the mysticism of open eyes

“The challenge of this pontificate is far more radical than most suspect. It is a challenge for conservatives, who dont want to let themselves be surprised any more by God and who resist reforms, just as it is for progressives, who expect feasible, concrete solutions right here and now.

“The revolution of tenderness and love and the mysticism of open eyes could disappoint both groups and in the end, nevertheless, receive its due.”

via Walter Kasper, popes theologian, reveals the brains behind Francis heart | National Catholic Reporter.

Curial politicking is not a new concept, but it was usually done stealthily within the shadows of Vatican halls. Today, high-ranking Cardinals are using the media to promote and gain support for their views. One issue being discussed is the role of theology in the papal style of Pope Francis.

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), acknowledges that Francis is more pastoral than Pope Benedict XVI. But, he is going further by insinuating that Francis does not have the theological heft of his predecessor. Therefore, Müller believes, the CDF must “theologically structure” Pope Francis’ pontificate.

For those of us who embrace the Pope’s teachings and vision, this all sounds rather ominous. Does Francis really need Cardinal Müller to interpret or approve his message for us? Should the CDF always have the final say in things theological, even over the Pope himself?

On the other side of this debate, we have Cardinal Walter Kasper. Kasper is a long time promoter of a more merciful Church. His book,Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life was personally endorsed by Pope Francis. In his latest book, titled Pope Francis’ Revolution of Tenderness and Love, Kasper argues that this pastoral pope is no theological lightweight. In an interview he stated,

“I wanted to make clear, in order to help Pope Francis, to make him better understood to theologians and more academic people, and to interpret some of his good visions — to say that he is fully in the Catholic tradition, in tradition with his predecessors, and much more with [Pope Emeritus] Benedict XVI than it seems,”

I’ve been a fan of Cardinal Kasper for many years. His support of Pope Francis’s efforts to reform the mind and heart of the church comes as no surprise. Kasper’s choice of words to describe this reform is brilliant,

the revolution of tenderness and love and the mysticism of open eyes. 

Some are quick to criticize such emotional language. Tenderness and love? Is this just some hippy dippy, liberal, pie in the sky nonsense? Images of peace signs, love-beads and incense (not the good, thurible-swinging kind) threaten their traditional sensibilities.

Yet Francis shows us, in concrete ways, what tenderness and love is all about. He speaks of it, and he does it. He physically reaches out to the poor and broken. He never tires of challenging the church to focus less on clerical hierarchies and rules and more on being an instrument of mercy in the world. He is truly a genuine pastor, but being a genuine pastor does not automatically exclude having a solid theological grounding. Can you not be both a pastor and teacher? And, aren’t the best teachers those who teach with both words and actions?

The “mysticism of open eyes” is a wonderful expression to describe Francis’s mission for the church. We tend to associate mysticism with the interior life. Art depicts the great mystics with eyes closed in deep prayer or raised to the heavens in divine trances and visions. The world is forgotten as mind, body and soul  are united with God and God alone.

Deep prayer experiences are wonderful, but they are meant to be more than a personal affirmation of God’s presence in our lives. They are meant as fuel for the journey, our mission to bring God’s presence into the world. To BE God’s presence in the world. The goal of prayer is not to shut out the world. The mission of the church is not to raise the ramparts against society and barricade itself inside a doctrinally pure fortress.

Pope Francis is calling us to pray with open eyes, to read “the signs of the times” in the words of the Second Vatican Council, so that we may act wisely and justly.

A church of tenderness and love. A church that is reaching out rather than closing in on itself. This is the church of my dreams.




placing ourselves in the passion story




VATICAN CITY Preceded by young people and clergy waving tall palm branches, Pope Francis began his Holy Week liturgies by encouraging people to ask themselves which personality in the Gospel accounts of Jesus passion, death and resurrection they resemble most.”Where is my heart? Which of these people do I resemble most?” Pope Francis asked Sunday as he celebrated the Palm Sunday Mass of the Lords Passion.

via Pope: During Holy Week, ask which Gospel character you resemble | National Catholic Reporter.

