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Paul Baumann on George Weigel

Commonweal editor Paul Baumanns review of George Weigels Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st Century Church is now available at the website of The Nation. Excerpts follow:

When President Obama was invited to give the commencement address at the University of Notre Dame in 2009, more than eighty bishops condemned the university. That a duly elected president of the United States should be regarded as a moral monster unworthy of being given a hearingespecially at a school as steeped in American patriotism as Notre Dameis bizarre. The uproar and the bitter recrimination that followed Obamas speech revealed how deeply divided and directionless the once formidably cohesive American Catholic Church has become. And if George Weigels new book is any indication of where the churchs hierarchy is headed, the divisions promise to grow deeper. Indeed, a good deal of the blame for the bishops belligerent public posture can be laid directly on the desk of the author of Evangelical Catholicism. ...According to Weigel, the evangelical Catholicism of his books title represents a necessary departure from the Counter-reformation or so-called tribal Catholicism of recent centuries. In his view, a Catholicism held together by ethnic affinities possesses neither the fervor nor the missionary commitment needed to meet the challenges of postmodernity. In place of the bricklayer bishops who built a Catholic subculture of schools, hospitals and civic associations across America, whats needed today are bishops like the late John Paul II, men who speak of their faith in compelling, adamantine and fearless ways. These bishops will be disciplinarians, unabashed in demanding doctrinal obedience from priests, women in religious orders and those in the pews. Theologians and politicians who publicly dissent from church teaching must be told that they are no longer Catholic in any meaningful sense. Catholics who do not believe everything the church teaches should leave. (It will be interesting to see how this new breed of priests and bishops responds to the leadership of the recently elected Pope Francis, who seems to take a less confrontational approach to secular culture than Weigel does.) ...Why would Weigel assume that the deep reform of the Catholic Church is relevant to the political and cultural life of most Americans? Because he thinks that, as with Poland under communist domination, Americas fate is now intimately linked to that of Catholicism. The Catholic Church is now the worlds premier institutional proponent of human rights and democracy, he claimsby which he means that the churchs social doctrine offers a principled framework for the preservation of the Wests failing democracies. As far as Weigel is concerned, no other options are available.What to make of these grandiose claims? In one sense, Weigel is repeating what the Catholic Church has always taught. Conversion is what Christianity is about, and so Catholicism, often married to Aristotelian and Thomist notions of natural law and natural rights, remains a vital force in the American political tradition. But the resources of that tradition are broader than the abstract and self-evident truths, invoked by the Declaration of Independence, on which Weigel places such emphasis. The tradition has made use of a variety of philosophical resources, including Enlightenment rationalism, civic republicanism, secular liberal rights theory and pragmatism. It is unlikely we will succeed in forging a more perfect union if we do not make use of all the political resources at our disposal.

You can read the whole thing here. (Update: We earlier noted the inclusion of a link at the end of The Nation's online version of the review; that link has since been removed.)

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Dominic Preziosi is Commonweal’s digital editor.



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PS - a little book I liked by spiritual director William Barry SJ ... God and You: Prayer As a Personal Relationship

Anne C. --Have you read the letters of Mother Theresa? She lived most of her life angry at God because He withdrew from her after her early, intense mystical experiences. During only one other period in her later life was she again aware of His presence so intimately, and it lasted only during a week or so. She went back to being mad a Him because of it. She never denied that she was out and out angry at Him, and I suspect she told Him so regularly ;-) But she never lost her belief in and love for Him. Amazing woman.

Two quick thoughts.First, it is notable that a Catholic in public office has no canonical or theological status different from any other layperson. Concocting a standard for them that is different from other laypeople has no foundation in doctrine. Also true that there is no meaning canonically or otherwise to the phrase 'no longer Catholic "in any meaningful sense."' That is not an excommunication, nor does it correspond to any other canonical penalty. Its bickering about an identity label that has nothing to do with Catholic faith.Second, our core problem is what Fr. Murray wrote in 1966: "No statement on church/state relations issued from Vatican Council II." Despite all the attention given to religious liberty, the deeper problem of the ecclesiological understanding of the Church's relationship to secular law remains unresolved. This is the root of the Fortnight nonsense and all of the other problems in the Chruch's political engagements.

Well, I was surprised by your "quick note" until I looked at the article and saw that the paragraph about Frances Kissling comes ABOVE Baumann's name, making it look as if he wrote it. (Why can't he ask the editors to remove it, or to put it beneath his name?)(I don't find Frances Kissling the least bit scary, but I think it was crude editing by The Nation to add their paragraph to an article by someone else.)-----These bishops will be disciplinarians, unabashed in demanding doctrinal obedience from priests, women in religious orders and those in the pews. Oooh.

These bishops will be disciplinarians, unabashed in demanding doctrinal obedience from priests, women in religious orders and those in the pews. Yeah, that's worked out really well for them...Read this in conjunction with the article on the reorganization of the Archdiocese of Boston, the decline of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, data on the number of young people still active in the church...this has long been George Weigel's argument but it has never made much sense. As we come off 2 decades of bishops as disciplinarians rather than shepherds and teachers, the John Paul II bishops,one has to question whether the Church even has a meaningful role in the modern world. Their focus on sexuality, and the mishandling of sexual crime within their own houses, and abortion to the exclusion of virtually everything else has made them utterly irrelevant. Their involvement in politics in a way that aligns them with right wing Republicans makes them suspect to most moderates and liberals and since the political right ignores them on all things but abortion and related matters of sexuality, they have lost on both counts.

I think Paul is owed an explanation, and an apology, for the addition of that paragraph about Frances Kissling.

I don't see anything about Frances Kissling, so maybe it has been removed.

(It's gone, but how can it be removed from the print edition?)Another article mentioned on that last page, below Baumann's name, is about "evangelical" adoption. A good article, imho.

Give George a break. He is now accusing Obama of "blasphemy," which apparently means he considers Obama a Christian, albeit a bad one. That's better than many of his cohort...

Thank you, Joe, I appreciate the sentiment. I alerted John Pallatella, the literary editor of The Nation, to my concern about the Kissling link. John very graciously agreed to remove it. I trust regular readers of Commonweal know that I would dispute Kisslings views, especially her views on abortion, as vigorously as I dispute Weigels.That said, I'd like to make it clear that John Palattella and his colleagues were entirely professional in their dealings with me. They did not put any words in my mouth or try to dissuade me in anyway from writing what I wanted to write.

Even after all these years, it's still somewhat surprising that someone like Weigel who considers himself an evangelical Catholic would place such emphasis on abortion, marriage and religious liberty to the virtual exclusion of all other public policy (and human) concerns when two of those three issues are barely mentioned in the gospels.

Paul Baumann:I hope youll respond to this. Id guess that others share the concern Ill express here. You wrote, John Palattella and his colleagues were entirely professional in their dealings with me. They did not put any words in my mouth . . If they added a final paragraph to your piece without first getting your approval, how can that be considered professional? And how is putting words in your article which is what they did -- any different from putting words in your mouth?

Paul, there was a lot in the article that I really appreciated, but I have to say that I was more than a little taken aback by this paragraph:"Those who stay, meanwhile, will come to understand and speak of their faith in an evangelical idiom once considered Protestant. Catholics must not merely know about Jesus, but actually know Jesus himself in a personal way; and so friendship with the Lord Jesus Christ will become as integral to Catholic identity and piety as Sunday Mass and the sacraments. "Do we really want to blanch/consider "Protestant" the idea of "knowing Jesus himself in a personal way"? And is it really only a Protestant notion that "friendship with the Lord Jesus Christ" is integral to Catholic identity and piety as Sunday Mass and the sacraments". With all due respect, it feels as if you are catering to the anti-evangelical sentiments of The Nation readership more than you are to a really considered sense of what Catholics feel and teach about knowing Jesus in a personal way and valuing friendship with him. I wonder, for instance, if those notions aren't at the heart of some of the best Catholic writers these days, people like James Martin and Richard Rohr. Why dismiss those things as "evangelical idiom" or "Protestant"? And anyway, what is wrong if some evangelical idiom and Protestant notions gain currency among us, so long as they are not inconsistent with Catholic teaching and tradition. Are you saying those things ARE inconsistent with Catholic teaching and tradition?As you can tell, I was very disappointed by that section of the article and hope you will rethink or reexplain what you are trying to say there. Certainly there are aspects of evangelicalism that I don't want to see work there way into Catholic thinking, but those two things aren't among them. Are they really among those things that you are afraid of infiltrating the faithful??

Catholics have no friendship with Jesus??? ISTM that Mass is very much about our friendship with Jesus and the rest of the Church community, and polls world-wide show the Mass to be central to the Faith.

Paul: I'll take your word for it that Pallatella et al. dealt with you professionally; but who, then, inserted that paragraph? Did he explain how it happened?

Weigel is no longer within the loop in Rome. He is enormously upset about it. He has lost his forum. He is more like Jerry Falwell than any Catholic. So the irony about being Protestant is there. The one issue Catholics are doing all they can to get Francis on their side and are truly grasping for straws. It may be that the only ones who can help Weigel's cause is those who pay attention to him.

As I have noted before, the irony about the "New Evangelization" is that it exactly what the Second Vatican Council started. Now that the restorationists who fought the Evangelizaion by VAtican II, that Evangelization will take place. The restorationists drove out many of those seeking renewal. Now they want to "re-evangelize them." What they realize is Vatican II was right to begin with and it is the restorationists who drove many out.

Knowing Jesus personally is what Jesuit spirituality is all about.

To add to my point and Ann's and Crystal's, here is a link to a story about a recent talk by Pope Francis entitled "Faith is not Theoretical, but a personal relationship with Jesus, Pope says". how is this for a quote from Pope Francis on his second day as pope in an address to religious leaders:"what for every Christian represents the essential: the personal and transforming relationship with Jesus Christ, Son of God, who died and rose for our salvation." Baumann is uncomfortable with the language he cites in the article, I think he is going to be uncomfortable with Pope Francis.

