Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘catholic church’

Pilgrimage Statistics

Cumulative Days Riding:  163                         Cumulative Days Blogging: 148

Today’s Mileage: 5                                              Total Trip Mileage: 1103

A Rotten and Evil Egg!

Tomorrow is Easter, the holiest of Christian holidays so tomorrow we will visit two beautiful churches in the Jacksonville area. As I ride the bike this afternoon, I have pondered why I have been unable to motivate myself to write the blog for the past three days.

 I have been busy with tests and with the arrival of warm spring weather it is a challenge for me to stay focused. Yesterday I posted the following on my Facebook page: A beautiful day is unfolding outside my door! I can’t resist it any longer!  Pink flower petals fall like fragrant snow and bees dart about in the sunlight like a shifting haze surrounding the flowering trees… I shall walk, breathe deeply and ‘go with the flow’… riding the Tao past mid-day and into the afternoon… on for the rest of life!” 

How could anyone?

This morning I read more news stories on the internet about the deepening crisis within the Catholic Church.  This is a crisis surrounding accusations of child abuse against priests and bishops across Europe.  It is similar to the crisis that occurred in the USA several years ago.  I now realize that this crisis, with its troubling meaning for the church and its members had in part contributed to my silence.

I was baptized and raised a Catholic and while I am no longer a practicing Catholic, I owe the church for eight years of my education and still hold some of the priests and nuns who educated me as significant models and mentors.  I have made it a point in my blog and my teaching to not single out specific churches or faiths for harsh criticism.  I have seen on numerous occasions that a church or faith might be problematic for a particular individual (e.g. its attitude toward women or gays may not promote growth for individuals in those groups) while at the same time proving to be a healthy fit for another individual.  I also have close friends and family members who are devout Christians (Catholic and Protestant) and it is not my intention to criticize their “path to the divine.”

A Priest's Ring Seal!

I have recently blogged about the “evil actions” that can be undertaken by religious practitioners as well as the uplifting, caring and compassionate actions which religious beliefs can generate.  I continue to have visitors to my blog site who disagree with my statement that “I would never support the abolition of the institution of religion.”  Religion as an institution is a primary source of “life meaning” for many people. They help individuals and communities deal with disasters and loss and can provide a primary source of “moral guidance” to society.  Most of the important “rights movements” of the last 100 years have been lead by clergy walking arm-in-arm against reactionary forces. Many of the loving and selfless volunteers serving our society’s “safety net” do so out of deeply held spiritual and religious beliefs.

Taking all of this into account, it is also quite clear that Religion, and any of the churches that make up the mosaic of a culture’s religious fabric, can and do become dysfunctional!  I believe this tends to happen when the institution loses sight of its primary functions: to care for it’s flocks immediate needs for safety and guidance; and to help counter forces within every culture (e.g., political power, material wealth, hedonistic pleasure, group biases that demonize others) that draw people away from the transformation power offered by a healthy spirituality and loving/compassionate faith. 

When Silence is a Sin!

I believe that what is unfolding in the Catholic Church shines a spotlight on a terrible secret and deeply damaging breach of trust in the “faith” people place in the clergy.  In my profession it has long been recognized that two things represent egregious breaches of moral and ethical principles.  These are: a breach of the client’s confidentiality, the promise of privacy toward their disclosures and no exploitation in any sexual or financial way.  Children and adults in distress are in need of trusted guidance and protection.  Anyone who meets their own selfish needs (e.g., power, wealth, sexual gratification, dominance) at the expense of another has committed one of the most deplorable acts imaginable, whether that person is a priest, a parent, a teacher, or a therapist.  They have punished and added to the burden and suffering of someone in need. 

The Catholic Church has taken a position that this is a problem with a few “bad apples” and that the institution’s response was appropriate.  They removed priests and sent them for treatment!  However, the evidence is mounting that they often returned offending priest to service without warning their new parishioners or insuring that the treatment had worked.  There is evidence of some priests perpetrating abuse for decades and the church turned a blind eye to the abuse!

Real Dangers!

