Oh Lord, purify me, make me a chalice in which you dwell, offer your sacrifice in me and spread your love through me. Let me shine like gold, adorn me with the jewels of virtue that I may always be open to you. Fill me. Overflow me. Let me be like that most perfect vessel, the Singular Vessel of Devotion, She to whom I cry for protection against the Evil One. I ask this for your glory, for the vessel is nothing without the sustenance inside, the cup nothing unless it is filled. Oh Lord, purify me.

Give me a word, Abba

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Tree is the Church

Every year, thousands of trees are sold around Christmas Time. I believe this is because of the birth of the Saviour of the World, but occasionally it seems like it's not. After the purchase, people generally put it in the corner of their living room or some similar location. Then comes the Decoration. Often people wrap tinsel around the branches, hang identical balls or icicles and put a star or angel on top. Often it is very neat and tidy, well conceived to welcome the coming of a King. Or is it?

I have never been a huge fan of these neat and tidy trees with identical ornaments and well trimmed branches. Instead, my family has always had a thousand different ornaments, all different all unique. Some are kitsch, some are huge and plastic. Some are delicate and glass, some are metal sculptures of angels. Some are paper and some are the more typical balls and icicles. It's a mess of different things all thrown together, united by the green of the tree and the string of lights that threads its way unevenly through the branches. And it's strangely beautiful.

People who know me know that I don't like messy. I don't like kitsch. I don't like trite or sentimental. Somehow I do love this tree we have every year. It might be something that I realized this year: The Tree is the Church.

Hold, on, stay with me. It's not as strange as you think. We're all a mess. We all have those moments when we're not sophisticated, when we don't quite have it together. Sometimes we don't want to be serious or perfect. We, the people of this earth, are a motley crew. And if we're only left to ourselves to throw each other into boxes, the mess will be apparent. We'll lose our purpose and we'll lose our love for humanity, not to mention the love of God.

But 2000 years ago, give or take a couple years or so, God decided to take us out of the boxes we'd been building for the whole of history. He wanted us to be united not by self inflicted categories causing only chaos but rather by the Hope of Salvation and the Light of the world. His birth brought the Kingdom of God into the world so that He might bring His Chosen People, the Church into Heaven. His Birth was the conception of the Church, though it wouldn't celebrate its birth for another 33 years.

The Christmas Tree that we put up, with all its mess, IS the Church. It's all the members, no matter what state of life, no matter how sinful or unenthusiastic. We're all united by the green of hope and the light of salvation. And we must thank God for bringing us together to celebrate His birth and His plan of salvation.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Advent in Brief

One of the sorry situations in which I find myself is College Finals in the Fall Semester. This is not because I don't like Finals. I actually, strangely, like exams. The problem is when is inadvertantly conflicts with my observance of the great season of Advent. Advent is about waiting, about silence and about desire. It's quite hard to wait for something when plumbing and ducts are loudly pushing any thought of the Coming of Christ from your brain. (Yes, that is what I was taking a final about this semester.) It's quite hard to collect your thoughts and store them away so that your brain can rest in the silence of anticipation when the whole University is seething with quiet frustration about That Last Paper. It's quite hard to feel any sort of desire for the source of Peace when your own restless heart is dullened by tension and strife over packing up for the semester.

And yet, I'm almost glad that Finals sort of shuffled its dirty feet all over my Advent because now there's so little time before Christmas and if I don't get my own feet moving, spiritually speaking, I shan't have prepared at all. I really feel the need to buckle down and look to the East for inspiration now that I've almost run out time.

And that's also how I generally feel about finals too. I am able to accomplish much more when pressed for time. I need to have pressure over my head in order to realize what actually needs to get done. Call me lazy and you'll be right.

But all throughout this semester, I could feel that there was something that I was missing, some way that I was failing to look forward to Christ's coming, some way that I was turning from The East. And Advent is the perfect opportunity to figure out what that is. For me, it has so be something concrete that reminds me of the East and of the source of Joy. It has to be some sort of practice that can remind me of the rhythm of the Eternal Song.

And so perhaps my Advent hasn't been the most complete, but there never can be a perfect Advent, and for me, having a sort of abbreviated Advent, while not being ideal, certainly has helped me to discover the season all over again. To experience the desire.

