The Church

WAR AND PEACE: An Open Letter To A Bishop, by Philip Berrigan

July 3, 2014

This is a 1971 letter that Berrigan sent to Catholic Bishop William Baum, who had invited Berrigan to share his thoughts on justice and peace. Here are a few ideas I promised you.  They are qualified, of course, by my status and by the two years I have already served.  But I possessed them before imprisonment, my books are full of them, and, it goes without saying, I believe them profoundly enough to stake my life on them.  I have not found many men who can say that about their ideas. So if you find the following negative, caustic, angry – remember that they come from one who has questioned domestic racism and modern war for ten years; who has lived in the slums and seen the anguish of the poor; who has resisted militarism and [...]

WAR AND PEACE: The Church And War, by Evelyn Underhill

July 1, 2014

We are moving – perhaps more rapidly than we realize – towards a moment in which the church, if she is to preserve her integrity and her spiritual influence, will be compelled to define her attitude towards war; to clear her own mind as to the true reason why her members, by the mere fact of of their membership, are bound to repudiate war, not only in principle but also in fact.  The reason, for there is only one, is simple and conclusive.  The Christian church is the Body of Christ.  Her mission on Earth is to spread the Spirit of Christ, which is the creative spirit of wisdom and love; and in so doing bring in the kingdom of God.  Therefore, she can never support or approve any human action, individual or collective, which is [...]

SERMON: The Unbelief Of The Christian, by John Courtney Murray

June 22, 2014

I should like to begin with a somewhat general remark which is related to the theme of my discourse.  There is one thing that has to be said about the massive phenomenon of contemporary unbelief, namely that the issue it presents to the Christian is not to be resolved by argument in the academy or by the academy.  The issue can only be resolved in the order of action and history, by the whole people of God in dialogue and in cooperation with the whole people temporal.  What we are confronted with today is not classical atheism, by which I mean a simple denial of the existence of God on the ground that the whole concept of God is unintelligible.  The Marxist, for instance, is quite willing to admit that the notion of God is conceivable [...]

THE CHURCH: On The Sacrifice Of The Mass

May 15, 2014

From The Baltimore Catechism, No. 4, by Thomas L. Kinkead Question: When and where are the bread and wine changed into the body and blood of Christ? Answer: The bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ at the consecration in the [...]

THE CHURCH: The Religion Of Mercy by Robin R. Meyers

May 1, 2014

From Morning Sun on a White Piano For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. —Hosea On a bright spring morning, three days after Easter in Oklahoma City, a clean-cut but lonesome drifter with a pathological hatred for the U. S. government drove a truck packed with homemade explosives to the front door of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and blew a gaping hole in the myth of the American Heartland. Bottle-fed on Hate Radio, and estranged from everything and everyone, including himself, this crusader against the Evil One has finally shown us what the politics of fear can produce: sow enough bad seeds, and eventually you harvest a mutant crop. This is the city where I live and work, [...]

SATURDAY READING: The Other Side Of Despair, by Thomas Merton

March 29, 2014

From The Critic 24 (October-November 1965) Ten years ago, conservative writers were already engaged in a definitive summing up of the “existentialist revolt.”  What had begun, they said, in the eccentric religiosity of Kierkegaard had ended in the open rebellion of Sartre against all that was decent and sane; and now it had even penetrated Catholic thought with the contagious of situation ethics. But the church was on the watch, the warning had been sounded.  Indeed, the encyclical Humani Generis may have been the reason why Gabriel Marcel repudiated the title “existentialist.”  After a short and competent mopping-up operation in the theological reviews, another victory would be enshrined in the revised editions of the [...]

MEDITATION: The Question Of The Church, by H. Richard Niebuhr

February 16, 2014

From The Church Against The World The title of our book is not so much the enunciation of a theme as it is the declaration of a position.  We are seeking not to expound a thesis but to represent a point of view and to raise a question.  The point of view is from within the church, is that of churchmen who, having been born into the Christian community, having been nurtured in it and having been convinced of the truth of its gospel, know no life apart from it.  It is, moreover, the point of view of those who find themselves within a threatened church.  The world has always been against the church, but there have been times when the world has been partially converted, and when the church has lived with it in some measure of peace; there [...]

SATURDAY READING: A Community Of Love? On the Invisibility of Love and the Church by Kristien Justaert

February 15, 2014

From Believing in Community, edited by Peter De Mey, Pieter De Witte, and Gerard Mannion Introduction By this shall all men see that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35) According to John, Jesus teaches us that it is love that binds the community of Christians.  By their love for each other, the followers of Jesus Christ are recognized as Christians.  The love of God and the love for God lie at the basis of the Christian community.  But the verse of John’s gospel that is quoted also reveals another important aspect: the love the disciples have for each other, can be seen.  It is visible for other people who are not part of the community.  Nevertheless, the Greek text of the gospel and several English [...]

THE CHURCH: Going To Church — A Sartorial Odyssey, by Marshall Chapman

February 13, 2014

From Circling Faith I am not a churchgoer.  At least not on any regular basis.  The last time I went to church was Easter Sunday 1998.  I’d been out in the yard digging in the garden when, at about a quarter ‘til eleven, I jumped up and decided I had to go to church right then and there.  My husband, Chris, agreed to go with me, so off we went, not bothering to change clothes or anything because we didn’t want to be late.  I just grabbed one of his clean, white oxford cloth Brooks Brothers shirts and threw it on over my Spice Girls T-shirt, gray sweatpants with garden dirt still on the knees, and flip-flops – beautifully showcasing a recent pedicure, I might add.  Chris was somewhat more presentable in dress shirt, ironed [...]

POETRY: Nightingales In America, by Jane Flanders

February 12, 2014

The older women were Sunbeams and I guess we were Cherubs or Lambs but our mothers were Nightingales. Sunday mornings they prayed and sang in a niche of the Methodist Church. They studied the sorrows of Jesus and all who suffered in places like Abyssinia, where there was still so much to be done. There was much to be done everywhere, of course— bake sales, suppers, altars, the homely chores women were made for. Once a year, however, they paused in their good works and took us all to Cold Spring Park. After we skidded around the roller rink maybe a million times, seesawed, swang, got skinned and bitten, skittered through poison ivy, fell in the creek, rode the little train and ate our fill we lay back blissfully in the grass and watched [...]

POETRY: Christianity Was Once An Eagle Message, by Nils Bolander

February 12, 2014

Translated from the Swedish by Martin S. Allwood. Christianity was once an eagle message Sprung from the nest on the highest mountain peak On diving wings that glittered. But we chastened its bold feathers, Competently straightened its cutting beak And lo!—it was a black bird, A tame loquacious raven. Christianity was once a lion gospel Always seeking a warm and living prey, A young lion of Judah. But we clipped its sharp, crooked claws, Stilled its thirst for the blood of the heart And turned it into a purring cottage cat. Christianity was once a desert sermon, Mean and sharp as the terrible africus, Burning as the desert sand. But we turned it into a garden idyll, Mignonettes, asters and pious roses, A romantic mood in Gethsemane. [...]

THE CHURCH: The Church As Prodigal

February 11, 2014

The Parable of the Lost Son Then He said: “A certain man had two sons.  And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood.  And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.  But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want.  Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.  And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything. “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How [...]

THE CHURCH: The Church Is A Collection of Souls, by John Henry Newman

February 11, 2014

From The Church My brethren, there are those who imagine that, when we use great words of the church, invest her with Heavenly privileges, and apply to her the evangelical promises, we speak merely of some external and political structure.  They think we mean to spend our devotion upon a human cause, and that we toil for an object of human ambition.  They think that we should acknowledge, if cross-examined, that our ultimate purpose was the success of persons and parties, to whom we were bound in honor, or by interest, or by gratitude; and that, if we looked to objects above the world or beyond the grave, we did so with very secondary aims and faint perceptions.  They fancy, as the largest concession of their liberality, that we are [...]

