10 ways to control your anger - Professional expert’s advice

I am really emotional and excitable person. I think that there are two types of anger: constructive anger and a destructive one. In order to understand the anger phenomenon I decided to investigate the nature of anger, reasons of its appearing, key factors and anger management.

What does it mean this anger? Anger is a strong indignation feeling of our emotional sphere that is attended by self-control losing. Anger is a signal of our state. Glands produce an array of hormones that have a great and deep effect on all our body. The main participants of this process are adrenaline and cortisol. They activate cardiovascular system and consequently all organs. Adrenalin causes fast heart beating, rising blood pressure. These rich oxygenated blood streams to the places are responsible for reaction. Thus some extra energy is released.

There are 4 basic ways of anger expressions:

1. Straight and immediately (verbally or nonverbally) to show your anger. It gives an opportunity to free from the negative emotions.

2. To express anger in an indirect way. In this case usually suffer persons that are weaker, not dangerous and those ones who “come to hand”, usually they are our family and close relatives. Thus we hurt our dear ones. One of the best ways is to express your anger to the person who is the source of this very anger. If it is impossible- better find some compromise.

3. Restraining anger you “drive” it deep inside. So, negative emotions store will provoke a big stress sooner or later.

4. You may foresee situation of anger feeling, try not to expand this feeling but get to know the reason, understand and solve it. A Roman philosopher Seneca said: “When you are feeling of ascending “volcano”- stand still, not doing anything- not speaking, not moving.”

Anger is a normal and natural human feeling, especially nowadays as life is really fast and we have a huge amount of information to accumulate (in comparison with our previous generations). The range of anger is rather wide: from a slight annoyance to impetuous fury. Anger can be quick and long, lasting for years in form of bitterness, vengeance or hate. Anger can lead to health issues like depression, high blood pressure, hearth diseases, stresses, alcohol dependence and obesity. If you are anger- express it. If you feel discomfort from these “negative splashes”- then we can give some techniques how to manage your emotional anger:

  • 1. Take a deep and continuous breath. Count up to 50 or imagine your aggressor just naked, only in socks. This will help you to calm and smile.

  • 2. Have a walk. Look at high sky. Continue to breathe deep and easily. So you appraise the situation and calm down.

  • 3. Do some physical exercises. When you are angry- your body is very tensed and tough. If you stretch your muscles it will relax your body, as you will spill out all your negative energy into action. Your brains will get more oxygen and it assists to clear your thoughts.

  • 4. Write down all your thoughts. Write down that you are mad and why. Avoid being rational, logical or laconic. Write on paper all you are feeling this moment. Try to write all in details. The function of this technique is to shift all your anger out of your head on paper.

  • 5. Be grateful. Find someone to thank. Do you not forget about yourself. Thank that you have woken up today, thank that that the Sun is shining for you, that the sky is blue and the grass is green.

  • 6. Prayer. Ask God to be with you during this anger moment and lead you.

  • 7. Meditation. Close your eyes, look into solar plexus, and be all your anger, breathing deeply.

  • 8. Change of places. Move yourself on your enemy’s place. And look at situation from his point of view. Better look at the situation from the ceiling. Focus on details, especially on funny and absurd ones. Strive to forgive your enemy as well as forgive truly yourself.

  • 9. Go back to your childhood memories. Recollect state when you were angry. Hug this child and say: “All is ok. I am here. You are good child. I love you and I will not leave you.”

  • 10. Your values. What is the most significant thing in your life? Who are the most important people in your life? What kind of person do you want to be? Think and accept that point that you are living your life, and you are living your values. There is a good man inside you that wants to help you. I wish you good luck!

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

More pursue careers as spiritual advisers

In past lives, Steve Isles was an insurance analyst and Peter Fabre was a nuclear engineer. Now the two run into each other in the halls of Banner Thunderbird Medical Center, where each is learning the ropes of spiritual care as chaplain interns.

"We all need something that is new at some point in our lives," Fabre said, adding that he could not have appreciated fully the emotional subtleties of patients when he was younger. "As we age and go through the phases in life, what's important takes on a slightly different meaning."

The fields of pastoral care, ethics and spirituality are changing and growing for a number of reasons: an aging population, the evolution and increasing adoption of professional standards for pastoral care, and interest by mid-lifers looking for meaningful work.

Late this year, Arizona State University will add a master's program in applied ethics and the professions that will span all four campuses. Pastoral-care ethics and spirituality will be taught at the West campus, while the business, biomedical, environment and emerging technologies ethics programs will debut at the other campuses this fall.

Ethics, at least academically, is hot.

"It appears that with the economic crisis we have sort of a demand and interest in bringing that kind of training into the fields," said Martin Matustik, a professor coordinating ASU's master's in pastoral-care ethics. "It will be interesting to see if companies and corporations will incorporate that need."

The work is challenging for people schooled to be pastors or priests in their own religions.

Chaplains and other care workers may not proselytize, preach or be perceived as giving medical advice. They are there to listen and to help patients explore their own questions.

For all of the summer interns at Banner, each of whom is on at least a second career, the rich interplay with other religions has been one of the most rewarding facets of the job. As they go from room to room, they might encounter a Muslim, a Catholic, a Jew or a Presbyterian, all on the same round.

"I'm learning a lot more about other religions," said intern Hugo Soutus, a priest at Dormition of the Mother of God Ukrainian Catholic Church in Phoenix. "I'm learning a lot about people going through difficult times."

Pastors and chaplains have been around, of course, for ages. What has changed is the type of people seeking work in the field and pursuing the level of education the work demands.

"Many more people are taking up ministry as a second career," said Toni Wolf, who supervises Banner Thunderbird's pastoral education program. "It used to be that you simply didn't have middle-aged folks or even people in their 30s going back to seminary, where now that is very, very common. Now young folks are not very common at all."

The professionalism required by hospitals, prisons and other institutions that employ chaplains is becoming more standardized as well.

Isles will have to show that he has mastered 29 "competencies" to become board-certified.

That is the norm.

"There are standards being introduced for chaplains, especially in health-care facilities, as part of their own accreditation," Wolf said. "Most places hiring full-time are requiring them to be certified. That's why it seems to be a new thing. There is a lot more professional approach to the whole thing."

Matustik expects most of the students in the ASU program to be working professionals or recent graduates who need a master's to get started in bereavement, trauma, chaplaincy or veterans affairs. Professors will work closely with the School of Social Work. Not all ethicists will be religion-based.

While volunteering at Hospice of the Valley, Matustik discovered a lack of educational opportunities for end-of-life caregivers and he wanted to send interns to fill that gap. The students will be armed with centuries of thought on ethics and reasoning.

"We sort of discovered in conversations with chaplains that there is no specific training for chaplains and ethicists that is interfaith and that even translates to hospice care," Matustik said. "They are not necessarily ready to work in a hospice situation. Nationwide, there is no specific training for hospice."

by Lesley Wright

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

More scriptural passages to live by

Folks sometimes ask me, “What are your favorite scriptural passages?” In a recent column I answered with Jewish, Christian and Muslim texts. Today we’ll look at three Asian treasures.

•“When men lack a sense of awe, there will be disaster” begins Chapter 72 of the Tao Te Ching in the Gia-Fu Feng/Jane English version of this ancient Taoist classic.

Some translations use the word “fear” instead of “awe,” but in either case the warning means that unless we are aware of what counts, we are in danger.

