Aparecida 134-135: Intensity in Faith Leads To Discipleship

I once heard a pastor encourage all parishioners to get involved in a ministry. Not the first step, I think. Not at all. We are believers first; we have an initial response to the invitation to faith. From there, we grow into being disciples. And our mission is no less than the proclamation of the Gospel.

Don’t be put off by the adjective “missionary.” Not all are called to the missionary apostolate as it has been traditionally understood in Catholicism. It is actually something wider and deeper, if that makes you tremble. Our mission is the proclamation of Christ. Just that. Just because of our baptism. And just by being the best possible baptized person in the context of our life, work, play, etc.. The Aparecida bishops explain it carefully:

134. As disciples and missionaries, we are called to intensify our response of faith and to proclaim that Christ has redeemed all the sins and evils of humankind,

  • All the harshness of the paradox can be heard in Jesus’ seemingly desperate cry of pain on the Cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” is not the cry of anguish of a man without hope, but the prayer of the Son who offers his life to the Father in love, for the salvation of all.(NMI 25-26)

135. Responding to his call requires entering into the dynamic of the Good Samaritan (cf. Lk 10:29-37), who gives us the imperative of becoming neighbors, especially to those who suffer, and bringing about a society where no one is excluded, following the practice of Jesus who eats with publicans and sinners (cf. Lk 5:29-32), who welcomes the little ones and children (cf. Mk 10:13-16), who heals lepers (cf. Mk 1:40-45), who forgives and frees the sinful woman (cf. Lk 7:36-49; Jn 8:1-11), and who talks with the Samaritan woman (cf. Jn 4:1-26).

Timely teaching for us norteamericanos, wouldn’t you say?

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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On My Bookshelf: 3 Peculiars

After watching the movie and largely enjoying it, I looked forward to reading Ransom Riggs’ “trilogy” about the peculiar children. You may know the premise: the author has used unusual vintage photographs to fuel the details of a modern fantasy about magical children that live hidden in the world around us.

The film diverged from the first book and brings the adventure to a more firm end. (It does leave open the possiblity of sequels, though I hesitate to say books two and three would easily adapt given the ending in movie #1.) I’d hesitate to call this print series a trilogy, mainly because it really is a single thousand-plus-page novel split up into three books. In that, it is somewhat reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings.

I found the first book somewhat cluttered in terms of the numbers of characters. The still photos help a bit, but it was easier to sort them out in the movie. There, though, the filmmaker braintrust shuffled the magical/peculiar abilities of the characters somewhat.

I read the last two books over the past month and these volumes are more fresh in my mind. Hollow City picks up the story immediately from the end of book one. I found it an exhausting read, but in a good way. The heroes find themselves on the edge of danger throughout. Mistakes, narrow escapes, and great resourcefulness push the plot at a fine speed, all in the time period of a day or two. There is no real respite, no Rivendell or Lorien for the children, despite finding allies in unexpected places. Kudos to one of the most surprising plot twists I’ve ever read.

Library of Souls finds a trimmed-down group, mainly Jacob and Emma, continuing a mission that seems even more hopeless than it seemed at the start of book two. Again, the plotting is a huge plus. There are more surprise friends, one or two twists of the unexpected, and a big bang of a resolution.

The tribute to Tolkien and Rowling seems obvious to me. From the former, a fellowship assembles for a quest, and a reluctant protagonist inherits a mission. Later, he finds inner strength and unexpected resources to win the way. And from Potterverse, Mr Riggs sets a magical society existing under the very noses of muggles. Only with time travel and with the safe haven blown to bits.

Plotting and characterization are way above average for fantasy. I felt there were two significant flaws in this work. If it were a movie, it would be like the actor playing Emma slipping out of her English accent every now and then. The problem is that she doesn’t always talk like a person from Victorian/Edwardian England. Actually, it’s fairly often her speech has enough modern lingo to have distracted me.

Number two involved the final thirty pages of the novel. They struck me as something of a parallel to Frodo’s return to the Shire after the War of the Ring. You remember: he couldn’t quite fit into his old life, and eventually faded into the West with the Elves. Mr Riggs sort of painted himself into a corner on this one. The protagonist is a teen, and what can you do other than send him back to his parents? There was a big bit of deus ex machina in the final rendering of this novel, something that rendered an earlier important plot point rather moot. Without offering a significant spoiler, I’ll just say that was clumsily handled and a disappointingly happy ending.

