Sursum Corda
"an insightful Catholic Blog that eschews extremism in any direction."
--Commonweal Magazine
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Topical musings from a Catholic perspective

Saturday, April 03, 2004
LIFE FORCE gradually seems to be returning. Will try more vertical activity tomorrow. Am getting very tired of rice, bread and applesauce...

posted by Peter Nixon 7:55 PM
. . .
Friday, April 02, 2004
STILL DOWN: Still feeling awful today. Doc thinks its probably a stomach flu, but scheduled a few tests anyway. My first abdominal ultrasound, whoopee!

Thanks for continuing to check in. Sorry I don't have any great inspirational words to offer right now. I've posted a couple of daily digs from the Bruderhof folks below.

I will say this, though. My prayer life--at least my organized prayer life--gets shot to you-know-where when I'm sick like this. But maybe that's the point. Maybe we're never more truly at prayer then when we are reduced to simply clutching a bible to our chest and saying "Please God, just take the pain away so I can sleep."

And, of course, I can't help but wonder if God's sense of humor is operative here somewhere. This weekend I had a number of events scheduled, including a planning meeting for a prison retreat, a class at pastoral ministry school, and a stint out at the county jail on Sunday. I've been forced to abandon all plans. "Be still and know that I am God," and all that.

Okay, back to bed....

posted by Peter Nixon 1:55 PM
. . .
THY WILL BE DONE: Here's a thought for the day from the Bruderhof folks, who really seem to know how to pick these. This one is from Edith Stein, a.k.a. Sister Teresa Bendicta of the Cross

"Thy will be done," in its full extent, must be the guideline for the Christian life. It must regulate the day from morning to evening, the course of the year, and the entire of life. Only then will it be the sole concern of the Christian. All other concerns the Lord takes over. This one alone, however, remains ours as long as we live. And, sooner or later, we begin to realize this. In the childhood of the spiritual life, when we have just begun to allow ourselves to be directed by God, we feel his guiding hand quite firmly and surely. But it doesn’t always stay that way. Whoever belongs to Christ must go the whole way with him. He must mature to adulthood: he must one day or other walk the way of the cross to Gethsemane and Golgotha.

posted by Peter Nixon 1:48 PM
. . .
FLESH AND BLOOD: Here's another Thought for the Day from the Bruderhof, this one from Christoph Blumhardt:

I do not think much of “spiritual” communities. They do not last. People are friends for a while, but it eventually ends. Anything that is going to last must have a much deeper foundation than some kind of spiritual experience. Unless we have community in the body, in things material, we will never have it in spiritual matters. We are not mere spirits. We are human beings of flesh and blood.

posted by Peter Nixon 1:45 PM
. . .
Thursday, April 01, 2004
OTHER BLOGS: Since I'm still feeling lousy today, I thought I would direct your attention to some other blogs that have come to my attention recently, such as One House: An Exploration of the Contemplative Life, and Rolling Rains: Precipitating Dialogue on Travel, Disability, and Universal Design.

posted by Peter Nixon 10:03 AM
. . .

Lord Jesus, you came into the world
to heal our infirmities
and to endure our sufferings.
You went about healing all
and bringing comfort
to those in pain and need.
We come before you now
in this time of illness
asking that you may be the source
of our strength in body,
courage in spirit
and patience in pain.
May we join ourselves more closely
to you on the cross
and in your suffering
that through them
we may draw our patience and hope.
Assist us and restore us to health
so that united more closely
to your family, the Church,
we may give praise and honour to your name. Amen

--Catholic Doors Ministry

posted by Peter Nixon 9:29 AM
. . .
KEEP THOSE PRAYERS COMING: My friend who has been diagnosed with Renal Cancer wrote to say how grateful he was for the prayers of my readers. So keep 'em coming. The cancer appears to be confined to one kidney, so if it can be removed there is a strong chance for a complete recovery. For those of you who find it difficult to pray for someone without some kind of name, you can just call my friend "Mike." I'm sure the Good Lord will know who you are talking about. Apparently the phone is ringing off the hook up there....

posted by Peter Nixon 9:26 AM
. . .
Wednesday, March 31, 2004
SICK AS A DOG: That's me right now. Don't know whether this is a garden variety GI bug or a sign that I need to raise the dosage on the purple pill. In any case, blogging may be scant today.