Our desacralized culture can easily distract us. There is nothing wrong with talking on a cell phone, but not while driving; you better pay attention to the road.

An economy leveraged by those more focused on their pay than on working for the common good leads to widespread hurt and failure.

More generally, when our preoccupation with the partial overwhelms feeling the whole miracle of existence, the impulse weakens to share what we have with others, and we may do crazy things.

But with awe we can see that the universe is, in William Blake’s words, “infinite and holy.”

•The Heart Sutra may be the most commonly chanted Buddhist text. In English, it is less than 300 words long.

Halfway through is the astonishing claim that there is “no truth of suffering, of the cause of suffering, of the cessation of suffering nor of the path” — in effect denying the Four Noble Truths that the Buddha himself taught.

So here is a Buddhist text that seems to undermine the very foundation of Buddhism. I know of no parallel text in any other religion.

But Buddhism, at least in theory, is based on undermining itself. It is an ancient post-modernism, calling into question any description of reality, including its own, because humans crave descriptions of reality more than reality itself.

•The Hindu Bhagavad-Gita 2:47 teaches us to “act without attachment to the result,” advising us that our minds become polluted when we desire an end more than simply doing what is right.

Inaction is not an option. But only with a clear head can we discern our responsibility and act on it, as if it were a sacrament.

We cannot be sure of the ultimate result, only of the integrity of our act. The outcome is in God’s hands.

These scriptural passages urge me to pay attention to what counts, to regard any human system of thought or picture of reality with caution, and to do the right thing without worrying about the consequence.

By Vern Barnet

Monday, June 22, 2009

Wanted: Freedom from religion

The theocratic repression in Iran is a reminder that there can be no freedom without secular government

June 23, 2009 | In the summer of 1968, as Soviet tanks rolled into communist Czechoslovakia to end the brief period of liberalization known as the "Prague Spring," W.H. Auden composed a poem titled "August 1968":

The Ogre does what ogres can,
Deeds quite impossible for Man,
But one prize is beyond his reach,
The Ogre cannot master Speech:
About a subjugated plain,
Among its desperate and slain,
The Ogre stalks with hands on hips,
While drivel gushes from his lips.

Watching the scenes of bravery and brutality that are being played out in Iran brings Auden's poem to mind. Another line comes to mind as well: the observation by W.E.B. DuBois in 1903 that "the problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color-line." Racism has not been extinguished, but it has been corralled, by the now-universal principle of the separation of race and state. The demise of political racism leaves political religion standing as the most widespread form of tyranny in the world. The problem of the 21st century is the problem of the creedal line. If the problem is solved, it will be solved by universalizing the principle of the separation of religion and state.

Secular government is the basis of both liberty and democracy. It is important to emphasize this, because of the tendency to portray the struggle in Iran in terms of a global conflict between democracy and dictatorship. Set aside, for a moment, the fact that former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi was one of four candidates, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who were approved to run as presidential candidates last May by the clerics of Iran's Guardian Council. It does not take away from the heroism of Mousavi or his followers to point out that if Ahmadinejad stole the election he stole an election that was already rigged.

The larger issue is the question of what comes first: separation of church and state, or democracy. America's Founders had no doubts on that score. Democracy requires citizens who are free from "superstition" and "priestcraft," to use 18th-century language. Americans have usually believed that religion can play a constructive role in a democratic republic by encouraging moral behavior. But in the traditional American view, theocratic democracy is nothing more than majoritarian tyranny, whether the clerics have a formal role in the state or merely tell the voters how to vote. And even secular democracy is not a goal in itself. It is merely a means to an end: the protection of natural rights.

The idea of universal, basic natural human rights is incompatible with theocracy in any form. While Christians and adherents of other religions can believe in natural rights, the theory of natural rights itself, influenced by ancient Greek sophists and Epicureans, is inherently secular. Natural rights by definition are those that ordinary people, using only their reason, can agree upon -- things like life and liberty and property or happiness, meaning access to subsistence. The list of natural rights varies from thinker to thinker, but they all have one thing in common -- they are not revealed by a divine intelligence to a prophet or priests.

The natural rights tradition is radical in another way. Authority flows upward from the individual to the government, not downward from God to the individual via the government. The government is not God's viceroy on earth. It is nothing more than a territorial mutual protection society. In natural rights theory -- though needless to say not always in the practice of liberal regimes -- the governors are the employees and agents of the governed.

Combine the two ideas of natural rights -- the governed as the bosses of the governors, the rights of the governed identifiable by reason -- and you get a conception of government as something that is limited in its purposes, if not necessarily its means. In the words of Thomas Jefferson in his "Notes on Virginia": "The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."

A government, in short, is a limited-purpose, secular, worldly agency, not a divine institution. It is more like a property-owners association than like a church. There would be no point in a property-owners association that sought to do its limited, straightforward business according to the precepts of Catholic natural law, or Baptist theology, or Orthodox Judaism. Likewise, from the natural rights liberal perspective the very idea of a Christian state or an Islamic republic seems absurd, like a Buddhist municipal water utility district.

But what if 100 percent of the people in a water-utility district are Buddhist and want the district's charter to promote Buddhism? It doesn't matter what they want. Promoting Buddhism is beyond the legitimate scope of the activities of a water utility district. Buddhist monks are free to promote Buddhism privately, but the water-utility engineers should stick to keeping the water clean and safe for everyone, Buddhist and non-Buddhist alike.

Replacing a Muslim monarch like the shah of Iran with an "Islamic republic" is merely replacing a more autocratic with a more populist form of theocratic tyranny. Liberal democracy is sometimes defined as "majority rule with minority rights," but that is misleading. If a religious majority rules, not on the basis of secular reason, using arguments that can convince nonbelievers as well as believers, but on the basis of supernatural dogma, then you simply have a form of religious tyranny with a multitude of small religious tyrants.

Jefferson wrote in his original preamble to Virginia's historic statue establishing religious freedom:

"SECTION III. And though we well know that this Assembly, elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of legislation only, have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding Assemblies, constituted with powers equal to our own, and that therefore to declare this act irrevocable would be of no effect in law; yet we are free to declare, and do declare, that the rights hereby asserted are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right."

Secular government, even in a country with a religious majority, is therefore the indispensable basis of genuine democracy, if the purpose of democracy is to allow a group of people to achieve their common, limited, this-worldly goals while securing their natural rights. To be sure, this understanding of democracy as subordinate to natural rights is disputed by many thinkers in the West and the world. Often democracy and self-determination are treated as though they were ends in themselves, rather than as means to realize the basic natural rights of individuals.

But if you sever democracy from the idea of universal, human rights discernible by secular reason, with no need for assistance from divine revelation, you run the risk of sanctioning majoritarian tyranny by means of free and fair elections. You then have no grounds for objecting, if reactionary Christians in a Christian majority country vote in biblical law, or if a majority of Muslim voters vote in sharia law. Majority rule did not justify racism in the American South. It cannot justify "religionism" anywhere.

Is it "cultural imperialism" to insist that natural rights be the basis of limited and secular government? That cultural-relativist argument can hardly be made by theocrats, who claim that the legitimacy of governments depends on their conformity to the will of God, as interpreted by their scriptures and their clerics. Pakistan's Ministry of Religious Affairs takes its motto from a Quranic verse: "Islam is the only religion acceptable to God." Those who hold this view cannot argue that their version of government is the only divinely sanctioned one and then defend it by claiming to be defending their local traditions and customs, as though their would-be universal religion were just a local style of costume or cuisine. Religious tyranny today predominantly is found in Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran. But that does not make critics of religious tyranny "anti-Muslim," any more than the fact that white supremacy was found, obviously, in white nations and white-ruled empires made criticism of racism "anti-white."

