only flaw, that it requires the reader to suspend disbelief in the transmigration of souls -- and in the process, misleads the reader into thinking that this might be a novel about unreliable narrators, which it isn't -- makes very little difference to the wealth of historical detail, the depth of religious insight that creates context and raises interesting questions about the motives of the various gospel figures, and the sheer beauty of the story.

First of all, tomatoes...

I accidentally poisoned them with undiluted plant food. It's not quite as stupid as it sounds, but almost. Two of the 36 original plants have survived, though I don't know whether they will actually produce any fruit. Five other plants were dead at the roots and lower stem. I cut them off, pulled up the dead part, and replanted the stem in the ground along with a dousing of rooting hormone. Here's to whatever comes. Meanwhile, I had a whole tray of unmarked seedlings that wouldn't fit into the original tomato bed. These I've planted in all the empty holes left by the first wave of poisoned plants. They are quite small and spindly, due to having their roots bound, but some of them are already beginning to grow a little. If our early fall stays warm, I may be able to nurse them long enough to get a tomato or two out of them. Of course, I have no idea what varieties I've planted, now! I guess I'll know them by their fruit...

If you've read my early post, "Why I garden," you know that I'm more than a bit metaphor-happy. So, what does my literary heart do with dead tomatoes -- dead at my own hand? It's not very pretty. As Puddleglum likes to say, "It's enough to steady a chap!" I can't help but feel that God was displeased with my last post about the tomatoes. My tenderness can remind me of God's tenderness, perhaps, but God likes to remind me sometimes of the distance between his tenderness and my own, which is subject to well-meaning but disastrous mistakes.

So, my restless humanity, steady thyself!

Friday, July 25, 2008

«The saints...block us from reducing Christ to our measure» ~Julián Carrón

From Freder1ck, at Deep Furrows:

At one point in my life in 1987-88, Mary kept me Christian. Not Catholic, but Christian. It was a watershed year for me. I was between colleges and living in l'Arche in Washington, DC. I didn't arrive in DC with Marian devotion, and yet I was aware that it's something taught by the Catholic Church. A devout friend was no help. He said things like Jesus loves His mother, so we should too. Or to approach Jesus, we must go through the pure heart of Mary. He had a sentimental look in his eye and he insisted without giving adequate reasons.

I found myself drawn to the Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where I saw such epithets as "to Jesus through Mary" which puzzled me. I saw everything jammed in there together: the giant Miraculous Medals, the almost psychedelic dome mosaics of Creation and the Apocalypse, the lovely chapels of the Protective Mantle of Mary (Byzantine) and Our Lady of Guadalupe. One day, I saw a Mexican man take a rose from the altar, make the sign of the cross on the crucifix there and make the sign of the cross on his daughter; and then he gave her the rose. I was especially drawn the the Chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose undulating walls are entirely covered in mosaic - from the opening to the central image of Mary as she appeared there.

I also remember the small wooden statue of Mary outside the Blessed Sacrament chapel. Here, without gold or ornament, Mary stands proclaiming fiat voluntas tua - thy will be done. It never fails to remind me of the first line of Adrienne von Speyr's Handmaid of the Lord: «As a sheaf of grain is tied together in the middle and spreads out at either end, so Mary's life is bound together by her assent.»

At some point in this year of my life - I don't remember the place, the day, the hour - but I remember it distinctly. Perhaps it was early in my time there, before I went on the retreat in Quebec led by Jean Vanier. I was wondering about Jesus and whether it all really happened. The one thing I couldn't get out of my head was the visit of Our Lady of Guadalupe. She appeared to Juan Diego to tell him: «Am I not here, I who am your mother?» It was evident to me that while conservative and liberal Catholics had written books about Our Lady of Guadalupe, she was more than either of their concepts of her. The skeptic may dismiss a priori any miracles such as this one, but to one who is open and doesn't presume to turn away from anything that claims a reason beyond what can be observed in a laboratory - to one who doesn't set a limit on what can happen, then, Our Lady of Guadalupe doesn't easily reduce to formulas of power and shamanism. To me, it's clear that Our Lady of Guadalupe did appear to Juan Diego.

Something happened. Just as the day following a street festival, the police tell one story and the rioters tell another. You may not know who is more credible, but it's evident that some altercation happened.

I've never gone to Mexico City to see the tilma left by Mary. But the tilma has come to me 2 or 3 times. Once was two years ago at St. Meinrad's abbey during CL Spiritual Exercises. The most recent was at a parish which was hosting an archdiocesan penance service. In both of these cases, it was a missionary image, a full-size photograph of the image sent out to inspire prayer.

And then last week, I was struggling at work - which is crazy to me because it's a great job and it really pushes me to flourish - and the words came into my mind again: «Am I not here, I who am your mother?» I reached in my desk drawer and put the card with Our Lady of Guadalupe on it in front of my computer speaker.

Let me return to the title of this post, to fill in the gaps a bit for those who have not had the experience that I have had:


«The saints, that is, the witnesses, those among us who block us from reducing Christ to our measure: we see them, we touch them. Who didn't feel powerfully moved in seeing Cleuza speak yesterday?»

Julián Carrón: Spiritual Exercises of Communion and Liberation 2008.

Carrón here speaks of saints in the absolutely broadest terms: those who are in communion with Christ. He doesn't speak only of canonized saints, or saints in heaven, but all saints especially those we all are drawn to, those among us who lead us by living a deeper, more radical, and broader affection for Jesus who is Christ.

