Tag Archives: Faith

Advent Reflection – November 29, 2015

slideshow_advent_2The Invitation – An Advent Reflection for the First Sunday of Advent by Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

Advent begins today, which may not be well noted in any news program or news publication. If you turn on your TV, or read the news on an electronic device or on paper, you are likely to see things that instill fear. You might read about immigrants trying to gain entry to various countries, including the U.S., and you might not like this – it could bring on fear at a time when we seek protection. Maybe a headline about some financial business incites a firestorm of fluttering in your tummy as you wonder if you will have “enough.”  Worry can take a more practical form, especially in regard to tummies and enough, if you cannot feed your family.  All of these concerns and more are understandable at some level. Yet, what about the level of Christ?

Our world seems to run on the fuel of fear Continue reading

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Faith and Doubt

Living+by+Faith,+Dwelling+in+DoubtThis is no doubt in my mind that Living by Faith, Dwelling in Doubt by Kyle Cupp, (Loyola Press, 120pp, #13.95) is an excellent book. This however, is not a book review – just a warning. The review will come soon.

In full disclosure, I have known Kyle online for a number of years. First from his posts at Vox Nova, which caught my eye and engaged my heart and mind. Later, we became Facebook friends and I began to follow his other blog. He’s a pretty smart guy; I can’t claim to always understand him, but I always want to read what he posts.

Back to the book. I get lots of books, which I am deeply grateful for. There are piles of them in the spare room, on tables in various other rooms of the house. Some live in my car for awhile, or I bring them to work. Publishers often send me a review copy, asking me to host a blog tour stop. This book did come to me in advance, in the form of a gift, but not as a review copy. (Most of the books I receive are never reviewed.Sorry!)

But – this is not a book review!

So what the heck is this post about? I am planning my unsolicited review of Kyle’s book, which will be pretty glowing. I just want to give you some advance warning! Plus I have not finished the book yet, so I can’t review it.

Fine, but why write this post today? Forget the advance warning, I really just want to tell you that this book about faith and doubt is, *ahem-clears throat*, no doubt one of the best books I have read about my favorite co-existing topics of faith and doubt.

It’s a slim volume, why haven’t you finished it yet? Good question! I am reading Kyle’s book with painstaking slowness. I read a chapter or two, I pick it up a few days later, reread a bit, and then add another chapter. Short does not mean the book should be rushed through.

How do we know the rest of us will like it? There is no certainty that the rest of you will like this book. In fact, there are elements that are going to make some people uncomfortable. It could be because Kyle speaks freely about the depth of his faith, the elements of doubt, and questions of certainty that will cause some to challenge what he writes about faith itself. Others will shrink back from some of the personal stories that Kyle shares, because they have the potential to make one uncomfortable.

Why would we read a book about faith that makes us uncomfortable? Aren’t books about faith, the Bible included, have the potential for discomfort? They should make us uncomfortable; if not, we might have a problem. Shouldn’t our faith journeys cause us discomfort?

Enough questions for today. The only thing that I can add – without a doubt – is that this is a compelling little volume and I hope that you read it.

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The Gift of Faith

i-have-learned-that-faith-means-trusting-in-advanceToday’s Gospel from Matthew, chapter 9, verses 18-26, although short, is full of action, and a real economy of language. We hear three things that we have heard in other places at other times, but they are compacted for us here.

In the space of 8 verses we hear about an official asking for Jesus’ help with his ailing daughter, a woman suffering from hemorrhages touching Jesus and being cured, and then Jesus gets to the official’s house where he encounters a crowd acting as if the girl is dead. He dispels that notion, and they mock him. That did not deter Jesus, and he entered the house, curing the girl.

Got FaithThe undercurrent of the entire matter is faith, which is coincidentally the essence of the new papal encyclical, Lumen Fidei. Faith – the essence of what we need, and yet, not something that we can understand with our intellect or with reason.

Which brings me back to today’s Gospel – full of action, and not so many words. Yet, we read, we ponder, we pray, we study. I started the encyclical, but I’m going slowly. In the meantime, how do we have faith? There is a question for the ages. Yet, some of us do. I think of mine as a gift, for which I am grateful.

