Monday, October 29, 2007

Downloadable Audio File - October E.R.I.

The audio file of the October Emmaus Road Initiative session is now online here.

The schedule for the November sessions is here.

Below is an excerpt from my notes for October:

For many sexuality may seem too corporeal and instinctual to be of theological concern, but von Balthasar, celibate through and through, argues otherwise. Speaking of Orthodox and Reformation forms of Christianity – and, as my Protestant friends here will acknowledge, painting with a broad brush – von Balthasar says this about the Catholic position: “The other forms of Christianity are somehow ashamed of God for involving himself so deeply with Adam’s clay, for getting his hands dirty.” [The Fullness of Faith, 111.] And he goes on to argue for the importance, not just of sexuality as such, but of “sexual intercourse,” saying that: “The more insignificant it becomes for the world the more precious it is to Christians.” [Ibid. 113-14]

Let me make two points – one about the Conjugal form of the Nuptial Mystery and one about its Celibate form.

The Celibate life and – though without the solemn vow – the single or virginal life, constitute in a special way an Imitatio Christi, for Christ himself was celibate, Hollywood fantasies to the contrary notwithstanding. Moreover, the consecrated life testifies – in the rarest and clearest way – to the fact that “this life” – on which the “next life” depends – has meaning first and foremost as preparation for the life to come. This is the underlying message to which every roman collar and every nun’s habit testify, to the everlasting stupefaction of the world.

I am dwelling on the Trinitarian mystery at the heart of the Nuptial Mystery. Moreover, I am dwelling on the inherently religious nature of the experience the man and woman share. But there is another Trinitarian dimension to the Nuptial Mystery. In addition to the “Transcendent” Other subtly experienced by the man and woman, there is the Corporeal Other who arrives on the scene with no subtly at all nine months later. And these two “triangles” – so to speak – the sacramental and the domestic – the unitive and the procreative – are indispensable to each other, the openness to Grace in one and the openness to children in the other being two aspects of the same thing.

With the miracle of the Incarnation, the body – with all its instincts and hormonal promptings and spiritual sluggishness – has been requisitioned by the Spirit and made receptive to the grace thanks to which the Body can, thereafter, enter into the sacramental mystery for which we humans were originally made.


This inherently transcendent and intrinsically Trinitarian experience is made possible in the first instance by very special emotional circumstances and in the context of very precarious social circumstances – making it almost inevitably transitory.

“Nature” – which is to say “Nature’s God” – provides – via sexual attraction and the physiology of sexual instinct – a bonding force. But its bonding power not only fluctuates with the satisfaction of the instinctual drives by which it is enhanced but the social circumstance in which it occurs is inevitably and unavoidably one corrupted by sinful self-regard and deadening indifference in individuals and by envy, rivalry, jealousy and animosity in the social order. As the original communio succumbs to these gravitational forces, its spiritual and social blessings are lost.

The “at last” moment is an ecstatic one, for it to become spiritually fruitful, it needs to become a covenant – which is – in effect – a something very like the Church itself – namely: the institutional manifestation of a spiritual communio which makes it sustainable over time.

When the natural prompting of sexual attraction is touched by grace, it leads to spiritual, emotional, and domestic blessings of the richest and most meaningful sort. But if this communio is to be preserved and sustained, then culture must intervene to provide the trellis to which its fragile tendrils can cling and mature and eventually become capable of resisting gravity, less by moral submission to the LAW and more by the spiritual acceptance of the grace that writes the Torah on our Hearts.

In the first instance the presence of this “slight companionable ghost” (in the Yeat’s poem) might be occasioned by romantic feelings and surcharged by sexual attraction, but it can and should thereafter become the conscious attention of the couple.

All cultures regulate sexuality in the interest of avoiding violence, but the Church has a special interest in this matter, for she exists not just as a trellis of moral guidelines and heartening admonitions which lead to freedom by the path of obedience and to love by the path of sacrifice. The Church also exists to remind us ever again of the Sacramental privilege which tends always to be lost in the quotidian routine and the practical demands of life. In fulfilling this latter task in our world today She has an opportunity to lead her flock to a renewed appreciation of the Mystery of the Trinity by a better and fuller understanding of the Mystery of Nuptiality.

Even as – at the social level – cultural customs and ecclesial admonitions relieve individuals of the onerous task of adjudicating moral boundaries moment by moment, and in deference to constantly changing social fashion, at the level of the wedded partners, nature – in the form of Eros – sexual attraction – offers itself as a kind of periodic and natural form of absolution, thanks to which the wedded couple can re-solve, dis-solve, or ab-solve one another of the tensions and aggravations that plague all relationships in the fallen world and thereby renew their love.

If “Natural Absolution” is a bit much for you, as it is for me, perhaps the better analogue is the Jubilee Year – though one hopes for a more frequent recurrence than every 50 years!

In the Jubilee Year ancient Israel cancelled debts, relinquished property rights, freed slaves and so on in a gesture of beginning anew. Even as the cultural customs and ecclesial admonitions provide their “external” supports, nature, in the form of physical intimacies of the nuptial relationship, helps periodically to restore the relationship and revive – in subtle but perceptible ways – its central Trinitarian mystery.

. . . .

Again, the schedule for the November Emmaus Road Initiative sessions is here.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

In the Meantime . . .