Advent and Anticipation

Advent is such a wonderful season because it’s all about hoping, anticipating and something most of us don’t like to do: waiting. It would be excessive to list examples of how we must go through periods of waiting in our lives because it happens so often whether it’s for something as trivial as laundry to finish washing or as important as a wedding day. Regardless of the situation, waiting tends to quickly annoy and frustrate us though it shouldn’t and doesn’t have to.

During this season advent calendars are methodically opened each day, there are hymns and antiphons with a tone of restless anticipation urging the savior to come “ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile" and a new candle is lit on the advent wreath as another week goes by. Yes, we are counting down the days because we cannot wait until the big event, the fulfillment of the long wait. But what are we supposed to do during that time besides dream about when we no long have to wait? In current society poor Advent takes a beating because there hardly is this time to properly reflect before Christmas. We’re already thinking about what gifts we’re giving and getting and whether that shirt will turn out to be the wrong size and have to be exchanged, and all the while Christmas music is following us in the background on the radio and getting stuck in our heads. Our culture isn’t very understanding of the idea of having to wait. (Technology certainly doesn’t help this when everyone is glued to a smartphone.) People don’t like being told that they cannot have whatever they want right now and often decide like spoiled children to reach for it anyways.

The reason I like Advent so much is not because I enjoy holding off on the joy of Christmas for as long as possible but because our entire lives are one very long season of Advent. Maybe that’s why every year as much as I love the liturgical season it’s often hard to feel like it is Advent now because it always feels sort of like it. I have not read as much C.S. Lewis as I wish I currently had but he seems to understand this very well. Life is a period of waiting and anticipation as we try to get home to heaven and it would be foolish during that time to try to speed the current situation along or to waste our time. The two extremes are: 1) that you should just start celebrating now because if Christmas is so good what's the reason not to extend the party? and 2) that since you can’t do anything about rushing along time you might as well sulk until you can finally open your presents on December 25th. The third option, like always, is the balance. Advent is a time to prepare. There is so much one can do while waiting and so much one must prepare for. There's something about the journey of the wait that makes us appreciate the final prize that much more. When we deny ourselves of something we realize how we miss it and how much more we want it. And when it's Christmas day and we experience all of the joy and then feel the letdown with shreds of wrapping paper on the floor and trees on the street curb we can look back to the crib and remember that we are still waiting for a fuller happiness and rejoice in the promise of that. Lewis said it in Till We Have Faces, "It was when I was happiest that I longed most...the sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing...to find the place where all the beauty came from."

Monday, December 17, 2012

In which Home is recovered

We're all looking for Home.

Home, n. a place in which Rest, Revelry, Joy, and Peace happen, but most of all, Love.

One of the ideas of Home that I most identify with is the idea of Ithaca. After a long journey of hardship, failure, there's a chance that I might be able to return to my family. But it seems like even those places that are most like Home often fail you. I won't deny that Notre Dame, as close to Home as I've ever felt away from home, constantly disappoints me and the joy and peace and revelry that shines through reflecting off the golden dome seems to elude me so often.

Where to find it then? People look in the strangest places. Young men try to find acceptance and brotherhood in gangs, hippies try the commune approach. Drugs create a false sense of happiness or at least a respite from pain. It's tempting in this world of pain to try to just escape it and in that way find "home." But home isn't just a negation of pain or evil. There must be a positive good to it or else it's just s doldrum nihilist existence.

Home is the stars shining through a cold night and the moon reflecting off frozen dew. Home is light shining on tawny brick and shadows cast on cold stone. Home is green grass and fall leaves. Home is, in other words, Beauty.

Home is where the heart is? My heart longs for Beauty and wherever my heart recovers that, then I am Home.

And I am Home.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Cost of Freedom

Freedom is touted as one of the most important things in existence. Now and again, Bishops will say something about Religious Freedom (or Freedom of Religion). Even more often, Americans will say something about Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, and Freedom to Gyrate on the Dance Floor (or on a pole). It's not easy to dismiss freedom. It's been in the common political mind of the West for centuries now. However, "freedom" is not such an easy thing to define let alone support without proper definition.

For instance, was a medieval serf free?

Was a medieval Lord free?

Is a porn star free?

Are Hollywood actors free?

Are members of Democracies free?