Greg --Might it also be that Francis, who comes from a country where the evangelical faiths are becoming more and more popular, has come to see that the Church must also speak more often with their vocabulary, including "personal" and "relationship"? I'm sure their preaching has not been lost on him. And Weigel might also see this.

I think it is very important to distinguish how Catholics typically frame a personal relationship to Jesus from the manner in which evangelical Protestants do. Evangelicalism tends to emphasize a feeling of being born again, of being convicted of one's sins and redeemed, that Catholicism doesn't place at the core. For Catholics, having a relationship with Jesus is not dependent upon whipping up an emotion in the way it can be in some evangelical traditions. Part of this is the emphasis in the Catholic tradition on a philosophical account of who Jesus is; the Logos or the Second Person of the Trinity. I like Thomas's notion of friendship with God, myself.

Does Evangelical Catholicism have any components at increasing the number of Catholics or is it named ironically?

But my guess is Weigel wants to convert the evangelicals rather than retain Commonweal Catholics. But my sense is here that his influence with a Jesuit Spanish speaking Pope will be minimal.And Poland is fast secularizing and JPII is two popes ago now- and I am not sure that there isn't a more direct financial connection with Maciel than had been seen.I myself don't think he was a saint--too much ego. And I think FSJ may be leery of making Popes saints in principle, since he is reconfiguring the role in a more collaborative way.

Cathleen,The relationship that is fostered with Jesus in the Spiritual Exercises is indeed emotional (Ignatius often mentions tears) and not "philosophical". It's not about Thomistic rationality, it's about direct religious experience. "God Wants Our Friendship" - William Barry SJ ...

I don't think the relevant experience is the same for all persons.

An interesting discussion about one's friendship/relationship with Jesus.I understood Baumann simply to be pointing out within the limits of a book review Weigel's seeming reliance on "Protestant" notions of the Christian's faith and relationship with God rather than relying on more traditionally Catholic sources---like Igatius, Teresa of Avila, Thomas Aquinas, and any number of other giants of Christian (and specifically Roman Catholic) spirituality.Weigel and company may well view it as a more authentically evangelical and post-Reformation spirituality. By contrast, Baumann does an excellent job, in my view, of pointing out the ways in which Weigel's approach is captive to and/or overly influenced by 19th and 20th century American (specifically) and European (more generally) ideologies of manifest destiny.

Luke,In chapter three of his book, Weigel lays out theological principles of what he calls "Evangelical Catholicism." Among them are:the affirmation of "divine revelation and its authority which continues through history in the teaching authority of the church;""a liturgically centered form of Catholic life that embraces both the ancient traditions of Catholic worship and the authentic renewal of the liturgy according to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council;"the celebration of the seven sacraments "as divinely given means of sanctifying life."In his appreciative and critical review of the book ("Commonweal" April 12), William Portier said: "Despite [the book's] hectoring tone and the particular set of political judgments into which it straitjackets John Paul II, readers ultimately can't afford to ignore Weigel."Coincidentally, the editorial in that same issue of "Commonweal" ("Bridge Builder") contained this challenge: in order to reach out to fellow Catholics "we must look to those among us whose zeal does not merely confirm our biases, but rather the opposite."I presume it wasn't intended as a blurb for Weigel's book. But it fits.

a liturgically centered form of Catholic life that embraces both the ancient traditions of Catholic worship and the authentic renewal of the liturgy according to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council;For those of the pre-Vatican II generations, the "renewal of the liturgy" at times (many times) included a disdain for and mockery of the devotional prayers and practices that had been part of our formation. Developing friendship with Jesus (and with the Holy Ghost, with the BVM and St. Joseph, with the angels and saints, with the souls in purgatory) was easy when our prayerbooks were full of beautiful prayers, novenas, litanies, devotions, etc. The "liturgy," by contrast, could seem cold and remote.The Catholic Girl's Guide, by Father Lasance, is an example: size doesn't fit all, and the "Counsels and Devotions" for some of us in the "Ordinary Walks of Life", the old prayers and hymns were more meaningful than those that replaced them. (I agree with Paul Metzger about that paragraph he quotes from the article and with Crystal Watson about the Spiritual Exercises.)

"I dont think the relevant experience is the same for all persons."True. But the experience to which every person is called, invited is deep, pervasive, ongoing, and evokes a total rupture from the way a person's own impulses might lead. Crystal's testimony is apt.My concern is that Mr Weigel will give the evangelical impulse a bad name. I'm not sure if I should read the book or not. I have a lot of good reading material at bedside. How much time should we spend on politician/biographers who attempt to make something of theology?

Gerelyn, I don't remember The Catholic Girl's Guide but I do remember the prayer books like it. They remind me of the smell of overripe flowers and the mumbles of priests whose Latin was, to say the least, shaky. By contrast, the new prayers and hymns are more meaningful for me. Especially more meaningful was the change of Holy Communion from being an annual mandate under pain of mortal sin to the Eucharist as a daily invitation to walk with Christ.Evangelical Protestants would say, "walk with Jesus." "With Christ" sounds more Catholic to my ear. Different folks become acquainted with Christ in different ways at different times of their lives. Before I would wear a tee shirt saying "Jesus is my homie," though, you'll find me keeping my mouth shut at a Quaker meeting.

Once again, I will betray my ignorance. Many talk about having a "personal relationship with Jesus." Even the Pope observed, "Jesus is a historic person with whom a personal relationship can be formed."Could someone please describe what this kind of "personal" relationship actually is? I know about a lot of people, living and dead, whom I have never met. But I don't have a "personal relationship" with them. Gerelyn refers to formal prayers from a book - but when I have a personal relationship with someone, it involves conversation, not reading words from a book addressed to them. Please explain what a "personal relationship" really is when one of the persons involved died long ago. The evangelicals have tossed this term around blithely for a long time, and now the Catholics are doing the same. But, it is not a "personal relationship" that has any of the characteristics of all other personal relationships (which are two-way among two living people) so exactly what are the characteristics of a "personal" relationship with someone one has never met?

"For Catholics, having a relationship with Jesus is not dependent upon whipping up an emotion in the way it can be in some evangelical traditions. Part of this is the emphasis in the Catholic tradition on a philosophical account of who Jesus is; the Logos or the Second Person of the Trinity."Cathleen - I agree. And I would add that a Catholic approach to evangelizing might also be sacramental. One of the ways we would help people to get to know Jesus is through sacramental encounters. Those might be accompanied by an emotional reaction, but it isn't dependent on emotion.Gerelyn also calls out a form of encounter that we might think of as sacramental - the indirect approach, through personal devotions and paraliturgies. We can get to know Jesus through Mary and Joseph, the Sacred Heart and the Seven Sorrows, Dorothy Day and Mother Teresa and Gianna Beretta Molla.

Cupcake, I have read the book. Or rather I read the first part, and skimmed the last as it was repetitious and not really a very good book. Most of his ideas are not original, and seem mostly to reflect his desire for the church to reflect his own particular selections in the cafeteria, which include keeping women "in their place", and all other interpretations of doctrine that became prevalent with the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict. "Authentic" renewal of the liturgy is one that reflects his personal taste in music and accoutrements during mass. Etc. The church of George Weigel.You asked - "Does Evangelical Catholicism have any components at increasing the number of Catholics or is it named ironically?"It is not ironic at all. He wants all Catholics to go out and evangelize actively in everyday life. He also wants to define "real" Catholics as being only those who agree with his personal definitions, understandings, interpretations and preferences. He wants to formalize his notion that any Catholic who dissents from any teaching or from any aspect of the current structure of "authority" in the church is not a "real" Catholic - their baptism did not really make them "real" Catholics - they have to demonstrate as adults that they are "real" Catholics by conforming to his checklist of beliefs. These dissenting from anything Catholics (which most serious research show to be the majority of practicing Catholics in the pews) should be banished unless they fall into line. So Scott Hahn is a "real" Catholic and Hans Kung isn't.

I don't think it involves a total rupture. Grace perfects nature.

"Evangelical" is a very equivocal word. It can mean "to go out and evangelize actively in everyday life." That is what it seems to mean to Europeans, and what it seems to mean part of the time to Weigel. But in American English, "evangelicalism" not only connotes but denotes a style encompassing Billy Sunday, Billy Graham, Bible waving, the sawdust trail and shouts of "Jesus!" And sometimes Weigel seems to mean exactly that.To older Catholics, the word is going to sound remote from, even antithetical to, Catholicism. The difference is between the Rev. Graham in full flight and Bishop Fulton Sheen with his subtle humor and paradoxes. The difference between sweaty tent performances and sweaty church fish fries with a pitcher of beer on the table (which would never appear at an evangelical event). Between waving one's arms while swaying and kneeling in silence before the Blessed Sacrament. Between ending every sentence with a citation of chapter and verse from the Bible and making distinctions, as Thomas Aquinas was wont to do.I wonder how much of the Catholic half of those comparisons Weigel is comfortable with dumping. Some of that ol' time religion has crept into the Catholic Church perhaps through the southern milieu in which I live but definitely through the charismatic movement. The leaders of the charismatic movement seem to be, in my experience, more orthodox than the average chancery office, but the evangelical "look" pops up in more liturgical settings than it used to.I am not clear how much American evangelism Weigel wants, and which parts of our tradition he wants to abandon to accommodate it. But something is clearly going on along those lines.

One more thing to think about, and I'll shut up: Until the 1960s, American evangelicals were apolitical. A Catholic president worked them up. In their eyes, this country can be peaceful only with Protestant presidents. White ones, too. And male, of course. And so they went from being quiet as church mice to becoming a political force.

Ironically, what this call to evangelical (feeling oriented) approaches by Weigel reminded me of was CCD in the seventies- ha!

