Sunday, December 10, 2017
Posted by Bridget Mary Meehan at 7:03 PM
Why did the atheist go to Mass? by Joe Humphreys, Irish Times/ My Response: Very Insightful , Very Irish
Apologising, thinking, shaking a stranger’s hand. Good things happen in church
"What are we to make of surveys showing that many Christians do not accept basic tenets of the Christian faith?
A recent YouGov poll found just 16 per cent of British Christians accept the “creation myth” – that God created man in a human likeness.
A few years ago, an Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI survey found almost two-thirds of Irish Catholics believed the bread and wine which was blessed during Mass “only represents the body and blood” of Christ, thereby denying a cornerstone of faith over which millions of people were killed during religious wars down the centuries.
Atheists tend to react to these contradictions with mirth but, as an atheist myself, I wonder whether it would be more fruitful to question underlying assumptions we have about religious practice. The Catholic Creed, for example, contains a vow of loyalty to the “one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church”. But how many Catholics attending Mass really believe the Vatican has exclusive access to the truth?
Growing up as a Catholic in Ireland, one becomes acutely aware that many Christians develop their faith in spite of the Church rather than because of it.
As Fr Shay Cullen, the Manila-based child rights campaigner, once told me: “My faith is in Jesus of Nazareth. I don’t have faith in an institution . . . That is not authentic faith.”
One feature of religion which atheists might do better to try to understand is the appeal of ritual. In a fast-changing world, where human values are in flux, religious habits can act as an anchor. I find belief in God untenable, given the evidence, but I do occasionally go to Mass. Even though I’m more of a spectator than a participant, I unfailingly leave the church in a more peaceful condition, calmed and reoriented towards what really matters.
Yes, the institution is scurrilous but what unfolds in your average parish church on a Sunday has as much to do with the Roman Curia as an U- 9s football fixture has to do with Fifa. How can Mass appeal to an atheist? Let me count the ways:
1. The Penitential Act: Sin is out of fashion these days, and for exactly that reason the act of contrition that opens Mass is utterly refreshing.
Drop the reference to “almighty God” and you have: “I confess… to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault…”
What I like about this is you’re taking responsibility for yourself; you’re not pointing the finger elsewhere. That’s subversive in an age of sharp and highly-judgmental public debate.
In popular literature, Catholic guilt gets a bad rap but we all know people who are morally hard on themselves, and we know people who refuse to see their own faults. I know which company I prefer. (I’m with Roger Scruton when he says “good people blame themselves more severely than others would”.)
2. The sermon: There is something incredibly grounded about a parish priest, who has spent time with people at their most vulnerable, trying to make sense of sorrow and despair. Yes, the lack of women priests is jarring, and it starves Mass of a more rounded perspective. But when a priest gets up to speak there’s usually some wisdom amid the otherworldly sentiment.
I think, for example, of the priest at a funeral Mass I attended recently (a friend’s mother had died) who described how people always ask the same two questions when they hear of a death – “How old was she?” and “Was she sick long?” – when in truth, the priest continued, “the questions that really matter are: Was she loved? Did she love? Is she loved?”
In What I Believe, the atheist philosopher and scientist Bertrand Russell describes love and knowledge as twin goals for human beings. “Neither love without knowledge, nor knowledge without love can produce a good life.”
On the matter of love, Christianity might not have all the answers but it asks the right questions, like: How can I learn to love more? And how can we show love to those who wake up each morning feeling unloved?
4. Attention to virtue: Christianity borrowed heavily down the ages from Greek philosophy, especially Aristotle. Hence, there is a good dollop of virtue theory at its heart. Virtue theory emphasises the role of human character in morality and stands opposed to the two other great schools of moral philosophy: the rule-based approach of deontology, and the semi-mathematical stance of utilitarianism.
The first of these is highly problematic in that it demands fixed rules in an age where ethical truths are seen as culturally and historically contingent. The second – with its maxim of “the greatest happiness of the greatest number” – is much loved by bureaucrats and economists, which is ample reason to make one shudder.