Can I just put in a pitch for prayers for my wife Gina, who is a real saint. She's had some kind of respiratory ailment for about eight weeks now that makes her very tired. They've got her on all the appropriate meds, but the pace of improvement is slow. But she's still up every morning to get the kids to school. I feel rather bad about adding to her burdens.

Thanks. Back to bed...

posted by Peter Nixon 10:01 AM
. . .
Tuesday, March 30, 2004

O Holy Spirit, beloved of my soul
I adore you.
Enlighten me, guide me,
strengthen me and console me.
Tell me what I ought to do
and command me to do it.
I promise to be submissive in everything that you ask me to do
and to accept everything that you permit to happen to me.
Only show me what is your will
And give me the grace to do it.

Désiré Joseph Cardinal Mercier

posted by Peter Nixon 5:09 PM
. . .
RECONCILED: Last night was our parish’s communal celebration of the Sacrament of Penance. We tend to hold these services twice a year, once in Lent and once in Advent. The form is Form II, a communal service followed by the opportunity to receive the sacrament individually. The parishes in the area hold their services on different nights and each parish sends some of its priests to the other services. About 150 people were at our parish last night, a good number of whom I knew.

Although I avail myself of the sacrament at other times during the year, I tend to look forward to these services. They empathize the communal nature of the sacrament and the fact that the forgiveness that we seek is not only from God, but also from our brothers and sisters in Christ. We who are joined in one Body are joined to one another. When I fall short of the fullness of what God has called me to be, the entire Body is harmed and I must seek reconciliation.

I also have an odd reason for liking these services: I like the long lines. There is something humbling—in a good sense—about waiting in line together to receive the sacrament as individuals. Last night a friend of mine was in the line ahead of me, and his wife had somehow ended up a few places ahead of him in line. While she was talking to the priest, he jokingly whispered to me that he wished he could get her to come more often than once a year so she wouldn’t take so long. “Perhaps,” I responded, “but she did get in line faster than you did!” We both chuckled and returned to our meditation.

One of the hazards of the sacraments is there is a tendency to focus on the point where “it” happens, e.g. the “moment” of consecration in the Eucharist, the “moment” of laying on of hands in ordination. But each part of the celebration of a sacrament is rich in meaning and power. Reconciliation is already happening before we enter the confessional, indeed it occurs even before we ourselves are conscious of the need for reconciliation. God, like the father of the prodigal son, is conscious of the distance we have put between ourselves and Him. It is He who reaches out to touch our hearts, to bring us to consciousness of what we have done and what we have failed to do.

Some of the most powerful moments of reconciliation that I have experienced have occurred before I even speak with a priest. As I sit in the pew or wait in line, I examine my conscience. I contemplate the enormity of God’s love for me and the poverty of my response, both to Him and those around me, which in the end cannot be separated. I come face to face with my own powerlessness, the realization that I cannot save myself. It is a hard truth, but a healing truth.

I come before the priest, a friend, a brother in Christ who makes the forgiveness of Christ real, concrete, embodied. We sit face to face, our heads almost touching, our hands joined. I feel the warmth of his hands and I remember that God became flesh for my sake and my salvation. I speak the truth about myself that God has given me to understand. I hear the words of my father and brother confirm the forgiveness my heart knows but finds difficult to believe. He makes the Sign of the Cross on my forehead, a reminder of my baptism and the new life to which I am continually called.

I walk out into the night and see clouds blown by the wind cross in front of the moon. The light of the moon shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it. I raise my arms to the sky in thanksgiving.

O my Father, I have wandered so very far from you and betrayed you in so many ways.
I am no longer fit to be called your son.
Leave me not to perish in this foreign land far from your presence.
Call me home that I might rejoin my brothers and sisters.
Pour out your gracious love upon me that I may have the strength to resist all the temptations of the Adversary and remain in your house all the days of my life.

posted by Peter Nixon 11:06 AM
. . .