Nonetheless, when I read again today what Fr. Carrón says here about the saints, I thought immediately of Our Lady and her role in my life. Jesus suffers a thousand competing reductions in the common mentality: Jesus the revolutionary, Jesus the hippie, and the various Jesuses of South Park, the Simpsons, and Family Guy. With all these counterfeits, abstractions, and reductions jumping around, it can be difficult to see Jesus as a person. Mary changed that for me. Mary is the sign of Jesus's humanity.

-- the above brilliance is all Fred's

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

quirks

Freder1ck, at Deep Furrows, tagged me for the six quirks meme. Here's how it is supposed to work:

1. Link the person(s) who tagged me
2. Mention the rules on my blog
3. Tell about 6 unspectacular quirks of mine
4. Tag 6 fellow bloggers by linking them
5. Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger’s blogs letting them know they’ve been tagged

So, here are six among many (when I asked my kids to list my six most noticeable quirks, they told me it was impossible -- that I am totally, inside and out, quirky):

1. I have never in my life used a smiley or an emoticon in an email (which is a quirk because I use them with reckless, annoying abandon when I use IM or Google chat).
2. I have an irrational and subconscious dread about going to the post office -- I don't actually experience fear or dread, I just "forget" or put it off in such a reliably predictable way that I don't know what else to call it but "dread."
3. I can't stand conference calls -- one person on the line at a time, thank you.
4. For the most part, I prefer children to adults.
5. I have never walked out of a movie, no matter how horrible it is.
6. I have emotional relationships with whole numbers -- this was how I adapted to the problem I have with math; by assigning/discerning a particular emotional significance for each number, I was able to turn an equation into a kind of "story" and thus solve it. The emotion that each number carries doesn't really have anything to do with its traditional symbolism, either.

Okay, here are the people I tag:

1. Sharon at Clairity Daily
2. Jen at Mommy of Many
3. Stephen at Musings Of An Ordinary Catholic

Everyone else I know with a blog has already taken a stab at this meme!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

On weeds and wheat...

St. Augustine opposed them: The field, he explained, is, indeed, the world, but it is also the Church, the place in which saints and sinners live side-by-side, and in which there is room to grow and to be converted. "The evildoers," he said, "exist in this way either so that they will be converted, or because through them the good exercise patience."

Hence the scandals that every now and then shake the Church should sadden, but not surprise us. The Church is made up of human persons, not wholly and solely of saints. There are weeds also in every one of us, not only in the world and in the Church, and this should render us less ready to point the finger.

(from Gospel Commentary for 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, By Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

He said it...

Unity is of the essence of the Church (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 813); it is a gift we must recognize and cherish. Tonight, let us pray for the resolve to nurture unity: contribute to it! resist any temptation to walk away!

(HOMILY OF POPE BENEDICT XVI, VIGIL OF THE XXIII WORLD YOUTH DAY, RANDWICK RACECOURSE, SYDNEY, 19 JULY 2008)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Abstractions have no need of mothers

"I mentioned that I had once asked (Karl) Rahner why trendy Christians are so indifferent to Mary, and I quoted his reply: 'For too many people, Christianity has become another "ism", an ideology, an abstraction - and abstractions have no need of mothers.'"

Friday, July 11, 2008

CL Summer Vacation (D.C. Community) 2008

Originally posted on Is It Possible?

The theme of the vacation

We began, the evening we arrived, with a barbecue, singing, and games. The next morning, we hiked to the top of Bald Knob, the highest elevation in West Virginia:

The hike took us through meadows studded with wild strawberries, daisies, and wild blueberries (the children had very little appetite when it was time for lunch!)
The path also led us through dappled woods...

The view from the top of Bald Knob. We sang until the clouds produced lightning. Then we all had to make a dash back to the bottom!

Pieralberto Bertazzi joined us. He met the movement in 1963 in a chance encounter that introduced him to a new way of living. He lived very intensely through the crisis of 1968 and told us at length about his experience.