It has been an accepted fact within the field of sexual abuse research that perpetrators seek job positions that place them in contact with potential victims.  All churches have had more than enough time to recognize this fact and take extreme and immediate steps to purge their ranks of any such individuals.  Two additional facts from this field of study are relevant here: the best predictor of future behaviors is past behavior; and the perpetrators of sexual abuse of children are extremely resistant to therapy and change.  Most professionals in this field suggest a permanent removal of the offender from any contact with potential victims!  It is my belief that the Catholic Church has been grossly neglectful of its responsibilities towards “parishioners” and those dedicated clergy who follow the loving and compassionate examples of Christ in their sacred scriptures.

Peggy Noonan wrote an editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal in which she noted that there were three groups of victims in this ongoing Catholic Church crisis.  The first are of course the children who were abused and carry the scars and suffering of that abuse.  The second group is comprised of all the dedicated clergy and nuns who have been truthful to their sacred vows.  The third, and largest group, are all of the parishioners “in the pews” who are left to question the authority and relevance of a church organization that knowingly placed their weakest members in “harm’s way” against preverbal “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

Is it about faith or power?

I believe that Catholic Church needs to stop trying to blame external forces (e.g. the secular media or reform minded critics) and open its institutional structure and rules (i.e., Yes maybe even the question of marriage for priests) to honest and painful scrutiny.  The Church’s past sins have come home to roost! How it responds to this crisis will establish whether it continues to be a positive force into the future or just an old fossilized institution that lumbers on by sheer momentum of its size.  History has shown repeatedly that institutions that do not grow and transcend their old rules and “ways” are destined to litter the ditches of the roadway into the future!

One final point, just in case anyone reading this posting feels that this crisis relates only to the Catholic Church, my local paper contains on a monthly basis, reports of Protestant ministers abusing children in their care. My understanding is that the Southern Baptists do not even have a system for tracking reports of such abuse or of notifying their member churches to “black list” a minister.  I have a good friend who as a child and young adult suffered through an abusive family life.  Twice as a child and once as a young adult she turned to fundamentalist Christian ministers for help and guidance.  What she received in all three cases were unwanted sexual advances!

 

Protect the Innocent!

If you have enjoyed the blog please sign up for stationarypilgrim’s e-mail notification by going to the upper right corner of this page!

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Pilgrimage Statistics

Cumulative Days Riding:  159                         Cumulative Days Blogging: 144

Today’s Mileage: 4                                              Total Trip Mileage: 1080

Today we will be visiting a major Catholic Historical site and Shrine in the St. Augustine area.  Just north of the Castillo de San Marcos and the old city we find The Mission of Nombre de Dios and Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche

Fr. Lopez giving thanks!

This site traces its origins to the founding of the City of St. Augustine.  On September 8, 1565, Pedro Menendez de Aviles landed at this site and proclaimed it for Spain and Church.  It was here that Menendez knelt to kiss a wooden cross presented to him by Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales, chaplain of his expedition.  It was here that Fr. Lopez would celebrate the first parish Mass and begin America’s first Mission name Nombre de Dios (Name of God) and the Spanish settlers would begin the devotion to Our Lady of La Leche (Our Lady of the Milk).

Prince of Peace Church

The mission and shrine site has numerous structures and includes a “walking tour” that allows pilgrims to circle the grounds and visit various significant locations.  At the entrance of the grounds the Prince of Peace Church, built out of the “native stone” Coquina, greets visitors.  It frames a large circular fountain and houses an imposing stained glass window depicting “the Holy Spirit.”

The Great Cross

Continuing on the tour we see the imposing Great Cross built in 1966, along with the Prince of Peace church to commemorate the Four Hundredth anniversary of the Mission and the City.  The cross is 208 feet tall and has been labeled a “Beacon of Faith” on the shores of the Matanzas River.

The Chapel

Next on our path we come across The Chapel of Our Lady of Le Leche.  This area has been referred to as “America’s Most Sacred Acre.”  Like many of the other structures the Chapel was also build from Coquina and reflects the Spanish mission style of the sixteen century.  The Chapel houses the statue of Our Lady of La Leche and is described as a “special place of quiet prayer for those seeking Our Lady’s intercession.”

