Saturday, October 25, 2014

Brooksley Born Again



                                     Brooksley Born Again
                                      A Fictitious Parable- 2008


“Brooksley”, I thought, “what a strange name.”I put the paper down and thought, “How come I’ve never heard her name before?” My coffee was still hot and especially delicious as I swirled it over my tongue and down my screeching gullet. I felt  a sense of being reborn. I now understood why I’m out of a job while my bosses are scooping millions from the sinking ship. I could not see beyond the present tragic moment and could not decide when to call my wife and tell her that she and I and our three beautiful kids are bone poor.

The article was a review of last night’s Frontline which revealed the monstrous elimination of Brooksley Born from the  CFTC [Commodity Futures Trading Commission] by the combined efforts of Allen Greenspan, Robert Reuther, Timothy Geitner, Larry Summers, Arthur Leavitt and Bill Clinton, all members of Presidential Financial Advisory Group who took Mrs. Born’s correct analysis and warning of the coming financial disaster as a na├»ve and totally incorrect approach which would itself bring down the financial world.

Why was she so humiliated by these self-proclaimed “wise-men” of the banking and corporate world,when they have now been proven so mistaken. Allen Greenspan, late and reluctantly declared that his “failure” to recognize Mrs. Born’s correct assessment of the times, was the greatest mistake he had ever made. Then he retired. Arthur Leavitt has said that he wishes he had known Ms. Born better, and that he believes her to be one of the most courageous and intelligent public servants he has ever known.

Why did Summers, Geitner and Reuben not also “retire”and apologise to Ms. Born for their ganging up against her  instead of accepting  positions in the Obama administration whose goal is to correct what these very men allowed to happen. My coffee is so cold I can’t drink any more. I folded up the paper and said a quiet prayer of thanks to God for the Frontline editors who had the courage to reveal the truth.

As I walked out into the sunshine onto Park Avenue, I headed to my parish church, The Church of Our Savior, beginning to gather strength by thinking of how blessed I was with Mary, whose love was my beacon home each night. My kids, Sean, Eileen and Peggy are too good for this world, but we’ll keep ‘em.

So what will I do now? I enter into the old beautiful shrine and walk slowly down the Nave to the front pew. I looked up at Jesus on the cross, and found myself filled with my childhood belief. How sad it is that so few seem to have access to the lived faith of our youth anymore. After several minutes, I turned off my brain and let God come to me within. I found myself unconsciously praying for Brooksley Born because I realized how she would understand a crucified Savior. I made a mental note to write a letter of thanks to her.

An hour passed this way, then I blessed myself, and stood to walk out of the Nave into the sunshine, into the present moment and into the rest of my wonderful blessed life.
      
                                                                   Charlie Mc

 

Three Monks at Prayer



                                     THREE MONKS at PRAYER
                     Malachi, Vincent, Jerome and monastic prayer

This was my first time working on the wooden floors of the choir stalls in the main church. I pushed my floor buffer carefully along the cloister walk on the red tiles which were made from a fired ceramic material. The floor could get scratched or chipped if struck by the metal fenders of the heavy machine and there was no way I wished for that to happen. If it did, my penance would be to kneel at the stairs going down into the refectory while holding the breakage in my hand thus showing my error to the entire community of monks as they processed into the refectory for the noon meal.

I entered the dark and beautiful nave of the church and knelt in a stall to pray before commencing. I cannot adequately describe how beautiful our church is. At the western end, a very large stained glass window of our Lady holding the royal Child on her lap looked down on me with the most "dulcis,  clemens  et  pia"{sweet, merciful and loving} regard. As the afternoon waxed on, the sun poured through the window and bathed those in prayer with filtered red, blue and violet colors primarily. Our Lady's face shone brilliantly and was all the monks could  see when singing the "Salve Regina" at bedtime.  I can honestly admit to a full flow of tears gushing from my eyes on many an evening while singing this most beautiful of the hymns of Saint Bernard.
           

I had been placed in charge of floor care for the entire monastery in the sixth month of my Novitiate, a 2-3 year period during which I was to come to a decision to go on and make Simple Vows, and the Monastic community was to make a decision whether or not I were to be asked to proceed. Normally, novices would stay "down" in the Novitiate and not be allowed to wander through the "BIG House", the Professed house; the exception being any Novice who had to work throughout the monastery general.

So here I found myself taking my five gallon bucket which contained 5 or 6 clean Turkish towels, my large can of Butcher's Bowling Alley Wax and a pair of rubber knee pads. I started at the Abbot's stall and rubbed the pasty golden wax into the hard wood of the choir floor. I'd apply a goodly amount to the entire Abbot's side, by hand. When I finished waxing  the abbot's side of the choir stalls, I would plug in the floor buffer and the low monotonous hum of it would fill the church. When finished I'd move to the Prior's side, then back to the "Brothers' " stalls abbot's side to prior's side. The entire job would take from 2:15 pm to 4:30pm and I'd then take the equipment back to the storage closet, have a shower and get ready for Vespers and Supper.

One other delight would sometimes enter into the routine. Father Malachi Marion was our organist for choir and liturgy.  One day when my head and shoulders were bent to the task, Father Malachi entered the church and took his seat at the console of our huge organ whose pipes climbed up the walls of the nave, and disappeared into the dark recesses above. The first notes that he played on that occasion were a familiar Bach blast and I jumped up from my kneeling position to see who was causing this thunderous blast which ripped the silence apart altogether. I did not know Fr. Malachi, but when our eyes met, he smiled. My mind told me that he was laughing interiorly, and that this startling introduction was intended to be as earthshaking as possible for my benefit.