Notes from the talk given by Pieralberto Bertazzi, a medical doctor and Memores Domini:
  • [Fr. Giussani's genius lay in] going back to the root, back to the beginning -- to ask the question: What is faith?
  • Our faith is knowledge of a fact -- this is the indicator of our faith's truth -- NOT what we decide, otherwise, Christ becomes the starting point and support for our projects...
  • Today we have been living something so similar to things that I did as a high school student...everything done, lived, tasted...
  • I met Fr. Giussani in 1963, on a ski vacation. [It was pure chance...I was looking for a way to go skiing, and I found a flyer...] Chance is one of the ways in which the Mystery operates in history, Reality.
  • GS was not a religious group -- I encountered a life, a way of living everything, something unexpected that I didn't know existed.
  • [It was so attractive] that it made me willing to become a part of it. [Being part of it] allowed me to do everything in a new way -- full of joy, love, solidarity...
  • God entered into the life of man as a man -- to be with God you have to encounter an experience of life.
  • Living the usual things of life in a way that reminds me of God.
  • Giving the usual terms of our language a new taste that was inevitably appealing and attractive.
  • Began following and sharing my life.
  • What you liked was still there but in a new form.
  • It was if those people knew the best way to do everything!
  • 1968: Revolution among young people -- not just young people but everyone, around the world.
  • This was a fundamental event in my life.
  • [It provided a] verification of the encounter, when it becomes really true for you, becomes yours.
  • [It was during that time that I knew that] I will never leave it, it is mine.
  • For some of the GS students, though, they thought that the experience of the Movement was not enough -- "something else" was needed to change the world.
  • But the Movement is not a "religious" movement, it's a life. So everything is included in it.
  • If you encounter what answers the deepest needs of your humanity, you have to follow...
  • The greatest friend I ever had in my life left... [I remember a conversation with him in which he said,] "What I've seen by meeting you, what I have experienced with you, has helped me to see that I don't need you, I won't follow you."
  • [But] I met something that made me a living person...
  • 1968: [There was] a generalized request for authenticity in life -- justice, freedom, unity...
  • To build this new world, they got rid of their tradition, their family, their home, and you cannot build anything from yourself alone.
  • We haven't made ourselves, we are not ours.
  • There is something you have to depend upon.
  • They thought they were going to invent and build a new world. You have to recognize who you are, that you depend...
  • [While Fr. Giussani was in America...] we did the typical things: meeting together, communicating to other people, and doing charitable works. We wrote leaflets.
  • [We had to communicate with others because we realized that] what they were looking for was exactly what we had already met!
  • [The name "Communion and Liberation" came about in this way...] We were trying to decide on a name for the leaflets we were writing to others in the University. I suggested, "Communion and Liberation" because I said, "We are concerned with liberation that everybody wants, and we have found it in communion." Nobody liked the name. They thought it was too long, but one person [who had a lot of influence said we should use it.]
  • Later, when Fr. Giussani returned, he saw the title of a leaflet that was taped to a door...he said, "Yes, that's what we are..."
  • I recently read a study done by sociologists. CL is the only new thing born during the sixties that is still alive and growing.
  • Question: Why did 1968 happen? Response: This is the first generation that had not experienced war. There was great prosperity. We had everything, didn't have to fight to build our life. But young people didn't find the response to the needs of their hearts. It is not something we build, it's something we receive.
  • Question: What is the "1968" challenge of today? Response: That we put our reason before experience. What had happened was greater than we can conceive with our reason. Our impatience is deadly -- we begin to think that this method isn't effective enough. But it wasn't true that what we had encountered wasn't suitable to meet our human needs. Don't start from what you can plan or conceive, don't make plans by yourself. Remaining, instead -- convinced of what our eyes have seen and ears have heard.
  • Teresa: Our problem is a reduction of what we've seen. We must remain faithful to our own history.
We also watched a video presentation, the same one we watched at the Fraternity Exercises, of the Zerbinis' witness about their life in Brazil.

The choir was so great! Some of the GS kids joined in and were a tremendous gift to the vacation. They helped us with the singing several times a day.
Special thanks to Margie and Stephen for leading.

There was another video presentation, which contained an interview with Joshua, who met the Movement while in prison. I couldn't take notes during the video because I was riveted by what Joshua said, but here are my notes, from the brief introduction before the video, by one of Joshua's friends:
  • What I really want to say is that Joshua is a fact that I can't ignore or reduce. There is Something that changes him and changes me. He's been in prison 12 years already, and he has six more to go, but he has this amazing gratitude...
  • [...] When you go into the prison, see all the prisoners, and see Joshua -- the prison is oppressive, grey, you don't open your eyes all the way -- Joshua doesn't fit, he doesn't belong there. He lives an alertness, awareness and attention to the world around him.
  • He has a lively engagement with things and people.
  • He'd had a Protestant friend, and he looked at Catholicism in order to argue with him, but his research convinced him.
  • He survives, remains interested and interesting. His hope is in a real human presence; he's built on this.

The kids joined in the frizi on the final night. We had performances by the littlest ones (shown here), the elementary school kids, the middle school kids and the GS kids, in addition to a full-blown series of adult frizi! We weren't done until midnight!

There was so much more, so much that I can't even put into words! It was all so beautiful and rich...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Staking tomatoes

I spent several hours with my tomato plants (there are 36 in all) yesterday afternoon, tying them to stakes. They are all still quite small and fragile, due to an unseasonably cool early summer, so the job required great care and concentration. As I worked, as gently as possible, I was reminded of the tenderness that God has for us, and his great desire that we bear fruit.

Here are pictures of the varieties I planted this year:

Cuore di bue -- fourteen plants!!

Green gage ping pong

San Marzano Plum

Purple Cherokee

Roma Plum

Brandywine

Black Krim -- already has three yellow flowers!

Golden Jubilee

To follow and live...

Originally posted at Cahiers Péguy:

Several months ago, Sharon gave me this phrase, "follow and live," as a response to my questions about what to do in a confusing and ambiguous set of circumstances I face. These words struck me with the force of a ten pound hammer to the heart, and I have repeated them to myself often when I needed to strike a match in a particularly dark tunnel.

My recent meditations on words, though, made me think again about this phrase: how deeply do I really understand it? Perhaps the strength that it has had in my life is only a fraction of the power that it might have if I would only do the work to penetrate it more deeply? When Sharon asked her question about words and meaning this week, I knew that this was exactly the invitation to explore the meaning of this phrase, to make a commitment to it, to follow it where it might lead.

About a year and a half ago, something quite dramatic happened to me that pulled me up short and made me realize how little I understand the way in which Fr. Giussani uses the word, "freedom." Such was my need to discover what he means by "freedom," that I looked the word up in the index of each of his books that we own, copied out all the passages in which he uses "freedom," and then read them and reread them with attention. This work, that was undertaken to address an urgent question in my life at the time, was so fruitful for me, in so many unexpected ways! And so, I decided to use the same method with the word, "follow;" but alas (!) this word is not indexed in any of my books! This problem, in turn, forced me to search for other words that I thought might be related to following, and I chose "adhering," "authority," and "obedience." The work of slowly reading each book, to find the word "following," will have to wait for another time.

