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    • Photo of the Day December 6, 2022
      See also the previous Wild Reed posts:• Autumn Remnant• Afternoon Light• Photo of the Day – December 2, 2022• Brigit Anna McNeill on Hearing the Wild and Natural Call to Go Inwards• Brigit Anna McNeill on “Winter’s Way”• Photo of the Day – December 3, 2021• Photo of the Day – November 13, 2021• Winter . . . Within and Beyond (2020)• Winter . . . Within and B […]
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      Your teachers are striking. Your nurses are striking. Your railway workers are about to strike. “Nobody wants to work anymore” is deliberately obstuse. What nobody wants anymore is to work in understaffed, overburdened, underpaid positions so two dozen people can get rich.– Medic Kimvia FacebookDecember 5, 2022Related Off-site Links:Biden Signs Law Thwarting […]
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    • So the Former US President and Current GOP Candidate for the Presidency Calls for a Coup and the End of US Democracy — And? December 5, 2022
      President Donald J. Trump 2 March 2019, at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Oxon Hill, MD; official White House photo by Tia Dufour, at Wikimedia CommonsHeather Cox Richardson, "Letters from an American: December 3, 2002":The leader of the Republican Party has just called fo […]
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A Renewed Opportunity of Hope and Reconciliation

File photo of Pope Benedict XVI leaving at the end of his weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the VaticanIn times of disappointment or frustration, my mother has always supplied a poignant saying that has helped me to make sense of challenging situations, “If you continue using the same method, expect the same outcome. If you want to see a different result, try something new.” Keeping this in mind, I can begin taking the necessary steps to move forward from whatever the given quandary may be.

The news of Pope Benedict XVI’s (now referred to as the “Pope Emeritus”) resignation has left the church, as well as unaffiliated observers around the world, reeling in shock and confusion. For the first time in 600 years, a pope has renounced the Petrine ministry. The prospects of an uncertain ecclesiastical future have now given cause for many to hold their breath, in anticipation of what could be expected from the next Bishop of Rome.

Undeniably, anyone, regardless of their beliefs, or lack thereof, can acknowledge that today the Catholic Church is enduring a systemic crisis of epic proportions. In the West, particularly throughout Europe, the volume of individuals who identify themselves as practicing Catholics decreases year after year. Any sense of credibility or spiritual integrity that the prelates of the church possessed in the past has been eroded in the wake of the worldwide sexual-abuse scandal. The lack of a definitive response to this moral pandemic has convinced many that the members of the hierarchy are not serious about solving this pervasive affliction. The fact that numerous men in positions of ecclesial prestige have merely offered empty apologies, and the window-dressing of vague guidelines aimed at preventing abuse, cements this sentiment among the general public. How can a dilemma of this magnitude ever truly be repaired if justice and accountability have not been the guiding catalysts in confronting this crisis?

Conventional wisdom has sought to designate the southern hemisphere as being the future of global Catholicism. There, an intense, vibrant expression of the faith is said to be a guaranteed key in winning further adherents to the church. Yet, a mistake is made when rigidly applying this analysis. It is commonly assumed that the scourge of pedophilic abuse is not an issue in countries of the global south. A prominent cardinal of the Roman Curia, hailing from Ghana, recently declared as much to the media, stating that this phenomenon is so rampant in the Western world because of cultural variations between the northern and southern hemispheres. He further implied that this sociological barrier existed as a result of the tolerance of homosexuality throughout most of the northern hemisphere, compared to its condemnation in countries of the southern hemisphere. Although it is not as pronounced or notable, cases of minors being sexually abused by clerics have, indeed, been documented in this region of the world.

In fact, in many countries, there is a sexual crisis of another sort. In this occasion the problem is not necessarily one of abuse. Throughout the African continent, where the numbers of entrees to seminaries constantly abounds, the vow of celibacy taken by those entering the priesthood is not always observed to the letter of the law. The custom of consciously disregarding this oath has been established by countless priests. It is not unusual for mistresses, and in numerous cases, even entire families (including multiple female partners and children) to clandestinely live with the pastor of a parish. Failing to give open acknowledgement to such arrangements does not erase their existence from the minds of most parishioners, many of whom privately condone the practice.  In the context of the African church, the notion of priestly celibacy is regarded as an irritating European aberration. In the prevailing culture, a man is expected to fall in love with a woman, to marry, and to have children — not doing so is viewed as abnormal. These conditions have become the norm throughout large portions of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Thus, on all geographical frontiers, questions of sexuality threaten to deteriorate the binding tapestry of faith and tradition that has composed the Catholic Church for centuries.

It seems that the former pontiff may have realized the implications all of these realities held for the church in the twenty-first century. Noticing subliminal hints of this line of reasoning in Benedict’s statement of resignation could prove helpful in establishing the criteria by which the future pope will be elected. Upon renouncing the papacy, the pope stated, “My strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry…in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”

This was seen as an expression on the part of the Pope Emeritus that not only were the effects of his age physically impacting his daily routine, but also, that his escalating frailty prevented him from responding comprehensively, and genuinely, to the pressing questions of the times we now live in. Longtime observers of Joseph Ratzinger’s theological temperament could very well have predicted this outcome from the first day of his election as pope. Although in his youth he did attend the Second Vatican Council, and was fairly progressive-minded in its wake, Ratzinger would eventually succumb to a crippling attitude of fear. As innovations following the historic assembly were implemented on a fairly rapid scale, Ratzinger began to view these changes as being rash and excessive. Criticizing new trends of liturgical practice and theological nuance, he began to complain that the Council’s message had been interpreted far too liberally. Soon, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger would become the institutional church’s chief proponent for nostalgically looking to a bygone era of the past. In this world, the notions of hierarchy, doctrine, and obedience formed the basis of the Catholic faith, instead of the values of episcopal collegiality, primacy of the individual conscience, and theological objectivity that Vatican II would espouse.

Still, a question begs to be asked: How can the problems of the 21st Century be solved with 18th Century solutions?

In a candid conversation with my parish priest, I once asked him his thoughts on what he felt Jesus of Nazareth would have to say if He were living and breathing in the flesh, in today’s world. His reply was to quote one of Jesus’ most comforting and repeated exhortations in the Gospels, “Be not afraid!” (Matthew 14:27) This summons to courage was utilized so often by the late, Blessed John Paul II that it is often described as the unofficial motto of his pontificate.

