Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Irreversible Change

June 3, 2013


I’m thinking about the story
A man and a woman
And an apple
Was that a tale of our beginning
Or of our end?


Down by the lake
On the shore
By the lake
Lies a pebble
One of millions, actually
By a glacier
Long, long ago
Where was it yesterday?
There or nearby?
Moved maybe
By a wind-blown wave
Or a passing boat’s wake
If it was moved
An irreversible change
To the entire universe
Took place
Tiny, but irreversible
What about us?
What are we doing?
How’s our piece,
Our allotted portion
Of the universe, doing?
Irreversible change
I’m thinking about sunlight
Stored sunlight, stored energy
As in an apple
As in coal, gas, oil
Why is the oil there?
The coal?
The gas?
Is it for us?
If so, to do what?
Are these tangible things,
These stored solar energies,
Here for our good?
Or are they the forbidden fruit
An apple … a poisoned apple
Perhaps that mythical tale
Two people and an apple
Is a story of our end, not of our beginning
A story about hubris and selfishness now
Rather than providing for those who follow
One bite or too many
An abdication of our stewardship?
Our misunderstanding of dominion?
A failure to faithfully respond?

© 2013 Thomas W. Cummins


At 71, A Reflection on Luke 13:6-9

March 7, 2013


No fruit
After three years
No figs on the tree
Give it another year
A fourth quarter
Another period to express its being
Life’s fourth quarter
For many, a final period
Something is being asked
More is required, expected
But three and a half quarters
Have already passed
Fatigue is present
Yet must be ignored
Fruitless time is over
Unrecognized, but over
Something is being asked
More is required
Not more activity,
Better results
Enough is being done,
Just needs to be better
More rewarding, more loving
Something is being asked
More is required

© 2013 Thomas W. Cummins

But I’m a Christian first!

September 12, 2011

Note: If you are really pleased with the Catholic Church as it is today, you may not want to  read any further.


There was an unexpected comment from inside a prison cell during my visit on Wednesday of last week:

“The one religion I have no use for is Catholic.” He’s Muslim.

“Really?” I said

“Catholics are creepy! All that sexual abuse of kids.”

“You know, I’m Catholic.”

“You are?”

“But I’m a Christian first!”

Ever since that exchange (and we did continue talking), I have wondered what prompted me to say that. My not identifying with the institutional church is certainly part of it. Wondering what bishops, cardinals, and the pope bring to the party is another part.

The thing that keeps me in the Catholic faith is that there is nowhere else to go. Also, I need to remember the influence of the Sacraments and of our tradition upon who I have become … along with God’s grace.

I’m simply not big on the hierarchy and all the pomp and trappings that go with it. I still imagine Jesus roaming around the Vatican or any diocesan office wondering how all this came out of his demonstrating and talking about leading a humble and loving life.

Our local bishop provides ceremonial, administrative, and managerial support to the faith communities in the archdiocese. That is good and necessary. But I don’t look to him for guidance in matters of faith and morals. I look to the members of our faith community under the guidance of our pastors.

To me, the bishops in this country have nothing to say. Perhaps they will someday, but for now their voice lacks credibility and is usually out of step with those in the pews. The corporate  insensitivity and cover-ups displayed toward the sexual abuse of our children can never be excused. Forgiven by some, but never excused.

I believe to be a good Catholic is to be a good Christian, to follow Jesus in his words and actions, to hear and keep the gospel message. Is that what we see and hear from the hierarchy? No.  What we see and hear is exclusion, intolerance, arrogance, a group that is tone-deaf, a group that fails to listen to the faithful (at least those of us without money).

We see and hear from the hierarchy an asymmetrical view of the human experience, an undue focus on sexual issues rather than on loving relationships. Other things in their portfolio of issues include abortion, gays, maintaining 7 Sacraments for men and only 6 Sacraments for women. Gee, that last issue said that way smacks of theological ignorance, except we know it’s all about power anyway and theology has nothing to do with it.

The U.S. bishops’ bi-annual inserting of themselves into the political process is nonsense and, as we have seen, can cause much damage through encouraging voting for those who are insufficiently pro-live, voting for those care more for the unborn than for breathing citizens in need. I should say that they claim to care for the unborn.

Our bishops also encouraged voting for and electing an administration filled with fear and vengeance rather than hope and forgiveness. But unthinking conservatism doe spawn more unthinking conservatism, and election time is just around the corner once more. The archbishop before this one thought the war in Iraq was a “just” war. And so it goes.

I could go on, but a conversation at a cell door does bring up many, many things to reflect upon.

Confusion among the faithful

June 19, 2011

Father’s Day. Lots of memories, reflections, gratitude. It is a good day.