One thing that impresses me about the word "follow" is how Christ uses it in the parable of the good shepherd in the Gospel of John. "The good shepherd calls his sheep by name... and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger...I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep..." (John 10). This mutual knowing that Jesus describes is far deeper than what we usually take for knowledge; in the Bible, when two people know each other, such is the fecundity of the relationship that it ordinarily gives rise to a new life. Father Giussani makes a reference to this phenomenon of God calling by name:

When God turns to man to ask something of him, the Bible describes the dialogue with sublime simplicity. God calls by name, which is the sign of the person as a unique and free individual; and the person's adherence is free and unique: 'here I am!' In Christianity, the only thing that matters is the value of the person, because everything else depends on this; and the value of the person is measured by that free adherence... Perhaps the most understandable and clearest moment for us is the figure of the Blessed Virgin. 'Ave Maria -- Fiat': In the impenetrable free intimacy of this gesture of offering and acceptance lies the cornerstone of God's mysterious encounter with the human person. (Journey to Truth..., 15)
There is a fundamental connection between first being called, then knowing the Voice of the One who is calling, and then following/adhering. And what strikes me now, as I think again about Christ's words about the good shepherd, is that this movement -- calling by name, knowing, following -- leads to a new call: the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. There was no greater sign of adhesion to humanity that Christ's free offering of himself on the cross; but in the phrase, "lay down my life for...," is also contained the sense of giving one's whole life, including the living portion. Christ not only poured himself out for us through his death, but also through his Incarnation and later through his continued Presence with us now, through the gift of the Spirit. His whole life has been laid down for us, and this gift of himself poses the strongest call and invitation we can receive. In front of such a gift, we must be moved! Adherence and following flow from the recognition of Who is calling us and also from the recognition of the precise nature of the call.

So many times, during preparation for First Holy Communion, I have read the parable of the true vine with groups of children. What always strikes us is the number of times Christ uses the word "abide" or "remain" (depending on your translation). Jesus is so urgent on this point! Fr. Giussani's understanding of adherence gains new depth, when it is placed beside the parable of the true vine:
Personal Adherence: Our duty is to make ours all those things with which God lavishes His generous and deep love upon us. This is precisely how our personality develops, and this is called 'work.' This is all the more so when we are dealing with live and spiritual beings. We are called to discover their presence, to accept their person, to make their reality a part of ours; in a word, we are called to 'share' in their existence and ours, to 'share our life' (convivere) with them. This is the 'work' through which our personality becomes completely mature. It is called love. (Journey to Truth..., 25)
Christ's urgent invitation is to "remain in [his] love..." and he compares our remaining in him to his own remaining in the Father, who remains also in him. Then he gives us the "new" commandment: that we love one another as he has loved us.

Here is one other passage from Fr. Giussani on adherence:
We must live this Reality [the mystery of the visible Church], commit ourselves wholly to it; that is enter it and compare all its movements, motives, and directives with the ultimate needs of our humanity. And insofar as we discover that those suggestions, those directives, those initiatives respond to our authentic human needs and help us to understand them, our adherence and conviction will be deep and definitive. So it is not a matter of studying theology or forming a group, it involves everything, all of life, because the proposal comes to us and meets us as a new life. To be 'convinced' means that the totality of our 'I' is bound to something: thus shall we all be bound to that Reality. That Reality will become us and we shall sense that we are that Reality...Whoever does not undergo this verification process will remain a Christian, but have nothing new to say, or else will simply leave. (Journey to Truth..., 98)
In love, if we bind ourselves in love, if we adhere to Reality in love, "That Reality will become us and we shall sense that we are that Reality." This seems to me to be the essence of what it means to "follow and live."

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Adherence and authority (another exercise)

Let the work on Father Giussani's texts continue...

The Journey to Truth Is an Experience:

Adherence:

