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Morning Sun
  • TRUE STORIES: My Lenten resignation

  • God is not someone to be afraid of, but is the Ground of Being and on our side – Richard Rohr

     


    I gave up being Catholic for Lent. As not to cause a stir, I did it in secret, preferring to privately read Buddhist and Muslim teachings and poetry and share my observations with friends.

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  • God is not someone to be afraid of, but is the Ground of Being and on our side – Richard Rohr
     
    I gave up being Catholic for Lent. As not to cause a stir, I did it in secret, preferring to privately read Buddhist and Muslim teachings and poetry and share my observations with friends.
    Then Benedict XVI resigned, which changed my thinking completely. I mean, if il Papa can give up being head of the Roman Catholic church forever, I can resign from Catholicism for 40 days.
     As Catholic writer and professor Paul Elie said in a recent article, “If the pope can resign, we can, too. We should give up Catholicism en masse, if only for a time. Resignation: that’s what American Catholics are feeling about our faith. We are resigned to the fact that so much in the Roman Catholic Church is broken and won’t be fixed anytime soon.”
    Elie goes on to suggest that Catholics who are concerned about the way the hierarchy of the church has been operating vacate their pews today and visit another church, preferably a non-Christian one, in hopes of deepening their Catholic faith.
    “It would let us begin to figure out what in Catholicism we can take and what we can and ought to leave. It might even get the attention of the cardinals who will meet behind the locked doors of the Sistine Chapel and elect a pope in circumstances that one hopes would augur a time of change.”
    Personally, I’d opt for a Buddhist temple or monastery today, but as there’s not one nearby, I’ll likely continue my study on the couch at home. Recently I’ve been contemplating writings by Zen Buddhist teacher Norman Fischer titled “Life Is Tough – Six Ways to Deal With it.”
    The “ways” include (1) practicing patience; (2) taking responsibility and not blaming; (3) being grateful; (4) accepting confusion as part of life; (5) doing good, avoiding evil / appreciating lunacy / praying for help; and (6) accepting what comes.
    Its precepts are not unlike those found in scripture readings at Catholic Lenten Mass and the passion of Christ that culminates in the observance of Easter. The hard part, in either case, is putting them into practice.
    Like most Catholics who give up something for Lent — whether it be sweets, texting, TV or Facebook — I have my slips from time to time.
    Last Sunday I went to Mass at Sacred Heart and heard an excellent homily by Fr. Tom on how being present to the extraordinary happenings in our daily lives can be a manifestation of Christ’s Transfiguration. Also how he’s never forgotten the teachings of a hobo called Beefsteak Charley he met while in seminary who said,  “Never ask us where we’ve been. Ask us where we’re going.”
    Page 2 of 3 - I must admit I’ve slipped, as well, on the writings of Franciscan Friar Richard Rohr. This, I rationalize, is really not a big slip as Fr. Rohr’s ideas about salvation are frequently called heretical (much the same as those professed by the “Nuns on the Bus”) because they call for Catholics to be more ecumenical, embrace paradox, give up our childish approach to God and practice social justice.
    Rohr professes that the church has promoted an either / or mentality of God that makes much of Jesus’ teaching on grace and mercy impossible to process. More specifically, that we are told to love unconditionally but that God does not.
    “The believer is told to love his enemies but that “God” clearly does not; in fact, God punishes them for all eternity. My intention is not to be unfair or negative in stating this so straightforwardly, but we must start being honest about the way what we call “the good news” has ended up being bad news for many sincere human beings who really want to believe.”
    Rohr’s approach suggests Catholics embrace the world the way Christian mystics do – with non-dual consciousness. Which is to say, to relish that what our faith teaches about Jesus (human yet divine), Mary (virgin yet mother) and communion (bread yet Christ) is present in everything around us.
    Rohr says that simply being silent and accepting the reality of the present — and both the good and the bad sides of ourselves and others — can deepen our faith, open us to the Holy Spirit, and lead to the practice of Christ consciousness, which is to say non-judgment, unconditional love, compassion and forgiveness.
    If you happen to be a Catholic considering the option of vacating your pew today — or the rest of Lent for that matter — a word of caution. Two years ago, satirist Stephen Colbert gave up Catholicism for Lent. As the comedian told it, he swore off Catholicism on Ash Wednesday and made it all the way to Good Friday, when he relapsed and went on a “Catholic bender.”
    “I got totally pious-faced. I did every station of the cross. I don’t remember how many sacraments I did. For all I know I’m celibate now. At one point I genuflected all over the back of a cab. Anyway, I thought I could kick it … but I guess I just have to accept that I’m a functional Roman Catholic.”
    All kidding aside, many of the rank and file have given up hope that the Catholic patriarchy will change its ways, but Paul Elie believes that Benedict’s resignation serves to remind Catholics that change in the church can happen, even dramatically. If so hidebound an institution as the papacy can be changed, what can’t be?
    Page 3 of 3 - J.T. Knoll is a writer, speaker and prevention and wellness coordinator at Pittsburg State University. He also operates Knoll Training & Consulting in Pittsburg. He can be reached at 231-0499 or jtknoll@swbell.net
     
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