Dear God
So Far today, I've done all right
I haven't gossiped
I haven't lost my temper
I haven't been greedy
grumpy, nasty or even
I am thankful for that.

But in a few minutes, God,
I'm going to get out of bed
and from then on I'm going
to need a lot of help!

Rev. Dott Brown

posted by Peter Nixon 7:00 AM
. . .
Monday, March 29, 2004

O Lord my God, I believe in you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Insofar as I can, insofar as you have given me the power, I have sought you. I became weary and I labored.

O Lord my God, my sole hope, help me to believe and never to cease seeking you. Grant that I may always and ardently seek out your countenance. Give me the strength to seek you, for you help me to find you and you have more and more given me the hope of finding you.

Here I am before you with my firmness and my infirmity. Preserve the first and heal the second.

Here I am before you with my stregnth and my ignorance. Where you have opened the door to me, welcome me at the entrance; where you have closed the door to me, open to my cry; enable me to remember you, to understand you, and to love you. Amen.

--Saint Augustine

posted by Peter Nixon 4:57 PM
. . .
NAÏVE: Today’s first reading is the story from Susanna from the Book of Daniel. Susanna is the beautiful wife Joakim, a leading member of the Jewish community in Babylon during the exile. Two older men, judges in the rabbinical courts, falsely accuse Susanna of adultery because she won’t sleep with them. It looks as if Susanna will be condemned to death on the basis of their false testimony when the young Daniel appears, comes up with the idea of interrogating the two men separately, and discovers discrepancies in their stories. Susanna is freed and the two men are put to death.

This story remind me of the story of David and Bethsheba or perhaps even Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. In each story, you have a man or men who have risen to a high position. And yet, they are willing to put everything they have accomplished at risk because sexual desire overwhelms their judgment.

There is certainly much to criticize in the way that previous generations looked at human sexuality, and particularly the ways that women often bore the burden of efforts to restrain the tremendously disruptive power of our sexual energies. As yesterday’s Gospel story of the women caught in adultery suggests, even when prohibitions were in theory applied equally to men and women, women tended to be disproportionately punished. Let us hope that none of us wants to return to those times.

But our own age suffers from its own forms of blindness when it comes to sex. We are, as the spiritual writer Fr. Ron Rolheiser puts it, “naïve” about the power of sexual energy.

I remember a woman I knew many years ago who told me how she had lost her virginity. She had decided at the age of 13 that she no longer wanted to be a virgin. So she went to a party and, without much difficulty, was able to find a young man willing to relieve her of what she perceived to be a burden. She eventually grew into a woman who complimented herself on her willingness to take the sexual initiative, a sign that she had thrown off what she saw to be “bourgeois” social constraints.

I suppose it would be one thing if I could report that she was a happy, well-balanced individual. It was true that she was bright and engaging, with a passion for social justice. But she was also possessed of a terrible unhappiness and a powerful anger that came to the surface quickly. Obviously it’s hard to say whether these problems were the cause or consequence of her past. But as fond as I once was of her, I could not honestly say that I wished that I had had the “courage” to live my life as she had.

When I was younger, I tended to bridle at what I took to be the antiquated teachings of my Church with regard to sex. And I will not deny there are many things there that I continue to struggle with. But given some of the human wreckage that has resulted from our—at times well-intentioned—efforts to rid ourselves of the constraints of the past, I am not unhappy that the Church remains somewhat “behind the times.” Sometimes we need to retrace our steps to get back on the right road and in those cases it is very good indeed to have landmarks that show us from whence we have come.

posted by Peter Nixon 1:46 PM
. . .

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.