  • "When God turns to man to ask something of him, the Bible describes the dialogue with sublime simplicity. God calls by name, which is the sign of the person as a unique and free individual; and the person's adherence is free and unique: 'here I am!' In Christianity, the only thing that matters is the value of the person, because everything else depends on this; and the value of the person is measured by that free adherence... Perhaps the most understandable and clearest moment for us is the figure of the Blessed Virgin. 'Ave Maria -- Fiat': In the impenetrable free intimacy of this gesture of offering and acceptance lies the cornerstone of God's mysterious encounter with the human person." (15)
  • "Adherence to Christianity, inasmuch as it is purely mechanical, has no value. Thus, we must question any purely traditional attachment or sudden enthusiasm. Freedom's proper setting is enlightened and conscious conviction. If we wish to solicit another's freedom genuinely then we must act freely. Only one's own commitment can reach another person. The Christian proposal can only be offered to another seriously. The communication of Christianity is thus the encounter of two freedoms, the reference of one person to another. Thus, it is love: 'He has elected us in Him ... for love.' Any generic attitude is useless: it is either negligence or presumption." (15)
  • "Let us now look at the factors of community: personal adherence, functionality (to be part of a whole), authority, and visible unity." (25)
  • "Personal Adherence: Our duty is to make ours all those things with which God lavishes His generous and deep love upon us. This is precisely how our personality develops, and this is called 'work.' This is all the more so when we are dealing with live and spiritual beings. We are called to discover their presence, to accept their person, to make their reality a part of ours; in a word, we are called to 'share' in their existence and ours, to 'share our life' (convivere) with them. This is the 'work' through which our personality becomes completely mature. It is called love." (25)
  • "Free adherence, at all times, is the only condition for participation: there is no enrollment and there are no statutory obligations. It is a movement, not an association." (48)
  • "We can have ideas and opinions that originate in Christian truth, but they are still not the redeeming Christian life. We are called to adhere to and participate in a reality that comes from outside ourselves: the community in which Christ places us."
  • "...The call [within the encounter] implies the proposal of a truth so existential, of something so pertinent to our nature and life, that we feel compelled to try to understand where it is taking us: we feel motivated to adhere it it...Peter's expression in the Synagogue of Capernaum is the simplest yet most powerful example of the call and proposal immanent in the encounter with Christ, and of its force, which compels adherence to Him: 'Lord, to whom shall we go? Only you have the message of eternal life,' the words that give meaning and value to our lives. It should be noted that only those who continuously followed and sincerely committed themselves to Jesus felt the strength of that proposal in all its intensity." (97)
  • "We must live this Reality [the mystery of the visible Church], commit ourselves wholly to it; that is enter it and compare all its movements, motives, and directives with the ultimate needs of our humanity. And insofar as we discover that those suggestions, those directives, those initiatives respond to our authentic human needs and help us to understand them, our adherence and conviction will be deep and definitive. So it is not a matter of studying theology or forming a group, it involves everything, all of life, because the proposal comes to us and meets us as a new life. To be 'convinced' means that the totality of our 'I' is bound to something: thus shall we all be bound to that Reality. That Reality will become us and we shall sense that we are that Reality...Whoever does not undergo this verification process will remain a Christian, but have nothing new to say, or else will simply leave." (98)
  • "A mechanical attachment to a certain position, as if it were almost a party line, is not the verification of a calling; a merely curious attitude is even less so; and yet less so is a spirit bent on accusing and judging possible faults; nor can we call frequent, material, external, passive participation a verification. To verify we must commit ourselves completely, with a clear and renewed concentration...Only if we neglect our most basic human needs will we not take the Christian proposal seriously. There is no getting away from that calling: either adherence, which establishes its own drama, that of commitment and holiness; or the search, just as loaded with consequences. The true, genuine human attitude of those who know that they do not make themselves is to search for their own origins and destiny." (99-100)
  • "Once our adherence is no longer vital, our appeal becomes automatic, as if we were expounding a formula or ideology. Such an appeal is usually propaganda, which only generates arguments, making us feel estranged from others." (100)
Authority:
  • "Even Christ's proposal in the beginning was simple and essential: in fact He proposed that only specific truths (dogmas), sacramental gestures, and authority in the community were compulsory, thus making it clear that the Church is extremely careful about the elements it considers to be compulsory." (14)
  • "Among the various tasks carried out by the members of a community, the most meaningful is giving consistency to the community and expressing it in its totality, that is, in its inspiring principle and in its reality: the unifying function of the community. That is the task of authority. Authority is thus the expressive sign of unity, but above all it is the founding and responsible function of all the life of the community. This is a triple function: • to solicit people's initiative to form a community (the function of calling others); • to preserve the features of the community, defining it clearly within its limits (the function of the ultimate point of reference); • to develop the community, establishing it ever more firmly in reality (the function of education)...Thus authority, rather than being a right, should be a fact, the fact of an exceptional communital spirit." (28)
  • "We abandon ourselves to authority, that is, we love others as ourselves above all, in obedience...To advance towards the fullness of our personality is only truly possible in the concrete gesture of leaving behind our own limits to adhere passionately to the hypothesis of total meaning that authority implies. Education without authority is impossible by nature, in that it leaves the person to be educated alone in the struggle to overcome his or her limitations... [and] it is impossible that our humanity be attracted by nothing else but itself. The Christian community values and takes to the limit the natural rule of education, of following an authority." (29)
  • "Yet even this acceptance can reveal the profoundly different commitment that the individual lives in the community. One might be aware of authority and consider it a factor external to oneself, often only to be judged and criticized. This is a passive, uncommitted attitude. Instead, one must make oneself present to authority: that is, offer oneself actively to it, in an untiring dialogue of collaboration, like Christ's dialogue with the Father. If the community is my person in its greater reality and thus more alive and free, authority must be loved as the most expressive part of myself. To accept authority so readily is the richest way to share, the truest charity." (29)
  • Fr. Giussani sums up a passage on authority (56-57) as follows: "Thus authority is born as a wealth of experience that imposes itself on others. It generates freshness, wonder, and respect. Inevitably, it is attractive; it is evocative. Not to value the presence of this effective authority that His Being places in every setting is to cling pettily to our own limits...The encounter with this natural authority develops our sensitivity and our conscience; it helps us to discover better our nature and what we aspire to from the depths of our present poverty." (57)
  • "The supreme authority is the one in which we find the meaning of all our experience. Jesus Christ is this supreme authority, and it is His Spirit who makes us understand this, opens us up to faith in Him and His person...The apostles and their successors (the Pope and the bishops) constitute, in history, the living continuation of the authority who is Christ." (73)
  • "What genius is to the cry of human need, what prophecy is to our cry of expectancy, so the apostles and their successors are to announcing the response." (74)
  • "[The authority of the apostles and their successors] not only constitutes the sure criterion for that vision of the universe and history that alone explains their (i.e., the universe's and history's) meaning; it is also vital -- it steadfastly stimulates a true culture and persistently points to a total vision. It inexorably condemns any exaltation of the particular and idealization of the contingent; that is, it condemns all error and idolatry. The authority of the Pope and bishops, therefore, is the ultimate guide on the pilgrimage towards a genuine sharing of our lives [convivenza], towards a true civilization. Where that authority is not vital and vigilant, or where it is under attack, the human pathway becomes complicated, ambiguous, and unstable; it veers towards disaster, even when on the exterior it seems powerful, flourishing, and astute, as is the case today." (74)
  • "Still today it is the gift of the Spirit that allows us to discover the profound meaning of Ecclesiastical Authority as a supreme directive on the human path. Here is the origin of that ultimate abandonment and of that conscious obedience to it -- this is why it is not the locus of the Law but of Love." (74)
  • "The link to authority [which is the second of two conditions necessary for making the Church present; the first is unity expressed visibly], that is, to the bishop...This is the 'form' of every true Christian community, the factor that ensures its authenticity, its integration into the mystery of the Mystical Body, and thus also its participation in that redeeming power...Everything must be profoundly subordinated from its very origin to that point of reference [the bishop's authority] and, if needs be, sacrificed. It is through authority that the energy of the mystery emerges. That energy is not born of the shrewdness of our psychological and pedagogical conceptions nor of our social experiments...Without an immanent and expressed reference to the community and authority, a testimony can easily be reduced in the heart of an observer to an example of gentlemanly conduct, modernity of spirit, or social sensitivity; that is, to an idea or a way of life and not to a reality outside ourselves; to the 'glory' of man and not God, to another form of man's kingdom, not the Kingdom of God." (89)
  • "The spirit of intelligent, faithful obedience to authority marks the depth and stability of 'communion' in a Christian community." (113)
  • "So the more the environmental community tries to be loyal to its bishop, the more will it be an instrument that educates us in the sense of the Church...A Christianity filtered by our wisdom, reduced to ourselves, leads to ambiguity and not to witness." (119)
The commentary will come later. To supplement these excerpts, I am offering additional ones from Fr. Giussani's percorso trilogy at Cahiers Péguy,

