Wednesday, March 30, 2005

My Faith Journey: Reflections on How My Faith Has Changed

Faith: a journey.
A reflection on how my faith has changed.
Paschal Baute

I used to think, long time ago, that faith was something I discovered, a belief that I chose to guide me, help me, heal me,. save me, and which would guarantee my eternal salvation. It also gave me, in my Catholic faith, an admission ticket into a great community of believers of all ages. I also believed, I will admit now, that my faith gave me the right to judge others as further from God than me. I, by my faith and my faith practice, had the inside track. I was saved and others who did not believe the same as I did, were not. Unfortunately, all my pre-Vatican II training as a young Catholic priest, strongly reinforced this view. We had the answers to all the problems of the world, and the world needed only to listen, learn and comply. We did not realize at that time, how closed a system our faith world was, how we were indoctrinated into the view that we Roman Catholics were the singular right path--the only right path to God.

Now I see that kind of faith is only the beginning of faith, first base, so to speak. In that view, what I did with faith was a choice, whether I got involved in witnessing to others, some form of ministry or discipleship, was a choice. It was not necessary. I could observe my faith, regular devotions, but the giving of self was sort of an option. It was something “extra.�

Now I have come to believe that faith is a gift, an unearned gift of wondrous grace. I could never deserve it. I did not choose it, rather it found me. Now since it is an unearned gift and I could never deserve it, there is no way my faith can become a platform for judging others. I now see that my judging of others as further from God than I was an act of enormous self-deceit. Judgment belongs to God alone. When I judge others by my faith, by my path, I have put idols between myself and God. I am using the gift of faith to judge others. To assume my way to God is the only or best way is an act of stealth idolatry. I am not surrendering to this awesome mystery that has found me, rather I am using my view, my tradition as a means to judge the value of another’s path.

I now see my faith differently. There are two aspects I now embrace, both of which were taught by Jesus, and which are also common to all faith traditions. I have been given faith for loving, and for loving inclusively, as Jesus did. It is not a choice. If I am not loving as Jesus did, ii.e. with my whole heart, mind, soul and strength and my neighbor as myself, then my faith is doubtful. I may be whistling in the dark, using it to comfort myself while denying the work that I must face.

Jesus was a Jew and his work was to renew his own faith community. Two of Judaism's basic principles, as I understand it, are tzedakkah and tikkun olam. Tzedakkah is the obligation of righteousness (and common sense) that binds all human beings. We must treat one another kindly and with respect and dignity. Martin Buber’s small monograph, I - Thou, is an excellent expression of this principle.

The second principle, tikkun olam, says that, having accepted the notion that we should treat one another with respect and dignity, we come together as human beings in cooperation to repair and improve the world around us. Tikkun olam. Jesus’ message was that God made the world but did not complete it, and we, each of us, are to be collaborators in creation. Judaism describes it as the whole law, without need of ornamentation or elaboration.

Now what is curious to me is that all religions share these two principles. Even the Koran, guiding the second largest faith community in the world, honors them.

Are these two principles not of great benefit to our nation and to the world? Would they not be of more benefit if shared and encouraged. Would it not be powerful for Christians and other believers simply to announce at once to the whole world that before we argue about the things about which we differ that these are the truths we as believers hold in common.

Why not concentrate on the two things we believe? Mario Cuomo, in a recent talk entitled “The Catholic Tradition of Realism and Faith,� (beliefnet.com) put it this way: “We are supposed to love one another, and we are supposed to work together to clean up this mess we are in, because that is the mission that was left to us. I cannot think of any better guidance. Nor do I think it is difficult to apply these two grand, natural-law, religious principles to day-to-day affairs, even in a world with the competing virtues of individuality and community.�

I no longer see loving inclusively as a choice. I no longer see my duty to heal the community, to help create community, as a choice. It is a necessity of my faith. I am given faith in order to become loving and to help develop community. Period.

Thank you for listening. Namaste. Discussion, please.
We have begun working in Lexington to empower understandings between Muslims and Christians. The roots of terrorism are ideological, as the 9/11 Commission Report puts it starkly. We cannot win a war against an ideology. The future of our country, our way of life, depends upon us investing ourselves in the work of healing community. Tikkun Olam.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Sking in Canada, March 21-25, at Mount Tremblant

. . .with wife Janette, and her two sisters, Jean and Ruth, planned since last September. Frequent flier miles paid for the flights.

Weather was too good, blue skies and not too cold. Slopes groomed and not too busy. We skied three days, or as much as our legs could take. Slopes there are very long, maybe 2-3 miles, so it can take an hour to ski one slope. Gondola to very top. Ruth
was so impressed that she began talking with Jean about an annual trip for the two of them.

The women enjoyed the experience and each other and laugheda lot. When the chatter got too constant, I was able to retreat to the bedroom and read a novel (Don’t Call It Night, Amos Oz).

Security clearance and customs going up, in Cincinnati, was a real bother, very long lines, but nothing like that coming back. Ruth took off once on her own, determined to get as much skiing as possible.

We ate lunch outdoors each day.at the foot of the slopes, skiers and tykes on skiis all around us. These sisters really love one another, but also engage in a gentle good natured teasing. Frankly, as a man, I could not believe that three women could have so much to talk about, and, further, could really enjoy each other, without some upset or mis-understanding for five days straight. They complimented me on being a good sport,
but I genuinely like both Jean and Ruth, so the vacation was really awesome.

Tremblant itself is awesome, 91 trails, two mountains, and is still rated #1 resort in the East, with good reason. Talked to many other skiers on the gondola ride up. One group even from Mexico were there.

Funny-enjoyable to see so many little persons on skiis, apparently two years up, so tiny, and some handling self so well, even one by him (her) self on a long slope, no more than two feet high. Ski classes with instructors everywhere on slopes, tykes following the instructor, turning back and forth, back and forth.

Most enjoyable break. Now back to the real world.

Paschal, Saturday, March 26,
More and more I realized how blessed I am and each day is. Skiing at age 76, with congenial company and great camaraderie entire trip. Three days downhill, however, is about all my ancient legs could take! The bad knees were not too bad. But we ski together and look out for one another.

Have Ohio Psychologist Review for March now in hand. Blogging 101 article as edited, by myself and Alan Dix, seems well done. First publication in some years in a peer reviewed journal. Nice feeling, to see name in print once more. Inquiry from National Psychologist which also wants to publish it.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

A Celtic Blessing for St Patrick's Day.

Had a marvelous day at the county jail this a.m., reviewing progress with four of our "Fierce Landscape" inmates their progress, plans and response to our program. The group itself played Gospel music while I interviewed this four, Robert, Billy, Steve and Andy.

Progress reports were powerfully positive. Our program and their use of it, particularly in their own meetings every afternoon, taking leadership turns, has turned the program into a powerful spur for self-examination, sharing and healing. I felt really affirmed by all the work that has gone into this during the last 3 years, building a program, creating worksheets, recruiting volunteers, and using my experience to help develop this program. The Afro guard in FF also told me today that this program has also brought a blessing to him. When the guards report something like that l then something is working right.

Yesterday, our SGN group completed a three day retreat at Knobs Haven, Loretto, with nine of us, using the Inner Landscape audio tapes of John O'Donohue and his talks on Celtic Spirituality. The place is always an awesome place for me. I first visited as a nursing babe while Mom waited in the car while Dad made his first call as a young M.D. there in early 1930. Then I had my first sung mass as a young Benedictine priest also there. The Sisters of Loretto taught us at St. Augustine's in Lebanon, KY. Our mom often took us there for an afternoon visit to see Sister Dorothy, and later Sister Phiillippa Henderson was the 8th grade teacher whom I give much credit to, for being the first to believe in me, and within a few weeks, I would have done any thing she asked. I still remember creative projects I did.

This is a time of blessing in my life. I feel deeply and undeservedly blessed in too many ways to count. Nunc dimittis. Now You can dismiss me, Lord. My soul magnifies the Lord, My spirit rejoices in God my savior. The Magnificat is the hymn I sing and pray daily. Favorite song.

Recommended: all the writings of John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, The Inner Landscape, and Beauty.