Tick Tock Universe

Routine Spontaneity


I had an instructor in a martial art give me a book titled “The Power of Limits”. Among other things the book talked about the Golden Mean, aka the Golden Ratio, which you can find in every building or artifact of nature that people unanimously find to be beautiful. One of the underlying arguments of the book was that limits are foundational to creativity and beauty. As Chesterton noted, “Art, like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere.”

The cover of the book had this on it.6980c4de59088d97ba14db777fdbf530

Whether the constraint is a sheet of paper, a canvas, a building, clay, marble – there is a decision, conscious or not, to limit oneself, and then create within that limit. Some creativity specifically employs a temporal constraint – music for example. If you google it, you will find articles on the Golden Mean and music.

In the back story to the Lord of the Rings, Tolkien describes the creation of the universe in terms of music, a composition, a chorus. The first time I read his creation story I thought it somewhat banal. Now I think it’s genius. Mostly because if the Creator stops making music – the music stops.

The rhythms of our life are limits. Sunrise, sunset. Spring, summer, fall, winter. Sleep, wake, work, rest, sleep. Birth, growth, decline, death. Mundane repetition. I suppose it is not surprising that the universe is sometimes viewed in terms of clockwork. The old clocks, with their gears and springs, weights and chains, are ornate and beautiful. Marvelous.

But the universe is not a clockwork. It is not based on the idea of a clock. The idea of a clock is only useful because it accepts that part of the universe that repeats with a certain majestic sameness, and echoes as through a mirror darkly, the source of everything.

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The Torn Curtain

Breaking Out or Breaking In?


There is an Ignatian practice called the Daily Examen in which one looks back over their day and more or less takes stock of how they did. I’ve read several different guides for this practice, and many begin with, “Come into God’s presence.” One version struck me, it said “Recall that you are in the presence of God.”

So, last night, I didn’t get past that step. I started thinking about the difference between coming into God’s presence, sort of like walking into a church or something, vs remembering that you are always in God’s presence. Sort of like realizing I am always in church, but distracted. Then I hear bells and remember where I am.

I started thinking about the veil being torn in two in the Temple at the moment of Christ’s death on the cross – the veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of us rabble. I remember being told the barrier between us and God had been removed. I had this image of God escaping from his little tabernacle out into the world. The Kingdom of God is at hand indeed. Of course this is not theologically accurate… or is it? Not that God was trapped of course, but the sense of separation is certainly thematic. If the High Priest had to go into the Holy of Holies, there is certainly the idea that God was in there, and not out here.

When the veil was torn, did it simply mean we could all enter the Holy of Holies? Or did it mean that the Holy of Holies exploded out to fill the world? That we are all in God’s temple right now, wherever we are? “Recall that you are in God’s presence.”

I then thought about how frail my response is to the money lenders in the courtyard of the temple. Then I fell asleep.

Response to Daily Prompt Frail

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Black Lives Matter

Yes. Yes they do.

"When does a statement of fact become a slogan?" "When it becomes associated with a movement."

“When does a statement of fact become a slogan?” “When it becomes associated with a movement.”

As I am a bit slow on the uptake, when I first heard the phrase, “Black lives matter,” my first thought was, “All lives matter.” Yet, somehow it felt wrong when I said it. If all lives matter, then black lives do matter. So, why my immediate dismissal of the phrase?

I have since realized there is a specific movement that has taken this statement of fact as a slogan, as the identity of their movement.

In the ensuing days after the shootings in Dallas, the Black Lives Matter movement was implicitly blamed for the shootings. Former Mayor Giuliani has publicly stated that the movement is racist. And of course we have now had a petition to formally list this group as a terrorist organization in wake of the specific targeting of police officers.

Yet the march in Dallas was organized by Reverend Jeff Hood, who has no apparent ties to that movement and is a white Baptist minister. And so we see how quickly a statement of fact is co-opted and politicized. Perceived power bases attract those seeking power. Lots of angry emotional people are a ready-made power base. And currently there are lots of angry emotional people. In the stampede for power, Truth is also a victim.

And what is the truth? Black lives do matter. Stop saying “All lives matter.” Don’t say “Asian lives matter, white lives matter, black lives matter.” To do so is to tacitly dismiss the idea that black lives matter.

No one has felt the need to state “White lives matter.” But quite apparently someone felt the need to say, “Black Lives Matter.” In response, start saying, “Yes they do.” Own the truth of that statement. Let it seep in. Recognize a plea for help when you hear one. Stand in solidarity with your fellow man. Ignore the politics, don’t be manipulated. It’s a true statement. Recognize it. Respond in love.


Posted in Culture, Reason, Truth & Reality | 4 Comments


Proper Behavior Along The Way

Today’s Readings:

If you are not at home you are not truly at rest. Even when on a vacation, even for relaxation, there comes a time when we return home. How often have you heard, “I had to come home from vacation in order to get some rest.”?

Some rules for the road: “Seek good and not evil, that you may live.” We are told by Amos that then the Lord will be with you. Not a bad traveling companion. “Hate evil and love good and let justice prevail at the gate,” he says, and then the Lord will have pity on the remnant of Joseph. There is a reason why there is a plant called the wandering Jew. We are on The Way if we “let justice surge like water and goodness like an unfailing stream.” Living water – a necessity on the journey.

Jesus, while traveling, attracted to him demons in the territory of the Gadarenes. Attracted to him? Yes. The came from the tombs to meet him, he did not call them – they had a compulsion – they knew who He was. In fear and trembling they approached and asked, “What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the appointed time?”

The appointed time.

What will we do at our appointed time, the time when our status as tourist ends? Will we come home, recognizing the grace, the living water for which we have been willing conduits? Or will we run panicked to destruction?