The Pope's intentions for July

Pope's prayer intentions for July

Vatican, Jul. 1, 2008 (CWNews.com) - The Vatican has announced the prayer intentions of Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) for the month of July 2008.

The Pope's general prayer intention for July is: "That there may be an increase in the number of those who, as volunteers, offer their services to the Christian community with generous and prompt availability." His missionary intention is: "That the World Youth Day held in Sydney, Australia, may awaken the fire of divine love in young people and make them sowers of hope for a new humanity."

Adhering (an exercise)

There are three references to "adhering" in The Religious Sense, all of which occur later in the book; and all three are related to the process of adhering to the truth or to reality. The drama, as Fr. Giussani relates it in The Religious Sense, is in the sense of risk we experience when faced with the distance between what we feel and what we know to be the truth. He says, "...Coherence [...] initiates the human being's unity. Coherence is the energy with which man takes hold of himself and adheres, 'fastens on' to what reason lets him see" (page 129). To illustrate this point, he gives an example of when he was a teen, hiking in the mountains. At a certain point, there was a chasm he had to leap across. His reason told him that the leap was safe, that his grown companions would catch him, but his fear (affectivity) would not let him move. It is analogous to the situation of the man who says, "Yes you are right, but I am not persuaded." Before we can even begin to consider following an authority, we must aim to be consistent -- we must make an effort of will to adhere to the truth. Fr. Giussani sums up this point as follows:

The real drama of the relation between the human being and God, through that sign which is the cosmos, through that sign which is experience, does not lie in the fragility of the reasons, because the entire world is one great reason and there does not exist one human outlook upon reality which does not feel the provocation of this perspective which supercedes it. The real drama lies in the will which must adhere to this overwhelming evidence, and the dramatic quality is defined by what I call risk. The human being undergoes the experience of risk in the following manner: despite reasons encouraging him to act, an individual is unable to do so. It is as if he were paralyzed, needed an extra dose of energy and will, of the energy of freedom, because freedom is the capacity to adhere to being. (131)
The word "adhere" also appears in At the Origin of the Christian Claim:
It is truly a dizzying condition to have to adhere to something whose presence I sense but cannot see, measure, or possess...And although devoid of the possibility of measuring and possessing that unknown, the reasonable man is still called to action, primarily to take account of his condition and, secondly, to adhere realistically, circumstance after circumstance, to existence as it presents itself. At the same time he is unable to see the all-supporting framework, the design through which the meaning takes shape...Man feels like he is traveling toward the unknown, adhering to every determinant and every step according to circumstances that present themselves as unavoidable solicitations; since he recognizes them as such, he should say a forceful "yes" with all the resources of his heart and mind, without "understanding." This is an absolutely precarious, dizzying condition. (page 7)
It is well that Fr. Giussani acknowledges this fact! The above quote comes from the introduction to the book, in which Fr. Giussani is setting the stage for an exploration of Christ's claim. In Chapter 6, "The Pedagogy of Christ's Self-Revelation," Giussani traces the movement from Christ's initial invitation, "Come with me," to the point where he "asked [his followers] to live 'For him' in the face of society...The Lord insists on this process: that he be followed to the extent of abandoning everything, and adherence to him cannot be truly complete, even if one is detached from all things, until one stands with him before everyone...The ultimate proof of the truth of any human sentiment is its presentation to 'the eyes of the world'..." (page 63). If it is dizzying to follow a great unknown, and unknowable and ungraspable Mystery, how much more so to follow this same Mystery, embodied in a man. It is one thing to acknowledge a "force" or an abstract Something that generates everything, including myself in every moment. It is another to recognize that Something standing before my eyes, looking like an ordinary person, and speaking to me with a human voice. And yet, if Jesus is who he says he is -- the Way, the Truth, and the Life -- then his demands are reasonable and as compelling as the "unknown" to which I must say my forceful "yes" with all the resources of my heart and mind. It is just interesting to note that this word, "adhering" carries with it the imperative to public acknowledgment. To adhere thus means to be a witness.