If I am right, then enlightened people around the world should oppose official religion just as they opposed racial apartheid. In the aftermath of European colonialism, cultural relativists have mocked distinctions between "civilization" and "barbarism." But if it was barbarous for South Africa to be a Nazi-like white supremacist state, why is it not barbarous for Saudi Arabia to ban the public practice of other religions by its citizens? If constitutions declaring Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan to be "Islamic republics" are not relics of a more primitive stage of human civilization, then what is? Fear of hurting the feelings of Muslim theocrats should not deter our disapproval any more than fear of insulting Afrikaaners did during the campaign against South African apartheid.

None of this means that the U.S. government or other governments should try to reform religious tyrannies, including "democratic" Islamic republics, from the outside. In the aftermath of George W. Bush's crusade in the name of democracy, we do not need a foreign policy crusade in the name of secularism. President Obama's caution during the Iranian upheaval has been appropriately statesmanlike. Nor would it be wise to recommend ostracizing the inhabitants of clerical states. Treating white South Africans as pariahs helped to accelerate the demise of apartheid, but in the case of some of today's semi-liberal and semi-democratic Islamic republics, engagement of their populations and leaders with the wider world may have better effects.

The one thing that we in liberal countries can do, while reformers in Iran fight and sometimes die for their principles, is to understand our own. And the most fundamental principle of all is that ordinary human beings are capable of governing themselves without the guidance of other ordinary human beings who pretend to speak on behalf of God.

By Michael Lind

Friday, June 19, 2009

Looking for Spirituality in Political Action

Fierce Light: When Spirit Meets Action explores whether one person can make a difference in an age of global economic collapse, war, terrorism and mega-corporations. The movie takes filmaker Velcrow Ripper across the globe in an attempt to understand the relationship between activism and spirituality. What results is a beautiful and powerfully compelling film which sadly does not quite reach its full potential.

The film begins with stunningly gorgeous photography of the Oaxacan countryside in Mexico. Ripper's close friend and fellow documentarian Brad Will is covering the 2006 Oaxaca protests, a conflict which started between the government and teachers unions but quickly exploded into massive protests and riots.

As the government sends in riot police to control the crowds, Will catches a stray bullet and dies. Will's death is the catalyst which propels the film forward. Ripper takes the audience around the world, examining sites of social activism.

Beneath it all, he is on a journey of self-discovery, trying to ascertain his own spirituality and how this informs his activist zeal.

Fierce Light's scope is staggering. Ripper covers the history of the civil rights movement in America, disenfranchised social classes in India, the life of Ghandi, the history of apartheid and much more.

His most compelling material comes from Los Angeles, where a treasured urban green space faces demolition by encroaching developers. He interviews activists, politicians, artists and spiritual leaders from all different walks of life.

Many of these interviews are both intriguing and entertaining, offering relevant insights into the themes Ripper develops. Some, however, seem thrown in with little regard to content or context -- such as an interview with a great granddaughter of Ghandi who didn't have anything relevant to add to the film.

Fierce Light is an expertly filmed and produced documentary. Ripper's cinematography is often exceedingly beautiful. The film is edited well, effectively combining excellent footage with various stock materials. The soundtrack is approriate -- if forgettable -- and keeps the film moving at the proper pace.

The film's ordering, both spatially and chronologically, is occasionally schizophrenic, jumping from place to place with little logical progression. This is rather unavoidable, considering the huge array of infor- mation Ripper condensed into the film.

Perhaps the most compelling aspect of the piece was an exploration of Ripper's own spiritual life. The film briefly touches on his reluctance to accept any one established religion, yet this idea is rarely touched on after it is introduced. His attempt to address spirituality in a documentary about activism results in a lot of aimless discussion of new-age spirituality and Buddhism.

Those eagerly looking forward to a comprehensive examination of spirituality will find a lot of half-baked, pseudo-religious ideas that are never effectively woven into the film.

Ripper runs into the same problem when covering various activist causes. He addresses so much that he's hardly able to delve deeply into anything. Ripper would have done Fierce Light much justice had he narrowed his focus, favouring a more nuanced look at his various causes of interest.

Activists and the socially conscious will find a lot to like in this film. Those looking for an in-depth exploration of larger social and spiritual themes are going to leave the theatre unsatisfied.

By Joel Cummings

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The influence of St. Isaac and his significance for today

Already in his lifetime Isaac was respected and venerated as a spiritual teacher. After his death his glory increased as his writings spread. Joseph Hazzaya, who lived in the eighth century, called him ‘famous among the saints’. Another Syrian writer calls him ‘the master and teacher of all monks and the haven of salvation for the whole world’.

By the eleventh century, due to the Greek translation of his writings, Isaac became widely known in the Greek-speaking East: in the famous anthology of ascetical texts, the Evergetinon, the passages from ‘abba Isaac the Syrian’ stand on the same footing as those from the classics of early Byzantine spirituality. This is how a modest ‘Nestorian’ Bishop from a remote province of Persia became a Holy Father of the Orthodox Church of Chalcedonian orientation - a rather exceptional phenomenon in the history of Eastern Christianity.

St Isaac has exerted a considerable influence on Russian spirituality. His ascetical homilies, translated into Slavonic in the XIVth century, made a deep impression on St Nil of Sora, one of the most important monastic writers of the XVIth century. In the XIXth century major theologians, such as Philaret of Moscow and Theophane the Recluse, as well as famous secular writers, such as I.Kireyevsky and F.Dostoyevsky, were among his admirers. Dostoyevsky was deeply influenced by Isaac’s homilies and used some of them as a source material for ‘the writings of Elder Zosima’ in ‘The Brothers Karamazoff’.

The word of St Isaac has crossed not only the boundaries of time, but also confessional barriers. As early as in the ninth century, he was read by the Byzantine and Syrian Orthodox, as well as the Church of the East, each group having provided its own recension of his writings. In the fifteenth century Isaac breaks into the Catholic world, being at the same time one of the most popular ascetical writers of the Eastern Orthodox Church. In our time his writings draw the attention of Christians who belong to different denominations and follow different traditions, but share a common faith in Jesus and the ultimate quest for salvation. I remember how during one scholarly conference, where I delivered a paper on the practice of prayer in St Isaac, three people came to me, one after another: a Cistercian nun, a protestant layman, and a Buddhist monk. All three were wondering at how much Isaac’s teaching of prayer, which I expounded, is in line with their own traditions. Then a Franciscan friar came to inform me of the existence of St Isaac of Nineveh’s retreat house in New Zealand: the house is run by both Catholics and Anglicans.

One of the secrets of this ecumenical reception of Isaac lies in his own universal vision: his writings, which were initially addressed to a very narrow circle of his contemporary monastics, have proved to be aproppriate for so many people in different epochs even down to our time. Every Christian who now reads Isaac can find something appropriate for himself, in spite of the fact that the entire context of Isaac’s life was so strikingly different from our own.

