What is Real?

If I watch television today (I do this less and less) I get bewildered. Viewing programming like the news, I see and hear about a world full of murder and mayhem. Then I watch the advertising which seems to take up more and more of the televised time, and I get the impression that life is good—good that is if you drive a particular car, live in the right neighborhood, take the right vacations, have that “certain” look, none of which do I have or do nor frankly want.

With apologies to all the great teachers in my life, I believe that television is not only the best educator around today, but I’m afraid for many the only one in their lives. Schools and churches continue to pretend to teach, but they can’t compete with these screens we’ve allowed to take over our time and lives.

What’s missing in television, especially in what is hyped as “reality TV” is just that, the real. Margery Williams in her Velveteen Rabbit asks: “What is real…” I love her answer (you can read the book or watch the Youtube video) just as much as I like Justin Graves’ in his TEDxYouth talk above, Living with Purpose nails for me what it means to live an authentic life. He does it with no apology or cover up. In short he is everything I want to be. Thanks Justin.

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

Dan O’Donnell, a layman has covenanted with the Chicago Community. In addition to the standard covenant, Dan promises to work at connecting all partners known and unknown, to a conscious following the the way of Jesus, the way of the cross which Dan believes transforms all failure, democratizing the human journey

Ready to Start a Movement?

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

A young school psychologist for the school where I worked once defined a leader as a person who takes people where they want to go. That description has always fascinated me. Before I heard her definition, I thought it was the leader’s job to take people where she wanted to go.

Seth Godin tells us leadership is finding a group that is not together and organizing them. In his February 2009 TED Talk, he gives us a short history of how we have created change using factories and then television, he presents lots of examples of change makers (leaders) and finally he talks about the role of the heretic, that is, the one who looks at the status quo and says, I don’t like it. The role of the leader, Seth tells us is to identify who you are upsetting, who you are connecting and who are you leading? He says the answer to these questions leads to a movement. Then he gives us 24 hours to create our movement. Any takers?


Thanks For Joining In


Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

“How is it that people kill in the name of the God of life, wage war in the name of the God of peace, hate in the name of the God of love and practice cruelty in the name of the God of compassion? How if we are the image of God, do we so often harm the work of God, especially, our fellow humans?” (Sacks, Jonathan, 2015 Not in God’s Name Schocken Kabobs, NY p110 ebook)

Now the above quote might seem unrelated to last Tuesday’s post about women and gays fighting for respect in their religions of birth, but I think not. Before I get into that though, let me first, thank everyone who shared by writing a comment on the Blog or Facebook. Evidently this is an issue for more than just me and Chelsea Shields.

Thank you Gail for your comment “Dan take a look at America Magazine September 14 issue …Religion and Diplomacy by Sec of State. John Kerry…”. I followed your advice and what struck me was Secretary of State Kerry pointing out:

“One of the most interesting challenges we face in global diplomacy today is the need to fully understand and engage the great impact that a wide range of religious traditions have on foreign affairs.”

Evidently the Secretary of State of the United States is concerned about religion’s role in world affairs. And on Facebook, I mentioned Karen L’s conflict in last Thursday’s post. I was moved too by Neil R’s sharing : “Agree Dan and Francis does have me considering maybe coming home.” I’m inspired and I suspect many others are as well who read your shares. Karen and Neil are concerned.

David Brooks and Rabbi Jonathan Sacks are also concerned. David Brooks’ wrote an OP-ED column last Tuesday in the New York Times concerning Rabbi Jonathan Sacks book, “Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence,” In his column he writes:

The great religions are based on love, and they satisfy the human need for community. But love is problematic. Love is preferential and particular. Love excludes and can create rivalries. Love of one scripture can make it hard to enter sympathetically into the minds of those who embrace another.The 21st century will not be a century of secularism, he writes. It will be an age of desecularization and religious conflicts.” (Brooks, David, 11-17-15 NYT Oped, Finding Peace within the Holy Texts)

What is Brooks talking about “desecularization” and religious conflicts? I’m still reading his book and looking for that answer, but in the meantime, I think our discussion last week points to a very important work we are about, honest sharing. We truly can be partners in this coming day of desecularization, if we are willing to speak up and are listened to and more importantly heard. I think, as Neil suggests, Pope Francis is listening and I don’t think he’s the only one.

This is what we are attempting to do with the CPP Blog (Our weekly meeting in print). Sharing can lead to doing. As Jean S pointed out, “Some people are doers…”. What besides speaking up can we, people of all religious faiths do? More on that for next Tuesday.


