Friday, August 18, 2017

Dialogue cannot exist without humility.

Some relevant bits from Paulo Freire:

No one is born fully-formed: it is through self-experience in the world that we become what we are.
No one can be authentically human while he prevents others from being so. 
Within the word we find two dimensions-reflection and action. If one is sacrificed even in part, the other immediately suffers. To speak a true word is to transform the world.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Nice Try

Here is one of the descriptions I put togethere for the talk -- one that did not get into the registration book.

Achieve Enlightenment with this one stupid trick - spirituality in a time of clickbait, packaged "religion" and transhumanism

Spirituality is as natural and universal as breathing -- and we as Catholics recognize that spiritual development is necessary for becoming fully human

But the path to that humanity can be hard to find today. There are:weapons of mass distraction such as click-bait, fake news, and online pornography. "Spirituality" is becoming just one more consumer product. Explosive progress in artificial intelligence and neuroscience alters for some the idea of what humanity is, and what it might become.

We don't need to retreat to some enclave of imagined safety or to try to ignore the whole thing. Our challenge is to make a pilgrimage back to our roots as a Christian community to understand better not only our own spiritual needs but how to accompany others in this confusing time.
My experience includes several years as journalism, followed by 20+ years of software development. For the past 10 years i have worked for this diocese in detention ministry and as the sometime webmaster. I'm now a year into being the full time webmaster as part of CommNet Media.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Coming Detractions

Well it finally happened. No, not the fall of Western civilization. I am scheduled as a presenter At the Diocese of Fresno Congress October 14 in Visalia. My session is D.03 - Spirituality for Webmasters and Social Media Mavens. My intention is to start posting some of the pieces of my presentation here, as a sort of tryout, once concept at a time. In the end, my intention is to post any materials for the session here. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

St. Thèrése, Creation, and You

You know well enough that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them. ― St. Thérèse of Lisieux
The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, His boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains: everything is, as it were, a caress of God”. ― Pope Francis

Many today love and try to emulate St. Thèrése of Lisieux. She died an obscure young nun in France in 1897, but less than 30 years later was declared a saint. We have a special devotion here to St. Thèrése and her Little Way of Love, as the Diocese of Fresno was the first in the world to adopt Thèrése as our patroness. Pope Francis in his new encyclical, Laudato Si' points to St. Therese as a model for us in how we treat Creation, a model that is important for us here central California.

In this letter, Francis reflects on our relationship and responsibility to God’s Creation, what science can and does tell us about the condition and future of the natural world, and the moral and social roots of the current crisis. Key insights and teachings include:

  • the same selfishness and obsession with consumption that result in violence, poverty and injustice, are also at the root of abuse of nature;
  • we need a new understanding of man and nature together, an integral ecology, which addresses the current environmental crisis while respecting human needs and dignity;
  • this is a genuinely dire crisis and our response must include action by governments and all other social institutions including economic, legal, and political changes.

All these great changes are necessary, but they cannot be enough unless we choose to simplify and moderate our lives. Pope Francis points us to Thèrése for guidance:

230. Saint Thèrése of Lisieux invites us to practice the little way of love, not to miss out on a kind word, a smile or any small gesture which sows peace and friendship. An integral ecology is also made up of simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness. In the end, a world of exacerbated consumption is at the same time a world which mistreats life in all its forms.

We live in a large diocese, with a great range of climates and ecosystems, as well as urban areas and the many cultures brought here by generations of new arrivals. There are few American dioceses that encompass more of the natural and social issues that the Pope writes about. Our challenges are from both our natural and human environments, problems that share the same source in the darker places in our own hearts and institutions. We are going to need more than sustainable agriculture or renewable energy, we must have a community of many cultures that can sustain this effort in things big and small, which requires continual renewal of our own lives, especially our spiritual lives.

We already see and hear a lot of concern and conflict over these issues, from major policy decisions to how much a neighbor waters their lawn. Turning around our relationship with nature and each other will be hard and require daily effort. But following the little way of love of St. Thérèse can be our way forward. We can find God in all the small and everyday things, trusting in His mercy, doing each task and encountering each person with love and humility. The result can be a renewal of nature, our culture, and ourselves.