Shrine of Perpetual Help

Just up the path we find a unique site called Our Lady of Perpetual Help Shrine.  A beautiful mosaic of Our Lady of Perpetual Help is housed in a Byzantine style cupola.  This gold-laden icon was a gift of the Byzantine Rite Catholics who make a bi-annual pilgrimage to the mission.  The icon includes the image of Mary, the baby Jesus along with Archangels Michael and Gabriel.

Perpetual Help Icon

The final two sites we visit on our tour are the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a gift from friends of a distinguished modern day missionary in Brazil.  The shrine commemorates the 1531 visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Juan Diego in Guadalupe, Mexico.  Lastly, we see the Rustic Altar an outdoor altar commemorating the first parish mass celebrated in 1565.

Guadalupe Icon

We have during our virtual pilgrimage across Florida visited some two dozen separate Pilgrimage sites ranging from National Parks, Hindu and Buddhist temples, Monastery and Convents, Beach side parks and Art Galleries, to a Holocaust Memorial.  Today’s site has significant historical religious importance for Christians and Catholics in particular.  Clearly this site continues to add to its importance with a growing number of shrines, set in a peaceful and tranquil setting. It will be interesting to discover sites around the country that represent similar “firsts” for other Christian denominations (e.g., first Methodist church, first Quaker service, etc.).

Holy Spirit Window

 I hope you have enjoyed the beautiful pictures of the mission’s grounds.  Tomorrow we will be leaving St. Augustine and heading toward Jacksonville.

If you have enjoyed the blog please sign up for stationarypilgrim’s e-mail notification by going to the upper right corner of this page!

Read Full Post »

Pilgrimage Statistics 

Consecutive Days Riding: 150                                      Days Blogged: 134 

New Mileage: 6                                                     Total Trip Mileage: 1042

As I ride the bike today I am thinking about spiritual inspiration and the situations that remind us of the spiritual aspects of our lives.  This topic was inspired by a newspaper article and an internet story. 

Ganesha

The article noted that the Shroud of Turin will soon be put on display and that people can reserve a spot in line for a 3-5 min viewing of this sacred relic.  A million people have already signed up for this pilgrimage. The internet story: “Ganesha gets chopped; Hindus are furious” came from an Indonesian city.  It was reported that Hindus were making a pilgrimage to a site where the image of Ganesha was observed in the bark of a tree, many of them were leaving flowers and incense.  The outrage was about the fact that a low level official of the city cut down and destroyed the tree.

In the case of the Shroud we have a pilgrimage to a site to view a sacred relic.  In the second story we have a pilgrimage to observe what is sometimes labeled as Simulacra. This is defined as a sighting of an image with spiritual or religious themes, usually religiously notable people or spiritual symbols in everyday objects or phenomena of the natural world.  These phenomena have received considerable attention since the advent of the Internet.  Recently on E-Bay, someone sold of a piece of toast bearing the Virgin Mary’s likeness for $28,000!

A relic is defined as an object or a personal item of religious significance, carefully preserved and venerated as a tangible memorial.  Relics play an important role in many but not all of the world’s religions. According to the Catholic Church, relics can be classified into three groups.  First-Class Relics are items directly associated with the events of Christ’s life (manger, cross, etc.), or the physical remains of a saint (a bone, a hair, a limb, etc.). Traditionally, a martyr’s relics are often more prized than the relics of other saints.  Second-Class Relics are items that a saint wore (a shirt, a glove, etc.) Also included is an item that the saint owned or frequently used, for example, a crucifix, book etc.  Third-Class Relics are any object that is touched by a first- or second-class relic.

The Shroud of Turin

Relics have various degrees of importance for different faiths.  In the Catholic Church relics were an important aspect of the consecration of new altars and churches.  After Buddha’s death his cremated remains were divided up and place in the various Stupas that have now become important pilgrimage sites for Buddhists.  The “Cloak of the Prophet” is kept in the sacred Muslim Mosque of Kandahar, Afghanistan.  It is kept locked away and only taken out during times of great crisis.  Making a pilgrimage to these relics is often seen as a way to come closer to the saints and thus form a closer bond with God.

