True Friends and Enemies

If the master of the house had known the hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. (Luke 12:39)

pachamama-arianna-ruffinengo
“Pachamama” by Arianna Ruffinengo

Everyone paid attention to the videos from Rome? Maybe someday our personal responses to this question will define us: Where did you stand, when they threw Pachamama in the Tiber?

But I would rather recount a conversation I had with a Mohawk man. On the Appalachian Trail, a few years ago. He’s a Christian, an Assembly of God preacher. We fell in with each other for a long stretch of walking and talking. He wound up spending a few days praying at St. Andrew’s in Roanoke, Virginia, then continued his journeys.

To generalize about “native American spirituality” or “Amazonian spirituality”—doesn’t seem like a good idea at all. You really can’t generalize, any more than you could generalize about “European spirituality” or “the spirituality of the Indian sub-continent.”

But can’t we say this: All orthodox Catholics, and most native Americans, of north and south, have something in common. We all acknowledge that the human race does not possess the greatest intelligence that exists. We God-fearing people revere the infinitely superior intelligence of our Creator, and the immeasurably superior intelligence of the angels, the non-material spirits–some of which are good, some of which are evil.

Cover of English edition of Pope Francis' encyclical on environment

Therefore we orthodox Catholics and native Americans also share this understanding: the Creator has endowed His material creation with an inherent order—and that order also surpasses our intelligence.

Not that we Catholics would say that trees, deer, and rivers have “minds.” But we recognize, along with native Americans, that Mother Nature possesses this endowment of organization, unity, and co-operation. Mankind forms but a part of this.

We human beings have a unique role—but not the role of mastermind. We must humbly respect the mystery of Mother Nature’s inner-connectedness; we must seek to co-operate with it ourselves; we cannot presume to understand it completely.

So, my point is: Why would we fight among ourselves, we God-fearing people who respect the Creator’s higher intelligence? When we not only have such crucial presuppositions in common, but also clearly face a common foe.

Namely, the school of willful blindness to the inherently religious dimension of human life. The technocracy. The oligarchy of materialists. That rejects prayer and sacraments as merely projections of inner psychological confusion. That prizes only bodily comfort. That cannot conceive of our human mission to co-operate humbly with God and His laws.

I didn’t just make up this take on the problem, during a walk in the woods with an Indian. This is a thesis that Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict both embraced, as we can see in the citations in Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’.

A non-Christian native American who reveres the inner mystery of Mother Nature has more in common with us orthodox Catholics than the people who run the world right now. Who know no gods other than man and money.

Paul Simon Way Ahead on the Amazon

As we read at Holy Mass today: The Lord sent the prophet Jonah to the non-Jewish Ninevites. And the Lord sent a non-Jewish Samaritan to help the robbers’ victim, in the parable. This Sunday we will read about the ten lepers Jesus cured. The only one who came back to say thank you? A Samaritan. A foreigner.

The Lord founded a cosmopolitan Church. Not like the magazine Cosmopolitan. But in the sense that true religion resonates with people of all languages and races. The Lord sent the Apostles to all nations.

Rosary Prayers

For most of us, the Amazon basin counts as “foreign land.” Anyone ever visited?

It became a little less foreign for us Paul-Simon fans back in 1990. He followed up his album Graceland with an encore, involving Brazilian musicians. I wore out my cassette tape of Rhythm of the Saints, by listening to it like a thousand times. The song “Born at the Right Time” can still bring tears to my eyes.

Paul Simon was twenty-nine years ahead of the Vatican. Everyone heard of the “Amazon Synod” in Rome? I, for one, long ago lost track of what exactly the point of all these Roman synods is.

Anyway: the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the grace of His mysteries, belongs to everyone, of every language and nation. Our Lady’s Rosary has “delivered” the Gospel, and the grace of Christ’s mysteries, to souls seeking God, all over the world, for centuries.

You can’t go wrong, listening to some Paul Simon every once in a while, to cheer yourself up. And we definitely can’t go wrong, praying the Rosary daily.

Rock in Thin Air

Cam Newton Panthers

A strong city have we,” with “houses built on solid rock.”

What rock can there be but God? Something so simple and fundamental—and yet so easy to get distracted away from. Which is why we so desperately need our Lady in front of our spiritual eyes at all times.

transporter room star trekShe came of age, reached womanhood, and the choice appeared before her with crystal clarity: Everything for God; everything invested 100% in His holy Word; everything staked on His faithfulness to a beautiful plan we can’t see. Or: hopelessness, the slow tragic arc towards death, dissipation in a thousand compromises with shallowness and selfishness.

These are the real options. Everything for the invisible Rock of infinite love, running towards Judgment Day with nothing but eagerness to see Jesus. Or: comfort right now, followed by boredom tomorrow, confusion eventually, and ultimate desperation.

What rock can there be but God? What else is good? I would love to see my new bandwagon favorite Carolina Panthers march to Seattle in January, beat the evil Seahawks, and go the Super Bowl. I would love it. It could happen. But even if it does—is there any imaginable way in which Cam Newton can be the rock of my life? Is there any imaginable way in which the ephemera of this world can make me happy, really, for good?

No. God is the only rock. His testimony of love is the only foundation for any lasting city.

If we stand on this holy Rock of faith, like our Lady; if we stand with both feet squarely placed on the rock of the divine Word; if every pound of our weight, every ounce—everything; if all of me stands on the Rock of God, like our Lady stood, as if floating in the air—when the angel said, ‘the Holy Spirit will do this,’ and she said Yes; if we stand like her on the thin air of staking everything on the faithfulness of God, than you know what we can do?

Look each other in the eye. Look each other in the eye and see the great mystery: This person right here is my fellow citizen of Jerusalem. This person right here has just arrived—has just been beamed to this exact location by God Himself. No Amazon delivery drone required. God Himself has beamed us all together right here, right now, for a moment of love that will never die.

Our blessed Mother looked the Archangel in the eye, so to speak—since angels don’t ‘have’ eyes, but are eyes—she looked and saw the same reality that we can look and see, when we stand squarely on the thin air of God: The choice. Turn away, and crumble, little by little. Or say Yes to love, jump out, and fly like an eagle on the wind.

annunciation

Be Mine

Listen:

I know you love me. I know you are thinking of me. I know you are sweet on me.

But before you run out to the Hallmark store–

Before you scour the aisles trying and find an appropriate card for your beloved blogging priest…

I just want to show you my favorite Valentine that I ever received: