Saturday, August 27, 2011

As Summer Ends: a test of the spirit

The summer heat of 2011 for many of us, particularly in Oklahoma, has been a major player in our lives. Some of us lived through the old record year of 1980, and the near record back in '99, so--in some respects--so, what else is new? What follows is a revised version of a column I wrote for the El Reno Tribune, August 1, 1999.

Heat can be a test for our spirit. To say that heat is a big part of our experience these days is an understatement. Even those fortunate enough to have A/C in their homes and cars are not always able to escape summer's oppression. But, what of those who have to rely on open windows, fans and occasional breezes for relief? Sometimes out of necessity, the virtue of long-suffering patience is the only answer.

There is, of course, the spiritual wisdom that suggests we learn the difference between things we can change and the things we cannot. Fortified with such knowledge, we can then change what can be accept with serenity the things beyond our control. So, the dog days of August--to say nothing of the record-breaking July and the looming heat is still with us September--can become a divine gift to us. The gift, however, is nevertheless a test.

The test is about the focus of our attention. Is it me and how awful I feel that becomes the center of my world? Or can I realize that, yes, it is hot as it always is in summer, then simply adjust without self-centered comment or complaint?

Proverbs 11:25 reminds us those who confer benefits will be amply enriched; those who refresh others will also be refreshed themselves. When our focus becomes our neighbor, then the symbolic cool cup of water in my name takes on a much larger perspective. How can we relieve the heat's oppression? Is there a stranger attacked by the heat, waiting for me to come along as a Good Samaritan? Or do I, too, beg the question with one of my own: But who is my neighbor?

So, yes, the summer heat is a divine gift, albeit a test as well. Will someone have a taste of resting in verdant pastures because of me? Will my drop in the bucket help the horn of Africa. What is it I have learned about human solidarity during this long, hot summer?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A New Beginning

After a year, I am back. The dialogue had been side-tracked: the good intentions were there; the focus was missing. As I adjust my ministry responsibilities, I plan to re-energize my efforts to carry on an ever-widening conversation.

As 2011 enters its final quarter, there are personal mile-stones that have brought me along to a crossroad--I've turned 70; Joanne and I have been married 40 years; I will have been ordained 25 years; our sons and their wives have been married 10 years--I am ready to cross into a new horizon or two during what I hope will be my next 30 years of life.

One focal point for me will be anticipating the October 12, 2012 50th anniversary of the start of the Second vatican Council. The vision and spirit (yes, there is a genuine spirit of the Council that, fragile as it may presently be, can be named and fostered)--the vision and spirit of the Council will be the context for some of the themes I would suggest as the basis of our dialogue.

How can anyone harken back to some Catholic good old days? Particularly if you were really alert and alive, say, in the '40s, 50's and preConciliar '60s. Do we really want to return to a wall-surrounded Church, a Church with all the answers to no longer real questions, a Church that really did not, in practice, recognize the dignity of the human person?

To be sure there were seeds being sown in those preConciliar decades that would come to fruition as the Bishops of the world came together during those eventful days a half-century ago. Liturgical, scriptural, historical, psycholigical and philosophical perspectives were slowly reviving the dialogue with "the world" which effectively had been "officially" shut down for a few centuries.

My hope and prayer for this blog is to enable that dialogue to have one more place to continue.