You Called?

Dave O'Donnell
Dave O’Donnell

In Sunday’s first reading, God calls Samuel as he slept in the temple of the Lord where the Ark of God was when God called so distinctly he thought it was Eli who he reported to. “Here I am. You called me?” Eli replied: “I didn’t call you my son. Go back to sleep.” (1 SM 3:5) God’s call was so distinct it woke him from sleep. Would it be possible for God to speak as distinctly to us?

 

In his Conversations with God series, Neale Donald Walsch tells us that God talks to us, we have to learn to listen. It is possible to develop a friendship with God as your conversation with God matures.

 

“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” (JN 1:1) Word must have an intellect behind it in order to be word and a receptive intellect in front of it to receive the word. Word only becomes word in the function of communication one intellect to another.

 

Man being created in the image and likeness of God can dialogue with himself just as God did in the beginning.

 

The world is built so that you see whatever you believe. So the world confirms whatever you believe. The only way to grow and travel a path beyond your beliefs is to add faith, hope or/and love. Adding faith hope and/or love to your dialogue with yourself is prayer and God’s response can be heard.

How to Save Rainforests

 

The Sierra Club, founded in 1892 published Passionst, Fr. Thomas Berry’s The Dream of the Earth in 1988. Almost 30 years later, the world continues to learn more about this beautiful home of which Thomas wrote.

 

Reading Berry’s book, awoke me to the evidence that the earth is being crucified today. That led to a promise in my first covenant with the Partners, to do whatever I could to share this new found information. I find it encouraging that Tasso Azevedo in the above TED Talk continues this agenda of bringing awareness to our mother earth’ s plight.

How to Make Music

Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.
Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.

What makes music? Rhythm and Melody. Could there be music without rhythm? Could there be music without melody? Are they equally important or is one more important than the other for music?

Imagine a rhythm piece with no melody. Of course, rhythm can stand alone. A standard example of this is marching. Military personnel march, and do so rhythmically. There is no need for music to make for a good marching group. The sound of feet rhythmically pounding the surface simultaneously needs no musical accompaniment to constitute a march, providing the unity characteristic of a march. The Ziegfield Follies can illustrate rhythm at work without music when forty nine out of the fifty girls on stage all lift their right legs together, in contrast to one girl instructed to lift her left leg at the same time. Disharmony is immediately evident to the theater audience, but not for lack of melody. Rhythm has its own rationale but is it music?

Though rhythm can take place without any musical instrument, often the drum accompanies and indeed galvanizes rhythm. The drum intensifies the dynamic associated with rhythm, and seems to add an element of “feel” to bodily motion like marching. In recent and contemporary music, the drum has assumed an ever more prominent role, to the point that sometimes a piece of current “music” features a drum solo as its significant piece. The drum beat is especially conducive to many forms of modern dancing. While the audio component of drum rhythm is evident, there is also a tangible, “feelable” dimension constitutive of it. We note this in some recent high-powered automobiles speeding along our neighborhood streets, windows closed, yet emitting a strong vibrating sound as it passes by. The appeal of much contemporary music depends on its rhythm, and its tangible, bodily component.

But is it music? Is it possible to sing a drum solo in the shower? Can we call anything music if it can’t be vocalized? To speak of dancing exclusively in terms of rhythm seems highly problematic, despite the compatibility of the two.

Most of us likely look for melody when we think of music, perhaps even more than when we think of rhythm. When we use the word “song”, as in recalling our favorite song, we usually have in mind some notion of melody, more than we do of rhythm. When we sing in the shower, it is the melody that we vocalize, though undoubtedly rhythmic in tone and quality. The rhythm has to be there, but the focus for most of us is the melody.

There is a difference between them, and possibly an inequality bound up with that difference. For rhythm can survive and even thrive without melody, but melody cannot survive at all without rhythm. To think of melody without rhythm is to imagine a series of sounds, even if accompanied by words, but lacking the shape or format that seems necessary for singing it as a melody.   Would it not rather be cacophony, “without rhyme or reason”, as they say? Melody indeed adds color and flavor to music, but, like color, for instance, it needs a framework in which to present itself. Otherwise, it is like a spilled paint-can spreading out over the floor, without rhyme or reason. Melody without rhythm is like spice indiscriminately sprinkled over a food dish with no measure indicating too much or too little. It will not be tasty. It is impossible to dance to a melody with no rhythm.

What does all this mean? To lead one’s life solely in terms of a rhythm is to do so in terms of a drumbeat which controls one’s movements and actions. For some religious believers, this means honoring the beat delivered exclusively in terms of the commandments. There’s certainly rhythm there, but it tends to be of a mathematical kind, as we measure according to the beat resounding in the first, second, third, etc., commandments. This is orderly, and provides a sense of movement in one’s life. But there may be a lack of color, or taste, or beauty, or melody in one’s life. On the other hand, to live one’s life solely in terms of melody, without any rhythm to it at all, is to attempt a shapeless routine involving a combination of sounds, but this may resemble a baby pounding the keys of a piano. Ideally, pursuing a life of love nicely promises a combination of rhythm and melody.   Then one’s life becomes music.

 

 

Where is Your Kingdom?

Dave O'Donnell
Dave O’Donnell

“All man’s unhappiness stems from his inability to stay in a room alone.” (Pascal)

“The most important relationship to get right is your relationship with yourself so that all other relationships can be a plus and not a must.” (Diane Von Fursteinburg)

“Man’s heart is restless until it rest in God.” (Augustine)

“Seek first the kingdom of heaven and all else will be given…” (Jesus)

Each one of these statements points to what Jesus in the gospels refers to as the Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven.