Freedom in many cases seems to mean either "license" or "self-rule." Is this really a proper ideal though? In my experience, it is when I have someone with authority directing me and showing me the proper way to go that I am able to more freely move toward my goals. I positively flounder when left to my own devices. If a child is not taught to swim, then as an adult, he will not be free to move around the water as he wishes. In this way, it is essential that we have someone to push us toward our goals and even to have an authority over us in order that we might reach them. This is, after all, the purpose of parents.

But it seems as if Authority is the worst reality and Discipline is the work of the devil. No, we must be allowed to squander our talents and abilities in an orgy of drinking and sexual encounters. This is what college is about. That is true freedom.

However, that only leads to painfully broken hearts, addictions (the opposite of freedom), and failure. A broken heart forces you into a spiral of feelings and thoughts which when dwelt on only make the pain greater. When these emotions rule, you are not free. Addictions, not surprisingly, are really common. So many people ruled by a substance or an experience, not able to resist, to say no. The Status Quo becomes God and that Status Quo is harmful. eventually, the experience of the addiction becomes the regular life and the other experiences become the few and far between glimpses of light. Failure itself can be an addiction. Being so used to failure, one can almost seek it out, just to make sure that things stay the same. Scared of success, we huddle in the cramped house of failure.

Is it really worth it then to be "free?" Can we rule ourselves? Can we do what we like without consequence? As for me (and hopefully my house), I will reject this understanding of freedom and serve the Lord.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Briefest of Discussions on Guilt, Justice and Mercy


The other day a misunderstanding of the term “negative theology” in my studio brought up a conversation about how some people assert that you must do or not do certain things solely with the incentive of fear of punishment directed forcefully from a wrathful God . The discussion didn’t last long because all of us (a handful of Catholics and an atheist) immediately agreed that it’s quite a bit silly to guilt someone into something with the motivation of fear, most especially when the desired end is the heavenly reward. I opened my mouth to remark that people who take such approaches are fixated on God as an angry judge but before a word could leave my mouth I shook my head and said, “No, it’s not even a matter of considering God as only a judge. This type of thought doesn’t leave room for mercy let alone justice”. If God is a judge He is a just one and justice never leaves room for unreasonable and unfair decisions. He must judge with both the firmness of unhappy consequences and the mercy of love. Yes, it is true that if you disregard the commandments you will pay a severe and heavy price, yet we are not supposed to be driven to heaven by fear and shameful guilt. We’re called first and foremost to love God and love leaves no room for fear. As my atheist friend followed up, the misguided approach doesn’t require you to even do good for the sake of doing good but rather for the more selfish motive of assuring first and foremost you are spared from the pains of eternal damnation.

"Christ in Majesty". A mosaic from the National Shrine in D.C. that I am well acquainted with but is oft criticized for "too much sternness". Bah. Doesn't anyone care about portraying justice anymore?

Now all of this reminds me that there is a lot of misunderstanding with the term “Catholic guilt” that gets thrown around and creeps its way into culture and the occasional conversation. For example, Death Cab for Cutie’s hit “I Will Follow You into the Dark” states: “In Catholic school as vicious as Roman rule/I got my knuckles bruised by a lady in black/And I held my tongue as she told me "Son, fear is the heart of love.”/So I never went back”. First of all, this is simply an untrue statement misconstruing anything about the teaching of the Church. Now would be a good time to mention that one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is Fear of the Lord but it is only the fear which doesn't cause us to fear the goodness of God but the evil of sin. It is the sort of "fear" that is caused by immense respect for someone and since there is no one greater than God we should have no greater respect for Him and thus fear no one more than Himself. Yet we Catholics have the inexpressibly wonderful sacrament of confession where God Himself working through the priest alleviates us of our guilt and we are merely given infinitesimal penances after confessing. How could God be so willing to punish us if He allows second chances and third chances and fourth chances, etc. to forgive us and offer us His grace through the sacraments? It comes down to a choice of free will whether or not we want to accept His overpowering love or shy away from it completely. Either way it is guaranteed that He expresses true justice and that the surest way to secure salvation is through love and not by way of the provocation of fear. 


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Something interesting

Something for the linguists, biblical scholars or just normal people like me to enjoy.

There's something just plain amazing about the language used in the Bible. Not only is it extremely beautiful and poetic in translated English, but the original languages include word play and other linguistic tricks that make the Bible truly the greatest book ever written.