This same hopeful premise was also the underlying theme in most of the documents of the Second Vatican Council. When it was finally completed, the entire trajectory and driving purpose of this monumental gathering was intended to impel the Catholic Church to have a greater, more intense dialogue with the modern world. Rather than seeing the church as diametrically opposed to all of the implications that modernity had to offer, Vatican II painted the church as an entity that was in the world, and not removed from it. In the words of Blessed John XXIII, who convened the Council, but would not live to see its completion, “We feel we must disagree with those prophets of gloom, who are always forecasting disaster, as though the end of the world were at hand. In the present order of things, Divine Providence is leading us to a new order of human relations which, by men’s own efforts and even beyond their very expectations, are directed toward the fulfillment of God’s superior and inscrutable designs. And everything, even human differences, leads to the greater good of the Church.”

Undoubtedly, the failure on the part of the hierarchy to confront the global, human questions that the “signs of the times” have engendered is the biggest mistake the institutional church has made in the fifty years that have passed since the conclusion of Vatican II.

Earlier today, the College of Cardinals entered, and were subsequently locked within, the Sistine Chapel to elect Benedict XVI’s successor. This year, the events leading up to, and taking place during the Conclave have all occurred under the auspices of the liturgical season of Lent — traditionally observed as a time of conversion and repentance. Conventionally, repentance is usually understood as being contrite and remorseful for one’s sins. However, the biblical calls , to “repent” or “convert”, as Jesus of Nazareth and John the Baptist urged their followers to do, mean not to simply be sorry for one’s failings, but also, to turn towards God, and to adopt a new mode of being. This should make it all the more clear to the cardinals gathered in Rome that the Conclave of 2013 should not be business as usual.

My mother’s always-appropriate expression happens to paraphrase a similar message that can be found echoing from the mouth of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel, “Neither is new wine, put into old wineskins, otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:17) In today’s paradigm, the wine described can symbolically be identified with the Catholic faith. The enlightening truth of the Gospel, (namely, God’s self-communication of love to us in the person of Christ) and the enduring traditions of the church must always be maintained. But new approaches (new “wineskins”) and insights must be used in transmitting the faith, allowing it to stay fresh and relevant for coming generations.

May we all pray that the College of Cardinals elects a pope who does not simply preserve the theological and bureaucratic status quo, that has been the norm in the Vatican for centuries, but instead realizes that whoever the next pope will be, he will have as his mission the task of emulating and personifying the Christ of the Gospels — engaging all members of the human family in a spirit of love, justice, and peace.

Now, more than ever, the Spirit of God must prevail, instead of the finite whims of fallible men. The credibility of the Roman Catholic Church has been universally placed under scrutiny. The church’s future hangs in the balance. Will it continue to remain a viable spiritual path, or is it destined to gradually be reduced to a reactionary cult?

Veni Creator Spiritus!

Tongues of Fire Burning the Building Down

(Mother of the New Pentecost:: taken from the wonderful site St. Andrei Rublov Icons)

I’ve been reflecting today on the wonderful interview given by Matthew Fox, regarding the publication of his new book, The Pope’s War. Fox is also one of the keynote speakers at the ongoing American Catholic Conference in Detroit. Thanks to Colleen Kochivar-Baker of Enlightened Catholicism for alerting us to this interview and for her own insightful comments, and thanks to Betty Clermont’s posting below, with her provocative question about possible reform, which prompted these reflections: I am waiting for anyone to suggest a path to reform of the Roman Catholic Church which would be more effective than Catholics staying away. )

I’ve chosen several passages from Matthew Fox’s interview which particularly struck me as very prescient of the future of Christianity, and have followed them with my own reflections:

As a theologian I am trying to ponder how the recent events of Catholic history can be seen through the eyes of the Holy Spirit. Is there some good that come out of so much anguish, so much betrayal, so much disappointment with the false direction the church has taken under Pope John Paul II and Ratzinger? And I come to a clear conclusion that Yes, the Holy Spirit is still at work in the events of deconstruction and reconstruction that are at hand. It is time to restart the church. Let many of its forms go; let them die as they are doing.

With the death of Pope John Paul I in September 1978 [most likely by assassination], I felt that we were being given a sign by the Holy Spirit that we were not meant to have a ‘reformed Church’ along the lines proposed by Vatican II, as so many of us of the Vatican II generation were longing for. In a way my hope for meaningful ‘reform’ of the Church died along with the saintly, gentle, collegial and open-hearted Albino Luciani, who reined for only a short 33 days, and who died in such mysterious circumstances which have never been adequately explained to this day. If one ventures down into the crypt beneath St. Peters, which contains the remains of past Popes, John Paul I’s coffin has been placed on the side of the central aisle, the least significant location for any pontiff. Pilgrims rush past it, oblivious to this genuinely saintly martyr to reform of the Church, in their haste to get to the far more dramatic and spacious alcove which contains the remains of his successor, John Paul II, with the ‘eternal flame’ burning to the side and the permanent guard standing by. I always bring a bouquet when I visit Papa Luciani’s tomb, but I have never seen any other evidence of tokens of devotion and affection for this most ‘perfect’ of collegial minded Pontiffs. If the Spirit had intended us to have a reformed Church, without any radical reconstruction, John Paul I would have remained alive to have fulfilled that destiny. His death must be read as a sign of the Spirit that a much more radical purging of the Church was intended and that we were being asked to ‘let go’ of the forms of the old Church, to surrender our longing for renewal itself, even to cut the umbilical cord to Mother Church herself (in her present institutional structure) and to find the courage in the Spirit to venture out into the unknown, living in trust that the Maternal Spirit of Wisdom would find a way to preserve the lineage of Catholic Christianity outside the present, moribund institutional structure. However, I could not have imagined a more terrible or more profound purging and deconstruction than that enacted, albeit obliviously, by Karol Wojtyla, John Paul II. Such is the irony of history that the genuine saint is ignored and (taking my cue from Matthew Fox) the ‘schismatic’ Polish Pope in his spacious alcove down the aisle is honored beyond belief. Using the “S” word will be seen as contentious, but I am in agreement with Matthew Fox here when he says:

The “S” word rarely gets used these days but I think that Schism properly summarizes what the past two papacies have been about. They deliberately turned their back on a valid Ecumenical Council and in doing so are in schism. This means that its appointed cardinals and bishops are in schism. They do not represent the lineage of the church. This opens up whole new possibilities of seeing the church anew. All the Yes men and sycophants that have lined up at the papal trough for a piece of the power these recent decades are seen for what they are in their transparent reality.

