Tuesday 29 July 2014

Held up in transit

Stuck at New Delhi, in Centaur Hotel near the airport. After cancelling the Israel trip because Royal Jordanian was not flying into Tel Aviv, I booked a flight to Rome on Air India. The domestic leg was at 1000 from the domestic terminal 1A in Mumbai. All on schedule, till, as we were boarding, they announced that the flight would be diverted via Pune. The problem was that some Pune flight had force landed in Mumbai, there was a whole planeload of passengers, and we for Delhi were probably very few. So Air India sacrificed us and gave priority to the Pune passengers. We landed in Delhi towards 1500 hrs - we were supposed to land at 1210 or so. My flight to Rome was at 1420. We were met kindly by a ground staff, taken to the transfers desk, told that our flights had departed, and that we would be put up at a hotel near the airport. I was given my boarding pass for the next day, same time, same flight. So that is how I find myself at the Centaur Hotel. Quite a rundown place, not running to full capacity, but after the initial disorientation, I find myself okay and even well. A bit of national integration, with Lucas Lopes from Nanbhat, Vasai and a Punjabi Sikh woman who I thought was older than me, but who turned out to be a whole year younger. Apart from the rundown look of the place and the rooms, the dinner buffet was not bad, and I slept rather well. The WiFi in the lobby is of course a great bonus, though I wonder why it's not available in the rooms.

All said and done, not a great problem when compared to the real problems of people, in the Middle East, in Ukraine, in so many troubled places in the world....

Lucas says he is quite used to this, and his family is not even surprised. The man works hard: 12-13 hours standing as a chef in an Indian vegetarian restaurant in Sydney, Dosa Plaza (there was something called Dosa Diner in the little snatch of Hum Tum that I caught on the long flight from Mumbai). He says he has not yet located a convenient Catholic church. He hopes to take his wife and kid over for a while, but I guess he would have to find friends and family to be of support. Lucas was also telling me how Fr Robin, his parish priest in Nanbhat, has become a man of intense prayer. Recently a Gujarati family saw the face of Jesus on the veil of the tabernacle, and then everyone who came to church saw it too, many have taken photos, and the image remained till a woman who was doubting came and touched the veil. I don't know what to make of this; but, as ever, if people's hearts are touched, that is always the important thing and the criterion.

The Punjabi woman lives in Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, rises at 0300 every morning, goes down to the gurudwara to pray and to help in the langar, and then in the evenings prays again with others, perhaps in her flat. Total vegetarian, though Sikhs are not necessarily veg. The usual questions were asked. I told her I was a priest. She asked whether I was non-veg. I said yes. I added: but so was Bhagavan Yesu. She did not know what to make of that. He taught us that it is love that is important: love for bhagavan, love for insaan. That she seemed to understand and accept, even very well. The vegetarianism remains a sticking point in India, though.

Saturday 5 July 2014

Salesians, spiritual directors of youth

The wonderful thing is that our Youth Ministry Department here at the Pisana has been working on the topic of spiritual direction (or spiritual accompaniment) the last few years. We have, in fact, a new publication: L'accompagnamento spirituale: Itinerario pedagogico spirituale in chiave salesiana al servizio dei giovani, ed. F. Attard, Miguel Angel Garcia (Torino: ElleDiCi, 2014), the fruit of three seminars organized by the department recently.

Which means: youth ministers are being reminded that they are spiritual directors of youth....

Snapshots of the Lonergan Workshop, Boston College, 2014


Dear Ivo,

Thank you so much for writing when you did. People said the Workshop was especially good this time. As is becoming usual, a cram-packed schedule. 

