Posts Tagged ‘Pope John Paul II’

Progressive spirituality/Christianities within their current context I find tedious.  There is no scholarship building upon what has come before, rather it is a re-treading of old battles already fought. Why is this? I blame the regressive state of Western Culture. The loss of the ability to critically think, coupled with the conglomeration of media and the commodification of the human experience has led us down a rabbit hole. There is also the drowning with knowledge overload, and opinion as fact that has removed the ability to discourse, and discover wisdom.

It is a sad state on my journey as I look upon those writers that have shaped them, death, illness and retirement has stripped away those that have crafted cornerstones we should be building upon. The voice of progress, universal love and inclusion, liberation and social gospel is shrinking. Thinkers such as Marcus Borg, Desmond Tutu, Peter Maurin, Dorothy Day, Agnes MacPhail, Pierre Trudeau, Padre Pio, Leonardo Boff, meta-physicians; Dalai Lama, Pope Francis I, transcendentalists, Pope John Paul II, Pope John XXIII, Multiple saints & mystics, Mother Teresa, Nikos Kazantzakis, Stuart A. Schlegel, John Dominic Crossan, Matthew Fox, Martin Luther King Jr., Tommy Douglas, J.S. Woodsworth and the list goes on and on. The voices of and for the marginalized have been relegated back to the beginning of a cycle still debating that which human rights and suffragettes should have dealt with.

Yet “Progressive Spirituality” much like “Conservative Theology” got subsumed by “Prosperity Gospels” and “Salvation/Sanctification” (look at a Joel Osteen for the epitome of the lost track of universal love for the progressives). This is why during my time of medical sabbatical I was excited to find out post-stroke Bishop Spong had written a new book, but saddened as I read his preamble to it that this was definitively his last. It is his call for reformation, for the work already done and grow upon it.

He touches on the different times the Christ experience has been mislaid. The Fourth century experience we had codified as “Christendom” which would be as unrecognizable for the original community as it is to us in this day. He also touches on the Reformation, which aside from the land and power grab of the princes/royals to break the state hold of the Vatican. It was possible as well do a shattering transformation of cultural understanding as the plagues had shown that even the “Holy” lost a 1/3. The peasant class was open.

We are in a time like this. Even if traditionalists keep fighting against it. Holding to outdated understandings. Science has revealed much on creation, maybe not the why, but the how. We are in a world where we are taking control over our own destinies. Where we can accept equal marriage, we can accept medicine, accept being able to transplant organs, understand different ways of experiencing life. We can see through new eyes, yet we bring the old eyes leaving our understanding of the intrinsic piece that makes us whole left out in the old patriarchal imperial cycle. And yes, progressive thinkers who are emerging today instead of referencing what came before and building, are trudging up the same mountain again.

This is where Unbelievable (2018) rises. It is still American-centric, but Spong roots his 12 Thesis firmly in what has come before, and lays out a path forward. A new starting point for dialogue and discourse, being able to let go of what is no longer working or that which is harming.

So as we seek to understand the love triangle of My Neighbour, I leave you with excerpts for this work to see if it is something you wish to purchase for your journey, or to explore within your community:

John Shelby Spong (2018) Unbelievable: Why Neither Ancient Creeds Nor the Reformation Can Produce a Living Faith Today (HarperOne).

“what we must do is find the meaning to which the word “God” points.” P. 31

“Is the denial of theism the same as atheism? Is there no other alternative?” p. 38-39

“That is the universal human experience that our ancestors once called “Original Sin”. The experience was real; the interpretation was false. We are not “fallen sinners”; rather, we are incomplete human beings. Our old theology is dead. The door begins to open on a new way to tell the old, old story.” P. 89

“Every Jew would know that to refer to a grown man in Jewish society as “the son of a woman” was to suggest that his paternity was unknown. … we might infer a covert reference to her being pregnant outside of marriage, for there was no estate more lowly in in first-century Judaism that that of an expectant mother with no male protector.” P.112

Atonement theology, especially in its most bizarre “substitutionary” form, presents us with a God who is barbaric, a Jesus who is victim and it turns human beings into little more than guilt-filled creatures. P.153

Bulletins during Lent in many churches look as if they might have been purchased in a local sadomasochism shop. They feature whips and nails, and if they elicit any emotion at all, it is guilt. P.162-163.

In Jewish worship, however, the lamb was a symbol, not of a sacrifice that an angry God required, but of a human yearning to achieve the fullness of human potential. P. 165

The Easter experience in the new Testament, contrary to what we have traditionally been taught over the year, is not about bodies walking out of graves. It is far more profound than that. It is about God being seen in human life. By “God” I do not mean a supernatural, invasive God, who violates the laws of nature in order to enter time and space. I mean a transcendent dimension of life into which all can enter, an experience in which life is expanded, love is unlimited and being is enhanced. P. 188

The ascension story is both powerful and real, but it is not, and was never intended to be, literally true. P.196

Before prayer can be made real, our understanding of God, coupled with our understanding of how the world works, must be newly defined. P. 249.