An ecclesiastical system in schism? Is that too strong a word and does it not make us similar to those ultra conservative Catholic sects (St.Pius X), who consider Vatican II itself to be in schism and every pope elected after Pius XII? A contentious issue and a very strong word, but sometimes honesty, courage and directness in language are necessary instruments to pierce the boil that is infecting the Church. However, rather than hurl invective, I prefer to follow Fox’s inspiration and ask what the Holy Spirit is telling us through these powerful and painful ‘signs of the times.’ It is my own view that we cannot understand the present crisis in the Church without taking into account the overall shift in religious and spiritual outlook in the culture at large. Sincere spiritual searchers are no longer so dependent upon or so trustful of large religious institutions, but are finding alternative sources of nourishment in a variety of places and religious communities. The time for the great institutional structures has past, and what is to replace them remains a mystery and perhaps a cause of anxiety, as we fearfully contemplate fragmentation, splintering, chaos. But I feel such fears must be faced and overcome in the peaceful, interior conviction that the Spirit is leading us towards a radical reconstruction of the whole Catholic tradition and to forms of community which are at present beyond our imagining. Fox continues:

I have tried to sketch out some directions for new versions of Christianity that are needed today with of course the primary emphasis on lay leadership. We do not need another Council (after all the last one was totally stuffed); what we need is a rise and indeed a take over of the church by lay leaders. Jesus was not a clericalist. He never heard of the Vatican (or of cardinals) all of which developed centuries after his death. Time to start over. And with the courage and imagination and generosity that characterizes all authentic spirituality.

These words themselves need to be deconstructed and their implications laid bare. A “take-over” of the church by lay leaders ultimately must mean a take over of the sacramental system, and a refusal to be intimidated by the monopoly of control the hierarchy presently maintains over the sacraments through the myth of ‘apostolic succession.’ (Readers of Terrence Weldon’s blog, Queering the Church can find an abundance of documentation for exploring the justification for calling this doctrine a myth.) And here I am in complete agreement with another key note speaker at the Detroit conference, theologian Anthony Padovano, who is simply following the great Dutch theologian Edward Schillebeeckx by insisting that a ‘validly ordained’ minister is not an absolute requirement for a genuine celebration of the Eucharist. In the absence of ‘ordained priests,’ communities must find the courage within themselves, through the most profound and heartfelt prayer and discernment, to bless their own lay leaders and celebrate the sacraments independently of episcopal approval. This is a radical act that requires the utmost trust in the Spirit, because ‘the real presence’ is among the great treasures of the Catholic tradition. Such communities will find themselves under fire and will endure censure and ‘excommunication,’ but it is already happening in increasing numbers of breakaway communities. Until increasing numbers of communities are willing to take this painful step – in the absence of ‘officially ordained’ priests – no real revolution within the church is possible. Lay leaders must rise up and take back the church and that means listening to the interior movements of the Spirit, experiencing the peace and joy which are the signs of the Spirit, when and as they celebrate the Eucharist on their own. The Holy Spirit is already imbuing communities with the fire of Pentecost, the interior joy and consolation that bring with them the assurance of conscience that this step is the right one. We are already being blessed, we are already being assured, we are already being led into the new Church of the Holy Spirit. It simply requires more and more laypersons to listen to this interior call. This will not happen overnight. It is too radical, too frightening, it calls for too great a sacrifice, too painful a wrenching from the security of the Mother Womb, but in my opinion it is way the Spirit is leading increasing numbers of us. The official organizers of the American Catholic Conference in Detroit are ‘following the rules,’ but I would not be surprised to learn that informal Eucharists on the periphery of the conference are fulfilling Archbishop Allen Vigneron’s worst fears. To take such a step, however, requires the most prayerful discernment and this brings me to Matthew Fox’s final points.

I believe, the most important direction that religion needs to go in its reconstruction—that is spirituality, the experiential dimension of religion. The mystical-prophetic tradition I have been recovering including the Cosmic Christ, Hildegard, Aquinas, Eckhart, Julian and others, together with today’s post-modern science, offers new and deeper expressions of healthy religion. They are among the treasure to take from the burning building.

Let us remember what Thomas Aquinas taught about religion. That it is, he felt, primarily a virtue, that is a habit that persons carry within them. Indeed, for Aquinas religion’s essence is Gratitude. Gratitude for existence. This means that institutions are NOT what religion is primarily about. What goes on in the heart and mind and gives birth to outer form is what is at the essence of religion. This means that social constructs like basilicas, cathedrals, churches, vaticans, popes, cardinals, bishops, canon laws, etc. are on the periphery of real religion. And they render themselves religiously irrelevant when their thrust at certain times of history is very far from the love and compassion and service that Jesus preached. They have more to do with accumulation of power and prestige and institutional and personal ego.

(All the more reason, then, for alternative communities to branch out of their own, while maintaining their ties to the larger community through prayerful discernment, counseling, advice, and listening to the authentic voices of wisdom within the community, born of contemplation and prayer. Nothing could be more important than the spiritual witness in peace and joy of lay led communities, celebrating the presence of the Resurrected Lord. The time for waiting upon ecclesiastical leaders for change has past. The ecclesiastical system must be bypassed, and only when increasing numbers of lay led communities are forced by circumstance to take this painful step, and discover within themselves the Pentecostal peace and joy assuring them that the Spirit is with them, will the real revolution of the Holy Spirit within the Church have begun. For this to happen, we need increasing numbers of genuine prophets and mystics who are attuned in the depths of their being to the life giving movements of the Spirit.

At the bottom, the crisis in Roman Catholicism is a crisis in spirituality or the lack thereof. Real people want spirituality. The church as we know it today is the last place they go looking. We are talking about the future of religion, the future of spirituality and very likely the sustainability or unsustainability of our species on this planet. This is why the issues at hand are of deep importance to us all, whether within or outside of organized religion.