What about you?

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Taking a leap of doubt – a reflection for the Second Sunday of Easter

doubtPoor doubt, I feel kind of sorry for it. Doubt takes such a beating in our culture, and I think that is rather unfortunate. Where would faith be, if not for doubt? Like night and day, like good and evil, like joy and sorrow… well, like so many other opposite points, the space between them is where all the real action is found. How can we so carelessly toss doubt aside, as if it negates everything? For me, the deepest anchors of faith are not dropped in surety and certitude, but deep in the ocean of doubt.

Is our faith more about making leaps of doubt, rather than leaps of faith alone? Can one exist without the other?

Somewhere around 2005 I heard a radio program on the topic of doubt and I was hooked on doubt as a topic to explore. “A History of Doubt” first aired on what was then called “Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippett,” in 2003. Tippett’s program, and now podcast, is know known as “On Being,” and “A History of Doubt” continues to find an audience. The program features Jennifer Michael Hecht, who has made doubt a field of study and exploration.

Today’s Gospel, one of the most familiar, even to those who do not follow the Gospel, is about “doubting Thomas.” When I was a kid, I used to think badly of Thomas. Was my point of view informed by my faith education? Probably. I don’t have any specific recollection of hearing this – or any other Gospel – as a child, but my “religious instruction” classes, I do remember. Please know that I was spared any “mean” priests or nuns, so none of this is couched in that. What I do remember is that we were instructed that is that doubt was the opposite of faith. It seemed reasonable enough to me, so I went along with it… when I was 10.

Today I have no such vision. What about you? I can only speak for myself when I say that my faith, something that is so real, so powerful, at the heart of my being, is infused with the on-going scent of doubt. Are you shocked or scandalized to hear this?

Not too long ago, I wrote about our new Holy Father, Pope Francis, calling him a dangerous man. One of the images that I was holding at that point, was that of the certitude of some of the Pharisees who not only doubted Jesus, but who used that doubt to plot the death of Jesus.

This is one of the challenges of doubt, at least from where I am. Perhaps it is not doubt that comes first, but what comes first is a certain “knowing.” Doesn’t such certitude, such absolutism, say that there is little room for God? What does such certainty do, when God in fact, can never conform to our limited capacity for knowing God?

So what does this have to do with today’s Gospel? Thomas certainly knew Jesus, didn’t he? But did Thomas know Christ? No – not until that moment of encounter. Go ahead, says Jesus, stick your hand in there, this is for real.

Crooked Kisses and Other WoundsHere is something that I have no doubt of… If Jesus were standing before me, I might faint before I stuck my hand inside of his wound! And perhaps this is where this Gospel leads us to…

What are we so sure of? Do we really love Jesus as much as we say that we do? I mean really, think about it… are you ready to thrust your hand deep into the wound of anyone, even those you love most? Isn’t that what Jesus is asking us to do?

imagesLoving Jesus with such hard-core certitude and thinking about how that smarty pants Thomas should have thought twice before questioning God is one thing. It would seem that another way of seeing this is that Thomas offers us a gift… Jesus asks us to enter into the wounds of all. I’m sorry, but that makes me queasy when I think of physical wounds, and overwhelmed when I think of all the other wounds, the ones we can’t see, but that are present in all of us. Thomas, seemingly undaunted, leads the way.

Suddenly certainty has dispersed like fog in the midday sun. We can be so “certain” of so many things, but can we place ourselves inside of the bloody wound? And how can we live Christian lives of sacrifice and service unless we do precisely that – literally and figuratively?

This is where Thomas leads me, and I am grateful to him, and to God, for bringing me to this place where I shrink back, recoiling perhaps in utter horror. Listen, I am VERY squeamish, the thought of such things sends me reeling. Now I can castigate myself for this, or I can see it as an invitation to change.

And is that not what our faith really is, our belief in the Risen Lord? This faith centers around a Triune God, always inviting us, always challenging us, but always welcoming us, to a kind of transformation. That transformation also means moving from doubt to faith, and the constant criss-cross of that territory, for the whole of our lives.

