I Was Here

Here’s the song I was talking about in class the other day! Have you ever been ‘moved’ by something? You feel something within you. It’s this indescribable feeling of complete joy – strangely enough almost to the point of sadness. However, this. This is how I want to be able to look back on life one day.

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The Holy Spirit

            The difficulty in today’s meeting on the Holy Spirit, was creating a definition, or at least characterization of the Holy Spirit. We felt ourselves continually drawn to this urge to represent the Spirit metaphorically or through some analogous means – purely human constructions. Within the Trinity, the Spirit is not a separate entity, but one in the same with the Father and Son. As Ratzinger writes, this spirit is the unity of the Father and Son in Person – in metaphysical representation. The Holy Spirit ‘dwells in the Word.’ It is not a departure or separation from, but communion with the Word (both Father and Son).

             One comes to possess the Word, by living with the Word, in which the Spirit is found. The Spirit is the ‘vehicle and interpretation of the incarnate Word.’ It is through the ‘Spirit of grace, we are drawn into the mystery of divine sonship.’ We are enticed to allow ourselves to lead and to be led to the Son. Our focus on the Son constitutes our participation in the church. The Spirit, whose source is Jesus, resides with the Word who, as we have discussed, is both the Father and Son. The more we ‘enter’ into Jesus, the more we come to understand the Spirit, which in turn enters us, acts through us, intercedes for us and leads us to truth.

             We receive the Spirit, as one of the many gifts from God, so that we may come to understand all God’s gifts. Not only does the Spirit draw both the Father and Son into unity, but also unifies us, the church. The Spirit exists in both the human and divine planes. He is divine, as he is one in the Trinity, and also acts through humanity, and so exists with humanity.

            Just as God the Father is invisible, so too is the Spirit. We can only know of the Spirit through his accomplishments. We are able to witness his actions and achievements performed through others. The Spirit helps motivate our movement towards God. The Spirit communicates through ourselves and all those around us. Selflessness is the ‘mark of the Spirit.’ The further we distance our self from our self (for lack of a better term), the closer we become to understanding God. The soul finds fulfillment by looking beyond itself and into God.

            The modern imagination centralizes on the individual. What do I want out of this life? What works best for me? However, the Spirit draws us away from this idea. Our focus becomes the Son, through whom the Spirit interacts with us, then increasing our connection with the Spirit. To find the Spirit we look to Jesus, it’s source. Through the actions of the Spirit, we selflessly strive to live both in and with the Word.

            Both the readings and the meetings we had in order to discuss the Holy Spirit were packed with viewpoints. Today I learned a lot about the Holy Spirit I have never really thought about. We seemed to be attempting to prove (or at least strongly support) the existence and purpose of the Spirit in relation to the Trinity. We (well I know I stubbornly asserted this) thought the best way to explain the Spirit was through analogy or metaphor. However, no matter how many metaphors or analogies you try to combine, you will never be able to fully grasp what the Spirit is and does. The Spirit helps to draw us away from ourselves and towards God so that we may come to adore Him and all the gifts he has bestowed upon us.

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Jesus, the Son of God

Jesus is the Son of God. This belief is crucial to the understanding of Christianity. Just as the Nicene Creed blatantly details, Jesus is the descent of God into human history. As the Son of God, does this make Him any lesser of a being because He is a ‘son’ and thus ‘subordinate’ to the Father? He is ‘consubstantial,’ or ‘of the same substance’ of God. It is one of the mysteries of the faith, the Trinity – three in one. It is not that there are ranks among the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Together they are unified.

The Son is God incarnate – presented to humanity as a physical being. The incarnation made Christ accessible and relatable to us as humans, as physical beings. The Son endured what we are living, the human experience. He suffered death, a torture only a human must endure. Jesus was both fully human and concurrently fully divine. As Ratzinger writes, “Jesus’ humanity is something wholly spiritual, something that is ‘divine’ because of its origin.” We required His humanity so that we may know we can and have experienced divine love.

The modern theological imagination perceives the world through images. Jesus is in many ways an image, sent by God so we may seek to know Him and His love. Through the understanding of the life of Jesus, we are able to better grasp the faith itself. God is Jesus. Jesus is God made flesh. He made Himself flesh so that we could be saved. He suffered death (what only humanity can do) in the worst way and was resurrected – an end to death itself. He died so that we may live – so that we may have hope – hope in God and eternal life with Him after our humanity ceases to exist.

This lesson today was innovative, in that I never thought this deeply about the subject before. The faith begins to make more sense when you understand the reasoning behind it, instead of just blindly accepting it. It really is as if a light-bulb clicked on in my head. Ratzinger uses reason, a device often used in attempt to refute faith, to strengthen it. Jesus is God incarnate, who became human so that we (as humans) might be able to relate to and experience His love more fully.