Pope Francis was inviting us to enter into an Ignatian style of prayerful imagining. In the Passion story, who do you most identify with? For me, my heart, mind and gut are united with Mary.

My grand-daughter doesn’t like it when I call her my grand-baby. At the ripe age of 2 1/2, it insults her sense of maturity in relation to her one year old brother. I tried to explain to her that her daddy is still MY baby. “No, Grammy”, she argued. “Daddy’s not a baby!” It was useless trying to explain to her that the strapping young man who is now a wonderful husband and father will always be my baby boy.

One of the most glorious gifts of parenthood is rejoicing in all the accomplishments of our children, from first steps to graduations to careers to parenthood and beyond. One of the hardest aspects of parenthood is suffering with them through the many struggles of life. As wee babies they stole your hearts and never gave them back. Their pain became your pain, and continues to be.

I resist pondering Mary’s agony as her son was tried, tortured, humiliated and finally put to a gruesome death. It is too much to bear. This was her baby boy, now grown and trying to fulfill God’s will in his life. How did Mary find the courage to stay beside him, to remain standing even at the foot of the cross when others had fled? How does a parent survive the breaking of their own heart when they see their child suffer so?

Pope Francis, in his wisdom, knows that nudging us to enter into the gospel with our mind and heart can touch us more personally than soaring theological treatises or lengthy sermons. This is a powerful, yet simple exercise. What about you? Who do you identify with in the Passion readings?

don’t feed the trolls!


The Internet can be a powerful tool for dialogue, a dialogue that could serve the church well. Conversations on ecclesial matters are no longer limited to professional ministers in the church or secret doctrinal offices. Blogs and online discussion boards allow many and varied voices to be heard. But, dialogue is not well served with mud-slinging brawls, mean-spirited comments and hate-filled diatribes.

I spend a lot of time (too much time!) reading Catholic news web sites, blogs and discussion boards. Some are a meeting place of like-minded souls supporting each other in their shared ideologies. These discussion boards can form a valuable community experience and a safe environment. This is a good thing, but it could also prevent a more inclusive dialogue.

The best discussion boards are those that welcome all voices while maintaining civility and respect in the discourse. Good and consistent moderation is the key as is maturity and discretion among the participants. It is sad to see the beginnings of a good dialogue dissolve into childish one-liner attacks that have nothing at all to do with the original topic. Which leads me to the issue of Internet trolls.

What are Internet trolls? Psychology Today, in an article titled Internet Trolls Are Narcissists, Psychopaths, and Sadists provides this definition,

An Internet troll is someone who comes into a discussion and posts comments designed to upset or disrupt the conversation. Often, in fact, it seems like there is no real purpose behind their comments except to upset everyone else involved. Trolls will lie, exaggerate, and offend to get a response.

The same article referenced a Canadian research that studied the personalities of Internet trolls, wondering if there was a link with “the “Dark Tetrad” of personality traits: narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and sadism”. Not surprisingly, the connection was a strong one. To quote the authors,

 Both trolls and sadists feel sadistic glee at the distress of others. Sadists just want to have fun … and the Internet is their playground! 

It’s easy to spot the trolls on Catholic sites. They have no compunction in their venomous attacks. You can challenge their lack of basic Christian charity or compassion to no avail. Respond to them, and they will quickly respond back. You can almost picture them salivating with pleasure at the prospect of a long and dirty debate while you get increasingly more angry and frustrated.

The key is not to be taken in by these scurrilous scoundrels. A dear friend (and Archbishop) once told us that being a Christian never means being a doormat. Yes we can, and should, promote dialogue. Catholics include women and men on all points of the Trad-Lib spectrum and we need to talk in order to better know and understand each other. But, we do not have to listen to, or provide a venue for, those who are unwilling to listen and respond respectfully to others.

If an in-person conversation is going sour, it is often difficult or impossible to walk away without seeming rude. In online discussions we can leave the conversation by simply not responding.

Do not take the bait.

Do not succumb to the temptation.

Do not feed the trolls!