As we might expect, the incidence of the words "adhere," "adherence," and "adhering" multiplies in Why the Church? There are 27 separate entries in the index. The following list is not exhaustive but rather illustrative (italics all mine):
  • "The characteristic proper to the religious sense is that of being the ultimate, inevitable dimension of every gesture, of every action, of every type of relationship. It is a level of asking or an ultimate adherence that is an irremovable part of every instant of life because the depth of its need for meaning is echoed in every passion, initiative, and gesture...The proof that the religious sense is not adequately educated, as I mentioned earlier, can be found in this precise point: there exists a repugnance in us, a repugnance which has become instinctive, towards the idea that the religious sense might dominate, might consciously determine our every action...It is that widespread burdensome difficulty, that sense of extraneousness we feel when we hear it said that "god" is all-determining, the factor we cannot escape, the criterion by which we make choices, study, produce in our working lives, join a political party, carry out scientific research, look for a wife or husband, govern a nation. On one hand, education of the religious sense should foster the awareness of the fact that an inevitable and total dependence exists between man and what gives meaning to man's life..." (page 7)
  • "Although the first premise has already been formulated in our introductory reflections, it needs to be re-examined in detail in order to find a suitable answer to the question: 'How is it possible today to arrive at an objective evaluation of Christ, that is equal to the importance of the adherence he claims from us?'" (page 10)
  • "It is by encountering the unity of believers that we quite literally meet up with Christ, by encountering the Church as it emerges in the way it has been fixed by the Spirit. To encounter the Church, I must meet men and women in given surroundings. It is impossible to encounter the universal Church in its entirety, for this is an abstract image: we meet the Church as it emerges locally, in each environment. And in one's encounters with it, one has the chance to be serious in a critical way, so that any possible adherence to it -- and this is, indeed, serious, because the whole meaning of life depends upon it -- may be totally reasonable." (22)
  • "In the Introduction, I mentioned the difficulties experienced by contemporary man in approaching a reality of the religious type. These difficulties pertain, first of all, to understanding and then only adhering." (27)
  • "The Church feels itself to be the community of Jesus, the Messiah; this, not just because the disciples adhered to the ideals he preached (which they certainly did not grasp fully at the time), but because they abandoned themselves to him, alive and present among them, as he had promised to be: 'And know that, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time' (Matthew 28:20). In this they were truly adhering to all he had taught -- that his work was not a doctrine, not an inspiration of some kind for a more just life, but that he in person was sent by the Father to be a companion to man along his pathway." (70)
  • "This new people, in fact, is formed of those that God united in the name of their acceptance of his Son's coming: they could well be of different races, even each other's traditional enemies (as Jesus and the Samaritan women were); they may have vastly different ideas and backgrounds; they even may have been strangers in the world prior to this time. But as they are a people united by God through faith in Jesus Christ, any type of native or "carnal" qualification liable to keep human beings apart is radically overcome. Immediately then, the Christian phenomenon picks up on the "chosen by God" idea that Israel formulated, and, in its turn, it is molded by this idea, without any carnal limits, because God's choice coincides with adherence to faith in Christ." (78)
  • "In contrast to seeing with our own eyes, which engages only a part of our person, the figure of authentic testimony engages the adherence of our whole person. The witness is an entire personality at play, and for this reason, the entire personality of the listener is summoned to an engagement with it -- the light shed by a piece of evidence represents only one aspect of the personality. The testimony is a living oneness, an existential whole." (80-81)
  • "The first Christians were well aware that everything happening in them and among them -- the new and exceptional compared with the lives they had led before, the revolutionary compared with the lives so many others around them were leading -- was not the fruit of their adherence, of their intelligence, or of their will, but a gift of the Spirit, a gift from on high, a mysterious energy with which they were invested." (89)
  • "...The Christian is expected to experience and manifest...the dawn of a new world. This is reminiscent of one of Jesus' own expressions, promising that whoever devoted his whole life to following him would receive 'manifold more in this time and, in the age to come, eternal life' (Luke 18:30). An adult Christian, reasonable in his adherence to Christianity, is called to sense the whole existential weight of this phrase, to experience the stirring of its importance." (90-91)
  • "A prophet is one who announces the significance of the world and the value of life...The power of prophecy is the power to know what is real. Prophecy is not of man. It comes from on high...This capacity to adhere to and confess a new, unfolding reality begins to form among the early Christians on the day of Pentecost." (92)
  • "Today, only one great prodigy has taken the place of the original routine miracles and signs. Nevertheless, it is a miracle which, in order to be recognized, requires the same open soul, the same impetus of freedom that existed then. It is the miracle of our adherence as men to the reality of that Man of 2000 years ago, recognized as truly present in the face of the Church. It is the miracle by which Christ's Spirit conquers history. It is that fascinating event conveying the power of the Spirit to every corner of human affairs, the event by which Christ makes himself present, in the weakness, fear, timidity, and confusion of our persons in unity." (94)
  • "This is the opposite of moralism, of the sacrifice conceived and made in the name of a formal sense of duty. This is the gift of self to God, the gift as the true fruit of a person's adherence to the great fact based on the recognized state of communion: sharing the same reason for living." (101)
  • "But what is it that this particular category of Jesus' interlocutors [in Matthew 15-12-14] do not see? They do not see what they do not seek; in fact, what they seek is not the truth, as it presents itself, to which they closed their eyes, making themselves blind. Even today, if we are intent on finding fault with those who proclaim Christianity, or if we are waiting to be shocked, this is only an excuse for never adhering, for never having the need to change. For, in any case, there will always be faults, and to opt to fix one's gaze on them only means to make the fatal choice not to scan our horizons searching for what is worthwhile." (137)