The author of Zealot Rega Aslan questioned whether Jesus had a definite idea of what the kingdom of God really was because he used the term in so many different ways. My question for all is: “What does the kingdom of heaven (god) mean to you or where can we find it?”

Going Nowhere

 

“If I want to change my life, I best start with changing my mind.” Words of Pico Iyer in today’s TED Talk selection. This world traveler and travel writer tells us of the importance of going nowhere in our lives.

 

For years I’ve know of the importance of sitting quietly and doing nothing, i.e. meditating, but in all honesty have excused myself from the activity with the excuse that I didn’t have the time. Lately, I’ve been taking the time, sitting quietly doing nothing and going nowhere after 15 minutes of prayer and I’m amazed at the new sense of serenity and direction it has given me.

Words, Words, Words…

Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.
Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.

Words are deceptive. They are the easiest thing in the world for us to remember, as when someone promises us a handsome gift. On the other hand, they are the hardest thing in the world to forget, as when someone insults us.   Likewise, it is so simple for us to say something that another will appreciate, but it is so difficult to ask pardon for a remark that offends another. Sometimes there are words we wish we had never uttered. At other times, there are words we wish we had said, while we had the chance.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Such is the boast or taunt of a young child made the object of a torrent of remarks by another, but it really cannot ease the sting left in the aftermath of spiteful remarks.

Words are potent, regardless of the ease with which they are said or remembered. A promise made by a parent to a child, to take him or her out to the park where the swings are, can easily be forgotten by a busy parent, but not so by the disappointed girl or boy. The promise of a bride and groom to take one another for better or worse till death do them part comes with ease, but there is a demanding price attached to its fulfillment. A fiery Adolph Hitler galvanized a demoralized and defeated Germany, by his eloquence in the beer halls of Bavaria, into a blitzkrieging power over-running the entirety of Europe, while the eloquence of the bull-dog-like Winston Churchill countered by silversmithing the English language of the lethargic British Isles into an irresistible force.

Do words easy come and easy go? We Christians (and Jews) have a book we call the bible. We aver that it contains the words of God, spoken over the ages. We venerate this book. The Muslims also have a book, called the Koran, which they also honor and respect, displaying violent reactions when they think others ridicule and belittle it. They too believe it contains words spoken by God to Muhammad, their venerated founder. And all of us together accept the ten commandments (the ten words) spoken by God to Moses, among which is the second commandment: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your in vain.” This stands at the origin of an early organization in the American Catholic church: the Holy Name Society.

In these various ways we see the import of what a word means, and of what power it can exert over our lives. In our Christian tradition we have come to personify the Word of God, clarifying how God has endowed His Word with such awesome significance that it assumes personal status, looming before us as a Person, moving off the print of the bible into what is incomprehensible: God Himself. It is especially at this season of the year that we acknowledge that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”. We do so by welcoming Jesus Christ, as God’s own Word, and Son, into our ranks.

And, in our Catholic (and also the Orthodox) tradition, we also venerate words in another way, that of our sacraments, wherein we call “down” God’s blessings upon us at key moments of our lives, especially at birth (baptism), worship (the Eucharistic words, “This is my body, this is the chalice of my blood”) and at our reconciliation from sin (I absolve you from your sins). Here sacramental words exert their greatest impact on the living of our lives.

Words are not to be regarded lightly, as if: easy come, easy go. They can change our lives, for better (a promise) or for worse (a lie). Words can channel our lives: the wedding vows, the ordination formula, the vows of religious. Words can break us: insults, broken oaths, with ensuing penalties, broken relationships. They can inspire us (“Go in peace, your sins are forgiven”).

Above all, they can unite us to God by prayer, words which do Him honor by recognizing His role in our lives. A worthy ambition for the New Year: to become a wordsmith in the language of God.

 

 

What Will Tomorrow’s Christian Look Like?

Dave O'Donnell
Dave O’Donnell

“One side said, Christ was ‘begotten’; the other said, ‘created’. One declared him ‘divine by nature’ and the other ‘divine by adoption’. These differences are essentially trivial. Christian thinkers should, imitate Greek philosophers, who had tolerated disagreements far more profound than this without calling each other devils or organizing factions to suppress each others’ opinions.” (Frend, Rise of Christianity, p 497)

 

The above issues were arguments supposedly settled by the Council of Nicaea, called by Constantine in 325 CE when Arianism was identified as heresy and the Nicene Creed was promulgated. But in fact Christians of one kind or another have been arguing about these issues ever since, even up through the present times.

 

Carl Rahner said “The Christians of tomorrow will either be a mystic or nothing.” I see that statement as a response to the crazy factions arguing about doctrine and dogma. To be egotistical enough to declare I’m right and you’re wrong is exactly what Christianity doesn’t need. My salvation is not determined by my intellectual capacities or by how I can force you to believe something, but by how I treat my neighbor.

 

According to Rabbi Benjamin Blech in Understanding Judaism: The Basics of Deed and Creed, Judaism is recognized as being a religion about deed and not creed. (Blech, 1992) A Jewish friend of mine told me recently the thing she likes most about her faith is that you can believe anything you want. To have such freedom in a religion seems almost anti-religious, but I believe freedom is the reward for the spiritual quest, and happiness its standard of measurement.

2014 CPP Blog in Review

Thank you to everyone who participated in our CPP Blog this year. Thank you to our posters, our commenters and most of all a big thank you to our readers. You’ve helped make this past year interesting and worthwhile. The WordPress.com (our hosts) stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for our blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,600 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 60 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.