I would like to close these reflections with these moving words from another contemplative teacher of the Catholic mystical tradition:

DIARMUID O’MURCHU: There’s certainly a part of me as a human being, a part entirely of being a Christian, that feels I don’t want to abandon any sister or brother on the journey of life and the journey of faith. But this is a very real question for me and for people who are like me who facilitated for renewal programs and chapters of religious congregations, because this one comes up often. What do you do with the people who don’t want to move, that want to keep things as they always were, and are so rigid and frightened and scared, and you can’t get them to move without badly damaging them, which I don’t feel I have any right to do or anybody else has a right to do. And so I think the delicate balance has to be something like this and for me Gerry Arbuckle is the person who has named this very, very clearly. Supposing you have this group…and let’s put this into percentages…and you have 50% that are totally rigid and stuck, if you like, and you have 50% that are yearning to go. Insofar as there are people that are committed primarily to life and to the evolution of life, the primary energy should move with the 50% that want to move. And then we keep a secondary energy to try and help and maintain the others in a meaningful way. So this principal is that you go primarily where the life is! I think the tendency, particularly in churches, is that we try to keep everything at the lowest common denominator to please those who want to keep things the way they are. That, in my opinion, is not what Jesus would do. That is not Christian gospel. I think we need to go where the life is, primarily, without abandoning the others. And we need to try and bring them with us, in so far as we can, in love, in charity, and also in challenge! And ok, if they choose to remain totally stuck, or totally where they are – let me not be too judgmental about it – ok, that is their freedom, that is their right if you like, but I think in the overall sense of things, whether at the human level, at the religious or spiritual level, I think this commitment to life always has to be honored. And so go where the life is primarily, put your energies primarily there. And then also spare some to try and maintain, in kindness and dignity, those that pretty much want to remain. And a corollary of that, of course, which is much more difficult and this requires a lot of skills, we do not allow this subgroup to dictate. And I think that’s where leadership has a huge responsibility. Leadership has to put it’s commitment with the new primarily.

Website for Fr. Diarmuid O’Murchu : http://www.diarmuid13.com

TWILIGHT OF LOVE: Loss of Faith and the Religious Quest

I recently read ‘lapsed Catholic’ Colm Toibin’s travel book, The Sign of the Cross, which chronicles his journeys through Catholic Europe, and his own ruminations about his loss of his childhood religious faith. I was particularly moved by his encounter with Scotland’s “only Catholic novelist,” Thomas Healy, author of Fathers and Personality. Healy replied to Toibin’s description of him by saying the thought had never occurred to him, but that, yes he supposed he was Scotland’s “only Catholic novelist,” though, like Toibin, he was of the lapsed variety. The two men then went on to discuss the importance of there being ‘Catholic novelists,” particularly of the lapsed variety, to chronicle both the experience of having grown up Catholic and the pain of loss experienced when one leaves the womb of mother church. Once again, we see writers chronicling that sense of nostalgia for a long ago time when the sacred seemed near and comforting within the Catholic institution, coupled with the bittersweet sense of loss and regret when the institution seems to fail to sustain them in their faith (though the issue is more complex than this simple summation).  This tragedy is now being compounded many times over, as thousands in Europe flee the Roman institution in light of the sex abuse scandals and the institution’s failures to protect its own children. How can one believe in a benevolent spiritual Power at work within the institution and which the believer presumably can access through the aid of the institution, when this Power seems impotent to prevent the most horrific forms of corruption within the power structure of the Church, a corruption that leads to the debasement of children. “Get behind me, Satan,” would seem to be a very sensible reaction to such a religion (though one which I don’t personally share, since there is evidence of a spiritual power at work throughout the larger church independent of a corrupt hierarchy). The loss of faith for many as a result of this crisis is going to be devastating and the moral responsibility for this loss falls like the blade of the guillotine upon the necks of those responsible.

Reading Toibin’s books led me by a circuitous route to Australian novelist Robert Dessaix’s lovely travel memoir, Twilight of Love: Travels with Turgenev. Dessaix’s thesis is that Turgenev was the first great modern Russian writer to exemplify the prophecy of Dostoevsky that once God and religious faith are banished from the world, the human person loses its soul, and ‘love’ in the full human sense becomes impossible. All that is left is lust and sentiment, affection and friendship, dalliance and flirtation, but the depth of love has been lost with the loss of all faith in God and the Sacred. The human person becomes flat and one dimensional.


This reminds me of Graham Greene’s criticisms of modernist writers, Virgina Wolf and E.M. Forster:
for having lost the religious sense, which, he argued, resulted in dull, superficial characters, who “wandered about like cardboard symbols through a world that is paper-thin”. Only in recovering the religious element, the awareness of the drama of the struggle in the soul carrying the infinite consequences of salvation and damnation, and of the ultimate metaphysical realities of good and evil, sin and divine grace, could the novel recover its dramatic power.


Of course, Greene himself strongly objected to being called a Catholic novelist, rather than a novelist who was Catholic, and in his later works, his religious themes were replaced by humanist ones.

Dessaix also maintains that Turgenev was the first great modern Russian author to simply lament the state of emptiness of the modern world, without the frenzied religious agenda of a Dostoevsky or a Tolstoy. Paradoxically, Turgenev chronicled this loss while himself living out a passionate and quite extraordinary love affair of  over forty years with the opera singer, Pauline Viadot, herself a married women. As far as we can tell, their relationship was never consummated sexually and was accepted by Louis Viadot, the husband, even when Turgenev moved to Paris and bought a home near the Viadot’s, frequently dining with them and playing with their children. It is one of the most unusual love stories in history, a menage a trois without the sex, but there I go trivializing it in the modernist sense, when in fact the quality of Turgenev’s devotion and fidelity was something quite profound. Nonetheless, Dessaix insists that the tragic sorrow of Turgenev’s life was his deep conviction that without religious faith, human love in all it’s depth and profundity had simply become impossible.


(Here I must pause to say a word of thanks to my dear friends Bill and Steve (you know who you are) who so graciously led me to Stamford’s Travel Bookstore (on Floral Street, off of Long Acre Street in London). Among the many riches  I found on Stamford’s shelves were the works of Colm Toibin and Robert Dessaix’s sensitive and insightful study of Turgenev, Twilight of Love.   How mysterious are the ways of Providence, leading us – through the interventions of friends – to those books we seem to need right at the moment, which turns out to be a moment of grace and synchronicity.)

