Rosamundi

19.10.2011

Rosamundi’s Ramblings é um dos blogues que leio regularmente. É escrito por uma leiga dominicana de Londres. Em dois textos, ela fala sobre a sua vida como dominicana com a mesma despretensão com que escreve sobre tudo. No primeiro, explica porque é que se tornou leiga dominicana:

It is said of our founder, St. Dominic, that he spent all his time talking to people about God, and talking to God about people.

We are all Dominicans, with the same charism (mission), but different ways of following that. We all strive to live by the four pillars of Dominican life, prayer, community, study and preaching; but according to our state in life — a Dominican friar will express the charism differently to a cloistered nun, who will express it differently to an apostolic sister, who will again be different to a lay Dominican.

O segundo texto desenvolve o primeiro, esclarecendo porque é que, não gostando ela de discursar, se juntou à Ordem dos Pregadores:

Study, reading and writing have always been important to me. I’m not so keen on the “public speaking” bit of preaching, but there are more ways of preaching than talking to people — writing, teaching catechism classes, answering colleagues’ strange questions on obscure points of doctrine before I’ve had my morning coffee. I think my finest hour was explaining Purgatory in fewer than 140 characters on Twitter. And nerves about public speaking will lessen with time and practice — I was less nervous leading the study than I was the first time I did, for example.

Laudare, Benedicere, Praedicare

18.10.2011

O lema principal da Ordem dos Pregadores é “Laudare, Benedicere, Praedicare” (“Louvar, Bendizer, Pregar”). Outro lema associado à ordem é “Contemplari et Contemplata Aliis Tradere” (“Contemplar e Trasmitir os Frutos da Contemplação”). A palavra que melhor resume o compromisso da ordem é “Veritas” (“Verdade”). Se quisermos ser sucintos, a vida da família dominicana envolve a oração, a gratidão, o estudo, e a partilha (ou a prática do amor) colocando a verdade no seu centro.

OP

17.10.2011

A Ordem dos Pregadores é constituída por frades, monjas, irmãs, e laicado (homens e mulheres). Qualquer membro da ordem pode usar OP (Ordo Praedicatorum) à frente do seu nome. Noutras ordens, os grupos dentro da ordem ostentam diferentes designações — por exemplo, um leigo da Ordem Franciscana Secular usa OFS (Ordo Franciscanus Saecularis) e um religioso da Ordem dos Frades Menores usa OFM (Ordo Fratrum Minorum), mas são ambos franciscanos. A família dominicana tem a particularidade de traduzir a sua unidade e igualdade internas numa só sigla.

O Reino

16.10.2011

Um falecimento recente fez-me pensar numa frase do escritor francês Georges Bernanos, autor de Le journal d’un curé de campagne (Diário de um Pároco de Aldeia) que Robert Bresson transformou em filme. Escreve ele: “Não existem dois reinos separados, um para os vivos e um para os mortos. Há apenas o reino de Deus e, vivos ou mortos, estamos todos nele.”

The Disquiet of Faith

14.10.2011

For F. (and her mother)

The reason, again, why the soul not only travels securely, when it travels thus in the darkness, but also achieves even greater gain and progress, is that usually, when the soul is receiving fresh advantage and profit, this comes by a way that it least understands — indeed, it quite commonly believes that it is losing ground. For, as it has never experienced that new feeling which drives it forth and dazzles it and makes it depart recklessly from its former way of life, it thinks itself to be losing ground rather than gaining and progressing, since it sees that it is losing with respect to that which it knew and enjoyed, and is going by a way which it knows not and wherein it finds no enjoyment. It is like the traveller, who, in order to go to new and unknown lands, takes new roads, unknown and untried, and journeys unguided by his past experience, but doubtingly and according to what others say. It is clear that such a man could not reach new countries, or add to his past experience, if he went not along new and unknown roads and abandoned those which were known to him. Exactly so, one who is learning fresh details concerning any office or art always proceeds in darkness, and receives no guidance from his original knowledge, for if he left not that behind he would get no farther nor make any progress; and in the same way, when the soul is making most progress, it is travelling in darkness, knowing naught. Wherefore, since God, as we have said, is the Master and Guide of this blind soul, it may well and truly rejoice, once it has learned to understand this, and say: “In darkness and secure.”[1]

These are the words of one of the greatest mystics in Christian history, St. John of the Cross.[2] In his treatise Dark Night of the Soul, he describes the dark battles of the soul. His is an extreme example. It shows us that the deepest commitment to Christ and the total offering of one’s life to God is ultimately a safe path, but not a quiet one. His words describe the disquiet of faith with joyful intensity.