Another secret of Isaac’s wide reception lies in the fact that he is always speaking of God’s love, which has no boundaries, which is beyond any concept of justice or requital, which was crucified for the salvation of the whole world and which leads all created beings to salvation. In every epoch, the Christian world needs to be reminded of this universal love of God for His creation because in every epoch there is a strong tendency within Christianity to replace the religion of love and freedom that was brought about by Jesus with the religion of slavery and fear. Isaac reminds us that it is not out of fear of punishment or out of hope of future reward that we are to keep God’s commandments, but out of our love for God. Our vocation is not to be slaves, but to attain to the freedom of the sons of God and to become ‘a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Spirituality theme of street festival

The African American Street Festival has used fellowship, friendship and fun to grow itself into the annual celebration that took place Saturday.

About 200 people gathered Saturday at the Clarksville Jaycees Building at Fairgrounds Park for the celebration organized by Progressive Citizen Advocates, where the smell of freshly cooked food, the sounds of gospel, hip hop and dance performances all were part of the day's activities.

Francesca Hayes, secretary for PCA, said the event has grown because of increased publicity and interest from the community.

"What happened was we got the word out," Hayes said, who also said the unity of local churches helped make the event a success.

Frank Washington, lead organizer for PCA, said this year's event took a more spiritual theme, but fun was being had by all.

"It's singing, dancing and good food all over the place," he said.

The celebration officially ends today at 4 p.m. at St. John's Missionary Baptist Church with a close-out worship.

The event began seven years ago with the intent of celebrating the emancipation of Tennessee slaves. While the emancipation is still a driving force behind the festival, it has grown to include friends, fun and the creation of fresh memories for those involved.

"It's getting bigger, and that's a good thing," Washington said.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

How Buddhism led me back to God

When I was in my late teens, heading into adulthood, I was unsure of myself. I wasn’t sure about my spirituality, or how I felt about my family, or what I wanted to do with my life. I wasn’t even entirely sure that I was sane. I went through a period of intense questioning. My biggest questions were about God. Who was God? Was God really even there? If God was there, was he a good and loving God or some cranky guy in the clouds with a big stick and a score to settle?

What was the real point of Christianity? If someone asked me my opinion of church, I wouldn’t equivocate. I would smirk and say that it was a load of crap, that I had other things to do. Church made me feel guilty and dirty and even more unsure than I already was. I saw people getting joy from it and I hated them, I hated myself for not feeling what they were feeling. The only thing I did know with any certainty was that the status quo wasn’t working.

So I gave up. I stopped going to church. I stopped reading my Bible. I stopped doing everything. I started buying books about the Dalai Lama and Taoism. I read about Wicca and elemental spirituality. I buried myself in hope- hope that even if everything I grew up believing was wrong, that there was still some essence of goodness in the world, that there was still something I could connect myself to, to give myself purpose. Here’s the thing: I never questioned if there was some higher force or higher power. I was sure of it. And even at my worst, I still believed in a kind of god. That god just wasn’t the God of Christianity. Or, at least, that’s what I thought.

Because my God was a loving God. He was compassionate and tender. He didn’t want for people to suffer, or be judged, or be tossed aside. Yet the way I saw God’s name being used seemed to say something different. People used God to set themselves apart, to judge others, to justify their bigotry. And I couldn’t let myself believe in the same God they did.

I found a lot of the elements of the God I sought after in Eastern Spirituality. Here were systems of belief based off of truth and observation. They talked about a natural order, an observable rightness, aligning one’s self with the right patterns in order to be whole. They talked about how man kills himself with anger, judgment and bitterness. How pain is not your enemy, but a way to find truth. They talked about how the greatest good comes from sacrifice. And as I read these words, I found myself thinking, “isn’t this Jesus?”

Jesus spoke in the same sort of parables as the Dali Lama. He spoke observational truth. His words rang true because one could watch the world around themselves and see the evidence. He cautioned against anger, bitterness, judgment, and idleness. His death itself proves that there is no power greater than sacrifice. And certainly he didn’t view pain as the enemy if he was called the “man of many sorrows.”

I had an epiphany. No matter my contentions with the church, everything brought me back to Jesus. And I felt sure that I could embrace all that I loved the most about Buddhism and Taoism while still following God: mastery of one’s will, one’s body, one’s emotions, self-sacrifice… these are concepts that are very at home in Christianity.

(To be continued…)

From Emphatic Asterisk

Calling all saviors

I was speaking with a close family member when the topic of religion and spirituality entered the scene. In explaining my beliefs I stated that I do believe Jesus to have been an amazing individual with a divine message of the truth that God lies within. I also stated that I don’t believe Jesus to be someone I need to call on as my savior in order to go to a place called heaven in the afterlife. After explaining this belief, I received the often-heard comment “well I may not be practicing [as a Christian] but I do still believe.”

If you’re New Thought and from a Christian background you may have experienced hearing similar statements. I have many family members–all of whom I love dearly–that have commented on my new spiritual status, and lack of personal savior, in one way or the other. To them it seems, if you don’t have Jesus the Christ as your personal savior, you don’t have anything at all.

So what are we to do then? Even in the Bible, where verses often seem contradictory, we are encouraged to “judge not, that ye be not judged” and to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” While both pieces of advice are logical and seem ideal, it often seems harder for humans to put into practice. The domination of Christianity seems to be so deeply woven into the framework of American society that anyone who dares to stray from this belief system is immediately discarded into the “going to hell” pile or is subjected to endless attempts to “save their soul”.

I honestly don’t believe that anyone should be condemned for their spiritual beliefs. I believe that we all connect with God the best way we know how. And that the very search to be closer to God, that commitment–in whatever form it takes–is to be celebrated and honored.

What do you think? Was Jesus just more in tune with his divine nature as a child of God than the rest of us? Or was Jesus a savior that we must accept and surrender to before we can truly make God happy?

Joy Brownridge

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Monasticism in Early Christianity

The Evolution of Hermit Spirituality to the Rule of St. Benedict

Monasticism began in the 3rd and 4th Centuries as a response to laxity within a uniform church, prompting men and women to seek new avenues of faith and worship.

Monasticism in early Christianity began in the 3rd Century AD and is attributed to Anthony. Refined by Pachomius and carried to the West by Athanasius, western monasticism found its greatest expression in the leadership of Benedict of Nursia in the early 6th Century. Monasticism stressed an ascetic lifestyle but the emphasis on learning resulted in the long-term preservation of many written works and the establishment of medieval libraries.

The Beginning of Monasticism

After the conversion of Constantine the Great to Christianity, the Christian church went through rapid changes. As greater numbers of people became Christians, church communities began to exhibit moral laxity. Being a Christian no longer carried the possibility of persecution.

The effort to make church worship uniform offended younger Christians, looking for a more individual way to express their personal faith. Hermit Christianity and later Monastic communities provided this intense meditation. Finally, the ascetic lifestyle was seen as the highest form of spiritual achievement, something that had been a part of the martyr experiences in earlier years.

Monasticism began in Egypt as a hermit experience. In 270, Anthony took to the desert, seeking an ascetic lifestyle. Other men followed his example. It was Pachomius, however, who established the first true monastery at Tabennisi in southern Egypt early in the 4th Century. Men seeking a more complete spiritual life joined his community and by the time he died, ten monasteries under his guidance existed.

The monastic experience spread through the Levant with monasteries established in Syria, Asia Minor, and Greece. Basil is credited with the spread and organization of Eastern monasticism. Many Greek and Russian Orthodox monasteries still follow his Rule. There were many “Rules” or written guidelines for monasteries, usually identified with the institution’s founders.