Speaking of Turgenev’s desolation of soul, Dessaix remarks:

Given his spiritual desolation, his joylessness (unrelated, as I see it, to unhappiness) and given his comfortable circumstances, I find it odd that Turgenev did not drift into mysticism of some kind. Inner emptiness and a full stomach, after all, make a good start. He did dabble in the supernatural, but that is not the same thing at all. Some trigger was missing in his psyche, something failed to fire.  He made an effort from time to time to put his spirit in order, as one does at a certain age, but putting your spirit in order best follows some sort of insight, surely. No transforming insights were granted him.” (pg. 67)

That concluding sentence reminds me of Colm Toibin’s “Why?”, referred to in a previous posting of mine at Gay Mystic. Why is no supernatural insight granted, when the seeker is so sincere? What is the source of the mystery of religious faith and it’s absence?


Later in the book (pg.169), Dessaix refers to Virginia Woolf’s own judgment about Turgenev, a judgement I find highly ironic in light of Graham Greene’s own criticism of Woolf.
I believe that Virginia Woolf was essentially right about Turgenev. What the seer tries to understand in Virgin Soil, I said, thinking aloud, is not the historical details of the failed attempts of high-minded radicals to foment revolution amongst the peasants in the late 1860’s, but how it is impossible to believe in anything – even a cause as just as revolution – or to sacrifice yourself to that cause, when you don’t believe in yourself (don’t love yourself), when you see yourself as nothing but a pinprick of mould on a grain of sand, about to be dead forever, just a biochemical reaction in a brain, as we might say nowadays. Commentators can argue endlessly over whether or not the radicals in Virgin Soil are Bakuninists or Blanquists or unhistorical fabrications, but such cogitations are beside the point: they are just the scenery for a play about the complete breakdown of any rational for acting (or loving) in an utterly senseless world.


As Dessaix explains, religion as a solution to his inner emptiness left Turgenev cold:


Religion (and in particular Orthodoxy and Catholicism) seems simply to have failed to hold his attention. I feel much the same way about astrophysics and sport, for example, although I know that for millions of human beings the cosmos revolves around these things. ‘God’, or at least the Orthodox Christian god, was not the answer to any question Turgenev was interested in putting.He was aware, however, …that ‘whoever has (religious) faith has all there is and can lose nothing, while whoever has no faith has nothing’. In need of consolation (as we all are), he kept a close watch all his life for something to have faith in, some sign that he might not after all lose everything in dying…

Born at a time when most people still believed in some sort of three-tiered universe -there was the supernatural world, the natural and, at some remove, there were human beings – he had lived on into an era when there was only indifferent nature left, which is more or less where we find ourselves stranded today. Everything else… was just words. Outside the natural universe, there was nothing.

Ironically enough, one of Turgenev’s most affecting characters, the young girl Liza in Nest of the Gentry, is possessed of a burning religious faith:


Liza (had) in a sense already been ravished by God, just as Pauline had been by music. At an early age ‘the image…of God squeezed with a kind of sweet force into her soul,’ Turgenev tells us with unusual directness,’filling her with awe and reverence…and Christ became something close and familiar to her, almost kindred.’ After an episode like this, any ‘possession’  Lavretsky (her suitor) had planned had little chance of fulfillment. (pg. 230).

This was, however, a ravishment of soul that remained foreign to the great Russian writer,  Turgenev himself, just as Colm Toibin looks on from afar at the burning faith of Polish Catholics walking on their knees around the sacred icon of the Black Virgin of Czestochowa.  Turgenev was not contemptuous of the power of religious faith, far from it, he seemed to harbor a deep seated respect ,coupled with a lilting sadness at his own incapacity for such devotion.


The naturalness of death is far more frightening than its suddenness or unusual form,’ he wrote to ‘ Countess Lambert, for whom, like Liza, the solution was simple: religious faith. Turgenev was not about to argue with her (‘Only religion can conquer this fear,’ he agreed), but ‘religion itself must become a natural need in man,’ he wrote, and in him it wasn’t. If a man doesn’t have a natural religious bent, he went on ruefully, ‘all he can do is avert his eyes frivolously or stoically (and in essence it doesn’t matter which).’

In the absence of any viable, living religious faith, love, then becomes impossible, the love, that is, that ruptures time and reveals to us a hidden, transcendent dimension. Love-sickness is still possible, as are desire, affection, infatuation, lust, sentimental attachment, adoration, married bliss, enduring fondness, passionate but passing infatuations.  But not the love that breaks through the barrier of time and reveals to us Eternity.


The love that saves us from time… or at least opens up a crack in it, allowing us…’to think we have glimpsed the other side’, is of a different order. It is this kind of love which seemed hardly possible any more to the mature Turgenev. If it proved impossible, that would mean that what we see is all there is. And that would mean that ultimately everything is futile. …(pg. 249)

Only religion, as Turgenev noted ruefully, has made any serious attempt to call time’s bluff and remove our fears of the executioner. Yet, for all it’s huffing and puffing, what a huge disappointment Western Religion has turned out to be. We were expecting so much more. The music, paintings and cathedrals don’t make up for it. Jesus mentioned something about the kingdom of God being revealed to us – and quickly, too – and what might that be if not a rent in the fabric of time? However, as Mark Twain remarked, what we got instead, with lighting speed, was the Church. (pg. 250).


As I stumble my way towards a conclusion to these spontaneous reflections, it will certainly not be the judgment that the present sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church is responsible alone for the loss of religious faith in Western culture at this present moment, since this malaise has been a long time coming.  But it has certainly contributed to the decline! It is more like the final nail in the coffin for many struggling Catholic souls who were already hanging on by their fingernails to a religious practice that seemed to leave them atrophied and an institutional authority they found abusive. Just how abusive is now being made graphically clear day by day in what amounts to one of the greatest trials of faith the Catholic community has ever had to face.


Heartbreaking as such experiences of mass exodus are to contemplate, beyond them all is the unfathomable mystery of the religious quest itself, which does not always end in fulfillment  even for the most sincere of spiritual seekers. Lapsed Catholics like Colm Toibin and Thomas Healy look back on the Church with a kind of nostalgic sadness, willing with part of their being to accept the sign of a healing light within the walls of mother church, but for all their goodwill unable to find it. Who is to say why or why not? Some do  maintain or discover an open door into the sacred within the traditional religions (and I continue to be passionately ‘Catholic’ in my own devotion), others through meditation on their own, or through an unaffiliated spiritual master like Eckhart Tolle,  others through nature, and others simply seem to have discovered a “little white bird,’ within their souls which sustains them in times of the most horrific terror without the mediation of any faith or explicit spiritual practice. 