Simulacra have received considerable attention in the media recently, particularly on the internet.  This started in 1977 with Christ’s image on a flower tortilla, since labeled the “Miracle Tortilla,” and continued with the “Nun Bun” and the “Virgin Mary toast.” This phenomenon is not a new development as many early pilgrimages were made to grottos, caves and rock formations that presented the believer with an “image” of religious significance seemingly etched by natural element.  For many pilgrims these were seen as signs of the sacredness of the site and special “healing powers” were often associated with them.

It seems to me there are two questions that often arise in relationship to both the existence and use of relics and simulacra. The first question has to do with the validity of these objects (relics) and events/observation (simulacra).  Some scientists will explain simulacra by ascribing them to a human faculty for delusion called “pareidolia,” a perception of pattern and meaning from randomness.  Many scientists also believe that humans are hardwired to recognize facial patterns for example babies begin to recognize facial features by the time they are one month old).  In addition, human perceptual Gestalt principles operate subconsciously in all of us. They work automatically to fit partial pieces of information into a “whole” picture or figure.  Of course the issue of the validity of relics is a hotly contested issue.  Scientific research on the Shroud of Turin has raised serious questions about its age, placing its creation in the 13-14th century.  The Vatican has tiptoed around the issue, making no claim about its authenticity but calling it “an instrument of evangelization.”  I do not want to engage in arguments about “validity claims”.  Belief in these things has more to do with faith than it does with data.

The Nun Bun!

To me the more important question concerns the usefulness and meaning of these phenomenons in the lives of the pilgrims who travel to see them or choose to find significance in their mere occurrence.  If these events help to strengthen a person’s spiritual belief system, renew their faith in the presence of the divine, provide them with a purpose to explore their goals and priorities and/or promote and trigger a significant mystical or religious experience,  then I would argue it has been a good thing. Whether the person has trekked around the world to view the burial shroud of Christ or Buddha’s birth place, or found spiritual revelations in cloud formations or the shape of a breakfast pastry does not matter as long as the experience functions to deepen their spiritual connections.

 As a pluralist and a mystic I believe that the presence of the divine, along with revelations and insights can be found in all aspect of our existence.  If we are perceptive and open to these messages we will find them.  I take frequent walks and nature provides me with spiritual revelations in the cycles of nature, the beauty of a blossom, and the sensation of rain on my skin.  To some people it’s just the changing of the seasons, a flower and rain… to me they all have functionally profound spiritual significance.

Virgin Mary Toast!

 In the end,  isn’t it more important that I feel energized and invigorated and that I share these feelings  with other pilgrims?  What does it matter whether the insight came from a sacred scripture, a visit to a church or temple, a walk in the woods, or a water stain on my shower door!

Before I leave I want to add one additional  twist to our discussion of seeing or finding images in what appears to be random or haphazard patterns.  In Psychology there is a class of Personality tests called Projective tests.  The most famous among this group is the Rorschach, or “ink blot” test.  The rationale behind these tests is that if you present someone with an ambiguous stimuli like an ink blot, wood grain pattern or wall stain, a person will see images based upon their personality, needs and prevailing beliefs.  So a highly religious individual would be expected to see religiously significant images. 

I came across an example of Simulacra featured on a blog page.  A slab of granite was quarried that bore, in many peoples’ opinion, an image of Christ.  The piece reportedly sold for four times its usual value to a church which plans on placing it in their kitchen.  The blog site asked viewers what they saw in the image.  The results of this informal survey included: Christ’s image, a skull, a mother bird feeding it’s young, a mushroom, sexual genitalia, a dinosaur, a hotdog, to name only a few. What might you see?

 

Granite Slab Rorschach!

If you have enjoyed the blog please sign up for stationarypilgrim’s e-mail notification by going to the upper right corner of this page!

