Saturday, September 30, 2006

Friars: Ready for MTV?

Fr. Tim sent some links to the Conventual Franciscans' new video shorts, detailing life and projects of Conventual Franciscans around the world. (He even makes a cameo in one about the Syracuse Northside!) And of course, I have a soft spot in my heart for the story about St. Julia's parish ...

These videos are pretty well-produced, considering they're probably on a shoe-string budget. And what a great idea as part of the Order's outreach to younger people to include streaming media on thier main site.

My one suggestion: Make them snappier, a little more energetic, depending on appropriate subject matter. Also, have contact info appear on screen at the end of every piece, and include that call to action. But overall, good work, and keep 'em coming!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Double Religious Standards (?)

I'd be remiss if I didn't address this brouhaha with the Pope and his incendiary Islam quote in last week's speech (now two weeks, b/c I'm very slow on the uptake with the blog business).

Here are my questions/thoughts:
  • Why wasn't the Pope's speech vetted before he delivered it? (Complete text here.)
  • Come on, he apologized. Our Popes never apologize. That in itself is akin to a miracle. Yet it's still not enough?
  • The worldwide Islamic reaction--and the resulting deaths--certainly do not fit the offense.
  • Why do Western religions tolerate such disproportionate retaliations from radical Muslims, and allow thier own religions to be maligned with nary a peep?
  • Isn't Islam at its core a religion that promotoes peace? Is the visibility of the radical segment an extreme example of "the squeaky wheel gets the grease," or is it truly representative of Islamic sensibility? (I believe it's the former.)
  • This is more reason than ever for this administration to steer clear of the 'Islamic fascists' rhetoric, IMHO. I'm surprised that hasn't drawn more ire already. At least the term 'terrorists' acknowledges the separation of church and state, no matter what the church.
  • The ultimate irony of this controversy is that the Pope's speech states that spreading religion through violence is not in accordance with God's will. And how do the radicals respond to the use of their ancient teachings as a (negative) example? With violence. How can this possibly refute the quote?
Does any of this insanity add up? I shudder for this world sometimes ...

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Accidental Deity

Came across "Is God An Accident?" in Atlantic Monthly, and gave myself a headache. The article speaks to the duality of human nature, or the split in its physical and social consciousness. This unique separation of comprehension, the author argues, is what leads many humans to follow a religion. It allows us to separate our bodies from our spirits, and in turn, we search for a place to store the soul. Enter religion. That makes it not true belief or higher understanding, but rather straightforward biology. In short, an accident, a short circuit in the wires.

The article covers some interesting ground, though potentially demoralizing, for any waverers, as I frequently am. I still had a few questions. Why do humans, and not other species, exhibit these tendencies? Does this evolved duality apply to spirituality (assuming the author is not using spirituality and religion interchangeably, though I think he might?) Do we as humans fully comprehend the power of our own brains to guide individual beliefs beyond basic reasoning and problem-solving?

The author clearly restates his argument at the end:

" Religious teachings certainly shape many of the specific beliefs we hold; nobody is born with the idea that the birthplace of humanity was the Garden of Eden, or that the soul enters the body at the moment of conception, or that martyrs will be rewarded with sexual access to scores of virgins. These ideas are learned. But the universal themes of religion are not learned. They emerge as accidental by-products of our mental systems. They are part of human nature."

I think the fatal flaw of this piece is equating religion with supernatural beliefs--belief in an afterlife, fear/awe of a supreme being, seeing bodies as vessels, etc. This synonymous use--at least in my un-neuroscientifically trained brain--doesn't allow for simply feeling God in your life, experiencing communication through prayer, or feeling called to certain actions and decisions.

IMHO, our human duality certainly can account for the uniquely human conventions of creating laws, rules, rituals, ceremonies, and morals to organize and guide our daily lives. But I don't see where it accounts for the experience of a relationship with God.