MYSTICISM: Sameness And Distinction In Religion

February 10, 2014

In mystic states we both become one with the Absolute and we become aware of our oneness.  This is the everlasting and triumphant mystical tradition, hardly altered by differences of clime or creed.  In Hinduism, in Neoplatonism, in Sufism, in Christian mysticism we find the same recurring note, so that there is about mystical utterance an eternal unanimity which ought to make a critic stop and think, and which brings it about that the mystical classics have, as has been said, neither birthday nor native land.  Perpetually telling of the unity of man with God, their speech antedates languages, and they do not grow old.  (William James, Varieties of Religious Experience) It’s funny how certain concepts come down to just one fat [...]

SEXUALITY: The Need For Inauthenticity

September 3, 2013

I have been stumbling across this for as long as I have lived on this Earth.  Perhaps longer. Voices overheard on a bus. The fling of a hand to the side, accenting an assertion. The hardness in the eyes, betraying what is supposed to be an expression of joy. Joy.  Yes, joy. That’s what we are led to believe.  That’s what we are being forced, these days, to believe. Gay people are full of joy.  Joy for who they are.  Joy for what they do.  Joy for the world they live in. Joy.  Joy.  Joy. Except I never see the joy.  Instead I see the sadness.  A sadness that seems to reach back down into the soul.  A sadness that seems to twist the person around so tightly that they don’t know which way they are pointing any longer. But, [...]

SERMON: Touching Fire by Matthew Kelty

August 27, 2013

Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled,  for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”  And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.  The [...]

THE CHURCH: Leaving Our Brains At The Door

August 12, 2013

There she stood, proud as all get-out.  Standing tall, as though she owned the place.  And that’s what she thought, too, clearly, that this was her place.  The table beside her she had already declared was nothing special, it was a table that belonged to everyone.  I could lay out a jigsaw puzzle there if I wanted to.  Someone else could use it to cut out dress patterns.  Still someone else could use it to roll out pizza dough.  It didn’t matter.  It held no innate value. She pushed out her neck towards us, as they tend to do.  See my collar? she smirked.  I always thought the collar was a shackle, a sign of enslavement, an eternal binding.  I always wondered why priests didn’t wear these rings of white [...]

HEALING: What Makes a Church a Healing Community? by Karin Granberg-Michaelson

July 16, 2012

From Healing Community We seek within this riot of notes The gentle sounds That form a minor symphony To heal our wounds. At first, perhaps, life is an opus Of tragic wails— But then, if we attend to the theme, A form prevails. And from the mad cacophony That wreck’d our soul Emerges the sparse ecstatic song That makes us whole. —Charles Doss, prisoner, in The Church Herald In May of 1990, a seminar on Christian Perspectives on Health, Healing, Wholeness, and Suffering was held at the Bossey Conference Center of the World Council of Churches.  During ten days together, more than forty people from different regions of the world shared their experiences of what creates a healing community in the church.  Although it was [...]

THE CHURCH: Her True Structure

July 3, 2012

When you walk into a church you – at least I hope you do – should be moved, if not overwhelmed, by the presence of Jesus Christ.  He is, or a representation of him is, front and center, making it easy for anyone seeking solace to turn to him. But the Christian faith is a Trinitarian one.  There are three distinct expressions of the Trinity: God, the father; Jesus Christ; and the Holy Spirit (or Ghost). During the mass, or service, we are aware that we are giving thanks, petitioning, and acknowledging God, the father.  We are aware of Jesus, as our Lord.  Our words swirl up to Heaven, letting us breathe out our love and letting us breathe in God’s love. But the Christian faith if a Trinitarian one.  There are three distinct [...]

EVELYN UNDERHILL: A Turning Toward Church

December 12, 2011

Evelyn Underhill was born in 1875 England.  Although her family was associated with the Anglican church, neither her mother nor her father were practicing Anglicans.  Evelyn addresses this situation when she writes, “I was not brought up to religion.” Her father turned away from the church when he grew tired of the constant chapels he was required to attend in boarding school.  Oddly, though, his younger brother had the opposite reaction and eventually became an Anglican priest. In spite of this, at 15, Evelyn began study for her confirmation into the church.  She keeps herself an arm’s length away from true conviction.  She writes in her diary, As to religion, I don’t quite know, except that I believe in a [...]