Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Musings as I prepared to answer questions for consideration for the St Ann Parish Pastoral Council 4/3/08. I think best on paper and thought you would enjoy the reflections of how I preceive my spiritual gifts in the Chruch.

Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul. And the other things on the face of the earth are created for man and that they may help him in prosecuting the end for which he is created.
St Ignatius

Extremism - whether conservative or liberal or whatever - is something I try to avoid. The world isn't perfect, the truth is usually in the middle, and things are rarely as simple as they seem.
Over enthusiasm, bias, extremism, zealotry—what I like to call the hyper-orthodox or hyper-liberalism--the far right or the far left—neither of these have much interest for me other than maintaining that great lesson from the timeless moral ethicist of our day—Tevia of Fiddler on the Roof when he asks the rabbi if there was a prayer for the Tsar—of course, says the rabbi: “God bless the Tsar and keep him far, far away.” What I am trying to say is though many who do not know me at all but have heard me quoted or heard me passionate about one subject at one time—and want to peg me as orthodox or even hyper-orthodox or hyper-liberal—and I have been accused of all that and much more J--I truly see myself as Moderate—middle of the road.

The world is far from perfect, it is not fair, and I would tend that neither is God fair—and things are rarely as simple as they appear—still the Truth is usually found in the middle. My first Spiritual Director taught me a maxim I teach and one that served me well as a pastor of several churches. “We cannot both be right, we could both be wrong. We must seek to come to Truth in the humility of the unanimity of love.”

I love the example of the Early Church—although there are many examples of “disputes that broke out among the breathern” the overall emphasis of the Acts of the Apostles was that the “disciples were together in one accord”. I like that J one accord—not 4 guys in a Honda—but one accord. These are all the same thing-accord-agreement- accordance-concert-concurrence-harmony-good vibes-good vibrations-rapport-unanimity-understanding. To better understand, we need to see what the opposite is—discord-disagreement-dissension-faction-friction-strife-dissidence.
Do you know what I like the most about being in one accord? Not only is it a great feeling and a wonderful way to live, but being in one accord is one of those things that defines you by both being and doing—it is a behavioral essence. It is something we do and maintain-an action- an activity. But it is also a quality of who we are. We can be in accord with something or someone by quality of who we are and we can act in accordance with something or someone through our ongoing actions.

I think of myself as a moderate, Jesuit flavored Catholic pastoral theologian with Carmelite tendencies. J The Baltimore Catechism tell us, “ God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven…To save our souls, we must worship God by faith, hope, and charity; that is, we must believe in Him, hope in Him, and love Him with all our heart.” This is a pretty good starting point of unanimity—all the rest we need to be prepared to love one another as we prayerfully come together.
We have a natural tendency to feel anger, and resentment. It's natural to have all sorts of feelings. The key is not letting those negative feeling find a home in our hearts - washing them away 'with forgiveness and loving service to others' before they are there long enough to find a home stacked up on the walls of our souls. I used to tell my children—“do you know how a garage is like a grudge? You can close the door to the garage quickly so no one can see all the junk you stack in the garage or you can open wide the door and clean out on a regular basis your garage and store only necessary and needful things that serve you and others in your household or those in need—same with grudges or all the other clutter that does not serve others in our hearts…” It is not easy to forgive. Many times it is not even easy to forgive ourselves. There is so much in this world that pulls us towards selfishness and away from loving, serving, and knowing others. Then there is the darkness we experience that comes from the loss, pain, suffering, and the regret we are left to work through. I've found that as I help others, the darkness in my heart gets brighter. As the focus shifts from me and my selfishness towards the needs of others and how I can be of service to them, there just isn't as much room for the negative feelings.

If I could give all the people of St. Ann parish a spiritual gift I would give them the gift of Charity—not only an incredible chrism, but the chief theological virtue. The gift of charity is the exact gift that will allow us as individual parishioners as well as the parish at large to most fully express the love of God to ourselves, our families, each other in the parish, our neighbors, the city, the Church, and to the world. “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you have love for one another.”

Peter says in his Epistle, “The end of all things is at hand, therefore be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer, and above all things be fervent in love for one another for love covers a multitude of sins.” I like to call this the Chips and Soda doctrine of the First Pope. Open your hearts and homes and share house to house the love of Christ—be involved in each other’s lives. Visit, eat together, share your lives with one another, of course pray together—but most of all love each other. Can you imagine at the end of Peter’s life it is like he is giving his last instructions—his Last Will and Testament so to speak-“the end of all things is at hand…”I think he thought this was important and so should we. I went to Catholic Mass for 18 years before I ever met a Catholic and visited with them about a parish or anything Catholic—before anyone ever said, “ Hello—glad to have you…Hi, are you new, or you a member, can I ….”
I am a very rare convert in the fact that I fell in love with the Church on paper first through study. It happens, but it is much more frequent that people are drawn to the Church because of relationships. With the gift of love we will share the LOVE of God to all those we come into contact with and they will be drawn to have what we have, to love who we love, to be like we are… It will be out of love—a real gift of love that everything else flows.

I am also a convert to the Catholic Church through the spirit of Vatican II. I know there are real things that cannot be changed, and yet so much that can and 40 years is a very short time in the Church for us to understand the real meaning and full beauty of all those wonderful documents have to offer us. I will end with a favorite quote from VII as I feel it sums up what the Council was trying to say to the Laity:
Gaudium et Spes n24
Man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.


Daniel Vinzant
214-566-2298

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