Tomáš Halík, the autor of the spiritually vibrant Patience with God,[3] has been reflecting on perseverance as a response to the silence and hiddenness of God, establishing and exploring a common ground between believers and unbelievers. With St. John on his mind, he suggests that the seeming absence of God may be seen as an opportunity for us to better understand our presence in the world and the demands that this presence entails:

The mystics have written much about the importance of the dark nights of the faith, of the experience of the inner desert, of the silence of God, and this experience is always the chance to go deeper and to be more matured in our faith, perhaps to lose the religious illusions and to be confronted with the naked faith. And I think there are not only those individual dark nights of the soul, but also the collective ones. The 20th century was full of dark nights of the hidden God. Where was God in Auschwitz and the Holocaust? I think the right question is: where was man in the Holocaust? The rabbi of Britain, Jonathan Sacks, said that the right answer is that God was in His commandment “You shall not kill”. He gave us freedom, He gave us our commandments, so it is our responsibility. I think when we are confronted with the hidden God, there are three possibilities how to answer this mystery, and they are faith, hope and love.[4]

The Gospel of Mark narrates the episode of a desperate father who seeks a cure for his son’s afflictions and comes to Jesus for help. The event is also recounted in the other synoptic gospels, Matthew (17:14-21) and Luke (9:37-43). In Mark, the father phrases the request as if he is talking about a mere possibility, leaving it open whether or not Jesus is able to help him. Jesus’s reply is not to assert his power, but to talk about about the power of faith — that is, about the child’s father. There is a shift. The father puts everything in Jesus’s hands and is hesitant. Jesus does not feel insulted by his hesitancy and makes him see the connection between faith and determination. Then the text adds: “Then the boy’s father cried out, ‘I do believe, help my unbelief!’” (9:24).

“I do believe, help my unbelief!’” This statement and this request reflect an acknowledgement that is equivalent to a change. Because of Jesus’s humility and selflessness, the father feels safe enough to fully acknowledge his condition. Believing is not forgoing unbelief. Being a believer is solely choosing to live in hope, choosing to be open to the guiding love of God that Christ announced. In this sense, it is also to be aware of this choice — and therefore to be conscious of the alternatives. Faith involves knowledge and trust in an urgent impulse that takes the form of a leap, not in the dark, but through the dark. The faithful walks across the abyss of incredulity every day, not shying away from it. The father turns to Jesus declaring that he believes and that he needs him to give him strength. How much of our strength is not born of the contagious strength we see in others? More than the content of faith, the credo, it is the recognition of our weakness (of our need of the other who is not me) as well as the power of our faith (of our agreement with God as revealed in Christ) that make up the cornerstone of our belief. Pope Benedict XVI reminded us of this fundamental point when he said in an homily on the Ascension that “[w]hat we believe is important, but even more important is the One in whom we believe.”[5] Almost 40 years before, Joseph Ratzinger had written these all-embracing remarks that bring together believers and unbelievers in their quest for a meaningful, fulfilling life:

Just as the believer knows himself to be constantly threatened by unbelief, which he must experience as a continual temptation, so for the unbeliever faith remains a temptation and a threat to his apparently permanently closed world. In short, there is no escape from the dilemma of being a man. Anyone who makes up his mind to evade the uncertainty of belief will have to experience the uncertainty of unbelief, which can never finally eliminate for certain the possibility that belief may after all be the truth. It is not until belief is rejected that its unrejectability becomes evident.

[...]

In other words, both the believer and the unbeliever share, each in his own way, doubt and belief, if they do not hide away from themselves and from the truth of their being. Neither can quite escape either doubt or belief; for the one, faith is present against doubt, for the other through doubt and in the form of doubt. It is the basic pattern of man’s destiny only to be allowed to find the finality of his existence in this unceasing rivalry between doubt and belief, temptation and certainty. Perhaps in precisely this way doubt, which saves both sides from being shut up in their own worlds, could become the avenue of communication. It prevents both from enjoying complete self-satisfaction; it opens up the believer to the doubter and the doubter to the believer; for one it is his share in the fate of the unbeliever, for the other the form in which belief remains nevertheless a challenge to him.[6]