Our monastery is one of strict observance and silence is the common experience. To allow for necessary communication (always far less than one usually believes) a set of signs has been established. When one didn't know the signs very well or when trying to express an abstract thought for which there were no signs, lip movements would often be employed or if it were an absolutely necessary communication, at which the monk desiring to speak would rub his thumb and index finger together near his right ear, and say the word, "Benedicite", which meant "Bless". The monk who would be receiving the message would then reply, "Dominus", which means, "the Lord". This was to indicate that the communication would be OK with God(not always!).

Father Malachi smiled and beat his chest with his right fist, thus indicating that he was sorry for interrupting the silence. I tried to make a sign that said "That's OK", but the sign I used was to become my most disliked sign in the manual. To make it, one would hold his right hand in front of his eyes with the fist folded except for the index finger which would be half way opened into a hook shape. One would then make a downward thrust to the left of one's nose. The sign meant,"forget it". The reason I, and others so disliked that particular sign was that it could be interpreted as  several other messages.

For example, if someone were trying to communicate with signs but having a difficult time, it could be that the receiver has given up on you and is telling you, "get lost"; if the one sending the message gives up trying to send the signed message and makes the "forget it" sign, the receiver feels frustration and cheated out of some bit of news that would be important or at least break up the boredom. But Father Malachi wouldn't let me off the hook, asking me through signs "You like?" I nodded yes. He asked who is your "more,more favorite?"("more,more") means "most". I tried to answer, "Bach"(hand behind me), "little"( little finger of the right hand makes a screwing motion into the right corner of the mouth),  "F" (made with index finger of right hand  vertically under the horizontally spread index and middle fingers of my left hand), then make a letter "G" and my right hand sweeping downwards. By these signals I intended to say "Bach's Little Fugue in G minor". Miraculously he understood my message and he immediately began playing the opening notes of this favorite piece of mine I had first heard at The Boston Pops with Arthur Fiedler.

I was transported and felt a little guilty hearing this most wonderful music from my sinful past in a concert for one in this glorious setting. After he finished he asked me again for another favorite. I made signs that I'd better get back to waxing. He asked again for a favorite and I responded "CF, "D" under. He nodded, I went back to work and Father Malachi began playing one of my all time favorites, Cesar Franck's Symphony in D-minor. I never enjoyed a day of work as much as I did this one.

Father Malachi returned to the Berryville, Virginia monastery the following year, but for that year, every time I entered the church to work on the floors he would begin to play Bach, then Franck, and I was transported as near to heaven as one can be in this life.
          -------------------------------------------------

Brother Vincent had a Santa Claus look about him. He was assigned to be the Porter, i.e., he ran the gift shop at the entrance to the property for years and was beloved by all of our visitors. I didn't see him much in the monastery therefore as he kept different hours. I would know when he was around because I would hear him praying in the main church.

Ever since I can remember, sitting at the extreme back of a church has always been attractive to me. I think it stems from two experiences. The first was my Dad. In our family, my mother was overtly religious. Her devotions to the Infant Jesus of Prague, the ever present statues of Mary and her use of the Rosary and our fidelity to Sunday Mass were all due to her. My Dad, on the other hand, was known for his playing of basketball in his youth and for his love of sports in general, specifically high school sports. At Sunday Mass, Dad would always sit on what was termed the "fireman's" bench at the back of the church. There, he would discretely talk with firemen and others who shared his interests in sports. I always wanted to sit back there with him, but my Mother would never allow me to. I think it really bothered her and embarrassed her that Dad didn't sit with the family. I guess that's one reason I always gravitated to the back of church.

Another reason was my sense of sinfulness and unworthiness to be close to holy things.  I guess many young men feel a deep sense of  hypocrisy about the state of their own souls (the black milk bottle analogy of CCD class) and the appearances to the contrary which we try to maintain.

The Porter of Saint Joseph's Abbey was Brother Vincent. He was the person who most looked like what i always pictured Santa Claus to look like, with an enormous snow white beard and the happiest disposition one could imagine. Guests to the monastery were totally taken by his beautiful spirit.  Brother Vincent, when not at the Poirter's Lodge,  used to "hang out" down at the rear of the main church.  I used to know when he was there because I could hear him pray. It was unique.
          " ...HAIL.............
.....Hail..................... Mary !...............................Mary!.....................................Hail...............Mary!!!!!!!!!!!................................. Hail Mary!!!...................................Full.......................................Full.....................
....Full of.................Grace!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  etc...

I was so taken with this method of revolving around the thoughts and words of what one was saying in prayer. It was a mantra like approach to prayer that no one ever taught me about before. One NEVER has to finish one's prayer. One can take an "eternity" to finish one's prayer. I learned this from Brother Vincent in the dark main Church.
          ----------------------------------------------

One Feast Day of Pentecost, the Abbot, Dom Thomas Keating, asked Brother Jerome to give a talk on prayer to the entire community in the Chapter room.  Brother Jerome, was the plumber in the Community and he had a difficult sinus problem that kept him sniffing long into the night. I know because I slept in a cell next door to his. The cells were separated by thin metallic material such as used in public lavatories.  I never really spoke to him but I used to see him carrying his plumbing supply case and his eyes always cast down in good Benedictine style (12th degree of humility). That's all I knew about Brother Jerome as he stood before the community on that Pentecost Sunday.