We certainly missed you, and did so perhaps most of all when on Tuesday, before Greg Lauzon's presentation, we asked those still in attendance (Carla Mae had to depart that afternoon for meetings of her order) to offer reflections or comments on the Jerusalem Workshop. While Tom McPartland, Warren, Cloe, Pat, and Tom McCauley made their brief and moving presentations, Pat Byrne played a loop of scenes of Jerusalem and Galilean sites in the background. Tom McP, whose orientation is historical, gave a summary of our outings, from the Mass at the site of the crucifixion to Qumran and the Dead Sea, remarking sites that he found particularly moving. Warren concentrated on an experience he had with a particular Muslim woman at the Dome of the Rock that made him realize that he was indeed on Holy Ground, where he was supposed to be. [Tish came to the Workshop for a day to reunite with the Jerusalem contingent.] Cloe spoke of how marvelous was the combination of a "scientific conference" filled with many excellent presentations with the re-visiting of sites she had already been to many times, but this time with a new impact. She also stressed how it was the occasion of special bonding, different from the Boston Workshop because of living and traveling at close quarters and the special circumstances. Pat told of the impact upon him of the distances, e.g., from Galilee to Jerusalem, which Jesus would have traveled without an air-conditioned bus, of being moved by the Via Dolorosa, and of the pleasant reunion with Mustafa Abu Sway and his family, which whom he'd had a close familiarity when, for example Mustafa's daughter whom he'd known as a child was present with her kids. Tom McA mentioned his penchant to go off on his own, e.g., floating out quite a ways off shore at the Dead Sea, and also the terrific driver who took us around. Many mentioned the role of Fr Vernet, his tireless generosity, and the gift of his books. Everyone underlined the splendid hospitality and friendliness of the Salesian Community.
It was really a marvelous recapitulation, and Sue and I told each other that it seems now like a wonderful dream that we can hardly believe was a real experience, thanks to you.

There were special talks at the Workshop, what with a still weaker Bill Murnion doing another Skype Q & A, Bob Doran previewing his plans for the 2nd volume of The Trinity in History, wonderful talks on the Church's unequivocal shift away from extra ecclesiam nulla salus by Frank Sullivan and Niki Wandinger. William George spoke of a terrific Islamic fellow in Chicago and an exemplary Cathoic learned man named Weeramantry, both of whom play mediating and peace-making roles in inter-religious contexts, somewhat like Stephanie Saldana. Dennis Doyle, ecclesiologist from U of Dayton, kicked things off with a great talk that had to do with taking both sides of the ongoing progressives/traditionalists controversies in re: Vat II, and also on other so-called 'hot-button' issues, suggesting that the higher viewpoint of an explanatory ecclesiology might help to "cool the mark" or disarm the adversaries, each of whom can have legitimate fears and concerns. Ex-BC students were outstanding: Mark Miller (on Malcolm X's life and conversion), Joe Mudd on Francis and liturgical reform, Matt Petillo on how he changed his mind from agreeing with Charles Hefling about the gift of charity as a created participation in passive spiration from the Spirit to the Father & the Son to coming to the realization that, on Aquinas's analogy for charity as friendship, it is a specifically social grace explicitly given to many, Jeremy Wilkins on the grace sufficient for salvation, and Paul LaChance on the implications of Eugene Gendlin's technique of Focusing. Carla Mae translated Pope Francis's lovely ideas about mission, friendliness, being non-judgmental into practical terms grounded in Lonergan's thought, and a Loretto sister who teaches at Regis, Gill Goulding, gave a very nice talk on the complementarity of Balthasar and Lonergan; while John Dadosky talked about how the other complementary couple, Rahner and Lonergan could contribute to the recovery of Vatican II's apercus.

On Thursday night, Gerry Whelan gave a talk linking the Pope's Argentinian orientation to liberation theology by way of a theology of the people with Lonergan's/Doran's notions of theology as mediating between a religion and a culture; and then Phillip Berryman gave a splendid summary of the social, economic, cultural and religious situation of Latin America now, contrasting the facts sometimes with the statements regarding the Church in Latin America in the statement that came out of the Latin American Bishops Conference at Apericida, upon which Bergoglio had a big influence in the writing.

Must go...

But much love and wishes to see you sooner than later!