Nothing against Ezekial, but I've been noticing over the past couple days as the readings have been from Ezekial how impactful some of the language is and how truly filled with emotion it is. This book is no dry religious text.

The Importance of Prayer

The funny thing about prayer, and it's not like people haven't been saying this for a long time, is that it's not something that should be frosting on the cake of life nor just the bread of a Daily Life sandwich. In fact, our various activities and desires and thoughts can all be a part of this prayer.

I don't, of course, mean that eating a sandwich for lunch is in any way equivalent to an hour of adoration (or even a minute of adoration), but a sandwich eaten with gusto and appreciation for its Goodness is an act of praise to our Almighty God.

Another point that might be worth mentioning is that although prayer isn't just the sprinkling on the doughnut of life, it is a very good practice to sprinkle moments of prayer throughout your day. Moments of memorized prayer and moments of spontaneous prayer. Both are important. The reason that this is good, besides just the fact that any conversation with God is good, is that it creates in us a natural rhythm and habit of prayer. It's easier at this point to really infuse your whole being with a disposition toward listening to God.

We live in a world where noise is the norm and silence is seldom heard. God apparently appears in a whispering voice to Elijah, but He's also been known to talk through thunder and through a flood. God doesn't ask us to say no to all noise (though excess anything is bad), rather he asks us to hear him in it. The Thunder, the Bells, the Sirens. All around, God speaks to us and so our lives can become lives of listening, and thus prayer.

This way, we are properly disposed toward God and we will be more able to do God's will in our lives. He wants to do Good Things for us, and we only have to open ourselves to His work.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Assumption

As I was thinking about the Feast for today, I thought to myself "The Assumption isn't really that meaningful to me. Darn, I must be a terrible person." Then it hit me. I was thinking about it from the standpoint of my prejudice against a lot of the religious art depicting this event. Yes, I don't really feel like a Flying Mary is particularly amazing considering that she was sinless and had borne the Saviour of the world.

Then I remembered that I actually LOVE the event which we celebrate but under a different name: The Dormition of Mary. This is the Eastern name based on the belief that instead of just getting pulled out of the group of apostles while they were praying and flying up to heaven, Our Lady "fell asleep" in death and then after being buried, she was taken body and soul up to God. After three days, the apostles checked her tomb and she was gone. In a way, she mirrored her son, as was her wont.

This narrative appeals to me a lot more than the other and either is accepted by the Church as long as it's admitted that she did indeed go to heaven body and soul.

Just as a note, my prejudice against western depictions of the Assumption are no more than prejudices that I just have to get over.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Sin and Beauty

I'm sure I've written about this before, but I guess it bears repeating (like the words "I" and "Love" and "You" and similar sentiments).

Of course, this is specifically connected to what I wrote yesterday, so here goes.

Our slavery to sin doesn't not make sense. As I mentioned yesterday, the Israelites certainly had a point. They did have food in Egypt, even if they were in chains. They knew that the food was something good that they needed, or at least wanted and wasn't bad for them. In the same way, our anger over injustice, our pride for our accomplishments and our desires for sexual union are all good things, in the right relationship with our love of Christ.

When our anger turns in on itself and festers becoming a form of insanity of hatred, then it becomes dangerous and harmful. When the "pride that my mama has" turns into the "kind in the Bible that turns you bad" (Avett Brothers, 2009) you can start to look down on fellow man as an inferior species and believe that your needs are more important than theirs....your rights trump theirs. When your sexual desires become so strong that they lead to sin with others or with yourself, you start to devalue other people, whether of the opposite sex or the same sex.

It's sometimes hard not to hate the sinner along with the sin, especially when the sin is against a whole community or even a highly offensive sin against one person. Another reason it's hard not to hate the sinner is a sense of hate for yourself. We are all more intimately knowledgeable of our sinfulness than anyone but God himself and it becomes easy to despair of ourselves and hate ourselves. How much easier it becomes to hate someone who struggles as we do!

But then, remember, God knows our sinfulness better than we do ourselves, and he continues to love us and decided to come save us from our sins. He brought us out of the slavery that sometimes makes so much sense. Our anger, pride and lust are all rooted in something he made for our good, corrupted almost beyond recognition. God sometimes has to remove us from this sin and even the goods from which they were corrupted so that he can provide something even greater.