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Balthasar’s Christian Revelation

            The reading, beginning with Balthasar’s third chapter, opens with a profound statement. “Christianity disappears the moment it allows itself to be dissolved into a transcendental precondition of human self-understanding in thinking or living, knowledge or deed.” Reiterating Mouroux’s sentiments, we cannot ever fully know God. While at first glance, cynical, this conjecture has been incorporated by Balthasar. In Christianity, one has to acknowledge that he may never fully know and understand God. Were we to have complete knowledge (or believe ourselves to possess complete knowledge), we would be placing ourselves as equals to God. As Christians we must accept our subordination and perpetual lack of self-understanding.

            In addition to this acceptance, Christian revelation also involves attunement and competence – the ability to see the beauty of the aesthetic (love), just as one witnesses that found in a personal encounter (of love). The manifestation of God in Divine Love leaves the receiver “no choice but to respond in the mode of pure, blind obedience.” Love is experiential. One perceives love only by being loved. For one to see the glory found in love, he needs to experience the power of Divine Love. God’s love became incarnate in His Son Jesus Christ.

            We experience the love of God every time we participate in the Eucharist. No other love is as full as that found with God. Human love, love of the flesh, can never be as filling as the love of God. Human love is not limitless. God’s love is eternal. Christianity itself is not just a knowledge or understanding, but an ongoing and dynamic covenant with God. It is limitless – in time, space, etc. “Love knows no bounds.”

            It is through Jesus Christ, who at the same time was both human and divine, that we are able to experience the grace of God. Because He is human, we are more ready to understand the love of God. Because Jesus was Human, we may more easily understand the love we experience through Him. Through Jesus we experience Divine Love, though it was presented in human form (what we are most accustomed to). Jesus died for us. He loved us so much He gave His life for us – for all of us. He made love understandable for us, so that we may experience it and thus translate it to our lives as Christians.

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Tonight We’re Going Hard

            Notre Dame students, no matter how many restrictions administration will place upon them, will always find ways around the rules. Even though Our Lady’s University is a Catholic institute, it is still an American college, with sex and alcohol, lots of alcohol. Most social gatherings that occur on campus, solely sponsored by students, are notorious ‘dorm parties.’ Many freshmen thrive on these events, while upperclassmen and those of age (or illegally ‘of age’) who do consume alcohol, attend the prestige that is Feve, CJ’s, Brother’s, The Backer, Corby’s, etc.

            To prevent any potential mishaps, dorm parties must be registered. Rectors and RA’s are not unaware that a dorm party will have alcohol, often times purchased and/or consumed by underage individuals. “Just don’t let us catch you.”

              Alcohol is a social tool, or as one interviewee in Smith’s chapter calls it, a social lubricant, which is very true. It is a lubricant and a seemingly ‘acceptable’ excuse. What better to do on a Friday night than get wasted, maybe meet a few people who are in classes of yours that you never talk to, but now all of a sudden you can because you’re drinking and if you happen to make a fool of yourself, you’ll be able to use the alcohol as an excuse, even though you’re more likely than not aware of what you may be doing.

              There is a saying: sober thoughts from an inebriated mind. Maybe you wanted to talk to that girl or guy you thought was cute and did not have the ‘courage.’ I put courage in quotes because it is a false sense of courage, rather it is the ability to have an accessible excuse should the situation not go as planned.

            Take any weekend at Notre Dame, starting with Thursday night (though it’s technically not the weekend, many students don’t have class Friday, or still choose to go out – Thursday is Fevesday). Main Circle is lined with cabs trying to get some cash from students ready to start their weekend with a nice night of drunken dancing, pictures, and maybe a potential hook-up.

             Walking across the quad, you may hear Britney, Usher, Carly Rae, JLo, any artist’s music blaring from the windows and usually accompanied by some very loud conversations; conversations which take place by the window to escape the excessive heat built up by the other guests in attendance. Dorm parties are rarely exclusive events. You drink? You’re in.

            For some reason, if you are in the partying crowd, you seem to be placed on an imaginary pedestal. You’re ‘popular;’ at least for the time being. This is what I originally thought coming into Notre Dame. It’s this naïve idea that those who host or attend parties know a lot of people and will know and be known by more students. Or by participating in events you will ‘see and be seen.’ It really is a self-created pedestal.

            Alcohol is a major player in the minds of many students, on and off campus. You’re having a get together? Oh, let’s have some beer. You got an A on that research paper? Let’s celebrate and get trashed! Sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Let’s destroy or weaken the tool we just utilized so well – our brain! But to the immature individual, this just seems like the likely progression of thought. Alcohol is so ingrained in our campus culture (and Notre Dame is not unique in this).