Agree, Anne Chapman. The old word "catholic" which meant something for everyone (a cafeteria) has been redefined, and the focus of the Church has narrowed to the point where non-Republicans are unwelcome. A place like St. Benedict's in Atchison, where a priest like Edgar Schmiedeler, OSB, was trained, now invites people like Weigel and Paul Ryan to address the graduates.Here's an article about Fr. Edgar from the Arkansas Catholic, March 21, 1931. Interesting (imho) to see what a diocesan paper looked like in days of yore, compared to what they're like today.

Anne,When "the Pope observed, Jesus is a historic person with whom a personal relationship can be formed"" he was addressing your question. Unlike most historic persons, Jesus is alive and communicates, though he does not do it in the ways most people communicate. The relationship with Jesus is not primarily emotional or intellectual, but a choice to be with someone who chooses to be with you. Because emotions and intellect are more discussable, we often neglect that part of our relationships. The sometimes frenzied emotions of evangelicals are not the center of their religion; the choice to be with Christ is. The intensity of Ignatian exercises is not primarily emotional, or intellectual or even imaginative, it is volition, choice.Once we have made the choice to be in a relationship, Jesus finds ways to communicate with us. Words of Scripture that focus our attention. A breeze that carries the warmth of spring, or a whirlwind that crashes our house. A wordless voice within us that guides us from within.I have no problem having a relationship with my brother, though I only see him every 10 or 20 years. But it is not the same as the relationship I have with my wife, whom I see every day. Different but both strong relationships. And both different from my relationship with Jesus.

@Robert Imbelli (5/18, 7:01 am) Thanks! That's very helpful.On a somewhat separate note, I recall many years ago reading an essay that underscored the commonalities of Pentecostal, Quaker and Roman Catholic worship---primarily that all three place an emphasis on and make room for the presence and movement of the Spirit in ways that many mainline Protestant denominations (with a greater emphasis on the importance of the Word) tend not to.

Once we have made the choice to be in a relationship, Jesus finds ways to communicate with us. Agree. So do the saints, ancestors, historical figures, et al. whom we're attracted to.

I wonder how Weigel feels about the parable of the tares and the wheat. It's what comes to my mind whenever I hear calls for a purer Church.

On the matter of evangelizing and the word "personal," there's this from Scott Cairns: "Moreover, while salvation necessarily happens to persons, it is not to be understood as a merely personal matter. I continue to enjoy, and enjoy repeating, the surprising response that a monk at Simonopetra gave to a man who, thinking he had come to evangelize the Holy Mountain, interrupted us to ask the kind father if Jesus Christ was his 'personal savior.' 'No,' the smiling monk said without hesitation, 'I like to share him.' Thanks to the long-standing tradition that monk manifests, I have a developing sense that salvation finally must have to do with all of us, collectively, and that it must have to do with all else, as well -- all of creation, in fact."See the rest of his post:

Would you who have read the book recommend it good enough to bother reading? Life is short and books are many, so sensible advice is desired.Better than "good enough" is Denys Turner's new book on Thomas Aquinas from Yale which I am currently savoring.

I haven't read it, but at Amazon, the sample of the Kindle edition gives the Contents, Prologue, and all of Chapter 1.

Bob Imbelli @ 7:01 quotes from the Commonweal review:'William Portier said: Despite [the book's] hectoring tone and the particular set of political judgments into which it straitjackets John Paul II, readers ultimately cant afford to ignore Weigel.'Can't we afford to ignore Weigel? Really? I think there's no better way to respond to someone who wants to define (or, really, redefine) Catholicism so that it resembles a sect, than to ignore them. We're a church, not a sect. The enthusiasms of some can't and shouldn't define the issues or boundaries for the whole. That Mr. Weigel pays honor to things like the sacramental system and the magisterium doesn't mean he has understood or represented them very well. The term "evangelical" has been applied to a certain stream of post-Conciliar Catholics before, as part of a typology. (Does anyone remember that book? I can't recall the title.) The term betokened an experiential approach to religion and some features of enthusiasm, but within the context of Catholic theological self-identification and normative liturgical practice. But the point was that it was one of several "styles" of appropriating the faith, none of which was being exalted over the others. In fact, it is this more enthusiastic trait in certain Catholic movements that has been vigorously suppressed under the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI (we still don't know enough about Francis to say). What Weigel is looking for is foot soldiers for his culture war, not evangelical Catholics.

Jim P. --EXcellent point about relatioships being *chosen*. They're not just accidental appreciations of someone's surface attractions, those those can be rrelevant. They include choices -- commitments -- to form mutual bonds based on appreciation of deep values. These are friendships. Sadly, the bonds can be strained and even be broken. Sigh.

Rita E. Ferrone,Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI warmly supported the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

Anne,I'll take a stab at trying to explain the relationship with Jesus thing, though I'm no expert.The Spiritual Exercises is a retreat in which a person spends time learning about Jesus and getting to know him, in part through "gospel contemplation" - a kind of prayer in which a person puts himself into the story and experiences it as if her were there with Jesus - and through "colloquy" - a kind of prayer in which a person imagines having a conversation with Jesus in which they talk to him and he talks to them.The problem that often arises is people worrying that they are making everything up, that these experiences are not real. But if you believe in God and believe in the resurrection, then you're already in "supernatural" territory ... believing that God loves you, wants to interact with you, and that the risen Jesus can and will do this, is not such a leap, after that. A lot of people are uncomfortable with the idea of religious experience. They would feel better if Jesus/God didn't act in the world, could only be found at church and accessed through controlled rituals, but Ignatius of Loyola believed God could be found in all things, that he is always ready to interact with us, whether we are in church or taking a walk in the park. I think it all comes down to what you think and feel about Jesus/God - does he want to and can he interact with us? Here's a video of Fr. James Martin talking about gospel contemplation ...

Anne Chapman @ 9:34,I think that's a fine question. A personal relationship with Jesus can be understood in a variety of ways, of course, but I would point to three features which, pace Jim McK, have important connections to both emotions and intellect and are not simply a function of the will. 1. In a personal relationship, one's subjectivity is engaged. You have to be personally invested for it to be a personal relationship. The contours of one's life, thoughts, feelings, aspirations, and identity enter into the relationship. If I am conscious of a personal relationship, I am saying that my real self, not an idealized self or some abstract principle is what "matters" in relationship to God. 2. In a personal relationship, one takes the trouble to get to know the person of Jesus through accounts of his words and deeds in the scriptures (and other ways as well), and through active listening in prayer. A personal relationship presumes there is an "other" who wishes to communicate and share himself with you. This needn't devolve into a warm-fuzzy or "me and Jesus" feeling. It's not a thought projection. Yet, to have a personal relationship we have to want to know Jesus, not as a concept but as a real and living person, who discloses himself to us in a variety of ways. 3. A quality of the personal presence of the post-resurrection Jesus is that it is expressed in sometimes ambiguous ways. We see this repeatedly in the gospels. Although the disciples on the road to Emmaus walked and talked with him, they only recognized him "in the breaking of the bread." Mary mistakes him for the gardener, until he calls her name. It's only after pulling in the great catch of fish that they perceive who the stranger is. The resurrection appearances are full of the ambiguity of recognition. One's personal relationship with Jesus thus is not strictly analogous with other personal relationships, although it remains personal. The risen Christ can be encountered and recognized anywhere. Yet the person one encounters in all these ambiguous and non-verbal ways is continuous with the person of Jesus, who was crucified and raised up. So, actually, a personal relationship with Jesus is fostered through works of mercy ("when you did this for the least of these, you did it for me") and Eucharist ("this is my body") and in the church ("you are the body of Christ").

I would like very much to echo Ann Chapman's question: "Could someone please describe what this kind of 'personal' relationship actually is?" Benedict spoke not only of friendship with Christ but friendship with God. A "relationship" is one thing. A friendship is another. I waver often between believing what Catholics believe about Jesus andhow should I put this?believing what Jews believe. I waver often between believing what theists believe about God and being at least an agnostic, if not an atheist. I am at least willing to say it is distinctly in the realm of possibility that Jesus died quite definitively about 2000 years ago, and that it is also distinctly in the realm of possibility that God (at least the personal God of Christianity) doesn't exist. How am I to think, then, of people who claim to have a personal friendship with Christ or with God? I have to at least consider the possibility that they claim to experience friendship with nonexistent beings. At my moments of littlest faith, I would not deny that people who claim friendship with Jesus or God are not having some kind of meaningful experience (as opposed to merely fooling themselves), but I do have to wonder what it can possibly mean to claim friendship with persons who might not exist. People may believe that Jesus or God is communicating with them, but I think (or certainly hope) even the most devoutly religious person would acknowledge that no one can be certain he or she has received a communication from God or Jesus. Also, much of this talk makes me think of Mother Teresa, who went for decades with no experience of the presence of God. Could she have thought of that experience as friendship?

Thanks Frank Gibbons, but I wasn't talking about the Charismatic renewal, rather a broader trend in catechetics and worship, which is being pushed aside by concern for catechism answers and suppression of liturgical and musical creativity. Though maybe the Charismatics are considered evangelical by some, so your point is relevant in that sense.

David Nickol,your comments and Rita's passed in the cloud (or wherever these things go). I would add that "friendship" with Jesus entails both spending time with the other (hence prayer -- "where two or three are gathered ...") and putting oneself at the other's disposition ("if you love me, keep my commandments").I suggest that Mother Teresa's acute sense of the absence of Jesus was another moment in her relationship with him, and was characterized by her hope for the friend's return.

David N,That's the thing about Mother Teresa - she didn't have any *experience* of Jesus/God in those years she describes. I think that "dryness" is pretty antithetical to Ignatian spirituality.And about the possibility that people think they are having experience of God but are imagining it, Ignatius did have a system to help people "discern" if their experience was valid. Sure, it's all seems subjective, but I think this idea is a reflection of a desire to shape and control experience. The God of Ignatius can surprise people and many aren't comfortable with that.