Still, these books are the best work of fantasy I’ve read in a few years. And I would recommend them to any youth or adult fan of such fiction. I see from his website, Mr Riggs has other peculiar books out. I’ll get to them eventually. You might, too.

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For The Future

I see some potential developments from the current unrest in the US. Today, mostly focusing on the positive:

I think there will be an acceleration of the taking down of statues, flags, and other symbols. It will probably include that depiction of Vladimir Lenin in a city nearby to me, but the retirement of a privately-owned statue is okay with me. It might result in the de-memorializing of figures like Washington and Jefferson, but that’s an inevitable result of a society struggling with the whole new phenomenon of un-statuing their public places. On that, thanks alt-right, for being part of the discussion, and speeding things up on that front. Good going.

Maybe a productive thing coming from all this is that we don’t always need to look to icons of the present or figures of the past to lead us. Don’t get me wrong: there’s always a place for saints and heroes. But societies can freeze over waiting for a word from the past, or expecting that routine decisions must have some intervention from above. I see the phenomenon in church circles: let’s wait and see what the pope or bishop or pastor or guru says. There’s nothing wrong with having a discernment and discussion and decision on the local level.

The phenomenon of President Trump may also be good in the long run. Maybe voters will look more carefully at whom they select for public office. Maybe citizens will get more involved rather than submit to the worst impulse of permitting a nanny state.

My own hope, a less confident one, is that more Americans will realize a distinction between rights and responsibilities and will recognize that embracing the latter is a mark of maturity, not oppression.

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Aparecida 132-133: The Family of Christ

Jesus offers a connection, something beyond that of servant, beyond the one who simply bows at his feet and submits.

132. With the parable of the vine and the branches (cf. Jn 15:1-8) Jesus reveals the type of bond that He offers and that he expects of his own. He does not want a bond as “servants” (cf. Jn 8:33-36), because “a servant does not know what his master is doing” (Jn (15:15). The servant does not have entry to his master’s house, let alone to his life.

Jesus offers himself as a friend and brother. How do we make that a deeper relationship than just the perfunctory way in which we sometimes treat those close to us? The Aparecida bishops suggest this relationship requires some “movement” on our part. We pay attention. We listen. We cross some threshold and “enter” into a new place: the reference is John 10:9; Jesus is the gate through which we enter into a privileged existence.

Jesus wants his disciple to be bound to Him as “friend” and as “brother.” “Friends” enter into his Life, making it their own. Friends listen to Jesus, know the Father and make his Life (Jesus Christ) flow into their own existence (cf. Jn 15:14), marking the relationship with all (cf. Jn 15:12). A “brother” of Jesus (cf. Jn 20:17) shares in the life of the Risen One, Son of the heavenly Father, and hence Jesus and his disciple share the same life that comes from the Father, although Jesus does so by nature (cf. Jn 5:26; 10:30) and the disciple by participation (cf. Jn 10:10). The immediate consequence of this type of bond is the condition of brothers and sisters acquired by the members of his community.

And to remember that God’s initiative is a preexisting condition of our movement:

133. Jesus makes them his family members, because he shares the same life that comes from the Father and asks of them, as disciples, intimate union with Him, obedience to the Word of the Father, so as to produce fruits of love in abundance. So attests St. John in the prologue to his Gospel: “he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name,” and they are children of God who “were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God” (Jn 1:12-13).

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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More on Doxxing

A facebook friend linked to this thoughtful commentary on doxxing, and I found myself tipped to the non-dox side. Because of this:

Doxxing and social vilification complicates that. It’s harder to walk away from the group you’ve attached yourself to when you know (because everyone is telling you) that you’ve blown it – that you shouldn’t have a job; that you can’t be forgiven; that everyone needs to know who you are right now, so they can shun and disemploy you for the rest of your life.

The ultimate goal is not the purging of society–as many on the alt-right seem to desire as well–because we can never quite achieve a desirable uniformity. There will always be some poor sap who doesn’t quite align with the group. Soon, ideological cannibalism will result. The strongest one–emphasis on one–will remain standing.