--Saint Augustine, Confessions.

posted by Peter Nixon 9:31 AM
. . .
Sunday, March 28, 2004
PRAYERS: A friend who is a longtime reader of this site wrote me yesterday to tell me that he has been diagnosed with renal cancer. I would ask you to keep him in your prayers.

posted by Peter Nixon 2:52 PM
. . .
REST IN PEACE: Bishop Kenneth Untener of Saginaw, Michigan died yesterday from complications associated with leukemia. He had been diagnosed last year. Eternal rest grant to him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.

posted by Peter Nixon 2:45 PM
. . .
PROOF THAT GOD HAS A SENSE OF HUMOR: Some of you may remember my post from earlier in the week when I talked about how I had failed to get up to help my wife with a 3am feeding shortly after my son was born.

Well this weekend, our family stayed at Gina's sister and brother-in-law's house so we could babysit their children--one of whom is seven months old--overnight. Well, at 3:00am, the seven month old needed to be fed. It has been almost four years since I've been up for a 3:00am feeding.

Let's just say that I, like Jerusalem, have received double for all my sins...:-)

posted by Peter Nixon 2:32 PM
. . .

Fr. Shawn O'Neal's Sunday Homily
Fifth Sunday of Lent

Is 43:16-21
Ps 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6
Phil 3:8-14
Jn 8:1-11

If I get to Heaven – and I don’t say “when” because I prefer to hope rather than presume – I would love to see if there are question boxes located throughout Heaven with a sign on top that reads: “Put in here all those questions you wanted to ask God before you got here.” None of us has to be a clairvoyant to guess that one of the most popular questions to be asked could very well be, “Jesus, what did you write on the ground when the Pharisees presented the adulterous woman to you?” There is much speculation and false presumption concerning that divine scribble.

What sickens me about religious folks – and I get sick about my own bad habits more than of other people – is that we claim to be orderly and prudent, but we can rush to judgment. I have rushed to judgment and made myself look like a complete idiot. I thank God for the times I have been confronted by people because I have rushed to judgment and reacted poorly to a situation. I have taken zeal for the house, so to speak, and turned it into a weapon of mass destruction. I thank God that people have set me straight when I have deserved it. In all honesty, we face moments when we should have great concern and we should be staunch, but we should neither allow zeal to blur our vision of the big picture God wants us to see nor should we accept things at first glance and believe we see the complete picture.

We know that the woman presented before Jesus within the Gospel reading was guilty of something, and Jesus even acknowledges the woman’s guilt, but Jesus did not succumb to the mentality of the self-righteous lynch mob. One big reason for it involves the fact that only the woman was presented to Jesus. Jesus knew that within the twenty-second chapter of the book of Deuteronomy, Scripture stated that “if a man is having sexual intercourse with another man’s wife, both must be put to death”. The Gospel passage shows with clarity that an act of adultery occurred because nobody denied that it happened. But Jesus could have very easily asked the Pharisees why the man was not there to be stoned as well. Jesus could have accused these supposed good Pharisees of conveniently selective enforcement of the law. He would have had a solid case against these Pharisees. Perhaps it is because of this divine response that the Pharisees ceased leading the lynch mob.

Within the Gospel of Luke, Jesus directed his disciples to take the planks out of their own eyes before they reach out to grab the specks in the eyes of other people. I have always loved that imagery because it seems so easy to imagine. Imagine how odd it would look to see a plank in another person’s eye! But those planks in our own eyes can easily be planks of convenience that help us see what we want to see.

God wants us to see things as they are. This gift of sight must include the ugly reality that we limit our ability to see things in a truly accurate manner. We must extend beyond seeing with the mind’s eye; rather, we should see with the eyes of God because those eyes are connected to an infinite mind and an infinitely charitable heart. We must be vigilant in honoring the law of God, but we should not use limited sight for the sake of selective vigilant enforcement of the law. We have been called to help sinners share in the redemption brought forth by Jesus, rather than condemn. We have been called to serve as agents of correction, conversion, and healing rather than agents of condemnation. We serve as model agents when we turn ourselves in first and foremost as violators. The Pharisees had neither the courage nor the humility to do that.

Fr. Shawn O'Neal is the Pastoral Administrator at Saint Joseph's Saint Joseph's Catholic Church in Bryson City, NC and Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Cherokee, NC.

posted by Peter Nixon 2:15 PM
. . .

. . .