Fred & Sue  



Dear Fred, thanks for taking the time to write all that. Much appreciated.
what is your take on Petillo's change of mind? I would be very much interested to know.

in the meantime, whelan and i will be readers of a Lonergan thesis at the Salesian Pont. U. here in Rome, in December. The thesis is on culture, and I happen to the the guide. 

Cloe and I met up in Rome before the workshop, and she tried hard to get me to send in a contribution to the Workshop, but it was not possible. things were too new for me here. but i've begun to find time once again for the journal, and for a festschrift we've been preparing, so perhaps that is a sign that i am settling down. in the meantime, Rossi de Gasperis on one side, and Jungian archetypes with John Sanford on the other side, are keeping me going. One great inspiration in the kind of work I am doing is Lonergan's comment in "The Apostolate of the Jesuit..." about an international organization working as a central clearing house for the many ongoing processes the world over... so i hope to listen and learn, and share ('good practices', not 'best practices' any more, I am told) before looking at dialectic. our main weaknesses are clearly in the area of the psyche and the spirit (human-affective and spiritual); though the intellectual remains important, we have been taking some care of it over the years. so instead of looking outward, the direction seems to be, pay attention to the subjects, and especially those subjects who are the formation team members. in short, one great direction seems to be that of preparing people to be spiritual directors. 

will be making a dash to India to see my mum who has not been well, and also to say hi to robert and co. at divyadaan, besides other places. 

as for Phyllis, I tried contacting Judith and Ben, but have no replies of late. i know she is in a nursing home. i would be happy to have news. i pray for her. it must not be easy on her. 

much love to Sue, and thanks again for writing. 

Dear Ivo,

Thanks for your reply.

We forgot to mention that Maury Schepers was part of the Jerusalem gang commenting on their experience. He was the one who especially spoke of Fr Vernet, not only as a learned and expert guide, but also, he thought, as a mystic. In his talk he continued his meditations on the Communications chapter in Method in Theology, and put Pope Francis in that context.

Cloe spoke of terms from the contemporary human sciences that might be relevant to the questions concerning the role of women in the church, esp. women's ordination, to wit: mutuality and reciprocity of male/female and husband/wife relationships, which now displace the former ways of understanding them in terms of subordination of woman to man.

Bill Mathews spoke on "Dimensions of Meaning" and of the way language structures consciousness and its operations--returning to the Wittgensteinian territory of his Leeds dissertation under Hugo Meynell (although I doubt that this link to his past expressly occurred to him). 

Also on the ex-BC list, I omitted Randy Rosenberg's critique of American and global consumerism. It reminded me of Pasolini's parody: "I am the Lord thy God who delivered you from slavery in Egypt. Thou shalt have no other jeans before you!" Which, in turn, reminds me of Leo Strauss's similar parody about the American reception of Exodus.  "I am the Lord thy God who delivered you from slavery in Egypt. Relax!"

I heartily agreed with Petillo. He did not send in a paper yet, or I would forward it to you. He adduced a number of passages in 
Method in Theology making his point plausible. 

I regard his thesis as antecedently probable in the light of the Sixth and Seventh points in The Triune God: Systematics in the treatment of the Divine Missions. In the Sixth place, Lonergan says, " a further distinction is to be made between the habit of grace [i.e., sanctifying grace] and the situation of grace." Here Lonergan points out that the participation in the divine life bestowed by this grace should be understood and conceived as having to do not just with each person, but with all the just. Then in the Seventh place, he says, "through this state [of grace] there is constituted a divine-human interpersonal situation." So he's saying that we have to expand our consideration of even sanctifying grace as the gift of a habit entitatively transforming each graced person to realize its implications for the situation (a key term in existentialism, as in J.P. Sartre's collection of essays entitled, Situations). So, a fortiori, something parallel ought to hold for the habit of charity as the created participation in the relation of passive spiration, from the Holy Spirit to the Father and the Son.