Friday, I led a discussion on the Trinity following my third-Friday communion service at the prison. The information I drew upon came from Elizabeth Johnson’s book,  Quest for the Living God. Her chapter on the Trinity was very helpful. Much more helpful than the usual “three persons in one divine nature.” How understandable has that ever been?

I’m well aware that the bishops don’t like Elizabeth Johnson’s book. I loved it! In fact, if the bishops hadn’t objected, I most likely would have missed it. Thanks, guys. The book sits on my shelf next to  Roger Haight’s book, Jesus Symbol of God. The bishops really hated that one.

Both of those books I inhaled with great interest. I commented in an email to Sr. Johnson, “I don’t know where I would be without an inclusive theology that makes sense.” It remains a mystery to me what the bishops found objectionable in her book. I’ll admit I haven’t read their report, but I did read her book.

We know that pluralism does give the bishops indigestion. But I don’t want a God who thinks the Catholic Church is “the only way” to salvation. The God I know is the one described in the Gospels through the words and behavior of Jesus, open to everyone, not the one described through the words and actions of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

Departing from official Church teaching is a no-no, that much I have gleaned from news reports regarding their objections. They would love to have every theology book require an imprimatur. But can you imagine if we never knew more than the bishops? If all we ever heard about was what the Church already thought she knew? Are we to be constrained by what is often the least common denominator in awareness of  living faithfully in today’s world? Isn’t it possible that the church can teach from below as well as from above?

My understanding is that the bishops don’t like her treatment of the Trinity. Granted it was understandable and relevant which could cause “confusion among the faithful.” Confusion of the faithful is really the province of  the hierarchy itself, not the work of our theologians.

Ten pounds of stuff in a five pound bag

May 4, 2011

One can’t get much more progressive in the Catholic church than I am without getting the heave-ho,  excommunicated. So I was somewhat surprised at myself for how annoyed I became when the liturgy of the Mass was messed with to the point of being distracting, to the point of nearly being a farce.

When one goes home without seeing either the Liturgy of the Word or the Liturgy of the Eucharist as being a high point or central to the gathering of the community, then something has gone wrong.

If one isn’t careful with the Easter Vigil, the evening can become the proverbial ten pounds of stuff in a five pound bag. The evening should be solemn yet joyful, and the four parts of the liturgy should be kept in balance at a minimum. Once either the Service of the Light or the Baptism becomes a scene stealer, or a performance, the Mass becomes liturgically ineffective.

I think I more fully understand why the Committee on Divine Worship tries to keep the lid on things. It wouldn’t take long for an “anything goes” worship approach to take over.

A manifestation of God’s grace

December 7, 2010

What am I to make of a sudden feeling of well-being, contentment? I am most aware that the feeling can’t be summoned … at least I’m not able to do so. But the very palpable sensation comes out of nowhere. Perhaps it is simply a manifestation of God’s grace. In any event, I like it, and it costs little.

Last evening I went out into the country to meet with the consultors (parish council) at a small Catholic parish. Eleven years ago I worked with the same faith community in their development of a strategic long-range plan. They seem to be ready to begin the conversation about what a next phase might look like.

I brought along some excerpts of my notes from those earlier sessions. Attendance and participation at those five sessions during the first quarter of 2000 were terrific and led to the dedication of some new classrooms and a parish community center in late 2007.

My recommendation is to reconvene and cover much of the same ground in the first quarter of 2011. Much has changed with a different group of students in the school, many new parishioners, changing demographics of the county, and the current economy. Expectations of all concerned need to be voiced as well as heard. With a little success under their belt, the future may seem more clear.

We’ll take a “today” look at the mission of the planning group, revisit the values held by the faith community, and re-articulate the “desired state” or vision for the parish, parishioners, church, and school. The group will explore to what extent Phase I moved toward the vision, and determine the logical next steps.

Frankly, I can’t wait to get started with such a wonderful faith-filled group accompanied by their very energetic and committed pastor. A fringe benefit is the peaceful 1-hour drive out to that little church on the hill.

Here at home our new driveway turned out pretty well. In a few weeks we’ll finish updating our windows. When it gets cold at night, we may even be able to leave the drapes open, sudden temperature changes won’t fog up the dining room and living room windows, ice won’t form leaving puddles on the sill.

All the other windows … twenty plus four glass door panels … have been replaced over the past several years. Doing it in phases hasn’t saved any money, but the psychological impact of an all-in-one sticker shock was nice to avoid.

Visiting the men in prison takes on a marked shift in tone as Christmas approaches. The isolation and loneliness are mentioned more often. There is talk about sending cards, making charitable contributions, remembering the holidays as a child. Listening is the best I can do, and emotions flow freely when a chaplain is at the door. It is a time when one lowers facades a little.