GOD IN OUR MIDST
Embracing Sacred Time
By Richard Rohr, O.F.M.

According to the psychologist Carl Jung, all human beings need to confront the same critical question: Are we related to something infinite or not? Are we part of an enchanted universe, or just traveling in our own little desperate search for private meaning?

Biblical revelation offers us the answer to this essential human question: Yes, we are a part of something infinite—and wonderfully so!

Not only that, but we cannot know the meaning of our own lives until we see that each life is but a small strand, a little thread in a much larger tapestry. Only within this context can each of us find our own private meaning.

Throughout most of history, religions have held that the way we come to God is by finding him in spiritual places, following precise rituals, engaging in correct behavior. We have been told, in effect: Do all those things right and you will 'get' God. Typically that is where religion has started—with the notion that if we answer correctly, then God will like us and we will meet God.

Biblical revelation, however, takes us to a new level by telling us that we come to the real through the actual, through what is. So it's not a matter of finding God just in sacred places. The Bible transforms sacred place to sacred time. Time is transformed. It is experienced altogether differently because, suddenly, God is available in all of time. That is why Jesus says the temple has to fall: He wants to lessen the importance of sacred places.

Now, we have come to understand, God is manifest in the ordinary, the actual, the daily rather than only in the pure, the spiritual, the special. This represents such a contrast from what so many of us learned! There is no need to go off somewhere set apart in order to 'be spiritual.' God is in the actual, real world. Isn't that amazing?

Meeting God Daily
We are already spiritual beings. We just don't know it! And the task of biblical revelation is to teach us how to be human, to be present and to see in the ordinary the extraordinary. That is the whole miracle of biblical revelation: Think of the wars and adulteries, the marriages and celebrations and festivals that make up so much of the Bible—the ordinary events of human life.

Perhaps that is why so many of us, Catholics in particular, didn't like to read the Bible for such a long time. It wasn't spiritual enough for us; it wasn't special enough. In truth, it was just like our life, but we didn't realize the good news in that. But it is indeed good news that we meet God in the eventful world. This history, this life matters. It matters to God, and it is in this history that we find God.

Lessons From Life
This lesson is most clearly evident in the lives of the Jewish people, who were always situated in the bloody middle of history. We see it in their 40-year journey in the desert; we see it again in the Exile. The Jewish people let God come into their reality. They possessed an uncommon power to stand their ground before negative realities with God alone, nothing else. They stood naked before their enemies, always trusting in God. We've got to appreciate how daring that was!

Our challenge today is to take these new awarenesses to heart. It will mean letting go of our certitude that God is to be found only in certain designated places and moments and, instead, surrendering to the scary and terrifying mystery of God. It means allowing ourselves to be transformed. If we approach the Bible correctly, it leaves us humble and vulnerable. We need to let go of our answers and explanations and, instead, to become blank slates before God, eager to listen to what God has to say to us.

Our reward will be a God who continually unfolds before us in the minutes and hours of our lives, the God who is ever with us.

Richard Rohr, a Franciscan of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is a popular retreat master, speaker and writer. He is the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque. He is the author of numerous books and gives retreats and lectures internationally. In the spring of 2001 he will publish a book with St. Anthony Messenger Press on the Franciscan path of transformation.

Listen to a RealAudio excerpt of Richard Rohr.

(Taken from New Great Themes of Scripture, 10-part audiocassette series available from St. Anthony Messenger Press, A7090, $49.95.)

Questions for Reflection: Where have you found the extraordinary in the ordinary?

What story from the Bible do you especially like? What does it tell you about God?

Think of a time of crisis in your life. How was God present to you?

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FAMILY CORNER
Family Meals: Sacred Time
By Judith Dunlap

A friend recently told me a joke that I had heard at least 10 years ago. "How does a suburban Mom from Centerville call her kids for dinner?" Answer: "Everybody in the car!" Probably the reason the joke has been around so long is because its truth resonates in so many of our families. I heard a statistic a few years ago that the average family sits down together for only two meals a week with everyone present.

The statistic is not surprising when you consider what busy and complicated lives we live. Extended work hours, long commutes and a barrage of activities for children make time a precious commodity. And yet spending time together is one of the six qualities of a strong family, according to a national survey conducted by the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Another quality is commitment.

One way of showing your commitment to family is by taking the time to have at least one special family meal a week. Remember, it is not the food that makes it special (pizza is fine); it is having everyone sitting around the table together.

Try to make a ritual out of such occasions. Light a candle in the center, hold hands for a blessing. Make sure the television is turned off, and make it a rule that no one leaves the table until everyone is finished. Allow only positive, affirming conversation: no preaching, no scolding. A good conversation-starter might be to ask everyone to share what was the best thing that happened to him or her that day (or week).

Time spent around the dinner table is special. Think about all the time Jesus spent in table fellowship with his disciples. He is no less present at your table. Family mealtime is sacred, as much a blessing as the prayer it began with.

For Family Response: What was the best time you ever had together as a family? What made it special?

