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 infiniteand wonderfully
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 startedwith 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 Biblethe 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
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
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.
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
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
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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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
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
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 crazyuntil 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 escapeshe was supposed
to be teaching the hens how to flyhe 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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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.
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 foundressa
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
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
personmind, 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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