Greg @ 5:45 on 5/17:You're misreading what I wrote. I'm describing Weigel's argument, which does in fact urge Catholics to put aside their traditional suspicions about the emphasis most evangelical Protestants place on developing an intimate personal relationship with Jesus. That's the point behind the novelty of marrying "evangelical" and "Catholicism" in the book's title. In the counter-reformation or tribal Catholicism of the last century, Weigel notes, the emphasis was more likely to be placed on being formally in communion with the church rather than on one's personal relationship with Jesus.Do I think this adoption by Catholics of an evangelical Protestant idiom is a good thing? We will know them by their fruits. (I'm not disputing that the idea of friendship with Jesus also has a Catholic pedigree.)What I do resist is Weigel's attempt to separate the sheep (those who profess to have a deep personal relationship with Jesus) from the goats (those he claims are merely in communion with the church in some legalistic sense). I'm sure Bob Imbelli would agree.I believe Bill Portier was one of the first to comment on the evangelical Catholic phenomenon. His review of Weigel's book for Commonweal is here: Bill thinks so-called liberal Catholicism (admittedly a slippery term) doesn't have the "juice" to reproduce itself. That is a concern we all share, but it is not clear to me that there is much juice at the other end of the ideological spectrum either. In any event, there is zeal and then there is zeal (see Bob Imbelli's reference to the Commonweal editorial), and I think I demonstrated in the review that Weigel's zeal is to be taken with a grain of salt.

I skimmed the first chapter. Judging by what Weigel says there, his program is a matter of allowing oneself a greater closeness with Jesus, a greater Biblical understanding, greater conformity to the magisterium, and separating the sheep from the goats. Except for the deeper friendship with Jesus and deeper understanding of the Bible, it sounds to me like the old tribalism writ large, The big questions are: does one become a better friend of Jesus by throwing out the goats and does the Bible really require greater conformity of theological thinking?

As to friendship and experience of one's friends, there are many different kinds of experience of friends. Ordinary friendship with other folks doesn't require any sort of mystical experience to be clear, sure, and precious, and neither (I would say) are all awarenesses of God's friendshp for us in any sense "mystical". Some say God sends them little signs and symbols, physical events that communicate meaning. I say, why not? And there are outside-the-ordinary, purely subjective religious experiences which come in many different kinds and levels. I'd say that a common kind is the experience of the presence of God's grace within us when we need the strength/grace to do what needs doing. There are also, it seems, a rather common sort of awareness of the presence of God within us. Then there are the extraordinary, mystical ones (in the usual sense of "mystical"). These are the awareness of the presence of God Himself within the mystic. There also seem to be experiences of the presence of God within the things of the world, especially particularly beautiful ones. What Crystal says about such experience bears repeating:"The problem that often arises is people worrying that they are making everything up, that these experiences are not real. But if you believe in God and believe in the resurrection, then youre already in supernatural territory believing that God loves you, wants to interact with you, and that the risen Jesus can and will do this, is not such a leap, after that."But for many contemporary people even the *possibility* of outside-the-natural experience is unthinkable to them. The words "soul" and "supernatural" have been banished by scientism as metaphysically impossible. This, I must repeat, is why Nagel's new book is historically so important -- it seems to be opening the door for many skeptics to the *possibility* that, yes, we might have souls where God just might talk with His creatures. I ask: why wouldn't He talk to His children?

A small note: there is a conversation--albeit not a very pervasive one--about the significance of a "personal relationship with Jesus" that is taking place in the Evangelical community. It centers, mainly, on the question of what that even means, with many people expressing relief that others are copping to what they had long felt: that it was just a big puzzle.

P.B.@3:53:"there is zeal and then there is zeal (see Bob Imbellis reference to the Commonweal editorial), and I think I demonstrated in the review that Weigels zeal is to be taken with a grain of salt."Kind of sounds like Weigel's doppelganger: there's their zeal and there's our zeal. Can we learn from one another's zeal?

Anne Chapman wrote that Weigels ideas seem mostly to reflect his desire for the church to reflect his own particular selections in the cafeteria." In other words, all Weigel, all the time. Along those same lines, Michael Sean Winters noted a recent column of Weigels which concluded,

"But, as I argue in [the book], thats precisely what orthodoxy is. . . . The 266th bishop of Rome would seem to agree." This brings to mind the comment of a monsignor who worked at the Vatican nunciature when I asked him what he thought of Weigel's biography of Pope John Paul II. "At the end of the book," my acquaintance observed, "one was left with the question: Who is that man in white standing next to George Weigel?"

Anne, "having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ" is fundie-gelical code for not having intermediaries like priests, saints, and the sacrament of private confession between the saved and the Savior. I.e., it means not being Catholic.Someone else above said that Weigel was more interested in bringing evangelicals into the Church rather than retaining "Commonweal Catholics." If so, Weigel really underestimates the extent to which most evangelicals utterly reject Catholic Holy Tradition as unBiblical, man-made rules. I enjoy one of my colleagues, a bright, hilarious, and articulate young woman, who is very gifted in evangelical apologetics. We've reached a very cordial detente about religion, and I frequently help her church group with some of its charitable activities. But I have no doubt whatever that she believes it's going to be nearly impossible for Catholics to get to heaven.

Some evangelicals can be convinced of the truths of the Catholic faith. Scott Hahn and Thomas Howard ("Evangelical is Not Enough") came over to the Catholic Church. Francis Beckwith, former president of the Evangelical Theological Society, reverted to the Catholic faith. Charles Colson, while remaining evangelical, had very warm relations with Catholics. He wrote the forward to Keith Fournier's 1990 book "Evangelical Catholics". Mike Bickle of International House of Prayer has even plugged Ralph Martin's book on Catholic mystics "The Fulfillment of All Desire". Martin has even delivered a speech on contemplative prayer to a gathering of Protestant charismatics.

"Ironically, what this call to evangelical (feeling oriented) approaches by Weigel reminded me of was CCD in the seventies- ha!"Exactly. What Weigel does not see is that he and the other neocons rejected Vatican II and now he is trying to restore Vatican II when the Evangelical Protestants show him what Vatican II wanted. It is the irony of Ironies. Ann Chapman. A relationship with Jesus is cultivated by praying/talking to him every day as often as one can. Search the NT again and pray over the words of Jesus. There is so much to invite us into a relationship. with him. David, because your faith is weak does not mean that you are right. Faith, hope and charity are leaps in which we bond with God through Jesus. Perhaps you are not seeking enough so you can find. Frank Gibbons. Your assertion that John Paul II and Benedict XVI enthusiastically supported the Charismatic movement is arrived at, I contend, on a superficial basis. What they did was take over that movement (and others) and deprived them of vitality so that they are shells of what they once were. It is similar to what the Vatican has consistently done with religious orders and congregations--Turn great movements into cheerleaders for Rome. Thus practically within many Founders lifetime, their creations were corrupted by the Empire builders. Unfortunately, the post Constantine era has produced few in Rome who preferred the Gospel over Empire. Despite flowery words.

Frank Gibbons --I have noticed other signs that some Protestants are becoming open to contemplative prayer and the possibility of mystical experience, and it's not just the ones who are starting to do Centering Prayer. Do you have any idea of why there has been such a shift in some Protestants thinking about this? I can't figure it out except as part of the current American openness to spiritual practices such as Buddhist ones, but why would those appeal to old-fashioned Protestants? Or maybe it's just the result of ecumenism?

Ann Olivier,When I was in the hospital five years ago, I was visited by a Protestant chaplain. He told me that he was reading "Revelations of Divine Love" by Julien of Norwich. We didn't talk long, and I have no idea if he was an Evangelical or not. So there is that interest in the Catholic mystical tradition among some Protestants. I eventually bought and read "Revelations of Divine Love" so I guess it was a fortuitous encounter. I forgot to mention the late John Wimber, the founder of Vineyard Movement, as someone who cooperated with Catholics in spreading the Gospel. Wimber fused elements of Pentecostalism with Evangelicalism. His goal was not to take Catholics out of the Church, but to help them put the Spirit in the Catholic Church. He even wrote a nice article on Mary in the now defunct New Covenant magazine. He was the contact between Mike Bickle and Ralph Martin. So there was some ecumenism in that situation where Bickle invited Martin to speak on contemplative prayer.Wimber and Bickle were controversial even in Pentecostal and Evangelical spheres and were accused of heresy, false prophecy, and cult-like activities. And the fact that they interacted with Catholics was further evidence for some that they were off the deep-end. There is some basis for these charges but I think they moved past their mistakes and tried to grow in their walk with Christ.

Protestants are certainly on board with mysticism - that's our shared Christian heritage and doesn't just belong to Catholics - you can find Ignatian spirituality, spiritual direction, and Ignatian retreats taught by Protestants.

TANGENT Here's a meeting of cultures that warms the heart. It's the Dalai Lama at the Super Dome getting an honorary degree from Tulane, along with jazz musicians Dr. John and Allan Toussaint, complete with second line. It was pandemonium as the Dalai Lama boogied with the students.

I haven't read Weigel's book, but I agree that the Catholic Church in the US needs to evangelize, which is another way of saying that it needs to proclaim the Good News to the culture. But the Catholic Church can only do it in ways that are Catholic. I don't think we would be very good at going door to door, ringing doorbells and inviting people to accept Jesus as their personal savior. For whatever reason, that's not really our style of spirituality.If we accept the notion that the church needs to evangelize, we face the question, 'What is to be the content of our evangelization?' Here is where we bark our shins on the difficult questions that divide Catholic from Catholic. As described here, Weigel's response seems to be, "Hey, you guys, shut up; I want MY content to be the content of our evangelization."Could the divisions within Catholicism agree on a common content of evangelization? One that doesn't become a least-common-denominator thin broth? Could someone like Weigel evangelize without making snide comments about his confreres on the left side of the room?

Jim P. =-Maybe there just can't be any successful evangelization until the divisions within the Church at least start to be healed. Rome assumes evangelization can be done, but that's because it thinks it has the right answers to the big questions. But what if the Church needs some changes in some of its teachings? Suppose the liberals are right -- that Vatican II really was only a beginning and that a number of important changes in doctrine are needed deseparately not only for those outside the Church but for those within it?Hmmm.