Monasticism in the West

During the 4th Century, the monastic ideal was carried West by Athanasius. It spread through France through the efforts of Martin of Tours who established a monastery at Poitiers in 362. The monastic experience was brought to Britain and then Ireland where it evolved into a different form, stressing missionary activity.

The greatest single impact of western monasticism is associated with Benedict of Nursia. Benedict’s fame as a highly spiritual man spread and he was asked to become the abbot of a monastery. The poor discipline and habits of the monks, however, drove him away. In 529 he founded the famous monastery at Monte Cassino in Italy.

Benedict’s Rule highlighted strict discipline. Benedictines were enjoined to communal worship as well as manual labor in the fields. St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries contains daily readings, focusing on such topics as “What Are the Instruments of Good Works” (Chapter 4), “On the Daily Manual Labor” (Chapter 48), and “Whether Monks Ought to Have Anything of Their Own” (Chapter 33).

Irish Monasticism

During the time of Patrick, the Irish Church still conformed to models concurrent with the continental Catholic Church. This changed over the years after his death. The authority of bishops was replaced by Abbots who, in many cases, were also bishops. Irish monasticism was even more ascetic and emphasized missionary activity.

Irish Benedictines (the Irish monasteries eventually adopted Benedict’s Rule) like Boniface, Apostle to the Germans, brought Christianity to Scandinavia and Northern Europe. The practice of private confession also began with the Irish monks and rapidly spread throughout the western church.

Impact of Western Monasticism

Monasteries maintained the literary treasures of Antiquity and promoted education at a time barbarian hordes were ravaging the remains of the Roman Empire. Great learning sites, such as the monastery at Fulda, established by Charlemagne, helped strengthen a fragile Christianity among neighboring Germanic tribes while supporting missionary activity.

By Michael Streich

Monday, June 08, 2009

A Wild Sexy Spiritual Life

If you are like how most of the world is today, when you hear of the words spirituality or spiritual life, you probably associate them with recluse yogis sitting in a cave or celibate monks wearing robes. We are living in a time when most people don’t even prefer to talk about the word spirit in public as its considered too controversial. Somehow people around the world has grown to believe that a spiritual life is based on giving up all fun and freedom and living in solitude and sacrifice. The truth is very far away! Interestingly, as one day you will realize, a true spiritual life is not only one you enjoy divine ecstasy, but also it opens up doors that brings freedom most people cannot even dream of.

While there are many faiths that take many roads of understanding, basic spirituality is simple and is based on the following principles:

a. There is an omnipotent intelligence that is the source of this universe.

b. All creation is created from this Infinite Intelligence or the Great Spirit.

c. There is a reason for all things that happen and a purpose for this universe to exist.

d. Very simply put the reason is evolution. The universe evolves itself from lower states of intelligence and energy to the higher and higher levels until it merges back with the infinite Intelligence that created it.

e. Humans have always felt disconnected from this divine intelligence or God. Trying to distract themselves from the pain of separation (or more appropriately unawareness), humans have struggled in many different ways. Some of these less than fruitful ways are controlling others, trying to dominate over people, food, alcohol, sex, drugs etc.

f. When we begin to focus again on reestablishing our connection with God, we experience a real sense of bliss, freedom and peace.

g. When we experience this amazing bliss and freedom, we are automatically driven to help others experience the same.

In a nutshell, this is what a spiritual life is about.

Interestingly, as people awaken, they discover that there are many deeper forces that shape their lives! These invisible forces slowly begins to bring about many beneficial circumstances and events in your life without you even asking for it. These are the miracles or serendipities that people on a spiritual journey commonly seem to experience and talk about. As you awaken more and more spiritually through focus, discipline and dedication, the miracles and serendipities keep happening in ever greater extents. It’s almost like God takes on an active interest in your everyday life to fulfill your desires. No prayer is too small, no wish is too insignificant. In the most perfect ways, all wishes and prayers come true. Something that is beyond the wildest dreams of most people, you begin to enjoy a freedom that is simply incredible!

When we look at the yogis on a mountain or monks in the monasteries what we do not realize is that we are looking at someone who has given up the transitory material gains for a kingdom of heavenly treasures. Someone who has exchanged our false sense of earthly freedom with an eternal freedom beyond time and space. Someone who has sacrificed trivial earthly pleasures for divine ecstasy! When you see it this way, you suddenly realize how absurd is the idea of our materialistic lifestyle exchanging our entire lives paying for our credit cards and mortgages. A spiritual life does not dictate that you cannot have material riches and comfort. You can keep or make whatever riches you want to and still be very intensely focused on a spiritual path, yet sometimes it makes no sense to carry all the material chains that our societies bound us with.

A true spiritual life allows you to gradually prepare your heavily programmed mind to see beyond the material obvious and perceive the higher truths. Slowly you begin to understand the deeper laws of the universe and use them in your own life. When you get there, your life becomes filled with real magic and miracles. The whole universe seems to conspire to help you achieving your dreams. For now your dreams have become the dreams of the universe . The dreams of God.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Promised land to offer Buddhism, Thai culture

An expansive complex featuring a Buddhist temple, a shopping center, a restaurant and a hotel is planned for 10 acres in Pataskala, the dream of a Thai Catholic who runs two restaurants in Columbus.

Trairatana Ridhibhinyo, who goes by the name John Tai, said he has thought about building a Thai Buddhist temple for at least 15 years.

Though he is not a Buddhist, 95percent of his homeland is. He envisions not just a worship center but a place to celebrate and raise awareness of Thai culture.

The future location of the Columbus Buddhism Center, south of Blacks Road, is now just a soybean field.

Friday at 9 a.m., the land will be blessed and dedicated.

The complex will attract both Buddhists for worship and tourists, said Tai, who moved to Columbus in 1970 and opened Siam Express in the Greater Columbus Convention Center in 1980.

"My vision is they come to see our culture," he said. "They'll be able to come here to see something they'll never (otherwise) be able to see in Ohio."

Early plans for the $20 million complex include a temple, a residence for five monks, a building for meditation and prayer, an all-purpose building for meditation classes and wedding celebrations, a bell tower and several open-air structures.

Tai also plans a floating market over a pond, a hotel and a restaurant. He'd like to offer spa services, yoga classes and festivals.

He hopes to have the temple and restaurant open by July 2011, with the rest coming by 2014.

The $8 million for the temple and its adjacent buildings will be raised mostly in Thailand, where the project has received approval from the highest-ranking active Buddhist official, Tai said.

The other $12 million, for the commercial side, will come from investors in Thailand, China and Korea.

The 5 acres of land that will be dedicated Friday will be the site of the temple, monks' quarters and all-purpose building and has been donated by real-estate developer H. Burkley Showe.

Tai intends to raise the money to lease the adjacent 5 acres for the floating market, restaurant and hotel.

Showe, who met Tai 20 years ago as a patron at the Siam Oriental Restaurant on Bethel Road, owns property in Hawaii, where he donated funding for a Buddhist temple after meeting a group of monks through one of his Buddhist housekeepers.

"I kind of endorse what they do, even though I have no particular ties to Buddhism," said Showe, a Catholic. He said he tries to read Buddhist literature daily because Buddhism is "a beautiful exercise of the mind" that doesn't contradict his own faith.