"Good morning," he began, " Reverend Father asked me to talk to you this morning about my prayer life.  When I pray, I go into the church, I kneel down at a stall, I grab on to the arm and I hang on as hard as I can. I want to thank Reverend Father for asking me this morning, and thank you all."

When I next saw Reverend Father, I told him that Bro. Jerome's talk was the best talk I've ever heard on prayer. He agreed.


In recent years, I often meditate out on my back porch. I most often try to use a method that these three monks, and Father Thomas seemed to exemplify. I remember Jesus' opening words to his disciples in the earliest of the four Gospels when he says: "The present moment is the right time; change the way you think about reality, for the Kingdom of God is WITHIN you. Believe this 'good news'" [Mk. 1:16]. Then I say in my heart, "I do believe, Jesus"; and then I sit down, shut up and listen. 
 

                                                                   Charlie Mc


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Jesus' "Good News"



                                      Jesus’ “Good News”

“After John had been put in prison, Jesus went to Galilee and proclaimed the good news from God, “The present moment is the right time, change the way you think about reality for the Kingdom of God is within you. Believe this good news!” [Mark 1:14-15]

The Gospel of Mark, the earliest written of the four canonical gospels (ca. 65-75 AD) begins with these words being placed upon the lips of Jesus at the beginning of his public preaching, his so-called ‘Keynote Address’ in which is presented a concise statement of what Jesus has come to reveal to us; the Immanence , the Indwelling, the personal accessibility of our Father, of “Abba”, of  God.  Later evolution of the “good news”, considered it to be the gospels themselves and their revelation of Jesus Himself; and subsequent teaching referred to the “good news” as later doctrines and dogma defined by the Church. As this evolution occurred, gradually lost was the proclamation that God is within us. Mankind preferred the more conceivable datum that God is conceivable and definable and somehow outside us and "transcendent", i.e., above us.  Eventually the distorted concept of God being “That greater than which nothing can be conceived” was offered as a definition of "God".

Christian prayer became words spoken to God much as we communicate with anyone. Certain teachers of early Christian spirituality tried to express the interior prayer which Jesus recommended when the Gospel of Matthew taught:
          “But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door,
          and pray to your 'Abba' who is unseen and your 'Abba', who
          sees what you do in private, will reward you."[Mt. 6:6]
 but the tendency towards iconography urges us to conjure up concepts or ideas towards which we fix our attention. This is perfectly acceptable wherein we picture what Jesus, Mary, Joseph or the Saints may have looked like, but is unacceptable when we attempt to create an image of the Creator. Even any name for the Creator is shunned in most ancient religions although some pseudonyms are used such as YHWH by Hebrew Scriptures which means “I AM” but is never pronounced and considered sinful if used as a “taking of the Lord’s Name in vain”. The use of the Hebrew word “ADONAI”(Lord) as a substitute when YHWH is to be read in Jewish Scriptures generated some confusion and mistranslations in the modern era. When read, as a reminder, the vowels of the substitute word AdOnAI were inserted into the text between the consonants of the tetragrammaton YHWH to read “YaHoWaH”. When the original was never uttered, and the Scriptures were translated into German, the name became “JaHoVaH”;  and into English as “Jehovah”.

From childhood, the image many had of God was of an old, old man. Other images of God were arrived at by other cultures such as bulls, golden calfs, Buddhas, Krishnas, symbols of various kinds which represented particular aspects of an infinite Power or Being. Early Christian spirituality created images or ikons representing the Trinity, The Child Jesus with or without his mother, etc..

The belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist rather than being an ikon resembling Jesus, is believed to be the very being of Christ as present by means of his institution at his last meal with his disciples on the night before he died.[Mk. 14:22-26]

In the earliest Letters of Saint Paul, the description of this Last Supper and of the already well established tradition of its renewal is found in his letter to the Corinthians [11:17-24] ca. 57AD. It is noteworthy to read that in the twenty five years since Jesus was alive, the memorial was already subject to misunderstanding and blameworthy behavior.  This indicates that the frequent observation of Jesus in the Gospels that his disciples failed to understand his teaching, continued into the early years of the Church, and without doubt beyond. It seems quite likely that the history of the Church down through the centuries has shown a similar tendency.

One of these tendencies could be the frequent misunderstanding of the indwelling of God as taught to us in Jesus’ first and earliest message. we need to remember that the first thing we should do in our prayer is to make an act of faith in Jesus’ Keynote Address and answer “Yes, I do”, to his telling us, “Believe this Good News”; and then to just sit down, shut up and listen to this indwelling God in total gratitude for his being with you in an experience beyond words and thoughts. Saint Augustine captured this experience in his, “Crede ut intelligas”, "believe in order  that you may understand".   But believe first! 

Another source for the confusion which arose in the first centuries of Christianity was the translation of a word from the original Greek of the gospels to the Latin in the Vulgate Bible of Saint Jerome. The word was the Greek word "Metanoiete" in the above keynote address of Jesus. The word comes from two Greek words, "meta" and "noia" which together mean "after thought", "change of mind" or "repent", and thus in the second person it would mean "Change the way you think", or in the third meaning "Repent!" 