‘Love is Blind. Obedience Shouldn’t Be.’ – National Catholic Reporter

Many people have told me they never really considered staying inside and working to change the church (or any other unjust structure) rather than depart in despair. I hope we inspire folks to stay and work for positive change especially now that Catholics at least, have a Pope who is actively seeking change.

Source: ‘Love is Blind. Obedience Shouldn’t Be.’ – National Catholic Reporter

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

The above quote originated in a column by Sister Christine Schenk in the November 12, 2015 National Catholic Reporter. I found it in the Pax Christi’s Post, Tuesday, the same day I posted my reflection Rejected, on Chelsea Shield’s August 2015 TED Talk. Talk about synchronicity! Both tell of women’s struggle for equality in of all places their churches.

Rejected generated a great deal of discussion both on our site and on my Facebook page. I learned some new information. I now know what an EME is thanks to Terrance Wagner and I related to all the sharing, especially this one by Karen:

I’ve pretty much stopped attending the Catholic Church because I find so many of their teachings offensive. At the same time I am who I am today because of my Catholic upbringing. I’m conflicted. (Karen L.)

That’s a problem, exactly the problem I meant to address in my post and reiterated by a number of people in the discussion that followed. Sister Christine’s column cited above, gives me hope and suggests to me a very practical activity we can all do to address that problem and to open up our church, a process started by Saint Pope John XXIII and reintroduced with Pope Francis.

In her column, Sister Christine tells about the film Radical Grace, a documentary of the “‘nunquisition'”– the Vatican’s six year investigation of the U.S. sisters…” Sister Christine tells how surprised she was that the film has gotten worldwide recognition. The film’s producer, Nicole Bernardi-Reis told her “…the nuns are role models–not only their work but simply advocating for yourselves is a radical and affirming idea for women in many parts of the world.”

Wow! “Advocate for yourselves”. What a simple, doable action. What would that look like if we did it–what would we be advocating for? The same thing the Sister Christine  is, i.e. we are the church.

“Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and traditional Anglican Christians traditionally believe that 1 Peter 2:9 gives responsibility to all believers for the preservation and propagation of the Gospel and the Church…” (Wikipedia)

We are the church, us little peons who give our weekly donations and who daily struggle to love our neighbor, raise our children and share the bounties we’ve received. Now you might think advocating for ourselves here is not necessary, but only if you didn’t read my and Sister Christine’s posts.

Proposed action:

So here it is. Let’s inspire each other to stay and work for positive change in our church, “…especially now that Catholics at least, have a Pope who is actively seeking change”. We can start this process by watching Radical Grace. We missed the screening last week at the Gene Sickle Theatre here in Chicago, but the site for the film offers to help anyone interested in presenting their own screening. Let’s take up that offer for help and do it, plan a screening and discussion of the film Radical Grace.

Anyone interested in scheduling our own showing?

Let’s Open These Windows and Air This Church Out!

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

I can’t believe that fifty years have gone by since the promulgation of Nostra Aetate, one of three declarations coming from the Second Vatican Council (1962 – 1965). I was a high school senior at the Passionist Preparatory Seminary in 1962 and truly had no idea what that council would mean in my life. As I look back, it basically meant that I would live in a church that in the words of Saint Pope John XXIII would open up it’s 2000 year old windows and air itself out, aggiornamento I think he called it.

I believe that one of the greatest outcomes of that council was a new understanding of our relationship to other religions, especially our relationship to our Jewish sisters and brothers. Rabbi Noam Marans of the American Jewish Committee discusses 2,000 years of teaching in Christianity that made Jews “The other” in this short quip above. It is just a snippet of a longer (20 minute) PBS documentary on http://video.pbs.org/viralplayer/2365587110“>Nostra Aetate (In Our Time) This document was promulgated fifty years ago by Pope Paul VI on October 28, 1965.

If you are not familiar with it, I think you’ll enjoy discovering what tremendous strides Christians, in particular Roman Catholic Christians have made. If you are familiar with it, I hope you enjoy hearing and watching this great story as told by Rabbi Marans and the Rev. Dennis McManus a consultant to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and a member of the faculty at Georgetown University.

Thank you Nancy Kramer for suggesting this post.


Portugal Wins!

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

My brother Dave and I like to discuss current issues. The other day we chose, addiction which we both agreed is widespread in our society. Like the author in today’s TED selection, we have a history of addiction in our family. I, myself identify as an alcoholic and work a daily program based upon that awareness.