He wants to say: "This is going to be legen---wait for it---dary!"

And believe me, it is.


Sunday, August 5, 2012

"Sir, give us this Bread always."


There is a strange longing in our hearts and bodies to be satisfied. Something about this life just isn't enough. I just finished two turkey sandwiches and I'm not even close to full. Come 4 o'clock, I will be hungry once again. 
This cycle repeats itself in our lives whether concerning food, drink, a refreshing swim, or our relationships. No matter how many times you kiss your beloved, it does not satisfy your need to love and be loved. There is something about all these experiences that is fleeting but that points to something that is not. Marc Barnes might say Beauty. I might agree.
This experience of something beautiful that doesn’t satisfy but makes one long for a complete unity with the object of the beauty, C.S. Lewis might call Joy. I might agree.
When the Jews said to Jesus, “Sir, give us this Bread always,” Jesus might say that He was this Bread. I might agree. In fact, Jesus Christ is the answer to all these desires: Beauty, Joy, and the Satiating Food.
Oftentimes, we become slaves of our attachment to certain experiences of Beauty or Joy. God frees us from this slavery for a very good reason, even if that means separating us from those experiences for a time. When the Israelites were slaves in Egypt and God freed them, they occasionally desired their state of slavery because of the food they had while in Egypt. They were attached to fleeting satisfaction forgetting the slavery that they were experiencing. 
And God does not leave us in the desert without consolation for long. He showed the Israelites that it was not in slavery that they should search for sustenance, but rather from heaven, from whence came the quail and the manna. 
This is how we are all the time. We seek consolation in our states of slavery, whether through addictions, comforts that make us slothful, or activities which distract us from our proper relationships with people and creation in general. If God wishes to take away these experiences that we enjoy and see as good, could it not be because we are enslaved and He wishes to show us that He is the source of True Enjoyment and Satisfaction?
Some of us experience intense longings which we decide are to be fulfilled in harmful ways. If God says no, we must enter that desert with Him and wait for His manna, or rather for the gift of His Son, the True Manna. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Doing Your Duty

Sometimes you just don’t want to do something. We all have our duties and responsibilities – going to work or class, filling out applications, doing household chores, the list goes on and on. Most of the time that “something” ought to be done regardless if you feel like doing it or not. It’s safe to say everyone has experienced days when all trace of motivation is hidden very safely from sight or perhaps never existed in the first place. It could be the prodding of “the double edged sword of being lazy and being bored or a simple proclivity for procrastination. In the words of a former upholsterer turned musician, “Sometimes you aren’t inspired to upholster an old chair. Sometimes it’s work and you just do it because you’re supposed to. Not every day of your life are you going to wake up, the clouds are going to part, the rays from heaven are going to come down and you’re going to [be instantly inspired]”. Whether it’s dilapidated chairs or forcing yourself to wake up too early in the morning and get to class, chances are you aren’t bursting with excitement at the thrill of a stripped screw or an eight o’clock exam.

But doing the responsible thing regardless is not quite the end of the story. Often that to-do list hanging over your head requires you to “force yourself to do it because you know something good can come out of it”, as the upholsterer continues to explain. Should you just settle for doing your duty because you’ve been told it’s the thing to do? Or should you do it because in doing so you can make some improvement? Isn’t that why we do things - because we see that a good can come from it? There is some purpose to the action, however small. You should want to trudge to class, not only because if you miss it you might get marked down, but because you genuinely want to learn and that learning can later serve your life.    

I can testify to the impatience of wanting to skip ahead to the part where everything is finished for me. I’ve always loved writing but am not as concerned as I probably ought to be when it comes to grammar. I love playing music and attempting to write it but theory easily bores me. You can’t become a better writer if you disregard the rules that were created in order to help you write nor can you truly become a better musician without delving into a deeper understanding of the theory behind it.    

I could probably argue that I wasn’t "inspired" to write a post for the Third Order. It’s not at all because I do not want to be part of it or because I have nothing to say; it’s because blogging is unfamiliar and even strange to me. You mean I have to come up with a topic, organize my thoughts and then put it on display for the world to see? In some ways it’s a lot like pinning up in studio. Still, after everything I’ve said I don’t have an excuse and, who knows, maybe some good will come out of it.         