Doubt is nothing to be feared; I believe that doubt is to be befriended. In fact, maybe what we are called to are not only “leaps of faith,” but also of the aforementioned, “leaps of doubt.” Doubt can act as our greatest guide, the very force that leads us into the wounds of Christ and the on-going transformation that follows. I never doubt that is the way of the Lord, and I never doubt how hard it is to follow and believe in God, living as a Christian. This is no one-time decision, made in certitude and lived in certitude; it is an invitation into the mystery of our faith, a life lived in Christ Jesus. To do that we must follow and follow and follow…

search_of_certainty1Every day, in one fashion or another, propelled by my doubts, I seek to live more deeply in my faith. Yes, a good leap of doubt, taken with a heart of faith, can bring us, like it brought Thomas, closer to the Lord, without a doubt.

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Palm Sunday 2013 at St. Edward the Confessor, Clifton Park

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We had a spectacular Palm Sunday at St. Edward the Confessor. It was so crowded at the 11am mass, all I could think of was the people lining the way as Jesus made his entry into Jerusalem. We were full and many people were standing, all around the perimeter of the church, even in the gathering space, and in the corridor that is near the sacristy, as you head over to the Faith Formation wing.

People say that the Catholic church is dying, but you would not know that if you came to our parish!

I was also at the 4pm mass on Saturday, which was comfortably full. On Saturday we had a full choir and bell ringers; it was beautiful. We had lovely music at 11am also; we are richly blessed with remarkable music ministry in our parish.

Here is a slide show of photos from the mass; there are a lot of pictures, so it will take a few moments for them to all float by.

Hosanna!

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Pope Francis, a dangerous man?

This post was originally published at my personal blog, There Will Be Bread.

482845_10200697918798828_1560242012_nPope Francis continues to amaze us, but I believe him to be a dangerous man. Many people, myself included, can’t quite take it all in. Is this for real? God forgive my doubt, but a part of me keeps waiting for the other shoe to drop… and I pray that it is not a red shoe. How I prefer his worn, black shoes; the shoes of a man who has actually walked.

He is a dangerous man, but I will get to that in a few minutes. This dangerous man has captured my heart indeed.

Today I walked my dog, praying this over and over in my head and heart, “Lord, I believe. Help my disbelief!” This is a twist on the Gospel of Mark, chapter 9, verses 23 and 24, which say:

Everything is possible to one who has faith.” Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!”

Faith. Belief. Such things do not come easily or cheaply. Oh, trust me – I do believe. But sometimes it is hard to truly, deeply believe. Like right now. It is eerily like falling in love; it feels great, but you know you will get hurt at some point.

That is when it hit me – we have to put our hearts out. We have to take the risk. That is what faith and belief demand from us. That is what Jesus asks of us, all the time.

Back to Pope Francis. Today he gave an audience to the media, in which he said and did really amazing things.

Lord, I believe. Help my disbelief.

Here is a snippet of video in which we hear the Holy Father speak about how and why he chose his name.

He is a dangerous man, indeed. And for that I am grateful. If Satan is the divider, Satan has had a great, great run. So how then is Pope Francis a dangerous man?

What could possibly be more dangerous than to have the Bishop of Rome who might unite us? Very little, if you ask me. And that is an amazing thing.

How we all like to run off to our little groups, like a bunch of bitter Pharisees plotting, sneering at “the other,” and trying to exclude. And how this Holy Father might be more like Jesus, kindly finding ways to speak to all of us.

Lord, I believe. Help my disbelief. Stay dangerous, unite us – please.

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What do I crave most? The Cravings blog tour stops here today

Today the Cravings blog tour stops here, and it is a privilege to host this visit. Cravings, A Catholic Wrestles with Food, Self-Image, and God, is the latest offering from prolific local, Catholic author, Mary DeTurris Poust. She gives us a book that is personal, provocative and moving. We who are members of God’s body have very interesting and challenging relationships with our own bodies. And we as Catholics, who gather to eat at the Lord’s Table, often struggle mightily with food.

The blog tour offers you the chance to win a copy of the book, by leaving one comment on the blog per day between now and January 20th. Not only can you win a book, your name will also be added to a drawing to win a $100 Williams Sonoma gift card.

Interviewed for the book, I Continue reading

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