People tend to use a combination of all three when considering moral issues. We apply rules (e.g. It’s wrong to steal); we make calculations based on utility (e.g. Let’s do X because the benefits outweigh the costs), and we judge character (e.g. Courage is admired and greed broadly condemned). All three approaches have their merits but it seems to me you’re missing a large part of the picture if you ignore the last of them.
5. Prayer: If secular humanists could steal one thing from the religious it should be prayer. Not prayer in the sense of asking God, out of self-interest, for “the laws of the universe to be annulled” (to paraphrase the US wit Ambrose Pierce). Rather prayer in the sense of supporting what William James called “the will to believe”. Prayer has the effect of reinforcing and hardening ideas so that they become truths – truths that we can act upon.
A lot of Christian prayers are about gratitude. Take grace before meals, the attraction of which is not lost on the American biochemist Leon Kass.
“A blessing offered over the meal still fosters a fitting attitude toward the world, whose gracious bounty is available to us, and not because we merit it,” he writes. “Wolfing down food dishonours both the human effort to prepare it, and the lives of those plants and animals sacrificed on our behalf.”
The “Our Father”, or “Lord’s Prayer”, at Mass contains a similar plea for perspective, the key line being: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Asking for forgiveness aloud in a room full of other people is cathartic. Forgiveness is such a key virtue for one’s mental health, and indeed for the health of society. Each step of civilisation – each rebirth after trauma or war – has been marked by forgiveness.
6. Silence: Mass is like a mini-retreat from the world that sharpens into focus during the “Prayer after Communion”. I imagine quite a few people use this time for silent reflection to think of, or wish goodwill towards, loved ones living and dead.
I typically use the silence to “talk” to my late father, continuing a tradition of humans “communicating” with their ancestors stretching back millennia. Whether they can hear us is beyond the point. Through this rite, we are reconnecting in an important way with the cycle of life.
In this short list, I haven’t even mentioned the music (think of the Palestrina Choir), the readings (which can be at once educational and objectionable) or the sign of peace (what’s not to like about wishing a stranger spiritual wellbeing – and in the flesh – in this atomised, snarky, digital age?)
It must be said there are other ways for an atheist humanist to get what the church has to offer. If you spent an hour doing voluntary work or reading the Stoics you might well be better off. But exposing yourself to different perspectives is healthy and, at a time of heightened cynicism and intellectual segregation, the relatively charitable and sincere ambience "surrounding Mass is a tonic.
Viewed from the pews, those around me seem less like worshippers of unreason and more like fellow travellers – people with the same doubts and anxieties, trying to be the best versions of themselves.
Posted by Bridget Mary Meehan at 6:51 PM
Saturday, December 9, 2017
Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community Second Sunday of Advent December 9, 2017 Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe – December 12, 2017 Presiders: Kathryn Shea, ARCWP & Karen Hylen Music Minister: Linda Lee Miska Theme: Emmanuel, God With Us, God in Us
Advent Candle Lighting Blessing Prayer
Presider: Like our ancestors, we honor the cycles and the seasons that remind us of the ever-changing flow of life of which we are a part. Ritual acts give life meaning – they honor and acknowledge the unseen web of Life that connects us all.
Presider: (lights candle as community prays..)
ALL: We light this second candle and remember our ancestors who feared death, evil and all the dark powers of winter. We, too, in our day fear the darkness of war, discrimination, xenophobia and selfishness that threaten us and our planet to an eternal winter. Let us kindle the light of peace! Amen
|Kathryn Shea ARCWP and Karen Hylen, Co-Presiders|
ALL: Loving God, as we begin our Advent pilgrimage, grant us the courage to create peace. Peace in our hearts. Peace in our homes. Peace in our world. Let us pray that the peace of Christ be in the hearts of everyone, healing this troubled world. Amen
Gathering Song: You Come, You Come Emmanuel (to the tune of Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel)
You come, you come, Emmanuel,
You gather all who stumbled and fell.
You share your life, you share your love;
Your dawn breaks forth in wondrous light above.
Rejoice, rejoice, O people of the earth! In God's great love we comprehend our worth!
You come, with grace, O Source of Light,
You teach us to find courage in the night.
Your way is justice, mercy and peace,
Your wisdom is the path to true release. Refrain.