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“What Sort of Man…”

The Son of Man

Today’s readings:

There was a storm at sea, and their master was asleep. They woke him in fear and Jesus “rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.” And they marveled.

What sort of men were they? Were they the same sort as those Amos addressed in Am 3:1-8, 11-12? They did not have the sense of the wind and the water. They did not hear the lion roar nor the trumpet sound.

What sort of man was Jesus? The sort that the wind and sea obey, and the sort that the people do not hear. To obey means at its root, to listen. Will we hear? Not if we are not listening.

We have been given notice – “prepare to meet your God, O Israel.”


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Pope Francis: Rad Trad

What is he doing?

By Mark Connolly, MTS

"Church business is messy." "It's messy because it's Real."

“Church business is messy.”
“It’s messy because it’s Real.”

The latest offering from Pope Francis has caused a great deal of commentary and hand-wringing. Valiant attempts have been made to contextualize his writings and his off the cuff comments so as to protect the faithful and assure we are not scandalized.

In general, large numbers of faithful Catholics don’t seem to know what to make of this pope. Beginning with his reported comments on a church “obsessed with abortion and contraception” to his reported comments that “people in irregular marriages can receive the Eucharist”, he has befuddled the orthodox faithful and enamored the likes of the Huffington Post and the New York Times as they herald the arrival of a pope who “gets it.”

It seems we need some kind of key to understanding what he is saying. But, he has given us the key. Pope Francis has invited the priests to “live with the smell of sheep.” This is not some sanctimonious platitude. And remember, the laity also share in the priestly office of Christ. We should take this idea to heart in our personal lives as we live the apostolate of the laity, as we bring Christ to the world. It is only when doctrine and dogma interact with the sick and the filthy that the glory and majesty of the Church as the body of Christ is realized. This is the beginning of understanding the true nature of “being pastoral.”

You can read about fishing, watch Youtube videos, research rods and reels and lures. But until you, with your bare hands, put bait on a hook, reel in a fish, gut it, and cook it, you don’t know anything concrete about fishing. Ditto for doctrine and dogma.

It is in the Real, with real humans, not idealized theoretical humans but real humans, that we encounter the face of God.

We have arguably had a Golden Age of papal theology. Pope St. John the XXIII, Pope Paul the VI, Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict the XVI. The depth and breadth of their writings and theological insights will be studied for centuries. Admittedly, some of the writing is tough going, initially. When I first started to read Cardinal Ratzinger, I found it very tough going. But so was riding a bike, skating, skiing, and walking, for that matter. With time and practice, with exposure to the context and the vocabulary, the writing becomes beautiful. Today, for me, Ratzinger/Benedict’s writing reads like a crystal bell on a cool crisp morning – clean and lucid with a piercing light.

But, it can be difficult to discuss his thoughts with someone not exposed to him. Ever watch Curling on the Olympics? If you don’t know what it is, so much background information must be provided before we can begin to talk about it in any meaningful way. And I’ve only watched. Imagine talking with someone that actually competed. Probably both sides would have trouble staying interested in the conversation.

On the other hand, everyone is talking about whatever Pope Francis writes or says. There is more dialog going on today, interfaith dialog if you will, than I have ever witnessed. And, thanks to the above mentioned popes, Vatican II, Mother Angelica and EWTN, there are more people properly catechized and able to explain Church teaching today than in quite some time.

My point? We have 2000 years of insight into the human condition, and majestic documents describing how the Church should minister to the world. 2000 years ago, the same was true with the Hebrews. There were teachers of the Law and the Prophets. Steeped in knowledge and theory, their hands were clean.

Jesus called some of them white-washed tombs.

Consider this paradox – Jesus seemed to flout the law – “working” on the Sabbath, hanging out with lepers, dining with dirty hands. Yet he said he came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. At one point he states that not one jot, not one tittle will be changed. The writing used in the Old Testament used little marks, tiny marks, called jots and tittles, as part of the letters. What difference can they make? I will give you an example from Spanish. Ano mean “anus.” Año means “year.” If you are translating “Teacher of the year” into Spanish, that little mark, that jot, if you will, completely changes the meaning of the phrase.

How do we reconcile statements like “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mk 2:27) with “not one jot or one tittle” (Mt 5:18)?

Jesus states he is not changing but rather fulfilling the law. But what did he do? He invited people to understand the intent of the law, the overarching goal of the law. Mere adherence to the law, offering “holocausts of bullocks” meant nothing without the “contrite heart” that renders the sacrifice meaningful and efficacious. (cf Ps 51:15-17; Micah 6:6-8; Mk 12: 28-34; Heb 10:5-9).

The Law was intended to keep man in right relationship with God. The very practice of the Day of Atonement demonstrated that it was understood that complete faithfulness to God was unattainable by mortal man. Under the Law there were both punishments and remedies, both a carrot and a stick. But, a danger is to focus on the carrot and on the stick instead of the reason behind them both. Thus we have in one form of the Act of Contrition,

“Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell, but most of all because they offend you, my God, who art all good and deserving of all my love.”

Deserving of all my love. Think about that. And what does it mean concretely in the world? When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment, he added that the second is like the first, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt 22:39) And how do you do that? How do you give God all your love? By getting your hands dirty.

Pope Francis has people talking. People are asking questions, seeking undertanding. It is messy, it is smelly. But people are talking about what Francis says in ways that they just didn’t about what Benedict said.

So, what is Pope Francis doing? He’s fishing. How radical. How traditional.


Posted in Encyclicals, Ends and Means, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Pope Francis, Reconciliation, Theology | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Participation In God’s Being in Man Caves

header 2As we build to a discussion of Indulgences, we first discuss Participation.

So, give a listen to Participation

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