Sunday, June 24, 2012

St. John and the Real

Ok, so I like Icons.
Today is the Birthday of the Baptist. We often think of him as this rough almost hobo who "cried out in the desert" and went around pouring water over people's heads. Now, it's true that he was rather free with water in his proto-sacramental sort of way, but too frequently we think of saints as these distant extra-human beings who do all this weird stuff. The reality is that they experienced the same things we do.

Actually, reality is what I'd like to talk about. Reality is deep. To say that ice cream is a frozen mixture of egg, milk and sugar is not only simplistic and definitional, but also shallow. There is much more to ice cream than its ingredients and its temperature. What of the refreshment it brings to numerous lake-goers in south eastern Wisconsin? What of the joy it brings to those same lake-goers? Ice cream is, in short, yummy. But that's also not all it is.

But even more than ice cream, we ourselves are deep. As the Gospel from yesterday (New Lectionary) stated, if God looks out for the sparrow and the wild-flower, how much more each individual human? We are even deeper than plants, animals and frozen deserts.

Our depth, our reality comes from being made in the image of God. True, we are fallen beings, but because God inscribed his Love on our hearts and minds, we are able to connect with him on a profound level. That connection can come through emotion, it can come through thought and it can come through our actions, but to allow all our experiences to be flavored by just one is to short-change God's gift, to reject the depth of Reality which he bestowed upon us.

God is, ultimately, Reality itself. Our lives are real because all life, all creation participates in his existence. We long, by nature, for the real, the authentic and He is the fulfillment of that longing.

Often, however, he draws us to himself through other things, other people. Thus we get the sacraments, signs which are that which they signify. The bread and wine are changed to His Body and Blood and through the appearance of food, we are brought into contact with reality. Our faith is deepest when all three aspects of ourselves assent to and embrace that reality. Truly, a faith which is not bolstered by emotion is still a valuable faith (who can control what they feel about something?Even John the Baptist felt abandoned and unsure when in Prison he sent his disciples to make sure that Jesus was indeed the Messiah), but it would not be out of place to say that with the emotion, our experience of God is that much deeper as it involves our whole person.

It is through sacrifice and a proper approach to the inevitable suffering of this world that we are able to focus our intellect, emotion and will on the Face of Reality. Just as a vineyard is pruned, we must strip away all that tempts us to stay swimming in the shallow end. Reality can be as scary as a bottomless lake. "Out of the depths have I cried to thee, o Lord!" But if we call to Him and he brings us up from the depths of ourselves, we will be able to truly appreciate the depth of his Love, which is the Ultimate Reality. We are called by our creation to participate in that Reality, that Love which is the Life of God Himself.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Changes

Things change, people change, changes change. All things change, as one of the pre-socratic philosophical camps asserted. I have been away from this blog for quite a while, dealing with some pretty substantial changes in my life, least of which was finals in Rome and returning to the USA. All this change has put my mind to a lot of work, not all of it helpful to reflections on blogs. I haven't been doing quite enough reading for my mind to find things to reflect on other than personal happiness and the blessings of God (but you don't want to hear about that, do you?) In any case, I hope to start up again. My thoughts aren't nearly important enough to have a blog all to their own, so I'm letting in another contributor to help spice things up and perhaps to spread a little happiness like she likes to do. She is, like me, an architecture student and a Catholic and a darn'd good both.

Hopefully this will be a welcome change to all and that the Third Order, the voice of a lay Catholic, will now be the voice of two.

These pages are just our reflections on life, the universe and everything. We are not trying to expose heresy or create an atmosphere of division, but hopefully we can help anyone who reads find the True Answer. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Unity and Heresy

One blogger often notes that Pope Benedict XVI is the Pope of Christian Unity.

Ever since the Schism of 1054, the Church has never been the same. Yes, the 15th century brought some of the Orthodox back into the fold under the current name "Eastern Rites", but not more than a century later, the Lutherans had split from Rome, and then the Anglicans, the Calvinists and the rest of the Protestant divisions.

The healing of these divisions among Christians has not been easy. First, there were the religious wars which in some ways were ended with the Treaty of Westfalia. Then there were the reigns of Mary and Elizabeth of England which saw the shedding of much Christian blood in the name or religion. Eventually, these divisions led some to flee their homelands and found America. After that, we kind of got sidetracked by this thing called atheism, modernism and secularism. Since we all were on the same side in these debates, we sort of weren't fighting each other.