Presider: Nurturing God, you became human in Jesus and showed us how to live life fully. You know what it means to laugh and cry, to walk and talk, to love and be loved. We know that your mothering presence is always with us. May we, like Mary, rejoice as we give birth to God within us, and may we give birth to God in everything we say and do. ALL: Amen.
ALL: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to God’s people on earth. O loving God, we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory. O Jesus Christ, holy Child of our loving God; You fill us with joy in your presence. You who are with our God, receive our prayer. For you alone are the Holy One; you alone are Messiah. You alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ; with the Holy Spirit in the glory of God. Amen.
Liturgy of the Word
First Reading: Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11 ALL: Thanks be to God
Responsorial: Our souls are thirsty for God.
|Michael Rigdon led the Responsorial Psalm|
Second Reading: A reading from Abiding Word by Barbara Reid ALL: Thanks be to God
Gospel Acclamation: ALL: Alleluia (Celtic version)
|Karen proclaimed the Gospel|
Gospel: Mark 1:1-8 ALL: Thanks be to God
|Kathryn shared the homily starter|
Shared Homily/Community Reflections
Second Sunday of Advent – December 9, 2017
Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe – December 12, 2017
We hear in our second reading today that Advent is “a season to wait in anticipation for what this new piece of art will become.” I think anticipation is a key word. I can’t imagine anyone in a heightened state of anticipation than Mary in the months and days before Jesus was born. If you’ve ever been pregnant, it is a time of constant anticipation. Is it a boy or a girl? Will it be okay? Will I be okay? Will I be a good mother? And when you first begin to feel the baby move inside of you, it’s like something you have never experienced. You are in a state of awe, realizing what a miracle is taking place. And as you move into your eighth month and your belly is huge, and the baby is kicking constantly, you wonder if there’s really a baby in there or a kangaroo! And then you give birth; the largest miracle of all. And then, as we hold our new baby in our arms, we wonder, “What will this new piece of art become?”
The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe is fascinating. Mary appeared to Juan Diego on the morning of December 12, 1531, She wished to have a church built and be acknowledged as the Mother of the True God. After the bishop deflected the Virgin’s request, Juan brought roses in his cloak as a sign. Unfurling his cloak, Juan revealed a miraculous image of Mary wearing a black maternity belt and bearing the jasmine flower over her womb. The image is filled with Aztec symbolism. The aura or luminous light surrounding the Lady is reminiscent of the “woman clothed with the sun” of Rev. 12:1. The rays of the sun would also be recognized by the native people as a symbol of their highest god. The lady comes forth hiding but not extinguishing the power of the sun. She is announcing the God who is greater than their sun god.
The lady is standing on the moon. Again, the symbolism is that of the woman of Rev.12-1 who has the “moon under her feet.” The moon for the Meso-Americans was the god of night. By standing on the moon, she shows she is more powerful than the god of darkness.
The eyes of our Lady of Guadalupe are looking down with humility and compassion. This was a sign to the native people that she was not a god since in their iconography the gods stare straight ahead with their eyes wide open. The angel, her mantle, the stars on her mantle, and the color of her dress, have all been identified as symbols to specifically relate to the native people in their language. The stars on her mantle are in the same relative configuration as the stars in the heavens on the morning of December 12, 1531; the northern constellations on her right, the southern constellations on her left.
What I find most fascinating is that she decided to appear and leave the image of her pregnancy. According to a leading Mexican obstetrician, the Lady appears almost ready to give birth with the infant head down. Historians and theologians speculate this is a symbol of new life and the undeniable fact the Mary is without a doubt the Mother of Jesus, Emmanuel. Despite more than twenty-two languages and almost fifty dialects spoken at that time, all were able to read and understand all that is contained in this sacred image. So it was in this manner eight million native were converted to Christianity in the incredibly short span of seven years.
In Guadalupe, Mary appeared to Juan Diego as an inspiration to the people in their continuing struggle towards the full realization of the kindom of God and to share God’s message that no one is excluded from the kindom.
Let us examine ourselves as we pray Mary’s prayer, eliminating the word “sinners.’
“Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
Let’s take a moment to reflect on the readings and the story. How does Mary speak to you to find the God within you?
