Archive for April, 2008|Monthly archive page


The penitent who forgot who he was.  Me.  I was distracted from my God, which is a good definition of sin. All the distractions. 

Men/women  failing in their relationships with their spouses, people they had known and professed love, called the question.  What was their relationship with their God, if they knew God?  How many people tried to know and understand God?  And if you really only understood your wife 35% of the time, how much did you understand God?  How much time were we supposed to spend communicating?   

I belonged to a very academic religion:  Parochial schools were the vehicle to teach people to read, as the written word was holy, sacred. That was the one message lost on public schools, the secular world. The hard work of a school that takes 8 years, 4 years of high school, and then college.  



The Obits

To be 75-years old was to start the day knowing every day of life had always been holy.  So you read the obits each day because every day of life left, and every life was holy.  And this was a simple way to recognize how you were blessed to be alive.  To attend a funeral was the desire to honor those who had played  a significant part of your life. 

Forced Re-patriation: On Death & Dying

More so than ever, people discussed immigration.  It was not an American issue.  There were illegals in Russia, in Europe, in about every country in the world except North Korea.  The perspective in Europe might be a bit different from than that the citizens of North America.  They had witnessed a history that should be more real, where borders had changed 60 years ago, with forced re-patriation of people through peace treaty, shifting borders.   Citizenship was determined by who was left with power.  And most citizens had no power to determine their own right to citizenship. 

In the world my citizenship, my freedom was determined by my place of birth.  I had no power over what I had been given at birth.  The irony in seeing a nation or nations grapple with immigration issues was not much different than issues of slavery from 200 years ago.  At the time, neither slave nor free men, had control over universal suffrage.  Neither slave,  nor free men, free women, had control over their own emancipation at birth.  Yet Americans had once fought a war over the issue to retain what they had been born into. 

In my own lexicon civil rights was synonymous with human rights.  To hear those who denied citizenship to those who already were here made me wonder, if these were Christian people, how they might one day respond to the man in charge of homeland security, Peter, when all these Americans were looking for entry to his homeland.  He was said to have the keys to entry.  There was this prayer I had heard.  ‘Welcome into my kingdom my departed brothers and sisters.’  I suspect that Peter’s view might be, “Better that we are more welcoming here than you had been welcoming down below.”  

The Minor Elevation



Aequum Est

It had been a morning of black bananas at my home when I entered St. Agnes. And I did not look really look forward either to what was inside this church, in the fortnight or less before another papal plane landed.  St. Agnes for me represented the side that had won the war within the church over the last 50 years.  As I did not expect much from a black banana in the way of taste, from what was inside, which might explain the lack of appeal of the Catholic Church to the generation after me. 


I had always thought of St. Agnes a lot like I did the Klu Klux Klan, a thing of the past, a relic of a bye-gone era that I could not quite grasp.  This was a place for people who were trying to hold onto something from history, a people out of touch with the present day.  And in one sense, it all seemed there initially:  priests turning their backs on the laity with the resulting refusal to recognize the voices, a refusal to recognize the authenticity of the female spiritual relationship with the divine, with the ensuing lack of institutional recognition of their work, their ministry.  This was the patriarchal interpretation of Salvation History.


Now I was at least 12 minutes late, after making a stop at the airport but I still had not missed the first reading.  This was one slow method of prayer.  In downtown Minneapolis, there was a monthly African Mass, reflecting a culture that had more time to celebrate on Sunday.  Americans were busier people.  Once inside, looking around, I was amazed at what I saw.  I never expected the splendor of the colors within this church in this part of town.  And as the Mass continued, I was amazed at the prayers the congregation knew that I did not.  And I had been schooled in Catholic institutions from the age of 5 through 22. 


I was amazed at the response of the congregation to the Latin, as a 4-year Latin student myself, as the last class of altar boys of the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass.  The worshipers were mostly younger than 50, working class people.  And somewhere there had been the preparation in a community, as in all communities to continue a tradition, how to teach prayer and how to pass the intangibles on.


The liturgy on this Sunday was about changed perception, recognizing Jesus in all things. And I was changed by what I saw.  Kneeling at the communion, in the days of old, did bring a renewed respect for what was happening. 


AND THE MUSIC of Mozart: that was why I had been invited.  Music reflected in the battle of traditional Christian churches, with an academic base, the factions within Christianity, in which something was created which happened over time, with various transitions, a symphony with very different movements.  Growth, acquisitions, transitions, with some attrition, yet still aiming at unity someday. Music was an art aiming at unity, and it was Mozart who showed any listener that it was right to give thanks and praise to this God.  I had heard a bit of Vivaldi’s Mass, Gloria in D Major, in the days since Easter.  Vivaldi witness vibrated the heart when the same music was used for the Gloria as for the Sanctus.  But for me Mozart brought a re-birth to what was going on.  AND IN THE MUSIC OF MOZART, what a performance.  Of people who live somewhere scattered among us.   