Then, there came the idea of relativism and tolerance and some of us really forgot there were divisions between us based on firmly held beliefs. Now, the funny thing about forgetting about a wound and going on as if it doesn't exist is that that only works if it's like a scratch. If it's a division that's more like a broken limb, it's not going to be good if it sets wrong.

This was not perhaps aided by the relativistic interpretation of the Second Vatican Council. Because of all these factors, the last 50 years have been a time of casual interaction between Christians who were not, perhaps, united with each other in belief, a kind of interaction that tried to forget the wound that might flare up at any time. Of course, there were times when this was not the case. With great abuse comes great reaction. There were some crazy things that occurred in the 70s and the 80s. In 1988, an archbishop ordained three bishops against the express orders of the Pope. This was the beginning of the Society known as the Society of St. Pius X.

Now, in the past decade or so, Christians are beginning to see a crisis. Numbers may be growing, but so is the number of people who are no longer going to church, no longer practicing. This isn't only a Catholic trend. Many denominations are seeing the soft unoffending Christianity and saying "What's the point?" Yet, there are now many people who are turning to a more traditional model of Christianity. Because of this, the old divisions are coming into high relief. However, the similarities, which can heal the divisions, are becoming even more obvious and more important in the face of growing secularism.

And so Christians are returning to the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Benedict XVI seems to have made it the point of his pontificate to hammer home the importance of the Church and its actions and beliefs in an attempt to draw other Christians back to unity. It has, it appears, worked. Those who are most influenced by secularism do not hear the call to unity, but those who still understand the importance of unity of belief and their relationship with God and His Church are flocking to the Catholic Church.

The most significant act in this direction thus far is the Pope's invitation to traditionally-minded anglicans who were dissatisfied with the state of the anglican communion. He only needed to open the door and they came in.

Something that is quite as important, perhaps, is the situation with the aforementioned SSPX, a traditionalist society unnerved by the abuses of the 70s and 80s, so much so that they blamed the Council itself. Throughout his whole pontificate, and before as well, Benedict has been extremely vocal in stressing the continuity in the Church from the before the Council to after it. Not only this, but he himself believes the so called pre-conciliar liturgy and devotions to be of value and promotes them as such. Through statements, decrees and his own action, he has steadily paved the way for dialogue with the SSPX. Now, the news is that the SSPX, like the anglicans, are ready for reunification with Rome. Yes, it hasn't been that long, but it is important to keep the divisions as brief as possible. Maybe the Lutherans and Orthodox next?

In any case, I am excited about this unity. However, some are asking, "Why was this group such a big deal if the bishops and priests and people who don't believe in the teachings of the church at all aren't? Aren't they a bigger deal? Real heresy and denial of the faith? Why is it only this "traditional" society?" I would say it was for two reasons. I want to trust our Pope because Christ put him in charge, though that's not to say that I don't think that something should be said about the dissent in the Church.

1. The original bishops were in clear defiance of papal authority. It wasn't just a case of bishops believing or promoting programs that go against the teachings of the Church. It was an act of open disobedience. Thus, it required a very direct approach.

2. The closer one is to the truth, the more harmful the lie. It is easy for traditionally-minded Catholics to believe the SSPX because in many ways they are correct. Since it was an organized affair, the resultant dissent would be much more harmful.

Of course, it is not quite true that the Pope does not go after the secularist dissenters and only goes after traditionalist dissenters. In his recent homily for Holy Thursday, he mentions how certain Austrian bishops and priests who are calling for open disobedience are betraying their priesthood and thus their mission from Christ. They are, in fact, acting in the place of Judas the betrayer. Pretty harsh words.

Furthermore, it has just been released that the Vatican is intervening in the case of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious which has been infected by dissent and secular ideas. Apparently there is some talk of rejecting canonical status and becoming just a secular interest group.

So it seems that when vocal organized dissent or open disobedience is the situation, the Church in the person of the Pope specifically does not hesitate to warn and discipline. However, our Pope of Unity is constantly looking for ways to bring them back, if they so desire. If they truly just want to promote secular agendas and interest, the discipline will only bring that to light.

But if, like with the SSPX, Unity is desired to heal the wound of division among Christians that has been so damaging throughout history, the discipline will only open up a later opportunity for reunification.

And that, proverbially, is that.