"Could someone like Weigel evangelize without making snide comments about his confreres on the left side of the room?"I'm so far left, I'm not even at the table anymore, but there are two things where Weigel and I might agree. One is on the saints. Why not blast this notion that the saints are intermediaries who carry our prayers because we aren't good enough. The saints are our friends in heaven who have left us a legacy of courage and example ... and are now our friends in heaven who add their prayers to ours. Two is the Catholic tradition that informs understanding of Scripture. If there are no new revelations, Catholics at least have the sense that our understanding of revelation is improving and growing. Catholics have been freed from the notion that Scripture is a science book even as many evangelicals and fundamentalists are still wasting time trying to reconcile or reject what has long been proved.This is no longer of much concern to me, but I think a third thing that most practicing Catholics would agree has to be part of any evangelization effort are the sacraments, but there are some challenges in this area. Explaining these mysteries is difficult. And so is the fact that many Protestants find them find them so exclusive as to be off-putting. Inviting non-Catholics to approach during communion for a blessing, in my view, would be a very good way to acknowledge that visitors are also children of God and that Catholics are happy to worship with them.

My guess is that progressive Catholics would prefer alliances with Obama endorsing evangelicals like Jim Wallis or Richard Cizek more than with former Anglicans in the new ordinariate. Their welcome for the latter is pretty tepid, if not hostile.

Or progressive Catholics might prefer alliances with Evangelicals like Steve Chalke and Rob Bell.

Jean Raber: Your comment about your Evangelical friend reminded me of this paragraph in an srticle on the Evangelical movement in England and of Robert Aitken in particular:

Thus it happened, in many instances, that a movement which seemed destined to give fresh life and vigour to the Established Church, and which has done much to infuse emotion and spirituality into the dry bones of High Church preaching, yet resulted, in the case of many of those who gave themselves up most unreservedly to the movement, in their coming into the Catholic Church; much to the grief of poor Mr. Aitken, whose lamentations and denunciations resembled the distress of a hen when she sees the ducklings, on whose hatching she had lavished a mothers care, taking naturally to the water. He had a great deal of the old anti-Catholic prejudice still strong in him, and he honestly believed that he was doing God service in striving to prevent people from submitting to the Catholic Church. Thus he concluded his farewell letter to Mrs. Leslie: You will be damned, I believe, eternally. I remain, yours affectionately, Robert Aitken.

From The Dublin Review (1899) 263.Gene Palumbo: Your quote from the nuntiature reminded me of the story told of a Cardinal who came to Dunwoodie to give a day of recollection. He recounted a dream in which Jesus appeared to him and began to speak to him with these words: "Your Eminence..."

"My guess is that progressive Catholics would prefer alliances with Obama endorsing evangelicals like Jim Wallis or Richard Cizek more than with former Anglicans in the new ordinariate. Their welcome for the latter is pretty tepid, if not hostile."Really? What are you seeing that makes you think that? As a former Anglican and "progressive" Catholic, I am happy about "closing the gap" between the Roman and Canterbury traditions that ought never to have occurred in the first place. Plus being able to keep the BCP = nothing but good. I feel very catholic when I use mine now.

Rita,The elements you discuss, "personally invested" and "taking time to", are choices. Certainly emotions and intellect shape those choices and are shaped by the choice, but tha language you use is the language of choice.And of course I unambiguously endorse your idea that God often communicates ambiguously. That is an important point, as the questions from David N show. Choice is only needed where there is ambiguity. I don't choose gravity when I walk, it is unambiguously there. I choose one path or another only because there are alternate paths. It is entirely possible for me to go down Center Street instead of Beech St. The certainty that comes from such choices is different from the certitude achieved by objectively considering both paths without choosing. If I take Center St I will be certain there is a supermarket nearby. If I take Beech I will know there are tree lined streets full of houses. Those certainties cannot be discovered by standing at a corner reading a map. Which is not to say I object to reading a map or otherwise trying to ascertain the objective truth of something. Sometimes a personal investment is needed.

"I have no doubt whatever that she believes its going to be nearly impossible for Catholics to get to heaven."Jean,This is probably a part of Evangelicalism that appeals to Weigel. I have no doubt whatever that he believes its going to be nearly impossible for some Catholics, whom he can point out, to get to heaven. That he and your colleague disagree on the specifics does not negate their agreement on the principles.

Assuming it is possible to have a personal relationship with Jesus or God, which I still find difficult to grasp, friendship is a very particular kind of relationship that seems an odd choice to describe that relationship. Were Jesus and the Apostles friends? It seems a stretch, even though I believe Jesus uses the word occasionally. There is perhaps something of friendship between Jesus and some of his women followers, but would we really describe Peter as a friend of Jesus, or Jesus as a friend of Peter? Do you call a friend Master, Rabbi, or Lord? Friendship seems to me reciprocal in a way that it makes the idea of friendship with a divine person problematic.

"You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you" (John 15:14&15)

You will be damned, I believe, eternally. I remain, yours affectionately, Robert Aitken.Poor Mr. Aitken. It sounds like something Trollope might have put in the mouth of Mrs. Proudie or one of the other awful evangelical types in the Barsetshire cycle.

David Nickol, I do see what you mean. I think of Jesus as the Eternal Scold: "Jean, the world is really messed up, and you are not doing enough to fix it." I've tried Ignation exercises, but every time I imagine Jesus sitting next to me, I imagine he's just pissed.The saints are my Eternal Encouragers: "OK, well, let's just see if we can get a little something done today. You could start by only complaining about half as much as you'd like to."

Jesus had close friends: Mary and Martha and Lazarus of Bethany. And in the many years he worked with his fathers and brothers in the building trades (probably at Sepphoris), he surely had friends. In the many years he attended the synagogue before beginning his public ministry, he surely had friends. Were the bride and groom at Cana his friends (or his siblings)? Etc. Was Peter his friend? He showed his sense of humor with his remark about Peter's name. When it was time to prepare for the Passover, he sent Peter and John (whom he loved) to take care of it.And when he washed the feet of his apostles as they lay at the triclinium, Peter was in the second place of honor.

Jim McK,I find your response (@ 11:19) to my comment patronizing, and I think you have missed the point. You do not need to argue the volitional aspect of entering or maintaining human relationships. These are obvious. The issue is "person" and how does one relate as "friend" to a person whom one cannot see, touch, hear, etc. Saying you have a personal friendship because you decide to is missing much of what's important here. It's not that will is unimportant. But you can "decide" in favor of a fantasy relationship, and that doesn't make it real.

"I have no doubt whatever that he believes its going to be nearly impossible for some Catholics, whom he can point out, to get to heaven. That he and your colleague disagree on the specifics does not negate their agreement on the principles."Sure, nothing bonds a certain brand of Christian, regardless of denomination, more than agreement over who's going to get theirs in hell.But will it make converts? I can't see it. Evangelicals are often much better able to articulate their theological views than Catholics. Moreover, evangelical/fundamentalist theology is, to a large extent, a response against Catholicism. Finally, evangelicals are just plain enthusiastic. I can't see Catholicism (and certainly not Catholics of the garden variety, who feel very ambivalent about some Church teachings) appealing to any enthusiastic evangelical.

"This is probably a part of Evangelicalism that appeals to Weigel. I have no doubt whatever that he believes its going to be nearly impossible for some Catholics, whom he can point out, to get to heaven."Jim McK --I fear you're right. Too bad he doesn't realize how off-putting he is at times. I read the first chapter of the book, and I was surprised -- it mostly wasn't bad. But knowing what he thinks of me, I'm not in the least bit inclined to read more. But I do think he's made some progress in his thinking. At least he admits that some things needed to change.

(John 15:14&15)Fr. Imbelli,Or Raymond E. Brown's rendering from The Gospel According to John XIII-XXI, p. 659):

And you are the ones I lovewhen you do what I command you.No longer do I call you servants,for a servant does not understand what his master is doing.Rather, I have called you my beloved,for I revealed to you everything I heard from the Father.

From the notes:

The noun that we have translated in 13-15 as "those he loves" is philos, "friend," a cognate of the frequent Johanine verb philein, "to love." The English word "friend" does not capture sufficiently the relationship of love (for we have lost the feeling that the word "friend is related to the Anglo-Saxon verb freon, "to love"). In Johannine thought Jesus is not addressing the disciples as casually as he addresses them in Luke xii:iv: "I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body"the only Synoptic use of philos for the disciples.

But I don't really think we need Raymond Brown to tell us that the use of friend in this context does not correspond to what we usually mean when we employ the word. After all, what kind of friendship is it in which one person says to another, "You are my friends if you do what I command you"? It is not the kind of thing one friend says to another. Friends don't issue commands to friends. So for me, the idea of friendship with Jesus (or God) still requires some fairly detailed explanation.