  • "This is what the Church's appeal means as far as the multitude of human problems is concerned: it is a reminder of the fact of a Relationship which constitutes, right from our origins, the fundamental capacity of our person and of the entire history of humanity. The respect, adherence, seriousness, and love, which are the features of this relationship, also constitute the stability and foundation of all man's attempts to build, to find solutions to his problems." (154)
  • "Thus the tension to affirm reality, as did Christ's gaze, is the foundation of peace. This peace cannot last if it does not rest on the ultimate substance of reality, on the Mystery, which makes all things, on God, the Father. Without this final context, peace will be fragile and brittle. It will crumble into anxiety. The effort of faithfulness in following the truth is very different. It is a struggle, which is not the opposite to peace. And although it might be painful or weigh heavily upon us, it is not anxiety. Anxiety is a lie which continuously reemerges and nests in us to impede our adherence to all that in our conscience has emerged as truth. Peace is a war, but it is with ourselves." (162)
  • "...It was particularly significant to affirm this [the doctrine of the Assumption, in 1950] in a society where the value of life was being increasingly made to consist in success in the here and now. It was also a challenge to announce that the Christian event proclaims the value of the body's existence in eternity and that the value of life -- even of a totally unnoteworthy life -- lies, as the figure of Mary suggests, in living the moment as an aspect and in function of the love for everything. This is to say that the value of the moment does not lie in its immediate success but in the love for all things with which it is lived. In this way, then, nothing, not even a hair of our heads, will be lost. This is the affirmation of man's true dimension, which pressures his materialistic narrow-mindedness and, spurred on by his spirit, opens him up to the infinite...We are invited to look, that is, to a woman whose life can be summed up in own phrase -- fiat voluntas tua -- in accepting her mission. Thus...the fragility of man who becomes great only in adhering to God was reasserted..." (173)
  • "The idea of the saint in our religious tradition indicates a person who adheres, who corresponds to God. This is why, in Jewish ritual, God is described as thrice holy: obviously, as the supreme paradigm of adherence to his most intimate reality." (181)
  • "The term, sanctifying grace, then, confirms that those who adhere to this gratuitous initiative of God shall enter into a more profound relationship with Being to the extent that they become, as Paul says, part of Christ, members of his body..."(182)
  • "Man's need for salvation is such that the easiest way would be to find some kind of 'saving' mechanism that would touch him, involve him, but not depend on him. It is a need for a certainty that is easy to come by. And so we see pagan man, who eve in his most moving experiences, since he imagines himself to be dependent on a mysterious force, strives to divine its secrets so that he might use them to ensure an automatically guaranteed salvation for himself. But notwithstanding all the deviations of form possible, this is not the Church's position. In the Church, a person is wholly engaged, body and soul. His actions are free and his will is committed to transforming his entire person and entering the definitive ideal. Christianity, of course, can be reduced to a mechanism. But in asserting the constant, articulated presence in the life of man of Another who created and recreated him, the Christian message requires that man freely adhere to this presence. And it ensures the type of certainty that does not depend on any special effort of any automatism. It depends, rather, on the Other's Love." (195)
  • "And since freedom is the power of adhering to the object of our aspiration, man who is made for happiness, steers his free dynamism in pursuit of what Saint Augustine referred to as the 'greater fascination.' And this means an ever greater fullness of life, ever more total possession of being." (207)
  • "How can a life lived in pain become so rich and attractive? The energy deriving from adherence to the ultimate reality of things means that even what the world around sees as useless has its use: evil, pain, the fatigue of living, physical and mental handicap, boredom, and even resistance to God. Nothing cannot be transformed and admirably show the effects of that transformation if all life is being lived in relation to true reality -- if it is 'offered to God,' as Christian tradition puts it." (221)
  • "The reflections we have just concluded have been called in the Italian edition a percorso (parcours) in order to call to mind the idea of a journey and to affirm that these lessons of ours are simply meant to indicate milestones, signposts of the steps we should take if we wish to be reasonable. The value of traveling this particular road -- and this is the demand it makes on us -- lies in applying our critical awareness of free will, elements without which any adherence or refusal would be stripped of all that makes them effectively human. And since man is...a wayfarer striving to reach his destination, a traveler, it is better if he knows and loves the road at least enough to save him from wasting time and effort." (233)
The word "adhere," has such depth and far-ranging meaning in Why the Church?, that to contemplate all these passages is itself a dizzying task! Following this exercise, though, a few points come spontaneously to mind: adherence is not the fruit of our intelligence or will, it is a gift of the Spirit. Our adherence to Christ, present in the unity of the living Christian community, is the sign that we are members of God's chosen people. To adhere requires simplicity of heart. Adherence to God is adherence to reality, the circumstances he gives us as a series of constant, discreet invitations or solicitations. To adhere to God is also to correspond to God, and it is the primary quality that a saint possesses -- God himself possesses this quality in "triplicate" because he corresponds most perfectly to himself. Though adherence is not the fruit of the will, free will is an essential requirement for safeguarding that adherence is truly human; therefore, there is no mechanism that can guarantee it. Scandal is the greatest enemy of adherence; anxiety undermines adherence and destroys peace. Adherence to the unity of the Body of Christ is the natural consequence of recognizing the divinity of Christ. Christ's command to adhere requires total commitment, in every instant of life.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Is It Possible? -- New blog


Is It Possible?

The experience of the hundredfold. Now.
News, quotes, stories and events from the life and works of Don Giussani and the Communion and Liberation movement.

Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."