More confusion could have arisen from another difficult translation of the word translated above as, "within" . This comes from the Greek word "Eggiken" ["to be brought very near"]. J.P.Meier ([A Marginal Jew, vol. II, p. 432] compares this usage to that contemporary expression one makes as a train is about to enter the station: "The train is here". It means that the train is in the station. Hence, in this sense, Mark is referring to the belief that the "Kingdom is here, it has come, it is so very close to you that it is within you.  But this is where many believers jump off the train. It is inconceivable, that the Kingdom of God can possibly be within the believer. Inconceivable, certainly, but capable of being believed because that is what Jesus asks of us.  And this is how prayer is to begin, with belief first, and that faith is a gift, not earned but humbly sought and received with gratitude.

If one cannot believe that man can possibly contain the Kingdom of God because he is unworthy, he probably will translate "Metanoiete" as "Repent!" and ultimately explain how we must be unacceptable to Jesus unless we first repent, by reference to the "Original" sin of mankind that all mankind inherited from the first Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden. Is this understanding better for mankind than an encouragement to look inside ourselves rather than outside to  a distant and judgmental God?  No question but that this text is pivotal in the history of Christianity.
                                                                                   Charlie Mc
 



  


Friday, October 17, 2014

FAITH

       

                                                          Faith

When your mother told you, "Don't touch the stove, it will burn you and hurt like the devil", did you believe her?
Perhaps you did. And why might you have believed her? "Because she never lies to me!" could have been your response. That makes sense and shows the value in having past experience to guide you.

But what if you had been doubtful concerning your mother's veracity either because she had once told you of Santa Claus and look what happened there; or because your immense curiosity overcame your reluctance to take her at her word for it might well be a wonderful experience. Then you are faced with learning by extremely painful experience with the consequence that you no longer believe that burns would result from touching the stove because of your mother's revelation, but as a result of your direct, unmediated experience.


Another experience common to children as they grow up is the indoctrination by others concerning the existence of God. Now it is quite likely that many of us grow up believing in the existence of God on the trustworthiness of our religious teacher who says so. Oftentimes these "believers" undergo a crisis of faith, when their teachers prove themselves to be untrustworthy  in other matters or with their behavior. Others enter a phase of their life, due to their education, wherein they seek proof of what they are asked to believe in. Until they attain that proof, they withhold their belief. Thus they perhaps consider themselves then to be agnostic, and would say "I don't know whether there is a God or not." Still others might opt for a rejection of any belief in God without any doubt in the matter and say, "There is no God", i.e., become "atheists'. A legitimate response to them might be "Why? What are your reasons for belief that there is no God", and say to them "prove it." It might be thus discovered that it is just as impossible to prove that there is no God as it is to prove that there is a God, from physical sensible evidence or from logical rational arguments, which after all arise from concepts which in turn are formed from physical sensible experiences.

And even if it were possible to prove the existence of God which proof might end with the statement, "therefore, God exists", this gives us no experience of God which we seek. It merely says that GOD is, and not what God is. It posits God's existence but gives us none of God's essence. Furthermore, many hope that by logic we might arrive at belief. When we seek God through personal experience, we experience nothing. Fourteen billion years ago, astrophysical "belief" holds that from a "point of no dimensions" all matter and energy which constitutes the entire cosmos, emerged. So also did Time and Space begin. There is, therefore,  no before prior to this event and there is no space not part of this begun cosmos. Science would then be able to say nothing about any Creator if there be one. It could not even say that it (i.e., the Creator) does not exist. Were anyone to say anything about this Creator, it would be from what we term "FAITH" or belief alone. 

So how does one get this faith? Two things can indicate an answer to this question:
     1. One might ask for it (from
         this hoped for Creator); i.e., in prayer;

     2. One might conclude from reading all one can read about a man named Jesus, that he must have been a trustworthy source of truth, and make an act of faith in what the writers have written about what he had to say about God, and just hope that this Jesus is the    trustworthy truth teller we need. There seems to be no other path to a belief in God.

In the Boston globe of 10/12/14 in the Books Section, Dan Cryer gives a synopsis of Edward O. Wilson's work, "The Meaning of Human Existence". Cryer indicates that Wilson's thought designates Science to be the "King" of total knowledge , rather than of cosmic knowledge, i.e., of spatial and temporal reality.  Any doctrine of Creation he considers to be "fact aversive" and outmoded. We were created by "chance" and "necessity", humanity is
an "accident of evolution", a "product of random mutation and natural  selection" Wilson writes.   He claims there to be no "evidence" of any Creator, as if a Creator of space and time, matter and energy, would need a tangible body, which, had we been there, could have given us "eye-ball" proof of  His existence, "ex-video", from our seeing God.


So I have before me two witnesses, one Edward O. Wilson telling me "There is no God, no life after death, just matter and energy which in time "falls apart";...
…and the other, a man whom even his followers found  difficult to believe, who told us that God does exist and that His realm (or whatever you choose to call it) is WITHIN us. God is that "No-Thing" from which all things came from a "point of no dimensions" 13.7 billion years ago when time and space began. What exactly is the Cosmos, but the ex-pression of God Himself in space and time, including the entire humanity and all of creation up to and including Jesus himself, whole and entire.

Just as Jesus could give no spatial, temporal sign which would prove his "good news" to his doubting hearers, Edward O. can give no proof that God is only a mythical fiction. I stand at the stove once again asking myself, whom do I trust? I know my answer, I believe my witness.