I would like to thank all of those who are commenting on this thread. I find much to think about. I also envy those of you who experience this "personal friendship" with Jesus. If it were simply a matter of choosing to be in such a relationship, I most certainly would do so! But I am very much where David Nickol finds himself. I do want to believe - for quite selfish reasons - it's very consoling to believe there is a God who loves us and is with us through hard times; but I'm afraid it's harder and harder to believe this all the time. I read and read (and even pray!) including boards like this, hoping for a spark, for some insight from somebody that would rekindle my former belief. I think many believe because they were taught belief from birth, and as they navigate through the challenges of life, believing is a great comfort. I long practiced centering prayer, at one time was a daily communicant as my schedule permitted (I really have never liked the Sunday liturgies anyway). I like simplicity and silence and maybe should try the Quakers!However, all this talk of a "personal relationship" with Jesus (who was a human being who died 2000 years ago) seems a bit like wishful thinking to me. As someone noted, there may be some kind of "relationship" between human beings and the divine, but describing it as a personal friendship seems like a redefinition of both words. Saying that Jesus "speaks" to us through certain scripture passages, through the gentle wind on our face or the might of a storm is lovely and poetic and I too have been overwhelmed at times by feelings of humility and of awe for the gifts of the divine through these kinds of experiences, even moved to tears at times. But I think that most of those who are spiritual "seekers" (including those who are not christians) experience these things - due to study and reflection and internalizing "wisdom" literature, which certainly includes the bible but also includes the work of countless others who are not Christian or Jewish, and who live their lives with awareness and mindfulness. If they believe in God or at least have some perception of a creator or the divine, they can easily "see" God (the divine presence) in the gentle breeze and the powerful storm. If they have read widely and deeply from wisdom teachers, and their minds quietly work on these ideas in the subconscious as well as the conscious mind, then they too may have "feelings" of the presence of the divine in their minds, in their consciousness, and of an internal voice providing "guidance" or reassurance or consolation. They also see the work of the divine creator in nature, in the universe, in love, in human relationships. All of these things may be experienced by those who are not christian and woud never couch these things in terms of a "personal friendship with Jesus." Although I believe in God, I don't know that there is a "personal" relationship between God and human beings, nor can I say that I feel "loved" by God in any personal way - perhaps in an abstract, intellectual definition of love, but not in terms of "personal friendship" or any other kind of personal, intimate love relationship as normally understood by human beings.Crystal, I would love to hear some concrete examples of how you have experienced Jesus's friendship through the practice of Ignatian Spirituality.

Like everything else that has to do with speaking of God, friendship also must be understood analogously, which means that there are elements of similarity and elements of dissimilarity; and one of the Lateran Councils even said that there is always more dissimilarity than similarity. I do not believe that apart from revelation one would dare to believe that friendship is possible between God and human beings, but there are in the words and deeds of Jesus and in the writings of the Apostles more than a few indications that we may, indeed, must dare to believe precisely that. On the basis of such faith it will be possible then to understand certain experiences as signs of such friendship, but it does not always nor necessarily follow that on the basis of such experiences it will be concluded that God and humans are or can be in a friendship.There is a long and rich spiritual and theological literature on charity as friendship with God. It is also clear that what is often meant by "friendship" today in our society differs from what it was taken to mean in the ancient and medieval world. See, for example, Daniel Schwartz, Aquinas on Friendship, available on-line at

OK -- so what does "friendship/friend" mean? I'd say that on the surface a friend is someone you feel comfortable with, but that doesn't tell us much. Jean gets deeper into te subject and says a friend is an "encourager". What else?How do you know a friend when you find one?

David N. -My friends and I tell each other what to do, and not do all the time. To me that is one of the great benefits of friendship -- a friend sees you as you are, loves you and doesn't hesitate to help you see the world aright and help see you yourself aright as well. One cherishes advice from friends, even when one doesn't like it :-)

Anne,I didn't grow up thinking God loved me - I wasn't brought up in any church. My grandmother was a non-church-going Christian, a Presbyterian, and the idea I got about God from her was that he was scary, distant, and mean, but I grew up to not believe in him at all, especially because all the suffering I saw around me.At one point in my life I was so lonely that I decided to join a church (Catholic) - I still didn't believe in God but I thought I could make friends, be part of a community. It didn't really work out and I eventually stopped going after a few years.A few years after that I was exposed to Ignatian spirituality and was intrigued enough to try a retreat. It was one you can take online at any time and it lasted about 30 weeks (it's here at Creighton University). A Jesuit spiritual director offered to help me with it via email. It was hard because I went into it not believing and every week all the bed feelings I had about God came up. Eventually I did start hoping and appreciating it, but still it seemed so subjective. At one point, though, I had an "experience". It was a very strong feeling - it was as if I could feel how God felt about me. No words or visuals, just feelings, and the love I felt from God for me was so strong it made me cry. It wasn't long after it happened that I started doubting it, worrying that I had made it up, but at the time when it was happening, there was no doubt at all, I just knew it because I could feel it.So now, I hang on to that - it hasn't happened again, but I practice Ignatian prayer and I do feel a sense of friendship from the Jesus I talk to and who seems to talk back to me. I don't know anything for sure but I love and I hope and maybe that is what people mean when they talk about faith?

My take on Weigel et al: hahahahahahahahah....................

My take on JPII's possible canonization: nononononononono.....................

Crystal ==Yes, knowing whether or not we have "made it up" is the big question. If we didn't have an unconscious mind that could be the source of these experiences, I wouldn't think this is a problem. On the other hand, the unconscious (at least according to Freud) is the origin of aggression and self-serving feelings, feelings which are at least sometimes the opposite of the religious ones, though religious feelings can also be self-serving ones, I guess.The metaphysical/ epistemological question is: how can we know that the Other is other than ourselves? Back to the problems of consciousness. Yes, complexity, complexity. Also sigh. And double sigh.

Ann,Yeah. I guess when people like Ignatius or Teresa of Avila or John of the Cross (or even Aquinas) had a religious experience, their worry wasn't if it was real or not but whether it had come from a good or bad place. We don't have that kind of certainty anymore, which I think is basically a good thing. Maybe then it comes down to a choice. I think Kant said we make choices about what we believe even when stuff like God's existence can't be proven - it's just too hard to live life without taking a stand, so we live as if we do believe or do not believe, even though we haven't been intellectually convinced.

Jim P said: I dont think we would be very good at going door to door, ringing doorbells and inviting people to accept Jesus as their personal savior. For whatever reason, thats not really our style of spirituality. Maybe that is one reason why LDS missionaries, who do almost exactly that, are so very successful with lukewarm to non-practicing Catholics.In the 1960s I lived in London and went almost every Sunday to Speakers Corner in Hyde Park. There were a variety of speakers on virtually on any topic, including religion. One of the most successful was the extremely erudite Methodist minister and member of the House of Lords, Donald Soper. The Catholic Truth Society, which was founded (I think) by Vincent McNabb, OP, also took on all comers and gave as good as they got. Todays US Catholic would shrink in horror from the rough and tumble of those talks.In the late 1940s and 1950s my little rural parish had an annual parish mission conducted by either Paulists or Passionists. They were highly successful (and very entertaining!) revival meetings without the tents. Granted, in those days, we Catholics werent so smugly satisfied that we knew all we needed to know about our religion .. Redemptorists sent Hecker to Europe for his formation; he then returned to America to preach missions. He also faced the personal task of integrating the Catholic culture into which he had been immersed in Europe with the Americanism in which he had been raised.22 Heckers mission band included four other American converts (Clarence Walworth, Nathaniel Hewit, Francis Baker, and George Deshon) and two European "cradle Catholics," Alexander Czvitkovicz and Bernard Hafkenscheid. Heckers enthusiasm for the work shows in letters to friends; following one of his first missions, in Loretto, Penn., he wrote to Brownson that after a slow start, the whole town eventually turned out, and many experienced dramatic conversions. "Some time[s] the scenes were such as to excite laughter," he said. The mission closed with the standard raising of the mission cross. They began inside the church at 3:30 p.m. with the rosary, then they assembled outside for the grand procession. First came the processional cross with the boys; then the men carrying a large cross 41 feet long entwined with garlands of flowers born by 60 of them; on each side of the cross was a file of soldiers with a band of music; then came 20 or 30 Franciscan brothers of the 3rd order with their cowls; then the clergy; after them the missioners in their habit, followed by the Sisters of Mercy, & then by the girls & women. The number of the procession was about 4000. We marched through the village to the site of the cross with music, and there we blessed & erected the cross in a most conspicuous place. The farewell sermon was preached at the foot of the Cross & the Papal Benediction given. The soldiers fired a salute as the finale. It was a novel scene for america [sic] . . . which never will be forgotten by those who witnessed it. The band was successful. From 1851-1858 they preached 85 missions throughout the eastern United States, from New York to Georgia, and as far west as Michigan. In town after town, thousands attended, and were revived, and received the sacraments.I doubt that what appears to be an insipid New Evangelization attempt by Catholicism will be as remotely successful and these efforts of past years.

My friends and I tell each other what to do, and not do all the time.Ann,As I said, I think of friendship as being reciprocal. You and your friends tell each other what to do. But if Jesus is your friend, surely you don't tell him what to do! And would you really say to a friend, "You are my friend if you do what I command you"? Fr. Komonchak, as usual, is helpful. Might we think of friendship with Jesus in much the same way we think of nuns being betrothed to Jesus? They are not really betrothed to Jesus. I can see these kinds of things as metaphors, or maybe even something more than metaphors, but not really literal truths. The problem is, many people speak as if they do have a personal relationship with Jesusas if he answers their questions and tells them what to do andin the case of people like Pat Robertsontells them how to run other people's lives.

Jim P - it seems some Catholics are going to go the door-to-door route.

Men and women who have advanced farther in these fields than I ever have tell us, I think, that in times of dryness, amid feelings of separation and doubt, to go back to basics. Reread the words and actions of Christ in the Gospels, and then, as he told the lawyer in Luke, go and do likewise.We know nothing about the Good Samaritan's inward spiritual condition, whether he had a close personal relationship with God or no faith at all. All it says is that he took pity on the fallen man, and that he acted. He was at that moment, without any necessary reference to the supernatural, the best natural human being he could be. When every other motive fails, that remains. And it is hard enough, too hard for the experts sometimes.In another place, Christ says that the Heavenly Father knows, better than human fathers, how to give good things to his children. Even earthly fathers, if they are wise, go easy on the sweets.

Ann - I have the book of M. Teresa's correspondence, but haven't read it yet. Have you?Crystal, I have read something by William Barry, but it made no lasting impression. I just found the book on my bookshelf and will read it again. It's pretty short. Last fall I read a book on the Examen and found it to be somewhat superficial and shallow, especially his "real life" examples for how it worked at each step. I tried to follow the steps of the examen for a while, but it never engaged me and I was frustrated with the process. I found the explanation of spiritual consolation and desolation and how to "interpret" these feelings also to be describing what seems a terribly subjective process. Perhaps I need some better reading material on the subject! I will explore the links at the Ignatian Spirituality website and try to be open-minded. But I have never succeeded in the kinds of guided meditation or contemplative practices that ask me to imagine myself in a particular scene described in the gospels (or anywhere else). I guess I just don't have that kind of an imagination and the exercise "feels" silly to me. I know others are able to do it though.Fr. K, your brief comment makes more sense to me than the notion of a "personal friendship" with Jesus does, at least as this term is commonly used by evangelicals and repeated in George Weigel's book. I will follow the link you provided as soon as I have time.