I have no use for life after death as a tool or method of behaviour control. P.258

We are called by this new faith into radial connectedness. P. 270

When I contemplate the meaning of Jesus I come back again and again to his image as the ultimate boundary-breaker, in whom what it means to be human is constantly being expanded. P.278


English: PORTRAIT OF JOHN XXIII Español: IMAGEN DE JUAN XXIII (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pope Benedictus XVI

Pope Benedictus XVI (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pope's Blessing

Pope’s Blessing (Photo credit: alykat)

Pope Pius XII called Pastor Angelicus, was the...

Pope Pius XII called Pastor Angelicus, was the most Marian Pope in Church history. Bäumer, Marienlexikon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What does the Catholic Church need today?  A renewal of the papacy, Benedict XVI is not just getting it. I have been enjoying reading a tomb of secular church history by a reporter, Barrett McGurn (1962) A Reporter Looks at the Vatican where he writes at the change of papacy from Pius XII (sadly dubbed Hitler‘s Pope) to John XXIII.

There are some gems in here aside from the joviality, and personability that we have seen in the papacy of John Paul II, as well as the compassion.

There is Pius XII decision not to deride Hitler, which some saw as ascenting to what the Nazi’s were doing, but was part of a plan possibly to keep the Nazi’s from looking to closely at the Catholic Church in Germany so they could act to aid the citizens under extermination orders. Or that early in his papacy noting the hungry, he began to sell the jewels of the Vatican to feed them (Note: Benedict, perhaps it is time to liquidate some assets to aid in ending world hunger, releasing the archives to start up universities in the developing world, and art treasures to launch museusm in the same areas, the world will change when we live out of our mendicant status).

Or John XXIII, the peasant pope, who renewed the practice of walking the stations of the cross with church members, but not in the artistocratic churches, but rather the slums. Or a pope that would sneak out for walkabouts, would encourage others to take hold of the power of their positions to get things done, and who blessed the workers on May Day celebrations by celebrating along with them.

It is time for the church to truly renew their ties to the peoples of the world, to descend into the depths of poverty, so that those in poverty may ascend and build the reign of God…

Português: Ordem Franciscana Secular do Brasil...

Português: Ordem Franciscana Secular do Brasil : Fraternidade São Francisco(?) : Igreja Sagrado Coração de Jesus, Petrópolis, estado do Rio de Janeiro, Brasil (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sacred Heart Catholic Church

Sacred Heart Catholic Church (Photo credit: enkrates)

Was it ten or eleven years ago when I was kneeling saying a rosary that I heard Christ speak to me? A voice calling me to rebuild the church? Before then in 1997 when seeking to learn how to pray, my minister guided me to self-discovery that led to a bookshelf at the local Smithbooks of Michael Talbot’s orthopraxy at Little Portion titled “Life Lessons of St. Francis” that began to aid me in synergizing my life lived with my pilgrimage for the holy.


Unbeknownst to me (or simply forgotten) that the Catholic Parish I would find myself in, was actually named after a Secular Franciscan, St. Thomas More, where I can honestly say I had my most gospel experience of ministry and what it meant to live out the love of Christ for community—even though I could not complete my R.C.I.A. (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults). Guided by Sister Josie and the Basillian Fathers Bob & John serving in the (prayer) Ministry of Praise and Inn from the Cold.


Yet what was the stumbling block? This is something unique, but it could also be my wandering spirit, as I do enjoy attempting to craft new paths. It was shortly after my time in the parish that I began (or was it during?)  my pilgrimage through the churches of my past that had shaped my understanding.


It was also during this time that I joined the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans completing my inquiry and Postulancy, during this time my pilgrimage of past churches too me back to the church of my original baptism, St. George’s Anglican and saw me transfer orders into the Third Order, Society of St. Francis to complete my novitiate, and came into fellowship with the local Calgary chapter of my Roman Catholic Brothers and Sisters in the Secular Franciscan Order.


A feeling led me to complete my pilgrimage of personal spiritual pilgrimage back at Foothills United Church where I returned to the fold as it were (the church of my confirmation), surrendering my vows in my Franciscan vocation and entering discernment for ministry. Where the committee and I came through guidance by the Holy Spirit that it was not ordination or just being licensed that was my calling (even though Universalists have ordained me, and churches have licensed me as a lay pastor) was to the Diaconal ministry or more specifically those called to justice work.  Which led me to make another decision as I served at The Mustard Seed in Calgary and a call to the ministry of justice and word seemed like seeking an honourific for nothing more than having it…so I concluded my discernment to continue my work for those without voice, my call to make my own corner of this world a little bit better for my children and neighbours.