I’m thinking here (among others) of Heda Kovaly, wife of Rudolph Margolius, who was condemned to death during the infamous 1952 Slansky trial in Prague. Spurned by all of her friends, spied on by her apartment building neighbors, Heda contracted a mysterious illness that left her completely paralyzed on her bed, while her ten year old son Ivan remained powerless to help her, the two of them facing starvation. Yet during this ordeal, Heda maintains a ‘little white bird’ visited her interior being, assuring her that all would be well, as indeed it was some days later (of complete paralysis), when an old friend found her and broke through the door.

But Robert Dessaix himself, in The Twilight of Love,  offers another example of this inexplicable faith in the  worth of life, a faith that seems to find its sustenance completely outside the realms of organized religion:


Riding in the funicular later that afternoon through the firs and pines to the top of the Merkurberg, I took pleasure once more, as I always do in (Ilse’s) company, in her effortless ability to make life good and revel in it. How does she do it? I can never quite work it out. Certainly not through resignation – Ilse is not resigned to anything. Yet she by no means closes her eyes to the things that chilled Turgenev’s soul – she grew up in Berlin during the war, after all; until recently she worked in an old people’s home, listening to the ‘crackling sound of death’ on a daily basis; she has seen what nature and humanity are capable of, from Phnom Penh to the football stadium in Santiago. She, too, I think, although much loved, has failed to win what Turgenev thought of as ‘the main prize in life’s lottery’ (a mere spouse does not qualify). And she has no religious faith at all, as far as I can see, or even much sense of its absence. Yet she is joyful. I almost turned to ask her how she did it in the funicular car, but didn’t. And once we got to the top, as happens on the top of mountains, it didn’t seem important any more to find the words. (pg. 67) 

This reminds me so much of a passage from a ‘secular saint’, that I’ve always found so inspiring. As a fitting close to these reflections, here is Albert Camus’ glorious paean of praise to the light of his childhood on the beach at Tipasa, Algiers,  which sustained him through a lifetime of witnessing and resisting humanity’s cruel injustices:

At noon, on the half-sandy slopes, strewn with heliotropes as if by a foam which the furious waves of the last few days had left behind them in their retreat, I gazed at the sea, then gently rising and falling as if exhausted, and quenched the two thirsts that cannot long be neglected if all our being is not to dry up, the thirst to love and the thirst to admire. For there is only misfortune in not being loved; there is misery in not loving. We all, today, are dying of this misery. This is because blood and hatred lay bare the heart itself: the long demand for justice exhausts the love which nevertheless gave it birth. In the clamour in which we live love is impossible and justice not enough. This is why Europe hates the daylight and can do nothing but confront one injustice with another. But I rediscovered at Tipasa that, in order to prevent justice from shriveling up, from becoming a magnificent orange containing only a dry and bitter pulp, we had to keep a freshness and a source of joy intact within ourselves, loving the daylight which injustice leaves unscathed, and returning to the fray with this reconquered light. Here once more I found ancient beauty, a young sky, and measured my good fortune as I realized at last that in the worst years of our madness the memory of this sky had saved me from despair. I had always known that the ruins of Tipasa were younger than our new buildings or our crumbling towns. There, the world was born again each morning in a light that was always new. O Light! This is the cry of all the characters who, in classical tragedy, come face to face with their destiny. Their final refuge was also ours, and I now knew that this was so. In the depths of the winter, I finally learned that there lay in me an unconquerable summer.

The Newman Wars: Papal Visit to England and Battle over Newman’s Legacy

As Benedict’s visit to England nears, it’s fascinating to watch the drawing of battle lines among Catholic commentators on the visit, re: the legacy of John Henry Newman. Better thinkers and more astute bloggers than I am are already commenting on this topic, including James Martin at America‘s “In All Things” blog, John Cornwell in London’s Financial Times, Colleen Baker at Enlightened Catholicism, Michael Bayly at Wild Reed, and Andrew Sullivan at his Daily Dish site. And then there are Ann Widdecombe at the Telegraph and Michael Sean Winters at National Catholic Reporter. Continue reading

Asceticism and the Call to Discipleship: A Gloss on the Discussion of Penitential Practices

Andrea Da Firenze, "Christ Bearing the Cross to Calvary"

Signposts, as I try to live the gospel in my own life, in the place in which I find myself now:

Signpost 1: this is a literal signpost.  It’s one I pass almost daily as I drive around my city running errands.  Prominently displayed in a yard of a house on a busy major artery out of the city, an artery from the inner city to its affluent, largely white suburbs, is a sign with a loud political (and ethical) slogan.

I haven’t copied the sign.  I’m quoting from memory, and summarizing as I do so.  It says something like, “Vic Snyder—DEMOCRAT.  Tried to destroy your good health insurance.  Are you happy?” Continue reading

What is the Pope’s Idea of Reform?

Throughout the course of the pontificate of Benedict XVI the Pope has commented on several occasions of incidents of reform and renewal that have occurred within the universal Church; most notably and succinctly, during his Weekly Wednesday General Audiences. In numerous cases, the Holy Father has tied the cause of reform and renewal to certain trends that occurred within the Church in the contexts of monastic and religious life, thus making religious orders a vehicle in some sense  for enacting and implementing new and vibrant forms of living out the Catholic faith.

Yet, as always, Benedict XVI has a very unique idea of what constitutes this renewal and how it is carried out.

On November 11, 2009 the Pope made The Cluniac Reform the topic of reflection for that Wednesday’s Audience. The Holy Father describes eloquently the great French monastery and how it contributed positively not only to the local monastic community but also introduced sentiments and trends that proved beneficial for the entire universal Church. Near the end of the Pope’s reflections, Benedict makes it a point to note that,

“Cluny’s success was assured primarily not only by the lofty spirituality cultivated there but also by several other conditions that ensured its development. In comparison with what had happened until then, the Monastery of Cluny and the communities dependent upon it were recognized as exempt from the jurisdiction of the local Bishops and were directly subject to that of the Roman Pontiff. This meant that Cluny had a special bond with the See of Peter and, precisely because of the protection and encouragement of the Pontiffs the ideals of purity and fidelity proposed by the Cluniac Reform spread rapidly.”

