This posting on one level is about the Catholic Church. But that is only superficial. It is not about any particular organization or any religion. It is about the human condition, and particularly one aspect of being human: how we live with one another. It is a posting about you and me, together.
I have a Catholic spirituality, but find it difficult to sit through a Catholic Mass, and find the theatrical sugar coating of evangelical mega-church services “unreal.” That’s me. People need different expressions of spirituality, and will find their own paths with openness to the Spirit, for the Spirit is an obsessed lover who pursues the beloved by whatever tactics it can, including using Pope Francis, Rick Warren, or even “positive thinking” types like Joel Olsteen. The other world faiths too are rich in truth and wisdom. All are close “to the Kingdom of God,” and all are invited to enter in.
One of the rich veins of spiritual nutrition in the Catholic tradition is “Ignatian Spirituality.” This path is characterized by cultivating daily interior awareness of God. The purpose of the “exercises” is to increase the experience of God in all things. It is a practical spirituality, very much in the world, but not of it. And, “the spiritual exercises” are simple. They often require little more than taking time each day to focus, reflect, and adjust.
Pope Francis took his Curia [the internal Vatican bureaucracy] to the woodshed in his 2014 Christmas message. Francis is a Jesuit, and Ignatius was the founder of the Jesuits. So like a good Jesuit, Francis “examines” the spiritual health of the Church in this message. The message is a diagnostic, and the diagnosis for Francis is that his Church is “sick.” A courageous conclusion.
But there is a positive side to Francis’s message: the diagnosis will permit a return to health. That is why I first present the video: “God’s Grandeur by Gerard Manley Hopkins” performed by Lance Pierson.
The following is reproduced from: “CRUX.”
Pope Francis listed 15 “ailments” of the Vatican Curia during his annual Christmas greetings to the cardinals, bishops, and priests who run the central administration of the 1.2-billion strong Catholic Church. Here’s the list.
- 1) Feeling immortal, immune or indispensable. “A Curia that doesn’t criticize itself, that doesn’t update itself, that doesn’t seek to improve itself is a sick body.”
- 2) Working too hard. “Rest for those who have done their work is necessary, good and should be taken seriously.”
- 3) Becoming spiritually and mentally hardened. “It’s dangerous to lose that human sensibility that lets you cry with those who are crying, and celebrate those who are joyful.”
- 4) Planning too much. “Preparing things well is necessary, but don’t fall into the temptation of trying to close or direct the freedom of the Holy Spirit, which is bigger and more generous than any human plan.”
- 5) Working without coordination, like an orchestra that produces noise. “When the foot tells the hand, ‘I don’t need you’ or the hand tells the head, ‘I’m in charge.’”
- 6) Having ‘spiritual Alzheimer’s.’ “We see it in the people who have forgotten their encounter with the Lord … in those who depend completely on their here and now, on their passions, whims and manias, in those who build walls around themselves and become enslaved to the idols that they have built with their own hands.”
- 7) Being rivals or boastful. “When one’s appearance, the color of one’s vestments or honorific titles become the primary objective of life.”
- 8) Suffering from ‘existential schizophrenia.’ “It’s the sickness of those who live a double life, fruit of hypocrisy that is typical of mediocre and progressive spiritual emptiness that academic degrees cannot fill. It’s a sickness that often affects those who, abandoning pastoral service, limit themselves to bureaucratic work, losing contact with reality and concrete people.”
- 9) Committing the ‘terrorism of gossip.’ “It’s the sickness of cowardly people who, not having the courage to speak directly, talk behind people’s backs.”
- 10) Glorifying one’s bosses. “It’s the sickness of those who court their superiors, hoping for their benevolence. They are victims of careerism and opportunism, they honor people who aren’t God.”
- 11) Being indifferent to others. “When, out of jealousy or cunning, one finds joy in seeing another fall rather than helping him up and encouraging him.”
- 12) Having a ‘funereal face.’ “In reality, theatrical severity and sterile pessimism are often symptoms of fear and insecurity. The apostle must be polite, serene, enthusiastic and happy and transmit joy wherever he goes.”
- 13) Wanting more. “When the apostle tries to fill an existential emptiness in his heart by accumulating material goods, not because he needs them but because he’ll feel more secure.”
- 14) Forming ‘closed circles’ that seek to be stronger than the whole. “This sickness always starts with good intentions but as time goes by, it enslaves its members by becoming a cancer that threatens the harmony of the body and causes so much bad — scandals — especially to our younger brothers.”
- 15) Seeking worldly profit and showing off. “It’s the sickness of those who insatiably try to multiply their powers and to do so are capable of calumny, defamation and discrediting others, even in newspapers and magazines, naturally to show themselves as being more capable than others.”