Ratzinger, now pope, and Halík believe that the Church is a place where the communication between believers and unbelievers can take place. The doors should be open. What unites the variety within the Church, what gives it its catholicity, its universality, is not belief as such. As in the beginning, it is a decisive encounter and transformative relationship with Jesus, whom many unbelievers admire. The episode told in Mark’s Gospel reveals that this personal bond of faithfulness between a believer and Jesus is disarming and humbling, cautioning us against the worship of idols. Theologians like Herbert McCabe have warned us about the temptation of turning God into an idol, something obvious and limited. Saying that Jesus Christ reveals the mystery of God as the Son on the one hand, does not mean that God is Jesus on the other hand. After all, Jesus’s revelation is of a tri-une God, a God of a mysterious, loving, internal, unitary relationship. Hence we may say that “God stands above singular and plural. He bursts both categories.”[7] God cannot be turned into an idol. The vain human attempts to do it only confirm that whatever the idol, idolatry is always, in the end, the worshipping of ourselves:

Orthodoxy is idolatry if it means holding the “correct opinions about God” — “fundamentalism” is the most extreme and salient example of such idolatry — but not if it means holding faith in the right way, that is, not holding it at all but being held by God, in love and service. Theology is idolatry if it means what we say about God instead of letting ourselves be addressed by what God has to say to us. Faith is idolatrous if it is rigidly self-certain but not if it is softened in the waters of “doubt”.[8]

______________________

[1] John of the Cross, OCD, Dark Night of the Soul, ed. and trans. E. Allison Peers, ch. XVI, par. 8, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/john_cross/dark_night.toc.html.

[2] He reformed the Carmelite Order and founded the Discalced Carmelites together with his friend St. Teresa of Avila, another great mystic.

[3] Tomáš Halík, Patience with God: The Story of Zacchaeus Continuing in Us (New York: Doubleday Books, 2009).

[4] Frank Brennan, “Conversation with Tomáš Halík”, 1 Jun. 2011, http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/2011/07/eer_20110703.mp3.

[5] Benedict XVI, “[Homily for] Mass at Błonie Park in Krakow” (28 May 2006), par. 7, https://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/homilies/2006/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20060528_krakow.html.

[6] Joseph Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity [1968], trans. J. R. Foster (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), pp. 45-47.

[7] Ibid., p. 179.

[8] John D. Caputo, What Would Jesus Deconstruct?: The Good News of Postmodernism for the Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), p. 131.

On the Execution of the Guilty

13.10.2011

I received an email today from Dudley Sharp, a pro-death penalty activist. It is a response to the Catholic call to abolish the death penalty that I have signed. Sharp reviews what he thinks are the many errors of the petition. I suppose every signatory received this message. From what I could gather on the Internet and from the way he argues, I do not think that Dudley is Catholic. But I may be wrong.

He insists that Troy Davis was guilty. This is a point that advocates of the death penalty often make: that such a sentence must be given only beyond the shadow of a doubt, that is, it must be applied to persons who the court is sure that are guilty. This is a misguided point. Executing the guilty is still immoral. The guilt of the person does not make the execution morally right. This is a distorted view that confuses justice with punishment and retribution.

The Church does not hold that the guilt of the defendants justifies their execution. Instead, the correct establishment of the culpability of the defendant is simply a condition for us to consider if the death penalty is necessary. What can make it necessary? That it is the “only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor”.[1] The Catechism continues:

If, instead, bloodless means are sufficient to defend against the aggressor and to protect the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.[2]

In other words, the only argument for the death penalty considered by the Church does not have to do with the punishment of the guilty, but with prudence and protection. Such a penalty may only be based on a prudential judgment with the intention of keeping someone out of harm’s way. This position urges us to take the historical context into account, given that intentional killing is always morally wrong, even when it is done by the state. Since the 19th century, the modern prison system provides a non-lethal means that is sufficient to defend against aggressors and to protect the safety of persons.

______________________

[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 2267.
[2] Ibid.

Catholic Filmmakers

04.10.2011

Here is a list of great Catholic filmmakers who deserve our admiration for their contribution to the art of cinema:

Alfred Hitchcock (UK)
Éric Rohmer (France)
Federico Fellini (Italy)
Frank Borzage (USA)
Frank Capra (USA)
Fritz Lang (Germany)
Georges Méliès (France)
Jean Cocteau (France)
Jean Renoir (France)
John Ford (USA)
Krzysztof Kieślowski (Poland)
Leo McCarey (USA)
Manoel de Oliveira (Portugal)
Martin Scorsese (USA)
Michael Cimino (USA)
Paul Thomas Anderson (USA)
Robert Bresson (France)
Roberto Rossellini (Italy)
Vincente Minnelli (USA)
Vittorio de Sica (Italy)