Read Full Post »

Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding:  81                              Consecutive Days Blogging: 82

Today’s Mileage: 6                                              Total Trip Mileage: 677

I’m not riding my stationary bike as I dictate today’s posting. I will climb on it later. As I noted yesterday, some days I feel the need to walk. Today I felt the need to start a fire to burn off some of the dead branches and trees I thinned out over the summer.  I’m walking in the woods along the river thinking about yesterday and my visit to the High Art Museum in Atlanta. I enjoyed the smorgasbord of artistic images.  We started our visit in the European wing of the building.  The show featured a number of Renaissance era paintings and as might be expected, most of them had religious themes.  The Madonna and Christ child were popular topics.

Contemplating Nothingness!

This got me thinking about the connection between art and spirituality.  Art historians and anthropologists might argue that the two have always gone hand in hand.  The prehistoric cave painting and objects found in early burial sites clearly had spiritual meaning and significance to members of ancient communities and cultures.  These early artists were as much “craftsman” as they were what we would now call artists.  Huston Smith in his book The World’s Religion, notes that in the early primal or earth based tradition such as the American Indians: “there is no word for art, because to Indians everything is art.  Equally, everything is, in its way religious.”  There was no distinction between secular and sacred objects. A cave painting, a weapon, a bowl or spoon; all had spiritual significance for there was no dualistic division of the spiritual world from the mundane world. When the world and its objects all contained the divine and were interconnected, there were no distinctions between object, function and creator. All were intertwined.

Does it Bite?

Prior to the Renaissance in Western Europe, all art was tied to spiritual themes such as the old and new testaments or the ancient myths of Greek and Roman gods and goddesses.  This was to be expected because the church was the primary consumer of art with its need for icons and symbolism to present beliefs and teachings to an uneducated mass of followers.  The church, meaning the Catholic Church, dictated what was defined as art and what was defined as heresy. With the arrival of the rich mercantile and powerful aristocratic classes art work broke free of religious oversight and control.  Art became eventually what we know it to be today, both functional art and art for “art’s sake” (i.e. the artist’s needs and desires). 

Hurry get a Nail!

Turn on the TV or open a magazine and you will see functional art used for the purpose of commerce.  Watch a political rally, like the recent tea bag events, and you will see art used as an emotional “call to arms” (e.g. Obama drawn with a Hitler mustache; or a cartoon of Mohammad as a mad bomber) to inflame emotions or steel a group’s resolve.

Where do you want this?

Art has also come to serve an individual purpose for the artist and/or the viewer.  It becomes a means for the artist to explore their beliefs and attitudes and  to make a statement about their view of reality.  As such, it may convey a sense of connection if that is what the artist “knows,” or a sense of anger and disconnect, if that is what they are experiencing.

The denial of saint Peter

One of the religious paintings I studied for some time, scribbling my thoughts into my pocket notebook was Nicholas Tournier: The Denial of Saint Peter, painted in 1630.  The painting presents the story of Peter’s denial of his relationship to Christ. The size and lighting of the figures makes it an imposing and powerful image. I was struck at how this painting points to a simple fact of human nature. Understanding is always embedded in the current world view!  The painting is populated by Peter, a pair of accusers, and a group of disinterested Roman soldiers playing dice.  I read the description twice to make sure they were noted as Roman soldiers.  I smiled and shook my head because the soldiers bore no Roman style uniforms or weapons!  Several wore armor that was common during the European middle ages.  Obviously the artist used images and items that the viewers of his time could identify with!  However, it was interesting to note that only the figure of Peter wears facial hair and a garment close to what might have been worn in Christ’s time.  Why would the artist make it easy for the viewer to identify with the accusers and uninterested soldiers and not the Apostle Peter?  I’m sure some religious historian would have a lot to say to that question.

It ain't heavy its artwork!

Why bring this up you might ask?  Because what fits for artwork, it’s “rootedness” in a particular time and place, also fits for literature, even for sacred scriptures.  Academic careers can be based on the study of the meaning of a particular symbol, word or phrase, especially if the words have gone through repeated translations or the symbol survives an illiterate “lost” culture. Some individuals and faith communities, recognizing this fact, have abandoned sacred scriptures and ancient myths.  They embrace the revelations of the present, the mystical experience arising moment-to-moment. More traditional approaches embrace the words and symbol of the sacred stories and the idea that the meaning will be revealed through study and contemplation. Both approaches have strengths and weaknesses and both use art in different ways.