Profession of Faith
ALL: We believe in God who is creator and nurturer of all. We believe in Jesus, the Christ, who is our love, our hope, and our light. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the breath of Wisdom Sophia, who energizes and guides us to build caring communities and to challenge injustices. We believe in the communion of saints our heavenly friends, who support us on life’s journey. We believe in the partnership and equality of women and men in our church and world. We believe that all are one in the community of creation. We believe that God who calls us to live fully, love tenderly, and serve generously. Amen.
Prayers of the Community
Presider: We are a people of faith; we believe in the power of prayer. We are mindful of God’s unconditional love and care for each of us. And so, we pray for a deeper coming of Christ in our world and of God anew in our lives. And, so we bring the needs of the people to our merciful and gracious God. After each intercession, please respond: Compassionate God, we ask you to bless our petitions. (intentions)
Presider: Healing God, we ask you to strengthen us in our concerns and care for one another, here and throughout the world. We ask you to bless our efforts for justice and equality so that, with our sisters and brothers, we may promote cultures of peace and nonviolence on our planet. We ask this in your Holy name. Amen.
Offertory Procession and Song: “Holy Darkness” #458, all verses
Presider: Blessed are you, God of all life, through your goodness we have this bread to offer…this grain of the earth that human hands have made for our use. It will become for us the bread of life.
ALL: Blessed be God forever.
Presider: Blessed are you, God of Love, through your goodness we have this wine to offer…this fruit of the vine that human hands have prepared for our use. It will become for us our spiritual drink.
ALL: Blessed be God forever.
Gathering of the Gifted
Presider: Jesus, who has often sat at our tables, now invites all of us to join him at his. Everyone is welcome to share in this meal. (The invitation is to everyone to join around God’s family table.)
ALL: Loving and caring God, we – your people – are united in this sacrament by our common love of Jesus. We are in communion with everyone, everywhere, who shares your gift of compassion - especially to all those who are marginalized and oppressed. We hold dearly Our Lady of Guadalupe, a symbol of justice defending the poor and those without power. May we love tenderly, do justice, and walk humbly with you in solidarity with our sisters and brothers. May we live always as prophetic witnesses to the gospel of Jesus. Amen.
Presider: Friends, let us recognize the presence of our God who is with us here now.
ALL: Fill us with reverence for our Creator, for one another, and for all creation.
Presider: Let us lift up our hearts.
ALL: We lift them up to the One who has gifted us with love so that we may be an expression of that love to all others, with no exceptions.
Presider: God dwells in each one of us.
ALL: We experience, practice, and pursue community with one another.
Presider: Source of light, we seek you in this season of winter, when the days are short and we lift up our hearts and ease our souls into that quiet place which is your presence among us.
Presider: Please join in praying the Eucharistic prayer together.
(written by Jay Murnane)
All: Source of All That Is, we seek you in this season, when the earth is resting and preparing for new life. Like the earth, we long for new life and hopeful beginnings. This is the time of the pregnant woman, filled with life and hope powerful enough to topple structures of oppression. This is the time of her song of fidelity and celebration.
During this gentle season of Advent, we recognize that you have made us capable of bringing forth justice, like a rising sun. One with all who have gone before us, we say these words of praise:
Blessed be our God!
Blessed be our God!
Joy of our hearts, source of all life and love!
God of Heaven and Earth!
God of Heaven and Earth!
Dwelling within, calling us all by name!
(Alleluia Sing by David Haas)
We thank you for those in times past who believed the good news, and lived what they believed.
Blessed is Isaiah and every visionary who insisted on a better future that would break through the deception, disaster and broken promises of the age in which they lived.
Blessed is John, in the stark desert of careful focus, inviting the people to be born again in your love.
Blessed is Miriam, who believed the words of Isaiah and opened herself up to the unbelievable.
And blessed is her child Jesus, who felt the sorrows of humankind in his soul, and responded with deep and tender compassion.
ALL: On the night before he faced his own death, Jesus sat at the Seder supper with his companions and friends. He reminded them of all that he taught them, and to fix that memory clearly with them, he bent down and washed their feet.