            Smith presented a great point – and it may have come from the words of one of those he interviewed. Intoxication came completely out of boredom. Once contemplated, this thought is a reality. We don’t know what else to do on a Friday night – get ahead in our studies? You serious? Watch a movie? Maybe once we come back from Finney’s or that party in Zahm. Grab some Ben & Jerry’s from The Huddle and scoop it down with some good conversation? I’d rather get the carbs from Natty.

            It’s not necessarily something someone else can change for us. We have to change it ourselves. The growth and realization has to occur internally. You never know what it feels like unless it happens to you. Unfortunately this statement hold very true. You usually really don’t understand the uselessness of this alcoholic and sexual culture until you’re a part of it and seen both ends of the spectrum. At first it may be an absolute blast – you seem to be making friends and meeting new people all the time. But are these real friends? Will you acknowledge each other as you walk past? Would you be able to hold a conversation sober with them?

            We’re hiding our insecurities. As Ms. Flanagan wrote in the Atlantic Monthly, those who often abuse alcohol and sex are “desperate for attention, and who have no idea how to obtain it.” It serves as an excuse to cover up our insecurities. As Oprah recently told the graduating class of Harvard, the constant need for approval underlines our actions. We seek approval from others because it hardest to accept it from within. What better way to seek approval than by following the example of the intoxicated and sexually adventurous, for that’s an easy solution to all our problems, isn’t it?

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It’s Everything Your Phone Isn’t

            Most popular YouTube videos now begin with a commercial. Sometimes you’re allowed the option to skip the commercial after a few seconds or, if it’s short enough, you’re forced to suffer through it (at least I think it’s suffering). The most common advertisement I have recently viewed is for the HTC One, the clip ending with the claim, “It’s everything your phone isn’t.”

            Vincent J. Miller writes on modern consumerist culture. In this society there exists an inherent desire for more. The desire, however, is not satisfied once the object has been received or purchased, but is never satisfied. It is an insatiable pursuit of something we think we must have. While once we purchase the item, the void in our lives is filled, the fulfillment opens up another empty hole. We find desire in the pursuit and not the end. There is no foreseeable end in sight, yet we are consistently driven towards it. Much like the character Rebecca Bloomwood expressed in Confessions of a Shopaholic, “When I shop, the world gets better, and the world is better. And then it’s not, and I need to do it again.” Though she filled the void with her many purchases, she was not able to quench her desire, because she really desired the pursuit and not the object.

            In this commercial for the HTC One Smartphone, the only actual feature advertised is a front facing speaker. Why do we need a front facing speaker? To get better sound coming from our mobile devices. Why should we get rid of our old phones and replace them with this new gadget? Because this phone is better than your old one. Oh. It didn’t really present any real reason for me to get this phone, but because you said it’s better than my old phone and you’re the man in the TV talking to me, you must be right! And they threw in a little celebrity endorsement with video footage of the Far East Movement. If they’re in this commercial, then they must think this is a good phone, too! I should get it.

            Consumerism is fueled my seduction and misdirection. The phone is sleek and appealing, but there’s no significant draw to purchasing it. We’re misguided into believing it will be better than our current phone. We’re fueled by the desire to have the best and most current device. Does having a better phone bring you one step closer to Heaven? Nope. Christianity tells us this is a vain and materialistic desire.

            Our insatiable desire should not be directed towards the material or physical, but to the spiritual, to God. As Augustine writes in his Confessions, “you have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.” If only we were somehow able to turn this desire for the pursuit of material things to the desire of God and eternal life with Him. Alluding back to Mouroux, we are never able to know God. We need to desire, and keep this desire at the forefront of our lives, to know God. It is easy to fall into the seductive trap of consumerism because it seems the object can easily be obtained. With Christianity, with God as the object, it is much more difficult to feel satisfied since we can never quite fulfill our knowing God. We must avoid be seduction and misleading authority to maintain our desire for eternal life with God.

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Smith’s Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

           According to Smith, religious socialization of each successive generation becomes more difficult. While there is no statistical decline, the “secular ideas of the American Dream pervade church religion.” The individual teen has seemed to shape their religious beliefs around what they see as ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ No objective standard of religion by which one may judge himself exists. The deterioration from objective traditional religion stems from a strong disconnect between adults and their teenage children (or possibly between adults and teenagers in general).

            Teenagers struggle in the limbo of childhood innocence and adult maturity. They require adult interaction to grow and develop completely. Another important aspect is an inability to openly discuss faith, whether with peers or elders, without the concern of the listening party being offended or disagreeing with the speaker’s opinions. Heaven forbid one have an opinion contrary to popular belief! These rising concerns are manifest in what he calls Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.