Jesus did have friends in Lazarus and Mary and Martha. But the question asked is can and will Jesus be friends with us and as much evidence as we might dig up one way of the other, as much as we talk "about" Jesus, the only thing that may answer the question is to actually try talking "with" Jesus, try friendship and see what happens.

In scripture, one clear path we are offered to have a relationship with Jesus is through a relationship with people who are poor and marginalized. We are told when we encounter the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the prisoner we are meeting Jesus. The late Dean Brackley, SJ has written on this topic in his book -- The Call to Discernment in Troubled Times: New Perspectives on the Transformative Wisdom of Ignatius of Loyola-- I highly recommend the book.Here is link to a wonderful meditation he wrote which touches on this theme:"The victims of history -- the destitute, abused women, oppressed minorities, all those the Bible calls 'the poor' -- not only put us in touch with the world and with ourselves, but also with the mercy of God. There is something fathomless about the encounter with the poor, as we have said -- like the opening of a chess game with its infinite possibilities. If we let them, the poor will place us before the abyss of the holy Mystery we call God. They are a kind of door that opens before that Mystery and through which God passes to get at us. Clearly we need them more than they need us."

Jack Marth, good point: Our reciprocal friendship with Jesus is through service to others ... and if we are the body of Christ, this makes a lot of sense.

A number of the themes we've been discussing on this thread -- relationship with Jesus, evangelization, service -- are present in the remarks that Pope Francis addressed to over 150,000 member of ecclesial movements gathered in Vigil yesterday afternoon in Saint Peter's Square. Vatican Radio reports his words here:

Anne,Yes, I think different styles of prayer suit different personality types better or worse. I've tried centering prayer and meditation and found it really hard to keep my mind still - I seem to be better at imagining stuff. As that old saying goes, pray as you can, not as you can't :) If you're happy with your prayer style, that's the important thing, I think.

"But if Jesus is your friend, surely you dont tell him what to do!"David N. --You'd be surprised :-) Yes, sometimes I surely do come close to telling my dear brother Jesus something like "Dear Jesus, You have led me to think that a,b. and c are so, and You have seemed to imply that I should do x, y and z because of it. Now it turns out you're telling me something else -- something just the OPPOSITE? Come on, dear Jesus, you really have to clarify all this for me. If you don't, I'm just not going to do anything." True, I only talk like that in desperation, but when I have truly been trying to do the right thing He always comes through. Actually, I'm sure that "Lord, help me!" is an extremely common prayer, and He always does help.You, David, add, "And would you really say to a friend, You are my friend if you do what I command you?"" I answer that all friendships are different. No, I wouldn't *command* my other friends, though if necessary I might tell them what to do in strong language, e.g., This guy is bad news -- dump him! When I was in high school I attended a day of recollection by a Jesuit named Fr. John Lafarge. He talked about prayer. He said that it is literally having a conversation with God. It doesn't require using other peoples' words or repeating their thoughts. It doesn't need high-fallutin' or poetic words. It's talking with Him as we talk with a family member, only with even more intimacy. It's talking with Him about anything. I've been thankful for that lecture ever since.

Ann: In the wonderful movie Tree of Wooden Clogs, there's a scene in which a widowed mother, whose cow has just taken ill, goes to a tiny chapel and has a strong heart-to-heart conversation with Christ on the cross. Then there are those Psalms that ask "Why?" and cry, "Wake up, Lord! Why are you sleeping?"

Ann Olivier --"When I was in high school I attended a day of recollection by a Jesuit named Fr. John Lafarge. He talked about prayer."Wow! -- Attending a day of recollection with John LaFarge, SJ while in high school is almost like a high school student today attending a day of recollection with George Weigel (well sort of) LaFarge was to Pius XI everything Weigel would like to be to popes of our day. LaFarge was actually enlisted to write an Encyclical for Pius XI.

Isn't there a significant danger of making Jesus an imaginary friend? My sister had a college roommate who talked to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. (As best I can remember, she didn't claim they talked back!) Now, if you know a great deal about a historical person, I can see some value in having an imaginary conversation with him or her. It would be a kind of mental exercise. But you would have to keep the "conversation" grounded in what was really known about the person, otherwise you are creating your own Jesus, or Lincoln, or whomever. And you would have to be extremely cautious about what you believe you "hear back." Also, as for Fr. Komonchak's example from the film, I have seen and read similar fictional portrayals of people pouring their hearts out to God of expressing their anger toward him, and they can be very affecting. But in reality, if I could somehow be transported back in time and actually speak to Christ on the cross, I can't imagine saying anything, whether I believed he was God incarnate or a "marginal Jew" who somehow wound up being horribly executed.

David Nickol:But, of course, if Christian faith is true, then Jesus is not dead, but risen, and one doesn't have to go back two thousand years to find him. One of the roles of the Paraclete, said Jesus, is "to remind you of all that I have said to you" (Jn 14:26; see 16:13-15), and we have in the whole of ch. 17 of John's Gospel an example of the prayer that Jesus himself continues to pray for us. Of course, there can be a danger "of making Jesus an imaginary friend." It can be met to some degree by reference to the Gospels and to the faith embodied in the great tradition. There is also a long and rich practice and theory of "the discernment of spirits."

Fr. Komonchak,Would I be wrong to assume that the concept of friendship with Jesus is, from a Catholic point of view, something that a person strives for from within the Church? It sounds to me like what you are talking about must be strongly grounded in something outside oneself. A person could "pray" by carrying on a one-sided, chatty "conversation" with Jesus, but Jesus (and the Church) had a number of specific things to say about how one should pray. A person could have some favorite stories and sayings from the Bible while not taking it in its entirety. I suspect that a "relationship" or "friendship" with Jesus is more like a discipline than an attitude. It doesn't seem like something the average person can do on his or her own.

David N,I think you're making it too difficult. Even being a disciple at the time of Jesus seemed to only require a willingness to be in his presence (I know there are those 'cost of discipleship' lines but most of those people with hi didn't give up their families or their homes or made themselves perfect or put their lives in jeopardy, they just hung around with him).Ignatius of Loyola and Teresa of Avila do have disciplines one can follow, but the only real requirement to be friends with Jesus seems to be a desire to be friends with him.And something my spiritual director is always reminding me of is that the friendship isn't all up to us - we don't have to bear the whole burden of making it possible and making it right - relationships are mutual and God has an interest in doing his part.

I think the terms "personal relationship with Jesus" and "accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior" are buzz terms. Catholics have them, too: Transubstantiation. Beatific Vision.They are attempt to give voice to some vague ideas that we are trying to understand and need a term to express.You'll probably get as many different explanations for each of these terms are there are people willinto to opine. Official dogmatic statements (Catholics only ... evangelicals abhor dogmatism, or so they think) might keep a few theologians happy, but are essentially incomprehensible or meaningless to the average person in the Catholic or evangelical pew.To me, as I get older, it's not about faith but about hope.

"To me, as I get older, it's not about faith but about hope" reminded me of a sign I once saw in front of a Baptist church in New Jersey.The message was simple. It said "Not to believe in God is to die with no hope". The message didn't say "you better believe in God" or "you need to be born-again" or "you better accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Saviour". The message offered no promises or guarantees. It talked about hope - that wonderful theological virtue.I'm in the same camp as Mr. McCrea I guess.

Frankly, I don't care if there is no heaven. I just want to be able to die in with some measure of peace, the sense that I didn't screw things up too badly as measured against the standard of what Jesus wants. If there's anything beyond that, goody. Unless it's eternal torment, of course. That would be a drag given my current levels of torment by my employer ...Thanks to Fr. Imbelli for posting the link to Pope Francis's remarks. The Pope covers a lot of ground about his personal life and how it was shaped by many influences. I think he also reiterates some important Catholic fundamentals about service to the poor and recognizing humanity in all people.

Like other tastes, prayer styles and preferences will vary, I suppose, with a person's temperament, upbringing, reading, associates, and needs. Some people may be drawn to an affective, folksy kind of prayer, while others prefer something a bit more austere. But why must it be one or the other, or the same all the time for any one person?Wherever else fancy or fervor may lead, Christians might wisely begin and end their daily devotions with the Our Father. It's doctrinally sound; it centers one in a vast community of common belief; and it brings to mind the fundamental relationship between the Creator and creatures like us. It also comes highly recommended by a Friend.

This article from the latest issue seems to fit into this discussion:

As this has gotten farther and farther from Baumann on Weigel it has gotten increasingly intense. We are a long way from Catholicism informed by contemporary politics into John of the Cross/John Main country. Someone needs to re-frame this question slightly and open it up on a whole new thread.

Jack M. --Thanks for the information about Fr. Lafarge. He had what would today be called charism. Isn't that history of his draft of the encyclical discouraging -- the systematic placing of the Church's head in the sand and keeping it there. Why are these people so afraid of truth even after the Nazis and Fascists are dead and gone?

Oops -- charisma

Regarding the unpublished encyclical: I have on my "to read" list this book: XI has long been a fascination of mine. By all accounts he really tried hard to keep his head out of the sand at a time when most of the world seemed hell-bent on just that. LaFarge was clearly one the most important American Jesuits of the 20th Century. How amazing you got to meet this extraordinary man!