I will save the intervening of other spiritual organizations that have contributed to my journey, (see the endnotesY) , but this winding eclectic path has brought me to my current year of sabbatical, completing my M.A. and awaiting my first unit of C.P.E. it has been an interesting fall. See on October 13, 2012 a syncretise or serendipitous occurrence attending a concert promoted through Franciscan Friends that brought Tony Melendez to Calgary. The true impact aside from his story, aside from this man’s ministry truly being launched because of the loving actions of Blessed John Paul II at World Youth Day 1984 in Los Angeles, was that the concert myself, my soul mate and our friends attended was at…you guessed it…St. Thomas More Catholic Church. To find the words to explain the powerful experience of this man’s testimony that brought tears to my eyes as the parish became a convergence of soul matters. You see it was a powerful time in this church, the last time I had been at church with my Mum & Nan together when they were both still completely healthy was there, it was my most blessed time in ministry, coupled with the music and the story was overwhelming.  It felt like a home coming kind of night. These are the words that took so long to process.


Now before this night I was exploring a renewal of my monastic life, as a secular monastic one is able to have the family and be active in the world. Through my research on Mariology I had stumbled across the Ecumenical Catholic Church, which had a lay order through The Order of Mary the Theotokos (OMT) whose rule was basic Franciscanism.


As I sit in low Mass at St. Mark’s RC Church or reading my catholic edition NRSV (New Revised Standard Version Bible) during worship with my family at Cornerstone Christian Assembly/King of Glory Lutheran Brethren Church and facilitate bible studies in my home parish of Rainbow Chapel there is a vocational call within my soul, and I wonder if I may have missed it?


So, as my beliefs rest within discernment within a community as I continue my sabbatical journey, in this the 50th year of Vatican II, in what has been declared the year of faith…I lay down where my path is right now:


Do I join the OMT even though there is no local fellowship or do I pursue concluding my R.C.I.A. and joining the Secular Franciscan Order?


What is an ol’ broken down Robin Hood to do folks?

Y Rockyview Alliance Church – My Preschool and where I served with the Young Adults

Centennial Presbyterian Church where I attended Vacation Bible School and was a youth pastor

Symons Valley United where I was a youth and young adult worker

Campbell-Stone United Church where I was a youth pastor

Central United Church – youth group volunteer, attended Alpha Course

Knox United Church- Congregant

Spiritual Directions – trained as a Shaman; didgeridoo making/playing; restorative writing; teacher

Calgary Church of Christ – youth group volunteer

Alberta Bible College- Earned my B.A.; Emerge 2012 Speaker

Canadian Theological Seminary- Earned my M.A.

St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral – Adherent

Calgary Roman Catholic Diocese  – Youth Leader Training

Unity Church of Calgary – attendee

Prince of Faith Lutheran Church – council member, professional lay leader

Taoist Society – learned Tai Chi

Robert McClure United Church – attendee

Calgary Parks n Rec- learned Yoga

Holy Cross Anglican – attendee

Anglican Cursillo weekend


Druid International Org – trained in Druidism

Great Bend Church of Christ/Rosscarock Church of Christ – Pulpit Supply

Lakeview United Church – Pulpit Supply

King of Glory Lutheran Brethren Church – Facilitator of Christianity 101

St. George’s Anglican Church – Youth & Children’s coordinator; People’s Warden; First Baby   baptized; Alpha Course Leader

Anglican Sower/Presbyterian Record/ THAW/TSSF Journal – Writer

Christian Science Church (Red Deer)/Church of Christ, Scientist (Calgary) – Attendee

FCJ Christian Life Centre – Dream Work; labyrinth; personal retreats; Companions in Mission     formation

Ordained Universal Life Church Monastery

Trained in Order of St. Luke the Physician

The Mustard Seed- Street Level Support Worker; Em-Beds Support Worked; Sunalta Team Lead; Street Level manager; Chaplaincy relief; Permanent Supportive Housing Team Lead; Community Living Properties Team Lead; Housing Team Lead; Relief Staff; Mountain Mover; Donor; volunteer Street Youth Pastor; Volunteer Apprentice Night Leader; Meal Volunteer;

St. Thomas More Catholic Church – Lay Minister of Praise; Inn from the Cold volunteer; Adherent

Crossroads Community Church – Attendee

Order of Ecumenical Franciscans – inquirer/postulant

Saskatoon Theological Union – Spiritual Direction training and international church understanding; what sanctuary is and what church is.

Third Order, Society of St. Francis – Novitiate

My own personal pilgrimages that were mixtures of spirituality, faith, outreach and history through Canadian cities of Red Deer, Medicine Hat, Saskatoon, Regina, Edmonton, Lethbridge, Ottawa, Hull, Winnipeg, and into the U.S. through Arizona.

Currently at: Cornerstone Christian Assembly/King of Glory Lutheran Brethren Church – attendee

St. Mark’s RC Parish – attendee