Something like Petillo's point already struck me as I wrote "Grace and Friendship: Postmodern Political Theology as Conversational" (first given as a lecture at Regis College, and then published by Spaccapelo in the volume he published in honor of BL's 100th birthday, which I am attaching herewith), that Aquinas's audacity in using the analogy of friendship (basically according to Aristotle) to explain Charity in his treatise on the topic had cultural implications both in relation to the postmodern concern for the "Other" and for political theology. This seemed to be confirmed by "Finality, Love, Marriage," which I used at length in that article.

It seemed to us that the influence of Francis on the Workshop was profound, not least because of his posing the idea of the Church's mission, when one boils it down I believe, into friendliness. In relation to friendliness, the passions of the polarized factions of the post-Vatican II era seem to reject the need for friendliness even in intra-church relationships. 

This might be relevant to the "the area of the psyche and the spirit (human-affective and spiritual) as an area of concern in formation". Doesn't the issue of church as mutual self-mediation fall under the heading of friendship (as understood by Aristotle/Thomas, shorn of Romanticism and sentimentality--but not of deep feeling as related to listening)?

If you do hear, please keep us updated on Phyllis, for whom we join you in praying.


Fred & Sue

Dear Fred, 
thanks again, it's like getting a bit of the workshop in a nutshell. 
the other day, after Francis' famous house meeting with Peres and Abbas, it struck me that Francis had been opening a new way for dialogue. The sticking point between Jews, Muslims and Christians is really Christ, isn't it? and here was Francis cutting through the doctrinal by means of the interpersonal, to friendship and friendliness, to love.... 
thanks for the article. i had acquired the book last year in rome, dont know where i've sent it. 
your students were planning a collection of your articles. wonder what's become of it.
wishes once again to sue.
in friendship!

Friday 4 July 2014

Formation - Zattoni and Gillini

Errico Castoldi sent me a great article by Mariateresa Zattoni and Gilberto Gillini, "La formazione ai due sacramenti ordinati alla salvezza altrui: uno sguardo alle direttrici di fondo," La Rivista del Clero Italiano (5 May 2014) 383-400. The authors are described as "consulenti relazionali e pedagogisti della famiglia, docenti emeriti di 'Strumenti relationali per il Family Help' a Pontificium Institutum Johannes Paulus II per Studi su Matrimonio e Famiglia e già membri della Consulta Nazionale CEI per la Famiglia in qualità di esperti."

Interesting, first of all, and quite new to me, is the way the authors find deep similarities between formation to matrimony and formation to religious and priestly life.

A quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 1534) provides an explanation of the title of the article: "Two other sacraments, Holy Orders and Matrimony, are directed towards the salvation of others; if they contribute as well to personal salvation, it is through service to others that they do so. They confer a particular mission in the Church and serve to build up the People of God."

The article deals explicitly with the content of the formative journey, and it soon becomes evident that the authors are speaking from a great deal of experience in dealing with people, both married couples and religious / priests / seminarians. 

The second page already gives a helpful summary. "We think that formation of a young person to consecrated life or to married life must help him to:
WEST: 'leave father and mother,' monitoring his journey of detachment which never happens once for all;
NORTH: bring into focus the fundamental values on which his life is based, and prepare him to find motivations for this foundation not only for himself but also for others;
EAST: bring into focus the fundamental aspect that favours healthy relationships - the capacity to think positively of the behaviour of others, even when they differ from one's own, and to appreciate the totality of the values that derive from it;
SOUTH: bring into focus the body of disvalues to which he is drawn, and which will always be present in his life."

WEST: formation and transgression

1. The first transgression is the ability to break oneself from parental relationships. This is provocative, but I found it deeply sane and healthy. It is the task of becoming adult, taking a distance from father and mother, finding one's own identity. "There are adults - parents and educators - who do not even suspect that, in order to get on with his life (and not out of mere caprice or in order to make the parents suffer) the young person in formation must transgress...." The twelve year old Jesus in the Temple is a great example here (Lk 2:49)

2. The second is getting rid of the desire for approval.

3. The third is refusing to play 'Lorenzo the Great'. Stop thinking you have to be in control of everything in the family, mediating, balancing, assigning praise and blame, giving advice... They can manage very well without you.