So, in his opinion, the Cluniac example of reform and renewal was not only successful on account of its own unique spiritual and theological integrity; it was special, in the fact that it was directly subject to the Bishop of Rome, thus insuring that “purity” and “fidelity” prevailed throughout the movement.

I wonder if in Benedict XVI’s mind, the Cluniac reform would have been as influential as it was had it been free of this subtle form of Roman control?’

On another occasion, during the General Audience of October 7, 2009 Pope Benedict speaks of St. John Leonardi, one of the towering figures of the Counter Reformation. He paints John as a man who was deeply driven to correcting secular abuses which had crept into the Church and — because of his own personal background in the field of medicine– John saw it as his mission to heal areas of the Church which had become diseased and no longer resembled Christ. The Pope goes on to quote John as declaring,

“…the renewal of the Church must be brought about in her leaders and in their subordinates, both above and below. It must be started by those in charge and extended to their subjects…”

Yet, at the conclusion of his Audience, Pope Benedict sums up St. John Leonardi’s example thusly,

“There is another aspect of St John Leonardi’s spirituality that I would like to emphasize. On various occasions he reasserted that the living encounter with Christ takes place in his Church, holy but frail, rooted in history and in its sometimes obscure unfolding, where wheat and weeds grow side by side (cf. Mt 13: 30), yet always the sacrament of salvation. Since he was clearly aware that the Church is God’s field (cf. Mt 13: 24), St John was not shocked at her human weaknesses. To combat the weeds he chose to be good wheat: that is, he decided to love Christ in the Church and to help make her, more and more, a transparent sign of Christ. He saw the Church very realistically, her human frailty, but he also saw her as being “God’s field”, the instrument of God for humanity’s salvation. And this was not all. Out of love for Christ he worked tirelessly to purify the Church, to make her more beautiful and holy. He realized that every reform should be made within the Church and never against the Church In this, St John Leonardi was truly extraordinary and his example is ever timely. Every reform, of course, concerns her structures, but in the first place must have an effect in believers’ hearts. Only Saints, men and women who let themselves be guided by the divine Spirit, ready to make radical and courageous decisions in the light of the Gospel, renew the Church and make a crucial contribution to building a better world.” Once again, it seems clear that Pope Benedict’s concept of reform is conditional. As long as one does not publicly or fundamentally disagree with the Pope, as the Protestant Reformers did, then their actions can be considered renewing and positively reforming the universal Church.

In the Holy Father’s most recent General Audiences of 2010 he has once again reflected on the cause of “reform and renewal” citing the Franciscan and Dominican Orders as important and visible agents in this initiative. But when we sit back and example these specific Orders, what is the common denominator that unites these monastic communities to the others that the Pope has described in his previous reflections? Ultimately, either by of their own choosing or of a sense of implied necessity, St. Dominic and St. Francis’ concepts of religious life were critiqued and given approval by the Pope. To Benedict, this is the difference between John Leonardi, Francis, and Dominic and their Protestant counterparts–Luther, Calvin, and John Wesley. Recognizing the Pope’s authority as a given is always a necessity when carrying out any sort of reform that is beneficial to the life of the universal Church.

Conveniently, the Holy Father chooses to omit numerous instances of individuals throughout the Church’s history who were part of monastic communities who openly opposed the Pope on several different occasions.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux, one of the great medieval Doctors of the Church, wrote to then Pope Eugenius III–in his De Consideratione— and admonished him; explaining to him that the papacy could only be an instrument of service to the Church, uniting all of its members in charity, rather than lording power and certain prerogatives over some in an authoritarian manner; as had become the rule du jour in the Middle Ages.

St. Catherine of Sienna, another Doctor of the Church, is most notably known for her extremely vocal and public critiques of then Pope Gregory XI–one of the Bishops of Rome who lived in exile in Avignon, France during the Great Western Schism of the fourteenth century in which two different popes were recognized, one in Avignon and one in Rome–which ultimately convinced him to return and resume his rightful position in the ancient See of Peter. St. Catherine also urged Pope Gregory in her letters to reform the clergy–which was notoriously corrupt– and also the way that the Papal States were administered.

One final example is not necessarily connected with monastic life per se, but nonetheless, is still of significant relevance. In the Acts of the Apostles a glimpse into the life of the early first century Church is provided when a dispute is described that ultimately causes a synod (traditionally characterized as the universal Church’s first “Council”) to be convened in Jerusalem to reach consensus and clarification on the issue. The matter at hand was the question of Gentile converts to Christianity and whether they would have to first be circumcised–thereby becoming Jews–in order to be considered followers of Christ. In these early days of Christianity, the apostles and disciples of Jesus still had not clearly distinguished themselves as an entity or movement separate from Judaism. They simply saw themselves as proclaiming Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah that the Jewish people had yearned so long for. Still Peter, John, Paul and most of Jesus’ followers remained observant Jews and saw nothing contradictory in proclaiming Jesus as Lord and Messiah while continuing to worship in the Temple of Jerusalem as well as keeping the laws of Moses.

During the Council of Jerusalem all of these facts were discussed vigorously. Peter, the de facto leader of the Church (usually described in Catholic tradition as the first “pope” even though the office in a full sense had not yet been developed), an ardent practitioner of Judaism, felt that Jesus had intended the Gospel only to be preached to the people of Israel–as God’s unique chosen progeny. Paul on the other hand disagreed deeply and chided Peter openly, saying to him,

“If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Galatians 2:14) 

It was this public rebuke of Peter by Paul that ultimately changed his mind and persuaded him at the Council to render this verdict,

“Brethren, you know that in the early days God made choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the Gospel and believe, And God Who knows the heart bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit just as He did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, but cleansed their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you make trial of God by putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” (Acts 15:7-11)

Does this then suggest that even the Pope can be persuaded to have a change of heart on certain issues–even ones of an extremely substantive and personal nature that have to deal with the very core of who we are as human beings–and see things in a new light when enlightened by his brothers?

Of course, Pope Benedict XVI would most likely, probably not see things this way. But the fact remains that throughout the Church’s history numerous saints have spoken out against certain practices and tenets sanctioned by the Pope and other prelates within the Church. It seems that comprehensive reforms only moved forward after points of contention were made to the Bishop of Rome and the necessity of a new way of approaching things was embraced. Thus, loyal dissent–especially in certain monastic contexts–has been a long-held reality of the Church.