The city of Pataskala has been approached with preliminary plans for the temple, Planning Director Dianne Harris said. Her office is working to identify any potential zoning issues.

Her main concern, she said, is access to water and sewer services because the land is undeveloped. Hook-ups could be expensive, and the city wouldn't pay for that.

The prospect of the Buddhism center is "certainly something very different for our community," she said. "It sounds exciting to have a major cultural center here."

By Meredith Heagney

Students learn about Buddhism, Judaism, first-hand

“I’m always afraid that leaving so early would deter some students from attending,” said Rhinelander High School Comparative Religions teacher Linda Goldsworthy.

Luckily, the early departure didn’t keep 21 students in her class from making the 240 mile trek to the Madison area to visit Deer Park Buddhist Temple and Temple Beth el, home of a Reform Jewish congregation on May 20.

“I was expecting to walk in the Buddhist Temple and feel this whoosh of spirituality,” said senior Samantha Lueck, reflecting on the day’s events. “But it felt more like a place of learning.”

And learn they did. But the learning took place only because of a grant Goldsworthy and 2008 RHS graduate Zach Baron put together more than 16 months ago.

“We wouldn’t have had this learning opportunity if it weren’t for the sponsorship of Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center,” noted Goldsworthy. “This $2,000 grant enabled my two classes to not only look at and interact with various artifacts from Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam and Christianity, but also to see the buildings in which these religions worship.”

A young maroon-clad monk greeted the RHS visitors with instructions that they would need to remove their shoes before entering the temple. After doing so, the group entered the temple.

“I was awestruck at the beauty and the colors," said sophomore Bailey Lieck of her initial response to the temple. "You go into a church in Rhinelander and you don’t see bright colors – the bright blues and shiny golds. So when you walk into something so different, it just struck me as something so pretty.”

Within minutes, an older monk appeared, followed closely by a young man dressed in Western clothing and sporting a pony-tail. The monk, Geshe Tenzin Dorje, a Tibentan monk serving as a teacher at Deer Park for the past year, proceeded to speak with the students through his young interpreter.

His message was simple – ook carefully at those who surround you, evaluate the choices you make with care, as no good has ever come from the use of alcohol and other drugs, and heed the advice of your parents and teachers.

“I found it pretty clear that if we consider our responsibilities in life, we will earn our place in the next life based upon the actions we do now," commented senior Dylan Myers on the Geshe’s presentation. "Doing well now will only benefit you in the future. I thought he was a pretty happy person. I felt welcomed there. He was willing to teach and I was willing to learn.”

After touring Deer Park’s grounds, which include a stupa that the Dalai Lama dedicated in 1991, students traveled to Madison’s Temple Beth el, where docent Linda Bergman greeted them with a short lecture on the history of Judaism and the destruction of the temple in 70 CE.

“I could see that our textbook was correct in highlighting the importance of history to the Jewish people,” said Goldsworthy. “Linda’s initial presentation really focused on this aspect of her faith and highlighted the reasons behind so many Jewish traditions. She helped me to see the complexity of the relationship Jews had with the Romans.”

Bergman, a former teacher, then took the class into the sanctuary where she explained that Jewish symbolism, tradition and artifacts – including a yarmulke, a tallit and tellifin – with the help of senior Dylan Myers and junior Rachel Finney.

“I felt like I was part of what the religion had to offer and teaches,” said Myers of wearing the prayer shawl and yarmulke. “I felt like I belonged in a sense. By walking in their shoes, I felt I understood them better – their connection with God and their self assurance.”

Perhaps the highlight of the trip came when Bergman asked three volunteers to assist her with the "undressing" of the Torah, Temple Beth el’s 125-year-old scroll of the Pentateuch, on three 8-foot tables in the entrance hall.

“The students were so curious about the Torah,” said Goldsworthy. “I couldn’t believe how many students were pulling out their cell phones and taking pictures of the ancient Hebrew script. They were amazed to learn that this document had been completely hand-written on parchment in the 1880s and that the students and members of the congregation used it weekly.”

After "redressing" the Torah, the group enjoyed some traditional challah bread and apple juice while Bergman provided some more insights into Jewish artifacts displayed in the hall.

“I admit to being somewhat skeptical when Beth el said that a rabbi would not be available to show us around,” said Goldsworthy. “But after talking with Linda on the phone to make the arrangements and after spending nearly two hours with her, I can’t imagine someone else teaching us more in such a short time.

“All of us learned a great deal on the trip," Goldsworthy added. "When we discussed it as a full class then next day, we decided that we couldn’t even compare the two experiences as Temple Beth el and Deer Park are so very different in their approaches to religion.”

So was it worth getting up at crack of dawn to make the 240-mile trip down and back?

“Yes! We didn’t get back to RHS until after 6:15 – so yes, it was a long day. But educationally, every minute was worth it,” said Goldsworthy.

From News of the North

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Catholic Charismatic Renewal: Dossier

Catholic Charismatic Renewal
, which originated in a charismatic event in the USA in 1967, has branches all over the world, including England, Wales and Scotland. Recently the English branch announced that, due to financial difficulties, they would be closing their office at the All Saints Pastoral Centre at London Colney (a facility owned by the Archdiocese of Westminster), and probably ceasing to publish their magazine 'GoodNews' and teaching resources. The Tablet reported (16th May 09)
In the 1980s and early 1990s the popularity of the Charismatic Renewal – the spirituality of which is centred on an encounter with the Holy Spirit – was at its peak, with conferences attracting up to 5,000 people. In recent years numbers have decreased...
A recent conference attracted 1,500.

A picture is worth a thousand words. The picture above tells us a lot about their spirituality and liturgical preferences, and the kind of people who front the organisation: in a phrase, aging trendies. This is clearly an organisation undergoing accelerating decline, but its power to harm the Church has not left it yet.

What it is

CCR is a somewhat nebulous phenomenon. It promotes prayer groups and liturgies of a particular style, and in general a theological attitude of a particular type, through a magazine, education packs, and national and local events. It promotes many good things, but mixes them in with bad or at least dubious or unproven ones. The English website includes Medjugorje among its links to officially approved Marian shrines (Medjugorje is not officially approved); it links to many pro-life groups but also to Amnesty International, which campaigns openly for the legalisation of abortion; it includes official agencies of the Catholic Bishops and non-Catholic 'healing ministries', Christian Zionists, and all sorts of weird and wonderful groups, as well as the usual aging trendy stuff, such as CAFOD and livesimply.

The fundamental problem with CCR is one of style or attitude rather than one of substance. That is not because the substance is good - it is because, like the liberal charismatic Protestantism on which it models itself, there is no substance. While not explicitly denying any doctrines, it inculcates an attitude and a spirituality which is at odds with Catholic tradition and, ultimately, at odds with Catholic doctrine.

How can we pin down the problems?

Identification with Protestantism

It is obvious that CCR is inspired by a certain kind of Protestantism. The inspiration is not simply a matter of learning from non-Catholics in matters of technique - the CCR actually sees itself as part of a 'Pentecostal/Charismatic' phenomenon.

