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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

1032: Religious experience is dynamic, fluid, effervescent, yeasty!

Day 1032: Thursday, January 12, 2023

Religious experience is dynamic, fluid, effervescent, yeasty!

In whatever sense this year is a new year for you, may the moment find you eager and unafraid, ready to take it by the hand with joy and gratitude.

Some thoughts for the New Year:

Falling in Love

"I propose that we can fall in love several times a day for the rest of our lives. You could fall in love with the galaxies — there are one trillion out there! . . . You could fall in love with species of wild flowers, of which there are still 10,000 on this planet; you could fall in love with fish and plants, trees, animals, and birds, and with people, especially those who are different from us."

Matthew Fox —

Wrestling with the Prophets: Essays on Creation Spirituality and Everyday Life

What are we to make of Pope Benedict XVI?

(Uncle Bill - Alcuin Coyle o.f.m.)

I had an uncle who was one of those young men who was picked out to rise quickly through the ecclesial ranks. A kid from a poor Boston family, Bill Coyle entered the Franciscans, took on the was assigned the name Alcuin after an English theologian/saint and never looked back. He was a brilliant student who studied in Rome and Louvain, spoke Latin like a Roman and earned 2 Ph D's - One in Canon Law. He translated for American Bishops at Vatican II, returned to America to head the Franciscan School of Theology in Washington D.C and later became President of the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. He settled in New York City in the mid-town parish of St. Francis -- just a couple of blocks from the Emire State Building. We were great friends and he loved nothing more than my visits -- he always had a reservation at a restaurant with great wine and food -- on my credit card of course.

Of all his experiences the one that had the most most profound impact was that of hearing confessions. He freely admitted it was the confessions of regular people that turned him from a cleric into a human. He also served the LGBTQ+ community and those suffering from addictions of all kinds. Really listening to the sadness, misery, failures and hopes of others gifted him with compassion and an open heart; Gifts which were never celebrated or developed in the seminary or in his quick rise through the ecclesial bureaucracy.

Imagine if Pope Benedict, his predecessor and all the "golden boys" of the Church had been given the gift of serving others for several years. Maybe in a poor country like El Salvador or Namibia where peasants scratch an existence from tiny plots. Where school children have no shoes and little to eat.

Commentary from Matthew Fox:

Ratzinger called Creation Spirituality "dangerous and deviant," but maybe his reign of homophobia, misogyny, religious one-up-manship, approval of fascism, “killing of theology” and avoiding the signs of the times whether science, women or gay rights qualifies as “dangerous and deviant.”

I think this is the historic role that Ratzinger played: Calling Liberation Theology a “singular heresy,” Ratzinger went on the offensive. He blasted the new movement as a “fundamental threat” to the church and prohibited some of its leading proponents from speaking publicly. In an effort to clean house, Ratzinger even summoned outspoken priests to Rome and censured them on grounds that they were abandoning the church’s spiritual role for inappropriate socioeconomic activism.

Perhaps now Christianity can start over and travel lighter and be more attuned to the real message in the Gospels—to recovering a sense of the Sacred Earth so that the Earth can survive, so that deep ecumenism can thrive and world spiritualities can work together to solve human problems and more.

By slaying theology and condemning both liberation theology and creation spirituality, by failing to interfere with priestly pedophilia and its hierarchical cover-up and instead elevating people like Cardinal Law, who passed pedophile priests from parish to parish, to head the Maria Maggiore basilica in Rome, by turning his back on the signs of the time, he so deconstructed the church that he made room for a more authentic spirituality in Jesus' name to grow from the ashes he left behind.

Maybe now a new thing can happen. Mystics and prophets can flourish. This can happen outside as well as hopefully inside institutional religion. Those who follow Jesus are freer to do so now. Something far closer to Jesus’s message of the presence of the Kingdom/Queendom of God among us can flourish.

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