Love Alone Is Eternal (Part Eleven)

UnknownOne of the greatest contemporary spiritual writers I have happily encountered in the last few years is Carlo Carretto (1910-1988). Carretto was a member of the Little Brothers of Jesus, the order inspired by the spirituality of Charles de Foucauld. Through his best-selling Letters from the Desert, and more than a dozen other books, Carlo Carretto gave to Christians a joy-filled spirituality centered deeply in God’s love. Carretto showed us that it was possible to live a contemplative life in the midst of a very busy, modern world.

One of Carlo Carretto’s most moving reflections, which includes translations of his original Italian, reflects the sense of where I hope you will go with me as we discover that our love is too small.

Like God

If we are not capable during our lifetime of falling in love with God, we are lost.

Without love we are incomplete, immature, bored, missing paradise.

We would be doubtful and formulate the following equation: love of God equals peace, joy, bliss, fecundity, exultation, paradise; lack of love equals

Thomas Merton on the Catholicity of Ecumenism

IMG_2313Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was a writer and Trappist monk at Our Lady of Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky, not too far from Louisville. His writings include such classics as The Seven Storey Mountain, New Seeds of Contemplation, and Zen and the Birds of Appetite. Merton is the author of more than seventy books that include poetry, personal journals, collections of letters, social criticism, and writings on peace, justice, and ecumenism.

When I first encountered Merton I had no earthly idea how to understand him or to make sense of his voluminous writing. (It strikes me that I am still working on this project and will never finish it.) Initially, Merton struck me as a liberal Christian because he embraced views on certain political and social views that were not conservative as such. Further more, I had no comprehension of how to make sense of his mysticism. Merton said, “The theology of love must seek to deal realistically with the evil and injustice in the world, and not merely to compromise with sin.” That sums up his overall perspective well.


Watch Out for "Christian Karma"

The words “karma” and “Christian” do not naturally go together. Karma comes from Indian religions and is most definitely not a Christian concept. Karma refers to the concept of “action” or “deed” and is understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect. Thus people popularly speak of someone who experiences a lot of bad events in their life as “having bad karma.”

improve-good-karma-tipsKarma is generally associated with spiritism and reincarnation. In this context “the law of cause and effect” is situated within a deeply spiritual way of understanding. Karma is even used to determine how one’s life should be lived. Spirits are encouraged to choose how (and when) to suffer retribution for the wrong that they did in previous lives. The problem with this kind of spirituality is simple–such teaching has no clear grasp of how we actually know this reality without remembering whether or not we had a choice in the first place. Disabilities, physical or mental impairment or even an unlucky life are all due, in some way, to the choices a

Learning the Mystery of Contemplation

140px-JohnvianneySt. John Vianney (1786-1859),  a French priest who is widely respected for his pastoral work and parish ministry, once noticed an elderly man visiting his church every morning before work and every evening after work. One day, out of profound curiosity, he asked, “What do you say to the Lord during your twice-daily visits?” The old man responded, “I say nothing to him, Father. I look at him and he looks at me.”

It is sound for us to think of prayer in a number of ways but this way, called contemplation, is one that I did not learn until later in my life. If I am asked what happens when I pray I answer, “I pour my heart out in words of gratitude and intercession. I express words of confusion and perplexing doubt deeply joined with resurrection hope.” God responds by his word and his Spirit and gives consolation and a fresh reminder of his love in the very silence of such an intimate context.

But St. John Vianney is right. Prayer includes just being in God’s presence

Day Two of the Lausanne Catholic-Evangelical Conversation in Mundelein

On the second day of our Lausanne Catholic-Evangelical Conversation last week we spent Friday morning sharing, praying and seeking to love one another as new friends in Christ. In a group of twenty-five people, many of whom only met the day before, this is not easy to do. Indeed, at one level this effort can only go so far. But we began to sense the presence of the Spirit in our deliberations as time went along. The night before many of us had shared with one another until late in the evening over food and drink. (Some of the Protestants were amazed that a bar was a staple in this Catholic retreat context!) This beautiful evening of conversation helped to get us talking. This conversation clearly carried over into Friday morning. After we shared another meal at breakfast we went into our large circle. We then had a long break at 11:00 a.m.