Back to our discussion. We could not figure out why some of the most “religious” people we know seem to be troubled with addiction, not just to alcohol, sex and all those good things (and yes, I do mean good things) but to almost every conceivable human activity we know, i.e. working, reading, cleaning… We call these obsessions, and I think they are the same.

Johann Hari in this TED Talk identifies “the cure” for this and I believe he’s right. He cites Portugal as an example of a country who is succeeding in truly helping addicts and they have been doing this for 15 years. In that time problems associated with addicts have decreased in Portugal by 50%.

I wonder what would happen if we took the same approach in our church communities? Of course, some of our church communities are successful in their programs for addicts. From my perspective these churches are the ones doing just what Portugal is doing. There are many churches however that are not succeeding. If you happen to be a member of a community that needs help understanding the addict, you might find Portugal’s experiment worth trying.



Another Way?

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

It is always good to have alternatives at hand for situations that seem to be getting out of control.

Alternatives are a compatible companion to freedom.   While freedom can manage, or at least survive, without alternatives, having alternatives available is always helpful for enjoying one’s freedom.

There’s little we can do about our freedom, in so far as it is a gift of God to us. We are born free as a native endowment, and cannot boast about its presence in our lives. However, our exercise of this endowment is subject to forces sometimes out of our control. We may live in a politically oppressive society where our freedom is notably curtailed, whether we like it or not. Or we may find ourselves in another kind of situation for which we are more or less responsible, to the detriment of our freedom. This would be a jail sentence, for instance, that we bring upon ourselves. Or, less graphically, it may be an employment situation that notably reduces our freedom to manage our own time, even though we more or less freely chose the job we have. Or, it may entail a home condition with responsibilities toward a large number of children, or toward aged occupants (our parents), some of which constrains us, even though we freely assumed them.

But a wonderful help in these various scenarios involving freedom is the availability of alternatives. Some alternatives are present without our having to generate them. Other alternatives are available, thanks to the care we took to provide them. An alternative can provide a way of preserving a measure of freedom that may be in danger of curtailment. If I am jailed, for example, good behavior on my part may win for me certain privileges that diminish the burden of lost freedom. Or, I am tied down with domestic chores day in and day out, good relationships with a neighbor or two may generate an alternative that ameliorates the loss of freedom oppressing me day in and day out. Or, if I suffer ill health which more or less confines my ability to freely move about, following doctor’s orders by properly medicating myself is an alternative alleviating this condition.

God also accommodates Himself to the predicaments in which we find ourselves. He is, after all, the source of our freedom, a cherished gift of His. There are many other gifts He bestows upon us, though few match the quality of freedom. And He notes how we use our freedom, whether for good or for bad. In addition, He involves Himself in our exercise of freedom, doing so in a variety of ways, one of which is by providing alternatives. This is helpful to note since only too often do we complain about the curtailments that He imposes on us.

But, we should note the alternatives He held out to the Israelite people centuries ago—people who were so devoted to the prominence of the temple in their midst, with its intricate rules and regulations, provided by God Himself, on how to approach Him in prayer and worship, entailing details about the priests who conducted temple worship, and their tribal pedigree, and their observance of holy days, and their sacrifice of various kinds of animals, etc., we may make the judgment that they were a rigidly controlled group having little freedom to worship as they liked. Unless, of course, we note how God provides the people, and their priests, a considerable number of alternatives for worshipping him, such as keeping the law (considered an acceptable sacrifice or oblation), or doing works of charity (equivalent to a flour offering ), or giving alms (equal to a sacrifice of praise), or avoiding injustice (as valuable as an atonement) (Sir. 35.1-3).

We can make the same judgment about our Church today, representing God in our life, with its rules and regulations, for example, about going to confession before receiving communion (if we have a serious sin burdening our conscience) or its admonition about receiving communion frequently. There are alternatives available to us in these matters, such as the freedom to approach communion in a state of sin, if we are truly sorry for this, and if there is a special reason for doing so (such as the wedding mass of a family member or the funeral mass of a relative) but no opportunity to go to confession beforehand, and we are determined to go to confession at the first possible time following our reception of the eucharist, or the practice of a “spiritual” communion (within the privacy of our mind and heart), in place of sacramental communion, should access to the eucharist in the usual way be impossible for us.

These are alternatives available to us when our freedom, for one reason or another, is curtailed or restricted.   This happens at multiple levels of our lives. Sometimes we don’t realize this, or, If we do, we don’t take advantage of it. It is helpful to look at all the alternatives available to us before we make a complaint about the curtailments on our freedom.