It is up to us.

“Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.” ― St. Thérèse of Lisieux

This first appeared in the Office of Ministries Newsletter

Friday, September 10, 2010

Above all, trust in the slow work of God


Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way
to something unknown,
something new.
Yet it is the law of all progress that is made
by passing through some stages of instability
and that may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually. Let them grow.
Let them shape themselves without undue haste.
Do not try to force them on
as though you could be today what time
-- that is to say, grace --
and circumstances
acting on your own good will
will make you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new Spirit
gradually forming in you will be.

Give our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
Above all, trust in the slow work of God,
our loving vine-dresser.


Fr. Peter Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.

Quote: James Baldwin

The price one pays for pursuing any profession or calling is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Quote: C.S. Lewis

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

From out of the past

Noodling around Google I recently found an old post of my from Slashdot that I had posted on a wiki (that I had almost forgotten), part of a discussion about a Jon Katz /. article. I found it as good as statement as I have made as to why I bother with religious belief, even after all this time.

This was a response to a message that included the statement: atheism is NOT a religion; it is based on logic and reason; religion is based on faith and presumption.

Well, I don't know about atheism being a religion, although it has seemed to be one for some atheists I have known personally. If atheism is not a religion it is most definitely a belief --

a mental attitude of acceptance or assent toward a proposition without the full intellectual knowledge required to guarantee its truth. ...Belief in someone or something is basically different from belief that a proposition is true.


When those of us who are theists (those who believe in a personal supernatural being that intervenes in history -- that covers a lot of territory, religiously -- Jews, Christians, and Muslims, Hindus perhaps, I'm not sure) discuss God, we are not talking about Santa Claus, some magical figure that "defies the laws of physics" as you put it. I think you may misunderstand the word "supernatural" as it applies in this kind of a discussion, as opposed to the Blair Witch Project. "Supernatural" is not magical, weird, or necessarily occult: it comes from the latinate terms meaning above or greater than nature. Or in another way, outside of nature, and therefore, the "laws of physics".

Here's an example from physics. For more than a thousand years, the accepted "laws of physics" were understood to be the body of Greek and Hellenistic theories about observations of the natural world that is often referred to as Aristotelean physics. Based on the experience of phenomena that was available, these theories worked just fine. Much later on, observations from astronomy, coupled with much better mathematical tools, allowed Newton to rework physics completely once again, based on a wider base of experience. Incidentally, the Newtonian theories still work just fine for the phenomena they were intended. Starting in the 19th century, new phenomena such as radioactivity led theorists such as Planck, Maxwell, Einstein, Bohr, Dirac, et. al. to construct brand new "laws of physics", some of which seemed then (and often seem now) nonsense, unless you understand the domain of phenomena they were intended to make sense of. But they are very practical -- the computers that you and I are using depend on a knowledge of quantum mechanics.

To us, God is a person outside the natural world, and is the person who created it. This set of theories or beliefs are what we use to make certain phenomena -- our experence of our own human experience, of values such a truth or beauty or justice, make sense. Can we "prove" the existence of God? Well, to some extent, it is a meaningless question, if you mean can I prove the existence of God the same way I prove the existence of Peoria or Phobos. If God is outside the frame of natural experience in the manner I state above, I can no more "prove" his existence than Einstein could have meaningfully discussed the truth of Special Relativity before such experiments as the Michaelson-Morley demonstration.

In the very same way, you cannot disprove the existence of God either, you can just choose whether or not it makes sense for you to believe that there is a God. The issue is not whether or not religious persons use reason or logic (I would say about the same percentage do as non-religious persons - too few) but the body of experience that religious persons apply logic and reason to in evaluating their beliefs.

Why do I believe? Because when I consider all of my life's experiences, I can make more sense of what I know by believing in God. In making the important decisions of my life, I believe that those decisons made in light of that belief have been good decisions. But comfort has little to do with it. As you move from simple theistic belief to true religion, you move from simple intellectual assent, to a relationship that involves trust, accountability, and cost. I am a Christian, and a Roman Catholic, both by choice. I would be much more comfortable (in some ways) as the agnostic I once was, than having to face up to the responsibilities that result from confronting what I see as the truth.