There is a third possibility. In most of the world's ancient religions, there are teachings on prayer which stretch out beyond "signs", beyond knowledge of the human achievement to what has been termed "mystical", transcendental or contemplative prayer wherein the path is silent, solitary and interior. The difference between these "schools" would be the difference between that which which seeks the conceivable, in order to attain belief; and that which has belief at the outset. Christian contemplative prayer begins with the belief of the interior presence of what cannot be seen, heard, felt, touched, tasted nor imagined, nor thought but only "believed". To achieve this direct unmediated experience of the Indwelling Being we call "God",
is what Jesus invites us to do as he says:
         "...but when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to
            your 'abba', who is unseen, and your 'abba' who sees what you do in
            private, will reward you."[Mt. 6:6]

                                                          Charlie Mc

Monday, October 13, 2014

THE GOOD NEWS

                                                                 The Good News
And what did the writers say about what Jesus had to say? Well, it started being written down years after Jesus had died, and years after the message of this Jesus had been passed down through the preaching and liturgy (especially through a memorial meal celebrated by the surviving disciples of Jesus apparently in the tradition of Jewish memorial meals and prayers) and in the developing understanding of who Jesus really is and what his followers were meant to believe. The earliest written documents of which we have copies are some early letters of the Apostle Paul and a document of the evangelist Mark. Paul wrote letters to early Christian communities around the Meditteranean; among which were letters to the Christians in Corinth, Thessalonika, Ephesus, Phillippi, Galatia and Colossus. The earliest of the four Gospels is widely held to be that attributed to an author named Mark, written in Rome from between 65 and 75 AD. In these works, we find some of the earliest sources describing what might be called the "good news" of Jesus. That these words constitute the original words of Jesus might be subject to dispute, but there can be little doubt that with the passage of time the original message of Jesus became theologized and ecclesiasticized to help formulate what was later to be termed Doctrine, Dogma and Christology and Ecclesiology.

The Gospel of Mark is called "gospel" in English as a translation of the Greek word "Euaggelion" which means "good message" and comes from the word for angel, (Messenger). It also can be translated as "good news", which seems to be in contrast to other "not so good" news which we get frequently. The very first words the author of the first gospel puts onto the lips of Jesus which might be termed his "keynote speech" sums up what he wants us to know:
             "The present moment is the right time, Metanoiete (change the way you think and believe    
             about reality) for the Kingdom of God is within you. Believe this 'good news'" [Mk. 1:16].
From the beginning of time, man has been searching for an all-powerful deity to whom man might go for protection and saving in times of trial. Man has been searching for such a god in the world outside of man, and now comes a man who proclaims that this father ("Abba") is within, closer to each and every one of us than we are to ourselves. Who can possibly believe such a teaching. Only those to whom this Jesus is no liar. Granted it is impossible to see this Kingdom within, nor feel it, nor imagine it nor think it. Jesus,however, does not ask us to understand this, but to believe it. There is the central truth.

Throughout the entirety of Mark's Gospel, we read of the difficulty that the disciples of Jesus have in wrestling with this belief.
          "The people who heard him were amazed at the way he taught, for he wasn't like the
           teachers of the Law, instead he taught with authority."[Mk. 1:22]
           
         "Then Jesus went home.  Again such a large crowd gathered that Jesus and his disciples had
          no time to eat. When his family heard about it, they set out to take charge of him, because
          people were saying, "He's gone mad!" [Mk. 3:20-21]

          "When Jesus was home alone, some of those who had heard him came to him with the twelve
          disciples and asked him to explain the parables.
         "You have been given the secret of  the Kingdom of God." Jesus answered, "but the others ,
          who are on the outside, hear all things by means of parables so that 
                 'They may look and look, yet not see;
                 they may listen and listen, yet not understand.
                 For if they did, they would turn to God,
                 and he would forgive them.'" 

           "Jesus left that place and went back to his home town, followed by his disciples. On the

           Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue. Many people were there, and when they heard
            him, they were all amazed. "Where did he get all this?" they asked "What wisdom is this that
            has been given him? How does he perform miracles? Isn't he the carpenter, the son of
           Mary, and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters living here?"
           And so they rejected him.
           Jesus said to them, "\'A prophet is respected everywhere except in his own home town and
           by his relatives and his family.'" [Mark 6:1-4]

           "Some Pharisees came to Jesus and started to argue with him. They wanted to trap him, so

           they asked him to perform a miracle (sign) to show that God approved of him. But Jesus
           gave a deep groan and said 'Why do the people of this day ask for a miracle (sign)? No, I tell
           you! No such proof will be given to these people.'" [Mark 8:11-13]

In other early Christian writings, the importance of proclaiming that the Kingdom of God was within became clear as Paul says when he writes to the Corinthians:
             "Put yourselves to the test and judge yourselves, to find out whether you are living in 
               faith. Surely you know that Christ Jesus is in you?- unless you have completely failed." 
                                                                                                                                                      [2Corinthians 13:5]
Again, Paul reiterates that the "good news" which he had received was as Mark would write:
             "It is the task of fully proclaiming (God's) news, which is the secret he hid through all 
               past ages from all mankind but has now revealed to his people. God's plan is to make
               known his secret to his people, this rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples.
               And the secret is that Christ is in you."  [Col. 1:26-27]
From early on, however, this "secret" that the kingdom of God is within us" became "foolishness to the Greeks and scandal to the Jews":
             "For God in His wisdom made it impossible for people to know Him by means of their own
                wisdom. Instead, by means of the so-called"foolish" message that we preach, God decided
                to save those who believe. Jews seek miracles (signs) for proof, and Greeks look for
                wisdom. As for us, we proclaim the crucified Christ, a message that is offensive to the
                Jews and nonsense to the Gentiles, but for those whom God has called, both Jews and
                Gentiles, this message is Christ, who is the power of God and the wisdom of God. For what
                seems to be God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and what seems to be God's
                weakness is stronger than human strength. [1 Corinthians 1:21-25]
In the Boston globe of 10/12/14 in the Books Section, Dan Cryer gives a synopsis of Edward O. Wilson's work, "The Meaning of Human Existence". Cryer indicates that Wilson's thought relegates Science to be the "King" of  total knowledge , rather than of cosmic knowledge, i.e., of spatial and temporal reality. Any doctrine of Creation he apparently considers to be "fact aversive" and "outmoded". We were created by "chance" and "necessity".  Humanity is an "accident of evolution", a "product of random mutation and natural selection". He claims no "evidence" of any Creator, as if a Creator of space and time, matter and energy, would need a tangible body which had we been there, could have proved His existence "ex-video", out of our seeing God. 

