Friday, May 24, 2013

"On the road again..."

Well,  we're not really on the road yet; but it's coming.  Right now it's packing and loading--which is the upfront price for the bliss of being on the road.

I said I would try to keep at it this time.  Here's just a short thought on Pope Francis' much noted homily on redemption.  It was about redemption, really; not about atheists.  He used the latter to make the point about the former: that in order to be saved one must "do good."  Anybody who does good will be saved.

How simple is that!

It reminds me of the "test" Jesus talked about in Matthew's judgment scene.  There is only one question in the final exam of life: Did one do good?

This is not going to please the "Benedict" crowd, I'm sure.  But that is the kind of concern that pulls us away from the thinking about Francis' message.

I'm starting to like the guy.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

San Miguel Mission

Stopping by one day, another Mission to check off the list (not of all there are, but of all we happen to pass by)--and suddenly the list is of minor concern.

San Miguel is a poor mission in a poor town.  But for that very reason it seems more real than so many others, which are truly tourist destinations.

It strikes me, out of the blue, a thought that epitomizes what an epiphany is like, a sudden revelation, a view into the nature of things--and a view that connects all sorts of things that were just there, floating around in my brain.

Here's the setting: I am wondering aloud, in the presence of Mim, that here we have a mission named not after a concrete person, a saint--San Luis Obispo, San Buenaventura, Santa Maria, Santa Ynes, and so forth--but after an angel, St. Michael, archangel.  And suddenly the angel takes on the reality, the adobe building of the mission.  It is there, as present to me as Mim is present to me.

The riff following that epiphany carries me through reflection on the nature of angels, their 'creation' to give name to the presence of God's message to us; and it ends in the elevation of that name to its place in the hierarchy of traditional philosophical thought: as an idea, an idea that is more real than the shadow of that idea we see in the work-a-day world.

I have since gone on, in recalling that day every now and then, to appreciate for really the first time the wisdom of Plato concerning the ideal forms--or, the true ideas. For these 'ideals' are more real to Plato than the material of the world.  It is thus the idea that helps us to see the true nature of reality, not reality that gives us the idea.  Or something like that.

I have also, since that first insight, gone on the appreciate the nature of God as the great idea.  For thinking of and talking about God as a person just creates too many problems, for me I might add.

But the idea of God, the idea that there is something beyond and within what we see and do in our everyday life, that there we meet the deepest part of our being and the loftiest dimension of our world--this is beginning to make more and more sense to me.

I'll leave it there for now; for that is where I am at present.

In the meantime, we are packing up to leave Bakersfield, heading off to who knows where--I don't--except someplace in the Midwest for the summer.  But this time I hope to share my journey at least one day a week.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Missions of California

Living and traveling in California has provided the opportunity for many encounters with the "other" religious colonization of America--where empire was the first and the open, acknowledged purpose; and religion and conversion the added feature.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the chain of missions that dot the California landscape, from San Diego to San Francisco.

We have not made it our agenda to visit all the missions; but we do stop and visit when we are in the vicinity. They--the missions--are still functioning parishes, and have all been restored to what now is accepted as their original state.  Who would know?  That is another whole issue.

What interests me is their place in the community, and their place in the economy of that community.

First, and foremost, they have given the community its name: San Diego, Santa Barbara, San Miguel, and so forth.  Sometimes it stuck, and sometimes the community simply moved on, reformed itself around another focal point and/or personage and became known with another name.  Perhaps the most famous of all the missions, San Juan Capistrano, best illustrates this; the city of San Juan Capistrano is lost among all the "Beach" cities of that area, including Capistrano Beach.  Another example is Mission Santa Ines, which lies a few miles from the town of Santa Ynes.  But my favorite is Mission San Bonaventura, which lies in the heart of the city of Ventura, as it is now known, but which officially is the city of the mission's name.

It is this strange tension surrounding the "naming rights" that leads me to my second point: the era of Spanish empire may have long passed by, with hardly any concrete effects remaining; but the attached religious colonization, through the establishment of the missions, lives on and thrives.  It may not do so in its original form, but it is there nonetheless.

When I went to school in Washington, D.C., and traveled on the east coast, I visited the "shrines" of the colonial era--those havens of the persecuted who fled from Europe and established colonies where they could practice their religion.  But it was not the churches I visited, it was rather the buildings and places of the truly "new thing" that these colonists built: a land where any religion, or none, could be safe from persecution.  So we have Washington, New York, Philadelphia, to name a few--religious in the American way.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A virtue for our times

Let me tie up some loose ends from the previous post, where I was talking about the dynamics of being a potluck catholic.  There I described the two facets of that dynamic: that one brought something to the table, and that one took something from it.

What about everything left on the table, however?  This seems to perplex people no end.  And such a profound "no end," moreover, that I suggest a new virtue needs to be discussed for this condition.

 The virtue is tolerance.  That's it. If I am satisfied with that I have taken from the table, if I am satisfied, that is, with what I believe, if I truly feel that what I believe is what I need to believe, if it is right for me, then why cannot I let others believe what they want to believe?  Why would I feel that I somehow need to make sure they believe what I believe in the same way I believe it?  Could it be due to the fact that I am insecure in my belief?

Catholics have left an awful lot on the table.  There is just too much there to be dealt with by the majority of people.  At the same time, however, it is our table--and no one from the outside ought to step in and decide for us what it is we should profess.

Makes sense to me.  How about you?