One author in the latest magazine puts it this way:

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Azusa Street, Los Angeles, in 1906, saw the beginning of Pentecostalism. This was followed in the 1960s by the Charismatic Renewal in the mainline Christian denominations, alongside the birth of the Independent Charismatic House Churches. This Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement has grown from a handful of individuals in 1906 to a global force of more than 600 million people today. Such a remarkable number means that Christians who have been baptised in the Holy Spirit today represent about one third of global Christianity, and are the fastest growing part of the world-wide church. Whilst there are signs of a slow-down in Western Europe and North America, the rate of growth continues unabated in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. History tells us that renewal movements usually rise and fall, but are we experiencing something different? The time seems to be right for a new look at this amazing Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement.

It would seem useless to say to the author, Charles Whitehead (Chairman of CCR), that Pentecostalism is a group of truly appalling sects, which use the most unscrupulous means to proselytise the least educated Catholic populations they can find, to give them a religion evacuated of even the limited understanding of the Sacraments you would find in Anglicanism. In this article Whitehead identifies more with the second 'C' in CCR than with the first.

He also suggests - as his Pentecostal friends would insist - that sacramntal baptism is not true 'baptism in the Spirit'. This is a foundational belief for charismatics, and it betrays the seriousness of the problem. Our Lord explained that 'Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit' (John 3.5-6) and he instituted the sacrament of Baptism to make this possible. Baptism - note Our Lord's reference to water - objectively gives the Holy Spirit to the baptised. It is not a matter of emotion, but metaphysical fact. To say that this is not baptism of the Spirit Our Lord intended is an attack on the Church's whole sacramental system, and a replacement of the sacraments' objective signs with nothing but feelings.

The general emphasis on the experience of the Spirit creates the problem that if Church authorities - parish priests or bishops - impose any limits on what charismatic groups get up to (especially in the liturgy), Catholic charismatics have a tendency simply to leave the Church and join up with charismatics of other denominations. Protestant charismatic and Pentecostal churches in the United States have huge numbers of Catholic converts in them, and this phenomenon has, in a more limited way, been seen in the UK as well.

Liturgical abuses

It hardly needs to be said that typical 'charismatic' Masses and devotions depart from the norms laid down by the Church. The invasion of the sanctuary by lay people, musicians, people being slain in the spirit, people giving personal testimonies etc. is one obvious example; another would be the constant interuption or replacement of the liturgical texts by spontaneous or scripted additions. Charismatics would find it hard to see what the problem is here, but what they are doing contravenes the law of the Church, and their attitude is completely at odds with the Church's attitude towards the liturgy. If it were meant to be a free-for-all we wouldn't have the liturgical laws we have.

For a lengthy treatment of Catholic charismatic liturgies at a conference in the USA, see John Vennari here.

A preference for style over substance

Pentecostalism can be seen as the taking of certain Protestant themes to a logical extreme: a rejection of ritual and formalism (including vestments, the sacraments, even the baptismal formula), and a rejection of intellectualism (including any properly articulated theology). Instead Pentecostal groups rely entirely on a personal connection with the Holy Spirit. Followers think they can tell that the Spirit is with a particular leader because he says so, and tries to demonstrate it in various ways. Preaching is one; others include making odd noises when praying ('speaking in tongues'), claiming miraculous healing powers, and having the ability to mesmerise an audience. Confidence tricksters and stage hypnotists can, of course, do similar things.

The resulting sect is made up of an inner core of people who may feel important because of their role or may be benefitting financially from the sect, and an outer group which often has a high turn-over as people become discouraged, when the extravagant claims of the preacher fail to solve their personal problems, or see through the sham, or hear an even more mesmerising preacher working down the road. These kinds of groups often attract many young people, especially the intellectually unsophisticated, but these young people tend not to become older devotees - as they age they drift away.

CCR is not, of course, guilty of the worst excesses of the Pentecostal movement, and working within the Church the Church's sacramental and intellectual resources remain, at least theoretically, available. But insofar as they claim to be inspired by the Pentecostal/Charismatic tendency in Protestantism, they are travelling down that same road. This places a personal feeling of being 'touched by the Spirit' above any objective sacramental event, and shunts difficult theological questions aside. While claiming that God will solve your problems, and that God can be found where His Spirit can be seen visibly working, they set people up for an exaggerated enthusiasm to be followed by disappointment. This is a road out of the Church for many people.

Style can get you noticed, but substance gives staying power. When Catholics formed by CCR are confronted with real personal difficulties, or real theological objections to Catholicism or belief in God, they are extremely vulnerable.


The fundamental claim of the charismatic movement is that they 'have' the Spirit, and people should take notice of them for that reason. It follows that they can't afford to be shy about claiming to be inspired, either personally - having messages from God and so forth - or as a group - experiencing group phenomena such as being 'slain in the spirit', 'speaking in tongues' and so on. After all, if they didn't, no one would have any reason to pay attention to them.

So we find a way of talking which completely lacks the caution and discretion which characterises the Catholic tradition, and in particular Catholic spiritual masters. We read, for example,

The Burning Bush Initiative, grew out of a prophetic inspiration given to Kim Kollins, a leader in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, when she was attending a gathering over a decade ago in Rome. Her experience brought an unplanned extended stay during the next months where she was led by God to remain in Rome and intercede for the Renewal and for the world. Over this time, she felt God tell her to encourage those in the Charismatic Renewal to return to intercessory prayer for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

There is nothing wrong in having an idea, after prayer and reflection, and feeling that perhaps this is providential. This is clearly what happened to Kim Kollins. But by expressing it as it is in this passage, it leaves no room for the thing to be a mistake. Not only are they setting people up for a huge disappointment, when (as is overwhelmingly likely) nothing much comes of it, but in the meantime anyone who has a different idea is implicitly condemned as opposing God's revealed will.

But it gets worse. Fr Pat Collins writes in an earlier edition of GoodNews of a particular prophecy made by a one charismatic leader as though it were a fifth gospel. He explains his approach in deciding which of the spontaneous and mutually contradictory babblings to believe:
Over the years I have heard many prophecies. It is notoriously hard to know whether they come from God or not. However, there are some which have considerable authority because of the circumstances in which they were spoken, the acknowledged giftedness of the people who spoke them, and the way in which they evoked an answering amen of approval in the Christian community. On Pentecost Monday 1975 such a prophecy was given by Ralph Martin in St Peter’s Basilica, Rome, in the presence of Pope Paul VI.

The Church has a very long experience in dealing with alleged prophecies. Are these the criteria used by the Church? No. Has this been assessed and approved by the proper authorities? No. But never mind - Fr Collins believes it because he thinks Ralph Martin has the Spirit, and they supply a theme for the entire issue of Goodnews.

The tradition calls this 'presumption'. The Church has always exercised great caution with regard to private revelations; even the most carefully investigated are said merely to be 'worthy of belief'; Catholics are never required to accept them. We like to think the founders of religious orders were prompted by God act as they did, but it would be absurd to try to argue that an order should be fostered because it is God's will - rather, we see evidence of God's will in the fruits the order brings forth. CCR, by contrast, constantly tells its followers that this initiative or that has been willed by God, and should be supported for that reason. Unfortunatly, we only have their word for it.

A dismissal of tradition

Rather by silence than by objections, CCR dismisses the Church's traditions: liturgical, spiritual, intellectual, cultural. They have no importance for CCR - what is important is what the Holy Spirit has told them since breakfast.

CCR has become adept at selecting quotations from Popes and the tradition which appear to support their case. This is not difficult because all the fathers and doctors of the Church were deeply concerned with spirituality and the Spirit. What is evident, however, is that all of them would be absolutely horrified if they saw and heard what goes on in charismatic services. It is totally alien to their entire conception of the role of the Spirit in the Christian life.