(Presider lifts plate) When he returned to his place at the table, he lifted the Passover bread, spoke the blessing, broke the bread and offered it to them saying:
Take and eat of the Bread of Life, Given to strengthen you. Whenever you remember me like this I am among you (pause)
(Presider lifts cup) Jesus then raised a cup of blessing, spoke the grace saying:
Take and drink of the covenant made new again through my life in you. Whenever you remember me like this, I am among you.
Let us share this bread and cup to proclaim and live the gospel of justice and peace
All: We give thanks for our tradition, which is a living history of your love for all creation. We join ourselves with that tradition, as the visionaries and healers and peacemakers of our own time in history.
We celebrate the many creative traditions which guide and form us and we are grateful that there are many paths to wisdom and life.
Each Advent we make a place in our prayer for all those who are oppressed and marginalized in so many places throughout this earth, and right here among us.
We are grateful for the gift of your Spirit, always drawing beauty and balance out of chaos. And like Jesus.
Standing where he stood,
And for what he stood,
And with whom he stood,
We are united in your Spirit, and worship you with our lives,
Presider: Gracious God, through us you have set the banquet table and invited all of us to the feast. Here we celebrate your divine love beyond what words can describe. Here your divine compassion connects us to the young and the old, the most and the least, the first and the last…your whole creation.
ALL: Through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, Creator God, forever and ever... (and everyone sings)…Amen.
ALL: (holding hands): Our Father and Mother, who are in heaven, blessed is your name…
Presider: God, we have just prayed that “your kindom may come among us.” Strengthen in us your grace and love so that we may open our hearts to make it real - and our hands to serve one another.
ALL: We give ourselves willingly and joyfully to one another. .
The Sign of Peace
Presider: Jesus, you said to your disciples, “My peace I leave you; my peace I give you.” Look on the faith of those gathered here today and …
ALL: …. grant us that peace. O Loving God, following the example of Jesus and with the strength of the Spirit, help us spread that peace throughout the world, to everyone, everywhere, no exceptions. Amen.
Presider: May the peace of God be always with us, and let us extend that peace to one another as we join hands in a circle of love and sing Let there be peace on earth #532 using the following:
( “… with God as creator, family all are we …” and “With every breath I take, let this ...” )
Litany for the Breaking of the Bread
Presider: Loving God… All: you call us to Spirit-filled service and to live the Gospel of peace and justice, we will live justly.
Presider: Loving God… All: you call us to be your presence in the world and to be bearers of understanding and compassion, forgiveness and healing everywhere in your name. We will love tenderly.
Presider: Loving God… All: you call us to speak truth to power and live equality. We will walk humbly with you.
Presider: This is Jesus, who liberates, heals, and transforms us and our world. He calls us, his sacred people to open doors that are closed and share our bread on the altar of the world. All are invited to partake of this banquet of love. ALL: In communion with our sisters and brothers we eat of one bread and drink of one cup. We are all the body of Christ.
Post Communion Song: Guadalupe reflection-Mark Mallett &
Mary Did You Know-Pentatonix
Prayer After Communion
Presider: Creator of new beginnings, thank you for nourishing us in your sacrament. Mother of Mercy, teacher of hidden and silent sacrifice, to you, we dedicate on this day all our being and our love. We also dedicate to you our life, our work, our joys, our weaknesses, and our sorrows. We wish to be entirely yours and to walk with you along the way of complete faithfulness. Hold us always with your loving hand. ALL: Amen.
Introductions, Gratitudes, and Announcements
Closing Community Blessing
(Let us all extend an arm to one another in mutual blessings)
ALL: Let us go with Jesus, the Light of the world who is always with us and whose light guides us on our journeys. May our hope be that the Sun of Justice will rise one morning on all humankind. May the God of Peace, our constant companion, lead us along paths of solidarity and hope, and give us the joy of being united in God’s love. Amen.
Closing Community Commissioning
Presiders: May we continue to be the face of God to each other. May we call each other to extravagant generosity! May our light shine for all to see, and may our name be a blessing in our time. Let our service continue. .
ALL: Thanks be to God. Let it be so!
Closing Song: “Go Tell It On The Mountain” # 99 all verses
Posted by Bridget Mary Meehan at 8:57 PM