So I have before me two witnesses, one Edwin O. Wilson telling me "There is no God, no life after death, just matter and energy which in time "falls apart"; and the other, a man whom even his followers found it difficult to believe, who told us that God does exist and that His realm (or whatever you choose to call it) is WITHIN us. It is that No-Thing from which all things came from a "point of no dimensions" 13.7 billion years ago when time and space began. What exactly is the Cosmos, but the ex-pression of God Himself in space and time,
including the entire humanity and all of creation up to and including Jesus himself, whole and entire. 

Just as Jesus could give no spatial, temporal sign which would prove his "good news" to his doubting hearers, Edward O. can give no proof that God is only a mythical fiction. I stand at the stove once again asking myself, whom do I trust? I know my answer, I believe my witness. 
                                                                                                                                                            Charlie Mc


  


 
  




 




         

      
  



Saturday, October 4, 2014

Hazel Rugg Rogers

                                                 Hazel Rugg Rogers

In 1968, I left the monastery after 5 years there and reentered "the world". I looked for a teaching job and found a replacement opening at Milton Academy. It was the strangest thing. I had a bachelors degree in Chemical Engineering and the opening was for a teacher in Chemistry and Introductory Physical Science. The previous teacher had been called away to India by the Government to assist in setting up science programs in schools there. He also happened to be my old high school physics teacher. He was a brilliant man but very confusing as a teacher and I really felt poorly prepared for an engineering major as a result of my A/D/A/D set of grades in his class. He had also been my golf coach for the high school team on which I had been captain. It hadn't helped.

Milton Academy is one of the finest private schools in the country and I felt that I was extremely fortunate to fit their needs at just that time of my life.  I spent nearly all of my time outside of classes preparing to do the best job I could as my students (12 per class) were gifted, eloquent and highly motivated in the best academically oriented way and able to challenge every statement of mine for clarification or further exploration. The very first day I came before my Chem class, the students regarded me with curiosity. They began by telling me how confused they were from the first five months of their chemistry class because the former teacher had been so impossible to understand.

"I completely understand" I began, but they stopped me.
"No, you don't understand. We tried, really tried to to do well, but he made it impossible for us."
"I know, I know," I answered, "He was my high school teacher, too."
"No! Really?" they shouted, smiling. "That's great! He understands!"

From that moment on, I had the greatest educational experience of my life. They were terrific, and all great students.  In May, they all scored between 750 and 800 on the then College Boards in Chemistry, and all managed to get into their first choices of College.

In addition to teaching Chemistry in class, we often got off topic as the kids were very interested in all topics. One day I remember having them ask me about life in the monastery. They were incredulous but pursued the topic. Many of the students came from affluent families whose parents were professionals in high positions and spent much of their time working. The boys (all my students were boys) often spent most of their time in boarding school or at summer camps, and yet even when at home, spent precious little time with their parents. It became apparent to me that while they loved their parents, they had a hunger for affection and for just more simple time spent together.

As they heard what monastic life had been like, they asked me pointed questions about my philosophy.
"Mr. Mc., What do you think is the most important thing in life?"
I knew that what they were asking me was a most important question, with much meaning to and for them, so I answered as carefully and thoughtfully as I could.
"I think that the most important thing in life is Love."
" You mean 'how much you're gettin'?'"  The class laughed.
"No" I answered, "how much you're giving."
They were thunderstruck. "I never heard anyone say anything like that before," one uttered.
Our sharing continued for a half an hour after class and we discussed other most meaningful topics and I can honestly say that over the next forty years of teaching, I've rarely ever come close to such a wonderful classroom experiences. The remainder of our year together was one of total openness and honest communication.

My time at Milton was short lived, as a former, and quite excellent Chemistry teacher was returning to the school and my position would be his. So I left in June.

I applied for a general science teacher opening in Harwich on Cape Cod for the following year and got the job, but to make ends meet over the summer, I took a job as a caretaker in the Boxwood Manor, and ancient nursing home in Yarmouth. I did all sorts of odd jobs around the place. The owner and director, and buyer and cook of the place was a battleship of an 84 year old Caper named Nellie Barrington. There were two floors to the old building with about 24 elderly patients in all.