            In Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD), structured religion degenerates to a “public health justification.” The reason one even comes to possess religious beliefs is to produce a good citizen. One of the five basic ideas of MTD is that God becomes some sort of counselor or therapist only called upon when necessary. He becomes an object rather than subject. Religious faith becomes “privatized, subjectivized, customized, and therapeutically psychologized.”

            MTD has its roots in an inability to articulate one’s faith. Some, as am I, are born into the faith and simply follow the progressive steps of becoming a full member of the faith. In Catholicism, after Confirmation, how can one remain attached to the faith when the only other apparent goal in sight is eternal life? Religion can become unique to an individual. The restrictions become only those placed upon by the individual, not an objective outside religious source.

            Smith’s MTD provides “well-lubricated social relations in the public sphere,” an issue at the forefront of a teenager’s focus in an evermore socially accessible world. The teenage imagination shapes their “religion” to the needs of their microspheres and not the other way around. I can honestly say that this has (and partly still does) defined my religious beliefs. Following Confirmation I was excited to be able to attend the parish youth group. It appealed to me. As my time in high school flew by, so too did my religious stability. I no longer attended youth group for the religious, but for the social aspect. When I was told what I could and could not do and (as an example) what music I was currently listening to was wrong and immoral and needed to be thrown away, I was incredibly turned off by the church.

            As I realize, though, I was not necessarily thrown off by the church teachings themselves, but by certain individuals who had emphasized only portions of church teachings that seemed rather radical at the time. My reading and reflecting on Smith’s views, however has helped me to see what faults I possess. My misdirection and subsequent creation of my own religion, really, is partially my own fault. I let my own immaturity lead me away from the path I needed to take. Do I regret I went down a different path? No, because I believe that was the right path for me, because from it, I have grown stronger in my Catholic faith.

            Before I digress too much about my past, Smith labels MTD as “parasitic” and it “eventually kills particularistic religious faiths.” It becomes a separate faith of its own – as did whatever you could call my faith life towards the end of high school. Parents and adults need to be more involved in teens’ religious growth. Much effort is required by both parties and each must be prepared to face their critics and the possibility of contradiction or even rejection.

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What is the Christian Experience according to Mouroux?

            The Christian Experience, as characterized by Mouroux, is a dynamic movement of the soul, propelled by Love, towards God. One comes to know Love and in essence God, through experience. The soul cannot be moved by faith alone, but by an active faith. If there is one point Mouroux wishes the reader to understand most, it is that acts of charity are faith in action. These acts of charity, performed freely, move our soul, our inner-most being, towards God. 

            In the Christian Experience, man is to decentralize himself and give himself up to God completely. By focusing more on God (who is present in our neighbors), one looks deeper into and reflects upon his self. The closer one grows to knowing himself, the closer one grows to God. However, it seems a paradox exists. While we are told to continually seek God through this form of self-reflection (self-awareness), at the same time we are to accept that we do not and cannot fully know Him. Does this make the search futile?

             Why go on a journey where you know you will never find what you seek? The importance does not lie solely on the object, the result – God. The significance lies in the journey we make. We must understand the journey may end before we have found that which we seek. Our determination, our will power, and our freedom to make the journey make the object even more worth pursuing. Our efforts to find God show Him how much we care and wish to give ourselves up to Him. The one who ultimately succeeds is the one who attempted the journey – the one who entered the arena, not the one who gave up when he discovered there was no foreseeable destination.

              The most influential parts of the journey are found in the darkest hours. During these periods, we must throw ourselves “with all our might into the mystery of the unknown God.” We must trust in God in both the good and the bad times. We may find it hardest to accept His will in the latter, but an undying faith moves the soul forward.

              Charity is faith in action. Proper charity involves the love of God and of neighbor. The act alone is not sufficient evidence of charity, but one must have the proper intent – to love God and one’s neighbor. Love, just as knowledge, is experiential. One can truly love when he has been loved. When one comes to know God’s love, then he is able to love.

              The Christian Experience not only requires what Mouroux refers to as “Right Faith,” but also the keeping of the Commandments and self-judgment. Proper self-judgment, determined by the objective nature of the Commandments, is realized in the depths of prayer. A successful perception of the self requires the effort of the whole soul – a search for the self, but ultimately the search for God.  

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Beauty in the Basilica

Beauty in the Basilica

One beautiful Friday this Spring, after class was over for the week, a friend and I decided to go into the Basilica. With barely any artificial lighting, the sun shone through the stained-glass, streaming light onto the pews.

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