The author may argue my questions merely points to a higher form of the short-circuit. That would make me, a believer, just a dedicated exploiter of this glitch--a metaphysical charlatan. But again, as a believer, perhaps I will never understand ... or never WANT to understand ... that my God can be explained by studies and papers.

And so the religion vs. science debate rages on ...

Friday, September 15, 2006

"We Feed the Feeders"

So said Capuchin Franciscan brother Fr. Paul last night at the YouFra meeting, when I very nearly burst into tears from sheer relief. The moment I walked into that room--damp from the rain, stressed by getting lost downtown, pinched by my work shoes and knee highs--I felt at peace. I can't fully explain it, but I knew I was in a place of refuge, and that no matter what my burdens or my sorrows, I could lay them at the door for two hours and breathe.

Essentially, I felt like I had walked back into the Alibrandi Catholic Center, my SU home away from home, complete with young adult-savvy Franciscan leader, peer support, and shabby but comfortable settings. People throw the term 'God-send' around, but this truly was one of those times---especially when Fr. Paul opened with the firm promise that YouFra is meant to provide ministry, not require it, of its members. It seeks to help young people deepen their Catholic faith in this wild, wacky, wierd world. Sounds like they're speaking my language.

Btw ... for any YouFra members that may one day read my site ... forgive me for my angst-ridden opening comments from yesterday's post. They were borne of previous disappointments, nerves, homesickness, and sogginess of spirit.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Once More Unto the Beach, Dear Friends

Tomorrow I'm going with Johanna to a YouFra meeting downtown, and I've already stressed myself out about it. The driving, the parking, the time commitment, the high likelihood that there will be an overwhelming amount of Catholic nerds there ... deep breath. It could turn out to be just the thing I'm looking for.

This pre-overreaction is a direct result of my post-vacation blues, where I got to spend a whole blessed week with many of favorite people in the entire world in my favorite place in the entire world. Emily, Sue, Nicole, John, Mark, Michael, and Jacob, all collected in a gorgeous sandcastle house one block from the Ocean City, NJ shore. (I took my watch off the moment I arrived, and didn't put it back on until we locked the house for the last time. The tradition continues ...)

There is absolutely NOTHING like gathering around a huge dining room table every night, eight guests strong, for home-cooked meals and excellent conversation. We had all the time in the world to sit and chat. And believe me, we took full advantage of it! It was just tremendous fun.

Since returning home, however, I have been overwhelmed by steady (and unexpected) waves of melancholy, loneliness, and homesickness for--of all places--SU. I forgot how wonderful it feels to have your friends at arm's reach, available any time of day, for conversations and meals and quiet time. It's an incredible support network: You never have to explain and excuse yourself. You simply are. That's why my friendships with these people are such a constant gift, and why every separation--however right or necessary--is poignant and bittersweet.

My friends don't fill my 'God space,' as Eileen would say, but they're pretty damn close to it. So add them to the crashing surf, multi-colored sunsets, and sun-warmed skin, and you're got one miraculous vacation.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Spirituality, Straight Up

Work is deathly slow today, so I'm reading 'Naked Conversations' by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel as a crash course on blogging. And since I always learn better with hands-on reinforcement, I hit up technorati and blogpulse, just to see all the connections for myself.

I searched for a couple variations on a term: Catholic, young Catholic, Roman Catholic. Let's just say I'm disappointed. It didn't turn up anything I was looking for, namely, a community of young Catholics. Now, this doesn't preclude such a space existing, but it doesn't bode well if no one's linking to you.

I'll continue searching on regular Web and news searches too for basis of comparison. But today's search puts a little tickle in my mind, a suspicion that there is a void out there in the seemingly infinite blogosphere. Will investigate further ...

In the meantime, I did find this one thoughtful and reverent voice, who takes God out of the anthropomorphic realm and translates Him to energy and environment. A surprisingly comforting and bolstering view.

P.S. I'm on vacation for the next week, so expect darkness ... but hope for the light ;)