One day, I was up on a tall ladder using a steam autoclave to strip off old wallpaper in the upstairs hall which must have been there since the pre-Civil war era. As I worked, it was my custom to sing and whistle old and familiar tunes. Many of these were hymns from the monastery, many whose lyrics were by Martin Luther. As the day wore down, one of the nurses came out to me and said, "Charlie".
"Hi, what is it?" I asked.
She answered," When you are done for the day, would you do me a favor?"
"Sure".
"Would you take a minute and run into Room 19? There is a patient in there, Mrs. Gredler, who would like to see you."
"Sure, I'm nearly done".
"Thanks" she said and left.
Later, I walked into #19 and saw the very, very thin body of a woman lying under a sheet on the bed, her knees propped up and on them was a folded copy of the New York Times. I guessed the woman to be in her late eighties.
"Mrs. Gredler?" I began. "The nurse told me that you wanted to see me?"
"Oh, are you Charlie?"
"Yes".
"Oh Charlie, I just wanted you to know how wonderful it was to hear you singing and whistling those beautiful hymns all afternoon outside. I don't know if you knew it or not, but I was a Minister for forty years in Yarmouth.  In fact, I was the first woman Protestant Minister, and I loved the hymnal and singing."
"That's great" I said, and we began a wonderful conversation whrein I told her all about how much I loved the trappist monastic life, and she told me all about her life. She also told me that her nurse brought her the Times each day and although she was paralyzed, she could still read the paper and keep up to date on happenings in the world. Her mind was clear and manner delightful.

I would stop in and chat with her most days until I left for the teaching job at the end of August.

Forty five years have passed and I am now 76, and living at home with my sister who is similarly disabled,  being taken care of wonderfully by my eldest son Tom. Yesterday I told my sister about Mrs. Gredler. My son suggested I "Google" her name. I had never thought of doing this before, and in fact rarely ever thought of her at all before. But I did "Google" her, and came up with the following:
       
 [ http://www.genealogy.mylinktothepast.com/p32187.htm]



Hazel Rugg Rogers
F, b. 1894

DETERMINATION, HARD WORK, COURAGE MARKED LIFE OF WOMAN MINISTER
The Rev.Hazel Rogers Gredler, minister emeritus of Barnstable and Yarmouth Port Unitarian- Universalist Churches, died Nov. 25 in Yarmouth Port at the age of 77.
She served the two churches from 1950 to 1952, when she was forced to retire because of health. At that time she was named minister emeritus of both churches. She continued to live on the Cape, preaching frequently.   Before her Cape ministry she served parishes in Whitman,Northfield,Norton, and Leicester. Mrs. Gredler was the first woman minister of the Norton church, serving from 1936-1945.

A native of Worcester, she was graduated from Wheaton College in 1919, attended Meaedville, Pa. Theological School and at the University of Chicago. She received her master's degree in English from Cornell University.  Rev. Mrs. Gredler's knowledge and love of literature was evident in many of her sermons and poems which were published. Besides her parish work she had many civic interests and enjoyed music and gardening. She was active in the Cape Cod Clerical Club, a forerunner of the Cape Cod Council of Churches. Surviving are three sons, Charles R. of Lexington, Gilbert R. of Swarthmore,Pa., and David E. of Norwell, and 11 grandchildren.  A memorial service was held Sunday in the Barnstable church, the Rev. Kenneth R. Warren officiating.

                                                                    A TRIBUTE
The Rev. Hazel Rogers Gredler's life was one of determination, hard work, and courage. She served the Church in her youth when women were not welcome in the ministry; and served it well. Added to that, she brought up three sons on a very meager income. These three capable men are working today with distinction in education,psychology, and journalism.

We must not let the incapacity of Mrs. Gredler's recent years of illness dim the contribution that she (and other women of her generation) made to the Church. When they graduated from Theological School, the attitude of the men in the ministry toward women ministers was analogous to that of the men doctors to women doctors at the turn of century. The women were not wanted. They were resented; and  the value of their potential was doubted. These women had a hard road to travel; only those who were better than the average men(doctors or ministers)succeeded.

That these courageous women made a valuable contribution to medicine, and to the Church, is an acceptable fact today. Their conscientious determination and hard work furthered the progress of civilization. It is in this light that they should be remembered.
                              
                        Agnes C. Adams
Taken from the Cape Cod Standard Times.

How much joy is missed when we don't really communicate with "strangers", and thus miss  making them, instead of strangers, friends for life. My one hour with Mrs. Gredler remains with me forever.
                                                                             Charlie Mc  2014


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Sit down, Shut up ... and Listen!

                                                            SIGNIFICANCE


Human beings communicate by signs. If one person has an idea he wishes to communicate to another, there are several prerequisites before one can successfully complete the communication.


First of all, the one who is going to begin to communicate the idea, must first have the idea within himself, i.e., within his mind. How did the idea get there in the first place? By having an experience of some sensible reality.  From the experience of the temporal/spatial reality, he forms an idea of it in his mind, a concept. He then cloaks that experience and concept with words he has previously learned which have been gained through his growing up and developing a working vocabulary. Through education and practice, he has learned how to speak those words clearly and distinctly for them to be heard and perhaps understood by a listener. He speaks those words.

The listener must have the sense of hearing. The vibrating air transmits the vibration from the speaker's vocal chords to the ear drum of the listener, which organ begins to vibrate with the same frequency and wavelength. The listeners nervous system transmits an electric signal to the part of the brain which interprets the vibration and matches these up with that of previous messages received by the hearer and which correspond to a vocabulary previously mastered over the years. Thus the hearer forms a concept which hopefully, but not always, matches the idea in the mind of the speaker. In this way the meeting of minds occurs, i.e., communication and, hopefully, understanding. Often times, communication may take place with other signs such as facial and bodily expression, gestures or even sometimes by silence.