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MEDIA WATCH
Chicken Run
By Frank Frost

No question about it: Chicken Run is a family movie.

The action is funny for kids while adults delight in the wit and allusions to earlier movies and TV shows. I saw it with my teen daughter. She chuckled at the movie references she recognized, and I enjoyed the sheer adult wit of it. We heard a small child somewhere behind us shrieking with delight at individual actions or events, although I don't know how much of the story she understood.

So it's not just a movie for kids that parents can sit through. It's truly a family movie. The plot is in a grand old melodramatic/comic tradition.

The animated characters are a coop of chickens. Transform that coop visually to a WWII concentration camp reminiscent of Stalag 17, but set in England. The prisoners/chickens are overseen by a bumpkin farmer and his severe and mean-spirited wife, who is really in charge. The hens must produce their quota of eggs or be sentenced to beheading. But the greedy wife is not happy with her profit exploiting the chickens for eggs. She decides to invest in a huge Rube Goldberg machine to turn them all into chicken pot pies. All this is darkly told with few words in the delightfully exaggerated visuals of the cartoon tradition.

Meanwhile the chickens are organizing, united around the leadership of a scrappy hen, Ginger. But elaborate charts, plans and gizmo-filled breakout attempts end with Ginger in "solitary confinement." In a running gag the farmer thinks the hens are up to something, organizing themselves. But his wife thinks he's crazy—until she discovers the truth too late.

In flies a rooster from the other side of the pond. They think he's the answer to their prayers. But he's no savior, just a clever cad. He resists helping them with their escape, but Ginger is one tough chick and tries to force cooperation out of the selfish, arrogant "American." Instead he leads many of the hens astray with his charm, dissipating the discipline which the lead chick has been instilling.

In its cartoon way it uses all the extreme angles and spatial freedom to keep the drama strong. When the rooster escapes—he was supposed to be teaching the hens how to fly—he sees a billboard advertising the chicken pies that will be the destiny of those he has left behind. He turns back and escapes with the chicks to a heavenly kingdom.

So who would suspect that in this sheer entertainment, this hilarious cartoon lurks a spiritual message? It's there. The take-away from Chicken Run is all about our human yearning for freedom from oppression. And of course it champions integrity and true (altruistic) love. And other virtues we value, like hope and persistence. You may miss them for the laughter. But you take them home anyway. That's what makes it a family picture.
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SAINTS AND HEROES AMONG US
By Judy Ball

St. Katharine Drexel (1858-1955)
Katharine Drexel made headlines in 1889 when she entered a convent and gave up the family banking fortune, then valued at $7 million, in order to devote her life to the education of Native Americans and African-Americans. A century later she is making headlines again as America's newest saint. Pope John Paul II canonized the Philadelphia-born heiress in October 1 ceremonies at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

Despite the luxury and privilege she knew in her early years, Katharine was also exposed to the realities of poverty. Her father and stepmother shared their wealth with the poor and welcomed them to their home several times a week. In a private audience with Pope Leo XIII, Katharine, then 20, pleaded with him to help the neglected Native Americans by sending priests to serve them. "Why not become a missionary yourself?" the pontiff replied.

Just over a decade later she definitively answered God's call. Finding no religious order that answered her sense of mission, Katharine Drexel received permission to found the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. She drew on trust funds established by her father at his death and established a system of schools and missions for Native Americans and blacks. Perhaps her most noteworthy achievement was the establishment of Xavier University of New Orleans, the first university for blacks in the United States.

Katharine Drexel, who lived to 96, was a daring, prophetic and resourceful woman who knew that God had work for her to do on behalf of two peoples who had been largely overlooked in 19th-century America. She is a model of courage and determination for any age.

Norman Francis
Surely St. Katharine Drexel is smiling down on Norman Francis. Not simply because he flew to Rome for her canonization ceremonies on October 1, but because he has been carrying on her mission for decades, including 32 years as president of the university she founded. It was Katharine Drexel who established Xavier University in New Orleans in the mid-1920s as the first university in the U.S. devoted to the education of blacks.

Now 69, Dr. Francis continues to marvel at "the vision of our foundress—a woman who had everything" and who chose to devote her life to the education of two of the most forgotten groups in the late 19th and early 20th century: Native Americans and African-Americans. Katharine Drexel "was the Church in action. She was her own civil-rights movement!" Dr. Francis says of the woman who died before civil-rights marches and legislation.

Throughout his life he has sought to follow the vision of the Philadelphia-born heiress who entered the convent, pursued a life of service and used her inheritance to establish schools and missions for Native Americans and blacks. In his years as president of Xavier Dr. Francis has seen an estimated 10,000 young people earn diplomas. "Education is the linchpin," he says. "If Katharine Drexel were alive today she would be saying yes to what we are doing: educating the whole person—mind, body and soul" and developing adults committed to family, to Church, to service.

"Katharine Drexel changed lives in so many ways!" Dr. Francis believes. "She was a saint long before 2000. The miracles she achieved were miracles of the heart, spirit and mind."
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