Soon we will post the Emmaus Road Initiative schedule for November, which is slightly altered from the September and October schedules. By mid-week, we should have the free downloadable audio file of the October E.R.I. session on our website. (For the audio file of the September session, go to our website and click on the Store and then on the link "The Cornerstone Forum Store" and then on "Downloadable MP3 Audio Files.")

When we have the October audio file on the website, I hope to post an excerpt from the October talk along with a reminder about how to locate the downloadable file.

In the meantime . . .

The ever-vigilant "Diogenes" over at the "Off the Record" section of Catholic World News has a post that deserves to be simply passed along as is -- a sign of the times.

Here it is:
If, in 1997, you claimed the day was nigh in which guardians would be compelled to give their foster children gay-positive education, you'd have been denounced as a hate-monger, as someone trying to frighten the gullible with a maliciously improbable scenario. In the U.K., it appears, that improbable day has come, and -- surprise! -- you're a hate-monger if you fail to welcome it.

From the Daily Mail.
They are devoted foster parents with an unblemished record of caring for almost 30 vulnerable children. But Vincent and Pauline Matherick will this week have their latest foster son taken away because they have refused to sign new sexual equality regulations. To do so, they claim, would force them to promote homosexuality and go against their Christian faith.

The 11-year-old boy, who has been in their care for two years, will be placed in a council hostel this week and the Mathericks will no longer be given children to look after.

The devastated couple, who have three grown up children of their own, became foster parents in 2001 and have since cared for 28 children at their home in Chard, Somerset. ...

Officials told the couple that under the regulations they would be required to discuss same-sex relationships with children as young as 11 and tell them that gay partnerships were just as acceptable as heterosexual marriages. They could also be required to take teenagers to gay association meetings.

When the Mathericks objected, they were told they would be taken off the register of foster parents. The Mathericks have decided to resign rather than face the humiliation of being expelled.
Some of us can remember back to the days when Supreme Court justices argued against anti-sodomy laws on the grounds that gays inhibited by those laws were only claiming their share of "the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men, namely the right to be left alone" -- and this in the minority opinion.

One wonders how much longer the "right to be left alone" will be accorded to orthodox Christians. Will your children dare to speak against the love (ahem) that dare not speak its name? Will they have a choice in the matter?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

From the Blog to the MP3 . . .


Now that I am traveling to nine cities and twelve venues each month as part of the Emmaus Road Initiative, there simply isn't enough time for me to post blogs. As for the monthly schedule, we try to keep it updated on our alternative weblog.

Meanwhile, one of my friends has been kind enough to write to ask that I upload an occasional post to this blog. The best I can do under the circumstances, is to pass along the opening remarks for the October E.R.I. session.

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Since, as T. S. Eliot wrote in “Little Gidding,” the end of all our exploring will be to arrive at where we started and know the place for the first time,” it behooves us to start in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, for it is into that great Trinitarian Mystery that we are being drawn.

A few things before we begin:

I want to thank you for coming here tonight. I know how busy you are, and I appreciate your willingness to take the time to come here. As Penance, I suppose, for having strained at the leash and kicked at the goad when I was younger, God has rendered me useless for anything but what I’m about to do. So, if you hadn’t come here, I would have had to give this talk on a street corner somewhere, and it’s so much nicer to give it indoors.

Let me also say that if it seems at times that I am paying more attention to my notes than I am to you, please don’t think that I have confused my priorities or forgotten my commitment to trying to be the right person in the right place and returned to a preoccupation with getting the right words in the right order. I will be sticking to my notes precisely because I don’t want to disappoint you, for in what follows I have tried to formulate some complex matters succinctly, and it will save both time and confusion if I exercise a little self-discipline and stick closely to these notes.

And finally a word about the purpose of the Emmaus Road Initiative which might clear up some concerns. The theme of the 2007-2008 ERI is “Inspiring a Wholehearted Faith in a Half-hearted Age.” In other words, this is ultimately a catechetical project.

However diffident some might feel obliged to be when accounting for Christian faith in the multicultural marketplace, when this diffidence infects our catechetical efforts, it is deadly, for it results in the dispensation of a Christian worldview that hasn’t a chance of surviving in the postmodern, post-Christian world we are now entering.

It is not unusual for such diffidence to be mistaken for humility, but, far from consisting of a deference toward the spirit of the age, true humility consists, as St. Paul reminds us, of passing on – intact and in all its robust audacity – the truth which comes to us from the apostles. In the second reading for yesterday’s Mass, St. Paul urges us:
. . . proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching. (2 Timothy 4:2)
Hesitancy or embarrassment in the face of such an arduous and solemn catechetical task, especially when it capitulates to the spirit of the age, may be understandable, but it is not a Christian virtue.

So with that said, let’s begin . . .
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If you live in or near Washington, DC; Hartford, CT; Seattle, WA; San Francisco, CA; Santa Rosa, CA; San Diego, CA; Chicago/Wheaton, IL; Dallas, TX, or Houston, TX, then come see me in November.

If you are not able to attend one of the sessions, you can order CDs of the sessions or download audio files of them from our website.)

Again, the monthly schedule is here. We will have the November schedule posted within the next week or so.
Thanks so much for your well-wishes and your prayers,