Current astrophysical understanding of the cosmos, suggests that 13.7 billion years ago, the entire cosmos emerged from a non-dimensional point and began to expand with energy and the formation of matter at an accelerating rate. This original event was also the beginning of what we term time and space itself.

In the Judaeo-Christian tradition, the word “God” is used in reference to the Cause of this cosmos with an acknowledgement that this Being is indefinable, ineffable, inconceivable by the mind of man simply because man has no sensible perception of this God from which to form a concept. It is the Judaeo-Christian custom also to use the unutterable name, YHWH, from the Hebrew “I AM” only in the most sacred of events but never to use this name in a vulgar ordinary speech; thus the Law directs us that  His Name never be used “in vain”; i.e., emptily.  Judaeo-Christian belief however is that the entire cosmos is God’s spoken Word, speaking Himself. This includes Himself as a human being, like us in all things except sin, who once said to his followers, “A wicked and adulterous nation seeks a sign” (an external proof of God); whereas what his earliest recorded words (Mark 1:16) as indicated above were:”The Kingdom of God is WITHIN.”

Science seeks reality by observation of sensible data, thus can never “prove” nor “disprove” God’s existence. It is a matter of belief (Faith). An agnostic says “I can not know (experientially) whether there is a God or not.” I agree.  The atheist says “There is no God”, and I say “Prove it”. Faith is a gift to be gratefully received but unattainable by effort. I believe one can ask for the gift, but will not be “punished” for not having been given it.

All mankind seeks to have an “experience” of God, but it won’t in all likelihood be a sensible experience, but one can best experience God by doing what Jesus apparently instructed his followers to do ;
            “When you pray, go into your inner room, and pray to your   “ABBA”(Daddy) in secret, and your Daddy who hears what you say in secret will reward you.”
            In  words as used by a current Christian prayer master:
“Sit down... shut up…and listen!”, i.e., contemplatively pray.
We all would like an experience of God in the concrete so to speak. The disciple Phillip pleaded with Jesus, " Lord, show us the Father, that is all we need." [John 14:8

We all want the sign. We promise to be satisfied with the sign. But the sign will never satisfy, only the Reality. If a family travels to Disneyland, they refuse to take a hotel room at the sign "Disneyland", but go on to the real thing. 

The entire cosmos;  energy, matter, mineral, vegetable, animal, human and the humanity of Jesus Himself, all together constitute the Word of God spoken to us, the Sign of God. If we have ears to hear, let us hear. But first let us...STOP ... SHUT UP...   and LISTEN. We just may have a life changing experience of the Reality.



You Just Don't get It

                                                             


                                       You Just Don't Get It!

          After many years of failing to get "it", I've decided to tell you about "not getting it".  I'd much rather write to you about "getting it", but since I haven't got it,  I have come to believe that the history of the world, and indeed the history of the world's religions, is simply a history of the many ways followers have not gotten what their founder wanted to "get across", I've decided to write about this. 

 When I was a boy, I loved sports, especially baseball and basketball, because we could play those on the streets of my neighborhood in Norwood, MA. One day there were four of us kids playing "roly poly" one street over from my house. It was a hot day and after an hour  or so we were thirsty. Just then an old lady called out to us from two doors down and said, "You boys look hot, would you like some cold lemonaid and cookies."
          We said "Sure", and so we went into her house. Her name was Mrs. Lawrence, a widow and she lived with her sister. As we sat down to a huge plate of cookies and drinks, Mrs. Lawrence asked if we minded if she read some scripture to us. Not wanting to seem ungrateful, we said to her the equivalent of "Whatever turns you on".


At supper that night my Mother asked me where I had gone that afternoon, I told her, "Oak Road".  She said "I drove up and down Oak Road looking for you and you weren't there".
I said," That must have been when we were in the Lawrence's house". Then I told her how Mrs. Lawrence invited us into her house for cold lemonade.
      "Oh wasn't that nice of her".
      "And she made some delicious chocolate chip cookies too", I added.
      "My, my, what a sweet thing for her to do", my mom said.
      "And she read scripture to us."
      "She did what!! Charles, I do not want you ever to go into that house again, do you understand??" She was clearly upset.
We were Catholics. We went to Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation. Some went daily.  We said the Rosary, and ate no meat on Friday.  Most of all, We never read scripture; for that's what Protestants did. The wall between religions was clear and everyone seemed happy there was such a wall.
I was too, until I fell in love with a non-Catholic.       
       Now, at 76 years old, I have studied the scriptures and theologies of many of the religions of the world and I  seem to come to the conclusion that no one really understands, or "gets it". They often think they have got "it", and try to preach to others so that those others will get "it" too and thereby avoid some kind of eternal damnation reserved for those who fail to get "it".
        In looking back on my life's experiences  it is my belief that the most common image I see of Jesus is that of a gentle teacher who loves his "pupils" but realizes that for the most part, for most of them, "they just don't get it".  They are all very competitive and want to be thought more highly of than others by winning this competition, but they fail to understand that the goal of their search is within as indicated by the very first words put on the lips of Jesus, his "keynote address" so to speak, in the Gospel of Mark;
           
      "Jesus went to Galilee and proclaimed the good
         news from God, saying,
         'The present moment is the right time,
          Change the way you think about reality;

          for the Kingdom of God is within you. 
           believe this "good news'."    (Mk. 1:14-15)

                                                 Charlie Mc