Before lunch we were all invited to chapel for a Mass led by Francis Cardinal George.  It was a twenty-fifth anniversary celebration for the class of 1988. The chapel was packed with students, faculty,

My Sisters the Saints (6) – An Inspiring Journey in Faith

images-1Colleen Carroll Campbell’s journey to femininity did not lead her to embrace a kind of Catholic “fundamentalism” with regard to the social, professional and economic gains that she had previously experienced because of feminism. John and Carroll Campbell clearly share a marriage of mutuality. They have just as clearly learned how to sacrifice and give up their personal agendas, one for the other. For those on the far right, who think the only way to respond to modern feminism is to throw “the baby out with the dirty bathwater” her conclusion will not satisfy you. At the same time if you want a radical feminist perspective that leads to a profound fear and loathing of men and motherhood then you must look elsewhere.

As Colleen read Edith Stein, and Pope John Paul II, she concluded that men are called to loving communion with others just as much as women. But Edith Stein believed that a man was called, more than a woman, to “action, work, and objective accomplishments. A man is less concerned with problems of being, whether

My Sisters the Saints (5) – An Inspiring Journey in Faith

images-3As Colleen Carroll Campbell tried to settle into her new work at the White House she found that she had never been so profoundly challenged in her work but so deeply dissatisfied with her life in general. She writes:

I wanted to blame patriarchy for my conundrum., blame my job, blame John. Deep down, though, I knew something else was pulling me home [i.e. back to St. Louis]. It was the force of my own desires, desires that sprang form a soft, passionate, feminine part of me that I thought I had smothered with résumés and credentials long ago. Decades of perfectionism and compulsive achievement had not managed to kill her off. Now she was daring me to reject the smart move and take a chance on love (79).

Trying to work her way out of this she turned to prayer. She turned to the Divine Mercy chaplet, the prayers that came from the journals and insights of Faustina. Don’t misunderstand. She was reading Scripture daily and meditating in the written words of the Holy Bible. Psalm

My Sisters the Saints (4) – An Inspiring Journey in Faith

imagesIn the spring of 2001, five years after Colleen Carroll Campbell had moved from Memphis to St. Louis to write for the St. Louis Post Dispatch, she fell in love with John Campbell, a young physician in training who would become her husband. Their love story is endearing and genuinely sweet. During this same time, in 2001, she took a year-long leave from the newspaper to write her book titled: The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy (Chicago: Loyola Press, 2002). She describes this project as a “labor of love . . . a young writer’s dream” (55). She received a grant to travel around the country interviewing hundreds of her peers, mostly Catholics and evangelicals. Her desire was to track and reveal a growing trend among younger adults who were embracing more orthodox expressions of the Christian faith. Her interest grew out of her own experience of faith and astute professional observations. The book is not based on a poll, or the gathering of scientific data. It is anecdotal and profoundly fun to

My Sisters the Saints (3) – An Inspiring Journey in Faith

book-my-sisters-the-saintsAs Colleen Carroll Campbell’s spiritual memoir, My Sisters the Saints, evolves we begin to understand how her relationship with men was being changed profoundly. These changes clearly grew out of the spiritual formation that was now powerfully shaping her life as a growing Catholic Christian.

She writes that before Christmas break was over she did not want to make long-term plans with a man who regarded God as a competitor for her loyalty (22). She, in her own words, “surrendered her relationship [to] take a chance on God instead” (22). Her attempts to enter into a relationship with God was, at first, one of fits and starts. She was grasping for something, anything, that would “help her get her bearings” but the journey was not easy. (Is is ever? If it is then it will likely not last.) She finished college with many more questions but writes: “Teresa’s example convinced me that my journey to understand who I was and how I should live as a woman was inextricably bound with my journey toward God” (24). The party

My Sisters the Saints (2) – An Inspiring Journey in Faith

Colleen Carroll Campbell’s new spiritual memoir informs the reader, very early in the book, of how her reading St. Teresa’s biography brought deep change. She understood anew why her parents read the lives of the saints as she found in Teresa a woman of passion and purpose whose journey was deeply compelling for its many detours. What she describes as Teresa’s “spicy, messy, and meandering spiritual journey cast my own struggles in a new light” (19). images-2She saw huge differences between her life and that of Teresa but she wondered if the aching hunger that she knew, and her boredom with worldly pleasures, could find an answer in such a deep spiritual experience.

Before Christmas break was over she realized that she did not want to make long-term plans with a man who regarded God as a competitor for her loyalty (22). In her words, she “surrendered her relationship [to] take a chance on God instead” (22). Her attempts to enter into a relationship with God was, at first, one of fits and starts. She was grasping for


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