When I was a freshman in high school, I was taught a class by Bill Ozark with the name ”Salvation History.”  Of late, especially at Easter, I think often of that course. For me, there was an ever visible theme to world history.  And “Salvation History” seemed to include the infinite time when God lived alone in the heavens with His creative impulses.  And all along he kept trying.  When he formed man in his image and likeness, men and women kept trying.  And again and again, people failed.   


Resurrection consequentially is about forgiveness.  Resurrection was God’s divine way to demonstrate that all of history was about the attempt to keep trying.  Woman, Man, generation after generation of people.  People I have met and people I never knew, some related to me, have kept trying.  People of Ireland who tried to form a nation once again, on Easter.  People whose DNA I shared.  People who forgave and started over, with the resolve to try to do good.  Because we were divine, from age to age, from east to west, and we all were here to keep trying.   


Salvation History was that story about God, demonstrated in the tradition of Abraham who really had lived.  Moses was a true person.  David had actually ruled as king.  And Jesus had really lived and died.  I believed his story was not about how he was put to death, not another story about man’s inhumanity to man, but His life’s purpose was about the meaning of all history. On a morning that had started with black bananas, it seemed fitting and proper to hear this Latin of a different time, to hear Mozart in commemorating Dr. Sullivan, to recall people who had lived and died, to recall Bill Ozark, and to look at the next generation of Sullivans, in this Easter season of re-birth, resurrection. 


As they say at St. Agnes, Aequum est….to keep trying.

The Affects of Imperialism

When the face of the school becomes one former teacher, one current coach, when the face of the synogogue becomes one rabbi, when one person becomes the face of an institution, when people become bigger than the game, when an institution uses that one face to raise money to represent a voice in fund raising beyond what an institution deserved, that was a time when a religious institution got caught up in the imperialism of money.  Universities had it with sport.  The athletes had this with the NFL or MLB.  And that was what was wrong with campaign financing of congressional and especially presidential elections.  The faces were bigger than the ideals.   


When the face of the institution becomed bigger than the institution, the political body, the institutional body is too caught up in the imperialism of money.    It was all about establishing personal kingdoms.


The clichés, pre-recorded, televised, it was all part of an imperialism of sport.  These kingdoms were reigning beyond the game, beyond an education institution, and well beyond the ideals of the constitution. 


Rescue of credit holders, the debt holders not share holders of Bearn Stearns:  Why?  Why rescue bond holders?  What debt instruments did you play, and why did just one section of the orchestra get saved?  If markets went up and down, what happened when governments got in the middle, and tried artificially to change what seemed the natural law?  Was this another bubble, this national identity just air?  Was this government, just artificial, becoming more and more a national identity with artificial values?  What has had happened in the last 8 years?  To habeas corpus, in torture, domestic spying.  This was patriotism? 

It was not just the U S currency that was falling in value, compared to other currencies. 


America in the age of television had become pre-recorded.  Look at the U S Senate.  The re-runs were self-evident in the names: Clintons, the Doles, the Bayhs, the Kennedys.  In the executive branch it was the Bushes and the Clinton.  The Age of the Victriola and Radio had been replaced over the last 50 years by these megastars of television.  And these human clichés, pre-recorded, were all part of an imperialism of television.    And money was the steroid of imperialism. 

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The New Millennium

It was a very, very frightful time.  We are told that this new century was the age of terror.  And it seems more and more that the foundation of capitalism was also threatened by mismanagement of business, with less and less governmental oversight.  The stories this week involved the FAA.  Last week it was a rescue of Bear Stearns.  The week before was it Elliott Spitzer?  The week before that it was Roger Clemens’ testimony on steroid use of his wife but not him.  The month before that was a rescue package for Countrywide and other mortgage backed securities to companies that had forsaken underwriting standards and fundamentals.  Then there was the fundamentalist president, with his vice-president showing disdain for public opinion.  “So?”   Inflation was at the grocery stores in 2008, as some kind of spillage or spill over from the cost of barrels of oil.  The dollar’s value was in free-fall, yet seemingly more available with the Fed lowering interest rates to avoid either panic or a sudden collapse of Wall Street.  Gradual collapse over time was more easily spun psychologically by a government going out of office.  It sure was starting to smell like the German economy after the Great War, the war to end all wars. 


The New Imperialism:The international imperialism of money was now called globalization.  It set up new kingdoms where money, not people, reigned supreme.  It had been that way for centuries.    International imperialism of money had caught up in a web medicine, education and religious institutions.  What was the requirement to give drink to the thirsty?  What was society’s obligation to educted the intelligent, not counting the cost?  What was the requirement of a physician to address the pain of someone without money, to assist in the birthing process of a poor woman?  What was the obligation of a dentist to minister to someone with a toothache, pro bono?  How can any of us watch all this, in a world segregated by neighborhoods.  What was society’s obligation to feed the hungry?  When none of us were worthy.