NORTH: the formation compass

Kurt Lewin, the father of modern social psychology: There is nothing as practical as a good theory. [Very Lonerganian.] Jerome Bruner: every discipline must aim at understanding as deeply as possible the principles that constitute the very structure of the discipline. A good theory gives us the best possibility of synthesis in the face of the complexity of life. For Christian formation, the foundation is clearly the Word and the theological-ecclesial reflection that situates the Word in life [theology as mediating between revelation and culture]. [An extremely clear declaration of the place of Christian revelation in the task of Christian formation.]

1. The love of the Father for all his creatures. The Father loves everyone [the errant husband or wife or priest, the formator or parish priest who gives me trouble, the seminarian or formee who I just cannot understand].

2. The lightness of the yoke (Mt 11:28-30). This conviction challenges the Freudian assumption that civilization is the source only of duties and of the 'sacrifice of drives,' and so that civilization leads to the 'discontent' of modern man. (the liberation of drives has, in fact, not led in any significant way to happiness.) It also challenges a certain kind of theology that believes in suffering in itself as a sacrifice pleasing to God.

3. Only the Father liberates us from evil (we do not save ourselves). We need to recognize realisitically and humbly that evil exists, both in the sense of our personal inclination to evil, and in the sense of an Evil One who wants to destroy our faith. The two sacraments of matrimony and holy orders are both continually exposed to the evil of the loss of love, the loss of faith-fidelity. (see Mt 24:12) The Evil One tries all the time to separate us from God. Thus, for example, when all seems to be going well, we lose our head for someone.... Or, on the other hand, when faced with failure, suffering, death, we easily blame God and feel ourselves innocent. Or when we think we need signs. Jesus prays for us: Simon, Simon, Satan wanted to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you, that your fail might not fail...

EAST: emphasizing the positive.

SOUTH: living with original sin.

Recognizing one's irrational beliefs. Albert Ellis, the father of cognitive psychology, provides us with the concept of Irrational Beliefs: however good our formation, there remains an attraction towards the negative, an attraction which hinders us from enjoying the messianic peace that the Lord wants to give.

Our irrational beliefs are not produced only by the subject, but also by the world in which the subject lives. And irrational beliefs are challenged and changed not only with the help of a therapist, but also through the friendly and welcoming contact with another, with one's neighbour/s, especially when these are "meek and humble of heart."

Irrational beliefs are logical traps. A tendency to generalize is one of these; another is the tendency to see everything as a catastrophe (every little problem becomes magnified into a huge one)

Thursday 3 July 2014

The call of Matthew

The synagogue at Capharnaum
The call of Matthew in the gospel of Luke: Pope Francis' phrase comes immediately to mind: miserando ed eligendo. He had compassion on him, and he chose him.

But also Rossi de Gasperis' description of the border, on the Via Maris, not far from Capharnaum, where Matthew must have had his tax or toll booth, the possibility that Simon Peter and Andrew, and James and John had been paying taxes to him and hating him, and so the inconvenience and awkwardness of Jesus' choice of Matthew. Or his great inner freedom, along with a deep strength and confidence, in making the choice of Matthew, and choosing to eat and drink with his young friends, mostly other tax-collectors and sinners.

And Matthew "leaving everything immediately and following him." In response to the secco invitation, "Seguimi." Follow ME. No apologies here, as in the case of - was it Elijah or Elisha? "Why do you want to follow me? Go back. I did not call you." It is Jesus clearly at the centre here, he is aware of it, and does not soft-pedal.

Our response: gratitude for the call given to us, and to all young people.

And our prayer: chiedere insistentemente per la grazia di una intima conoscenza di lui, per amarlo di più e seguirlo di più. 

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