Who ordered the large slice?

What did I enjoy most about my visit to the museum?  What I enjoyed most was interacting with the art! The images were thought provoking and I appreciated their beauty. I apologized to the museum guards who looked puzzled, and to the young art history major who looked askew at my irreverent actions and attitude.  I took the art and made it a part of “the moment,” we had a relationship and became a larger work of art!  My partner laughed and the art said nothing.  I carried images of this interaction with me when I left, the images I now share with you.

I didn't do it, nobody saw me, you can't prove anything!

My suggestion to my readers: create art if you are so inclined.  Appreciate and study art when you are given the opportunity.  Find a way to have a relationship with art.  For whether it is inspired by some celestial deity, or a product of some divine creative process which is God, it is always a gift!

Read Full Post »

Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 50                             Consecutive Days Blogging: 51

Today’s Mileage:  10                                        Total Trip Mileage: 439

Holidays and Holy Days on November 29:

First Sunday of AdventChristian time of preparation for observing the birth of Jesus Christ and is the beginning of the Christian worship year.  Advent is observed with the lighting of advent candles, display of wreaths, and special ceremonies. The season continues through December 24.

_________________________________________

 As I ride the bike this morning I am visited by contrasting emotions.  One is positive and tied to memories of my youth, the second is somewhat unsettling and associated with the pilgrimage site we are visiting today.

Advent Wreath

Today is the first Sunday of advent and will be accompanied by the lighting of the first of four candles on the Advent Wreath. The memories of the advent wreath in the Catholic churches of my youth bring a smile to my face!  It always fueled my anticipation for the arrival of Christmas.  I remember the excitement I felt as each week past, moving us closer to the white candle in the center of the wreath signifying Christmas day.  I wish I could report that I cherished the immense spiritual significance of the day, but like many, perhaps most children, it was the promise of Santa’s bountiful gifts that I anticipated.  One of the features of spiritual rituals and symbols is that they can become strong emotional cues which may or may not have direct

Santa bearing gifts!

bearing on the doctrine based teaching supporting the activity. Free enterprise and mass marketing provide us with a plentiful selection of gifts.  However, as a result of commercialism,Santa overshadows the “Christ child” at Christmas, and a Bunny carrying a basket of eggs and candies can overshadow the “risen savior” at Easter. While Santa no longer receives my wish list, the fond memories of simple, joyful times, of family and community still visit me at this special season.

Our Pilgrimage Site visit today, the ninth in our continuing series, is to a somewhat controversial site about 30 miles east of Naples Florida.  The site of Ave Maria Catholic University and the surrounding community. I struggled a bit with whether to include this location as a pilgrimage site.  It is not my

Ave Maria city center.

intention to blog on controversial or divisive topics. However, I don’t believe that one can be open to the diversity of religious and spiritual beliefs without recognizing the presence of differing opinions. In the end, I decided to include it because of the artistic efforts underway at the site.  Part of what is controversial about the site is the combining of a conservative religion with a university and a surrounding community, a community that is being constructed as an integral part of the church and university’s development.  The town center is dominated by the Ave Maria Oratory, reminiscent of a medieval European village with a cathedral dominating the center of town. Some people may see the community as one large religious entity.  They raise questions about who (business and/or individuals) is welcome to move into the community and whether voicing concerns about the community is the same as voicing concerns about the religion. Some have argued that this community is a shining example of freedom of religion and our right to congregate based upon principles of our choosing.  Others see it as a continuing trend toward a nation of gated communities, of “haves and have not’s,” of bastions of orthodoxy in opposition to contemporary morals and change.  I suspect both points share some truth. Let each reader decide!

Sunset near Ave Maria

To visit the site click on the Pilgrimage Site tab at the top of this page. If you wish to pursue the controversial issues further, I suggest the community paper web site www.aveherald.com for one perspective and www.theromancatholicworld.com November 23, 2009 and www.abovethelaw.com for other opinions.

Read Full Post »