The Catholic Church was not invented yesterday. When we say she was founded by Our Lord we mean really founded, as a historical fact, by the man Jesus, and not simply 'inspired' by Him. That is why the Church's tradition is so important: it is a continuous and living link to Our Lord. The Church's traditions convey to the present day the will of God and the understanding of that will by the Apostles and subsequent generations. It is through her traditions and enormous historical resources that the Church can be truly renewed: this is the course set for the Church by all her great leaders, and particularly by Pope Benedict XVI.

This means nothing the the CCR. As Our Lord said, 'Who does not gather with me, scatters.' (Mat 12.30)

The verdict of recent Popes

Charismatics love to claim that Paul VI and John-Paul II gave them a complete endorsement. The Wikipedia article on the (international) Catholic Charismatic Renewal is one-sided and very favourable to them, and makes this point at length. The truth is rather different. Here is the summary of Papal teaching given in a superb analysis of the movement published in Christian Order in 2000:

Pope Paul VI on Sept. 3rd 1969 at Castelgandolfo referred to phenomena which
"not only offend canon law but also the very heart of Catholic worship, since we find them, dispensing with the institutional structures of the authentic, real and human Church, in the false hope of setting up a free and purely Charismatic Christianity, but which is -really amorphous, evanescent and blown about by any passing wind of passion or fashion. " On Sept. 24th 1969: "Many who talk about the Church today say they are inspired by a prophetic spirit. They make risky and sometimes inadmissible assertions, and appeal to the Holy Spirit as if the Divine Paraclete were at their service at all times; they sometimes do this, unfortunately, with an unspoken intention of freeing themselves from the Church's Magisterium, which enjoys the assistance of the Holy Spirit. May God grant that this Presumption of elevating a personal judgement or personal experience into a rule or criterion of religious doctrine may notcause havoc. May God never allow that treating these private opinions as charismatic gifts and prophetic inspirations should lead astray so many good and well-meaning people." On Oct. 25th 1972: "a pretentious charismatic sufficiency will not preserve an authentic vivifying presence of the Holy Spirit in these spiritualistic trends, in which, sadly enough, it is often easy to see dissent or profane mentalities infiltrated. The needs of theChurch are very different."

Pope John Paul I had a lot to say, and said it before his election. His very short life as Vicar of Christ on earth, only thirty-three days, providentially brought to the notice of the world what he had written. Addressing St. Theresa of Avila in his book Illustrissimi he says:

Charismatic experiences are not anyone's private reserve. They may be given to anyone: priests and laymen, men and women. It is one thing though, to beable to have visions, and quite another to actually have them. In your Libro de las fundaciones I find written: "a woman penitent told her confessor that the Madonna often came to see her and stayed talking for over an hour, revealing the future and many other things to her. And as something true occasionally emerged from all the nonsense, it all seemed to be true. I realised at once what it was all about ... but merely told the confessor to wait for the result of the prophesies, to find our for himself about the penitent's way of life and to look for further signs of sanctity in her. In the end ... it was seen that her visions were all fantasies." Dear St. Theresa, if only you could come back today! The word "charisma" is squandered. All kinds of people are known as prophets, even the students who confront the-police in the streets, or the guerrillas of Latin America. People try to set up the Charismatics in opposition to the pastors. What would you say? You who obeyed your confessors, even when their advice turned out to be the opposite of that given to you by God in prayer?"

Our present Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, when he addresses Charismatic groups follows the usual format. There is a kindly greeting. There is a word of pleasure and approval that they have gathered in Rome because their choice of Rome shows that they understand the importance of being rooted in that Catholic unity of Faith and charity which finds its visible centre in the See of Peter. Then he teaches, and the teaching, if analysed, is a series of warnings. In general these are:-

Fidelity to the authentic teaching of the Faith. Whatever contradicts this doctrine does not come from the spirit.
Value the gifts which are given in service of the common good.
Pursue that charity alone which brings the Christian to perfection.

Time and again the Holy Father stresses the need for good leaders and good priests with the requisite theology. But in practice, if these leaders and priests become part of the Charismatic Renewal and do not remain outside it, they become moulded by it, gradually moulded by emotional experiences which overthrow in them that which constituted them a possible safeguard for others. If they remain outside, they carry no weight because these Charismatics are not charismatics in the sense that St. Theresa of Avila was.


A priest writer in GoodNews notes sadly
In many places, and not only in the more developed nations, the charismatic renewal is limping badly, diminishing in numbers and in the power of the Holy Spirit, and even dying.

There is hope, he adds. Yes, there is indeed hope that CCR is dying. The great experiment, which it was 'prophesied' would revitalise the Church, has clearly failed - and not for want of enthusiasm or resources. The Popes have warned us against it and the theological problems it raises are manifest. But it is still active in parishes and dioceses up and down the country, and should be exposed for what it is and opposed. Do not let them lead another generation of impressionable, and increasingly badly-formed, young Catholics down the path of Pentecostalism.

For more on the Charismatic movement within the Church, see John Vennari's description a Catholic Charismatic conference, and some theological implications of the movement, here. There is an excellent Christian Order article here, written by someone who was heavily involved in movement in the UK in the 1990s. This article exposes the techniques and realities of charismatic phenomena and how attractive it can be; it deserves a wider audience.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Boy chosen by Dalai Lama turns back on Buddhist order

As a toddler, he was put on a throne and worshipped as by monks who treated him like a god. But the boy chosen by the Dalai Lama as a reincarnation of a spiritual leader has caused consternation – and some embarrassment – for Tibetan Buddhists by turning his back on the order that had such high hopes for him.

Instead of leading a monastic life, Osel Hita Torres now sports baggy trousers and long hair, and is more likely to quote Jimi Hendrix than Buddha.

Yesterday he bemoaned the misery of a youth deprived of television, football and girls. Movies were also forbidden – except for a sanctioned screening of The Golden Child starring Eddie Murphy, about a kidnapped child lama with magical powers. "I never felt like that boy," he said.

He is now studying film in Madrid and has denounced the Buddhist order that elevated him to guru status. "They took me away from my family and stuck me in a medieval situation in which I suffered a great deal," said Torres, 24, describing how he was whisked from obscurity in Granada to a monastery in southern India. "It was like living a lie," he told the Spanish newspaper El Mundo. Despite his rebelliousness, he is still known as Lama Tenzin Osel Rinpoche and revered by the Buddhist community. A prayer for his "long life" still adorns the website of the Foundation to Preserve the Mahayana Tradition, which has 130 centres around the world. The website features a biography of the renegade guru that gushes about his peaceful, meditative countenance as a baby. In Tibetan Buddhism, a lama is one of a lineage of reincarnated spiritual leaders, the most famous of which is the Dalai Lama.

According to the foundation biography, another leader suspected Torres was the reincarnation of the recently deceased Lama Yeshe when he was only five months old. In 1986, at 14 months, his parents took him to see the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India. The toddler was chosen out of nine other candidates and eventually "enthroned".

At six, he was allowed to socialise only with other reincarnated souls – though for a time he said he lived next to the actor Richard Gere's cabin.

By 18, he had never seen couples kiss. His first disco experience was a shock. "I was amazed to watch everyone dance. What were all those people doing, bouncing, stuck to one another, enclosed in a box full of smoke?"

From Guardian.co.uk