My friends who still lurk here know I’ve been fairly consistent on my criticism of Catholic “orthodoxxing” over the years. The Karl Rove school of theology: get non-Republicans fired. These days, it happens for people lurking online to find out who’s been same-sex unioned, or who wrote a paper against theological sexism. not so many years back, it was the priest who was videotaped for not hewing to the red at Mass, the woman religious who listened to some non-Christian philosophy, or some bishop who thought that discussing optional celibacy was a good idea.

Let’s face it: many on the Catholic Right practiced doxxing with great glee. And many elements in the institutional Church encouraged it. It matters little that is was fishing through images online or scouring filing cabinets at theology schools or lurking on blogs. It was all sinful behavior.

I’m thinking I’d rather have misguided young men come to their senses. No need to go after jobs, families, or girlfriends. A reformed white supremacist always has a place in the human family. Young people doing senseless things is the backbone of the Gospel teaching on mercy. What is needed is mercy, not sass.

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Aparecida 131: A New Kind of Call

Today, we look at the distinctive call of the Christian. Unfortunately, Christianity is often presented “old-school,” in an antique way, as the Aparecida bishops describe how it used to be for pagans:

131. The call issued by Jesus, the Master, brings with it something very new. In antiquity, masters invited their disciples to be bound to something transcendent, and the masters of the Law proposed adherence to the Law of Moses.

Jesus does it differently:

Jesus invites us to encounter Him and to bind ourselves closely to Him, for He is the source of life (cf. Jn 15:5-15) and He alone has the words of eternal life (cf. Jn 6:68). In daily shared life with Jesus and in confrontation with followers of other masters, the disciples soon discover two completely original things about Jesus. First, it was not they who chose their master; it was Christ who chose them. Second, they were not chosen for something (e.g., to be purified, learn the Law) but for Someone, chosen to be closely bound up with his Person (cf. Mk 1:17; 2:14).

The significance of this cannot be understated. The Master chooses us. Not just as a people, a privileged community, a Christian elite. Jesus chooses each person for who they are. And in turn, the disciple aligns not with a philosophy (like moral therapeutic deism, or Catholicism, or some spot on the liberal/conservative spectrum) but with a person.

Jesus chose them so that “they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach” (Mk 3:14), so that they could follow him in order to “be His” and be part “of his own” and share in his mission. The disciple experiences that the close bond with Jesus in the group of his own means participating in the Life that comes from the bosom of the Father; it means being formed to take on his own style of life and his same motivations (cf. Lk 6:40b), sharing his lot and taking on his mission of making all things new.

And what follows these choices is a mission.

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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Things Understood and Not Understood

I can’t think of much to say about Charlottesville that others haven’t already said, and said well. Like here.

I understand how easily violence can break out. I don’t put the qualifier “these days” on that sentence, because I think it’s always bubbling under the surface of sinful humanity. Iraq. Some person of color deemed too “uppity” by a police officer. Any bullying situation in a school. Lynchings. Burning witches. Lots of video stuff–games and television. Don’t buy the line that these times are something special. They’re not. They’re making us a little more uncomfortable.

I don’t understand why so many white guys have been duped by some self-styled white elite. There are people who want them to be angry at women, blacks, and liberals. That means they aren’t angry at white guys gaming the system. Such folk often want to keep more money for themselves. It seems brutally obvious to me. Then there’s the spectacle of men of Slavic origin promoting a political ideology that sidelined their great-grandfathers eighty years ago. And buying Polynesian torches.

I understand that many people feel it’s important to stand up in public to oppose hateful demonstrations.

I don’t understand why more people didn’t bring supersoakers to dowse the backyard lighting decor.

I understand the public shaming of the pseudo-Nazis, and that people would want to see them lose their jobs, girlfriends, facebook friends, or whatever.

I don’t understand why job-sabotaging is important. Everybody needs a job. It’s often the main way a person contributes to society. Take that away, and misanthropes end up living in their parents’ basements and reading propaganda.

I wish I had the measure of the best response to white elite marches. I’d like to think that some degree of humor might defuse the situation. Yelling and screaming in reply arouses passions that can be put to use writing, giving, binding others’ wounds. A non-violent response doesn’t seem to make a dent. But we aren’t likely to make converts by getting them fired.

The white elites and counter-protesters were out in Seattle yesterday. I think if they came to my side of the Sound, I’d have to go.


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