But of course, Benedict XVI does not and probably never will see things this way. The ongoing investigation of women religious communities here in the United States proves this. The Vatican sees this women a threat because they think for themselves and have interpreted certain matters in a new, enlightened, forward thinking manner. Instead of seeing this as the Spirit possibly moving in the midst of their communities; the Pope, Cardinal Rode, and other leaders of the Church see this as a potential threat, because these women religious have dared to speak out, in some cases, against some of the Pope’s proclamations and have advocated alternative ways of interpreting the Gospel in light of today’s times. Unfortunately, this Pope is not listening as Pope Gregory did to St. Catherine of Siena.

Pope Benedict would rather listen to those who tell him what he wants to hear, like zealous adherents of Opus Dei. If anything fits Benedict’s criteria for true “reform and renewal” it would be these group within the Church. The fact that it is an autonomous entity, a “personal prelature” ,directly under the jurisdiction of the Pope should be the telling point. Reform to Benedict is only real unless unwavering fidelity to the Roman Magisterium in all circumstances, particularly the Pope, is met.

So, under an oppresive climate such as this how will true and genuine reform endure? The answer might be surprising.

John Allen Jr; Vatican analyst and esteemed journalist for the National Catholic Reporter makes this prediction for progressive-thinking Catholics in his latest work “The Future Church: How Ten Trends Are Revolutionizing the Catholic Church (which was a long-awaited Christmas present :)),

 “…In a Catholicism shaped by the politics of identity, many religious orders will rediscover precisely those elements that mark them as distinct–wearing habits, for example; engaging in more sustained periods of both individual and common prayer; and less immersion in secular pursuits. This option for a more high-tension style of religious life could in theory produce a revival in religious orders, at least in term of head counts.

On the other hand, any attentive observer of the contemporary Catholic scene also knows that many religious orders in the global North today have a center of gravity considerably to the left of diocesan bodies of priests, or of other Catholic institutions. The leaders of religious orders tend to favor collegial and participatory modes of government, and they often foster a greater liberty for theological innovation than many diocesan priests or lay employees of bishops might enjoy. For that reason, some religious orders may be fairly resistant to the momentum of evangelical Catholicism. If so, this option may create a high-tension model of religious life in another sense–in this case, tension not with the broader culture, but within the Church

Such an option may not be a prescription for larger numbers of vocations, but it could mean that institutions and parishes run by religious orders become the “harbors in the storm” for more liberal Catholics who feel increasingly uncomfortable in other Catholic venues. Liberal Catholics may seek out schools and parishes staffed by religious orders in greater numbers, and they may become more willing to provide financial and logistical support to their various works. Thus it’s possible that both “conservative” and “liberal” orders, and elements within these orders, may find the twenty-first century to be a boom period–the former in terms of vocations and energy, the latter as the refuge of choice for an increasingly beleaguered wing of the Church… “

                           p. 89-90

So it seems once again that genuine reform and renewal within the Church will once again stem from within the monastic setting. Instead of being interpreted as a global phenomenon, perhaps this is the “creative minority” that Pope Benedict alludes to as the future of Christianity?

John Paul II’s Penitential Practices: The Opus Dei Connection

John Paul II and Alvaro del Portillo

As a supplement to what I posted here recently about Pope John Paul II’s penitential practices, I’d like to offer readers a brief overview of some resources for further study.  These resources focus on a particular topic—namely, the use of self-flagellation and other penitential practices such as wearing chains with sharp points that dig into the skin (cilices) by a contemporary Catholic movement, Opus Dei.

Since not all readers may be aware that there is at least one group in the contemporary Catholic church which encourages its members to whip themselves, to wear cilices, and to sleep on the floor or on boards, I’d like to draw attention to the important body of literature that has developed to study and critique Opus Dei’s penitential practices in recent years.  It’s also significant that John Paul II was closely connected to Opus Dei and actively promoted and protected this controversial religious group—about which more below. Continue reading

John Paul II’s Penitential Practices and Competing Narratives about Sanctity in the Postmodern Church

There was a time, before the Second Vatican Council prompted religious congregations to return to the charisms of their founders, when practices of self-abnegation including self-flagellation were de rigueur in some communities.  Some orders, in fact, practiced self-flagellation in a communitarian setting.  A Redemptorist priest I once knew described to me how his community would gather on designated evenings in a dark hallway, where they’d recite the penitential psalms while whipping their bare backs.  They also wore cilices, little devices for self-torture with sharp points, which are tied tightly around one’s thigh to induce pain when one moves.

These practices—in particular, the enforced, institutionalized, all-together-now mortification of the flesh in a communitarian setting—tended to go by the wayside in religious life with Vatican II.  They did so for a good reason: they ultimately had little to do with what being a nun, priest, or brother was really all about.  They had little to do with the charisms and missions of religious communities, with the calling of a community to tend to the sick, live among the poor, teach, provide shelter for the homeless, assist immigrants, etc. Continue reading

Spiritual Intelligence: The Master Intelligence

Sometimes silence is the best route for finding a path.  The best kind of silence is also an active listening.  There is a part of our brains which seems to be dedicated to a different kind of intelligectual capacity and has a different- meta set if you will–of sense perceptual ability.  This part of our brains deals with problem solving on a holistic basis, and uses our typical set of intellectual attributes only as tools to further and express personal development and problem solving.

The following article written by Will Keepin  is taken from  the now defunct ezine, Timeline, but its parent organization (www.globalcommunity.org) is still a very going concern.  Although there are a number of different conceptualizations of spiritual intelligence, the following best describes my own understanding of how this form of human intelligence operates.

I plan to do a series of articles on to expand on the concept of spiritual intelligence.  First because the operating principles  are universal to the  core teachings of almost all spiritual systems, and two, because they describe the method of thinking–as opposed to a philosophy–which underlie the teachings and actions of Jesus.

The Twelve Principles of Spiritual Leadership

First: The first principle is that the motivation underlying our activism for social change must be transformed from anger and despair to compassion and love. This is a major challenge for the environmental movement, for example. It is not to deny the legitimacy of noble anger or outrage at injustice of any kind. Rather, we seek to work for love, rather than against evil. We need to adopt compassion and love as our foundational intention, and do whatever inner work is required to implement this intention. Even if our outward actions remain the same, there is a major difference in results if our underlying intention supports love rather than defeating evil. The Dalai Lama says, “A positive future can never emerge from the mind of anger and despair.” Continue reading