I think youre making it too difficult. Even being a disciple at the time of Jesus seemed to only require a willingness to be in his presence . . . .Crystal,What I am interested in is the idea of "personal relationship" and particularly "friendship." They both imply back and forth, give and take. I can be a disciple of Freud or Marx or Keynes, but I can't have a personal relationship with any of them or claim them as friends. I guess one question is whether Pope Benedict (and others who talk about personal relationships and friendships) would have said that being a "practicing," church-going, sacrament-receiving, faithful Catholic is having a personal friendship with Christ. If being a practicing Catholic or a good Christian of some other denomination is the same thing as forming a personal relationship with Jesus, then I guess it's just another way of talking about what I was taught during 12 years of Catholic school.

Jack M. -- TANGENTI wondered if Fr. LaFarge was related to the LaFarges here in New Orleans and that might have been why he was in the city. So I checked Wikipedia. But what I discovered was an article about his father, not him. His father, a descendant of Ben Franklin among others, was a fine artist who did religious work, especially stained glass windows. Among other things, he "is honored . . . with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA) on December 16", this is in spite of the fact that he remained Catholic. Hmm. What an interesting family.

On friendship with Jesus.During the 20 years after my marriage, I studied and practiced many different types of prayer with the goal of striving to understand and live a life pleasing to Jesus. Too often this lead for me to what I would call a frustrating and perhaps excessive striving and not enough listening. This lead me to silent prayer, or the prayer of the heart. After some practice and education about this type of prayer, I realized that this was not the complete answer, at least for me. My spiritual director at a retreat gave me a short solution. He said, Why don't you let God be God and Mike be Mike? To whit, God likes any type of prayer and our relationship with him is one that only He determines. Hence, we need to "let go" in order for God to take over. Silent prayer is one way, but not the only way. At least for me, I was drawn to mixing up communications with God with different types of prayer: with petitions, thankfulness, praise and humility in terms recognizing that I have many obstacles that prevent me from recognizing, understanding and living His plan for me. Sometimes the answer is simple and right in front of you, but many times we don't see it.The idea of "friendship with Jesus" is a difficult concept for me to use as a definition of my relationship with Him. Since I pray to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I tend to think of the Father as a Father/God, the Son as a big brother/God and the Holy Spirit as my spiritual director/God. I understand that each are in some ways an ultimate friend, but this seems to me to be too restrictive of a definition. I tend to think of each as someone who loves me more than I love myself, is my creator, who wants me to be happy and to experience eternal life and will never give up on me regardless of my imperfections and sinfulness. For me, God is God and my relationship with with God/Father/Son/Holy Spirit is difficult to define as "friendship", although I know that Jesus is my best friend.I focus more on my objective: I want to be pleasing to God, for Himself, and not for the blessings He freely gives me. This is very difficult for me to completely do because I fear hell and purgatory and any type of punishment for my sins. Clearly, I am mostly sorry for offending Him who is deserving of all my love, but I struggle with the command "to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect". I often have a perplexing guilt and disappointment because I often fail and offend Him. Thus, my relationship with Jesus falls short because of what I choose to do, not because of his Grace. It is a most complex feeling to believe that I will continue to fall, be forgiven, but somehow must face the reparation for my sins and the purification which I have no idea about. Thus, I am both fearful and imperfect, but also full of hope in His mercy and Grace. As my spiritual director often tells me, "Well, the most important thing is to keep trying".

David,"being a practicing, church-going, sacrament-receiving, faithful Catholic is having a personal friendship with Christ"I guess that's not my idea of friendship with Jesus/God. Friendship implies interaction and spontaneity - something that's alive, the possibility that something can grow, that something new might happen. Like with a relationship with a person. Or so it seems to me, but maybe this is all more about personality types than what's "best"?

Agree with Jim. Ann is a model of graceful aging.

Crystal,I agree and that is why I am disappointed with the inadvertent confusion that the Church causes for those who strive to understand both God's Word and Theology, in particular Moral Theology.Nevertheless, many questions are left unanswered by this issue of Grace and our Relationship with God. If Grace is a gift, which I agree, then are we all doomed to the purification and the temporary punishment due to sin? Some Catholics are not concerned with this issue, but some are. If we are all at the Mercy and Grace of God in judgment, then it seems to me that we will all fear death even if God' Judgment is all merciful, just and good for us. IMO, this fuels too much fear and trembling without a means in this life to repair the offense to God through sin. We can't escape sin regardless of how much we hate it. Clearly, we all fall on a continuum toward the person that God wishes us to become. It seems without reparation, there may be too much despair, depression, guilt, frustration, self-disappointment and not enough joy of salvation and the unknown.

On grace and sin, I was told recently that statues of St. Peter represent him with two keys, one gold and one silver, because the Kingdom of Heaven has a gate with two locks that need to be opened: one opens with the gold key, that is, with God's grace; and the other opens with the silver key, that is, our response to it.

"Why would it be that the king would bestow friendship on selected serfs and not all of them?"It may be that some of the neighbors have rejected the king's friendship. It's even possible that some haven't heard of the king's offer of friendship. It may also be that the king, for reasons that aren't clear to us, chooses certain people for certain things, e.g. why did Jesus call Peter and Andrew and the sons of Zebedee among all the people he encountered?

"Human relationships are by their nature incompleteafter twenty-one years my husband remains a mystery to me and I to him, and that is as it should be (Q do you agree?)."Yes, I do agree, from a couple of perspectives: one, that I don't think we're able to completely plumb one another's depths. Two, and related to the first, is that it would seem sinful - perhaps the sin of pride - to assume we know the other so well and completely that it's not necessary to be open to new discovery and wonderment in the other.

David,When defining who is "fully incorporated in the society of the Church" the bishops at Vatican II added a kind of warning: ""He is not saved, however, who, though part of the body of the Church, does not persevere in charity. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but, as it were, only in a "bodily" manner and not "in his heart."" LG 14The issues you raise are being addressed here. Fulfillment of the rules, attending Church and sacraments are certainly a part of faith, but if it is done in a bodily manner, and does not transform the heart, it does not save. Francis, in the Pentecost Eve address cited by Fr Imbelli above, gives an example, describing an experience of Confession when he was 17. We go in our bodily manner, " but when we go, He is waiting for us, He is the first one there! We, in Spanish, we have a word that explains this well: "The Lord always there primerea" is first, is waiting for you! And it is a really great grace to find Someone who is waiting for you."So the practices described can be the occasion of a friendship, just as a meal can be the occasion of a friendship. It does not have to be, but it can be.

Crystal, thank you for your reply. As the thread has continued, it has become clear that there is no generally agreed upon definition of what a "personal friendship" with Jesus actually is. Those of us who find the terminology difficult to deal with understand "personal friendship" to be a relationship that is, well, personal, involving literal two-way engagement. Others define it in much more abstract terms. However, all seem to agree that prayer (of any kind, it seems) is necessary to this "friendship". For example, Bill M wrote: " A relationship with Jesus is cultivated by praying/talking to him every day as often as one can." However, even if I talk to God every day, as I once did (I have always related more to the idea of God, and "talk" to God, rather than having a focus on the person of Jesus), God does not talk back - except in the vague, subjective, emotional "senses" of feelings - awe, humility, gratitude for the sunset, or the beauty of a young baby or the power of the storm - and so it is not really the kind of close emotional relationship one thinks of as "personal" or as a "friendship." I can't help wondering if people truly experience such a thing, or if they create the experience in their minds because we human beings want to experience something like this. There is an existential loneliness to being human, even when surrounded by loving family and friends, and it is so comforting to think there is a loving God there who is "just waiting" for us. I would like to think it is true, and I would like very much to experience a "personal friendship" with God. But..... Is it really simply that belief provides hope when all is dark. But is it true? Or is it a desire of human need and wishful thinking?

"God does not talk back except in the vague, subjective, emotional senses of feelings awe, humility, gratitude for the sunset, or the beauty of a young baby or the power of the storm and so it is not really the kind of close emotional relationship one thinks of as personal or as a friendship. I cant help wondering if people truly experience such a thing, or if they create the experience in their minds because we human beings want to experience something like this. "And not to go all philosophical, but we may well wonder if any of the relationships we experience are real or happen in our minds. The same question can be posed of any and all human experiences.

Fr. Komonchak wrote above, "I do not believe that apart from revelation one would dare to believe that friendship is possible between God and human beings."I agree. And it may be that it's the kind of friendship that can exist between friends who are not equals, or at least do not spring from the same social stratum. It may be the kind of friendship that can exist between a king and a serf. If I am a serf, working a small farm near the border of our enemies, my life and property may be at risk. But because I am honored with the king's friendship, the king will send help to save me from my assailants. And my reaction is one of gratitude and awe that the king(!) has reached out in friendship and love to someone as lowly as me. And it may even be that not all of my peers among the serfs are honored to be friends of the king; it is not that I am an individual and anonymous beneficiary of a grand royal gesture that was intended to save everyone en masse, without regard to personal relationships, and I just happened to be in the right place; it is that he intended specifically to save each of his *friends*, including me. He sent his soldiers to *my farm*, to save *me*. How fortunate, how undeservedly fortunate, I am to be the king's friend.

Anne Chapman:You ask: " But is it true? Or is it a desire of human need and wishful thinking?"If there is no God, then that God is speaking to one is not true and may simply be wishful thinking. If there is a God, then it is quite possible that God is speaking to one. Possible, I say, because not everything one might think is God's address to oneself need be such. Yes, there is in any case "an existential loneliness to being human," in the sense that it is up to oneself to decide for oneself what to make of oneself--no one else can do that for one. The loneliness will be experienced differently, more or less acutely, by some than by others. And just as lonely people can rush heedlessly into one or more relationships with other people in order to fill up the void, so lonely people can turn to one or more religious relationships for the same purpose, and some of the latter may be no healthier than some of the former. But the question remains: Is loneliness the same thing as aloneness? Bernard Lonergan said that one of the ways in which the question about God arises is whether human beings are the only instance of freedom in the whole universe, the only beings that pursue value, the only beings that love, that produce beauty. If so, we are lonely indeed, alone in a dumb and inert universe. If not, then the universe itself, and we within it, is a work of art, worth-while, that is, valuable because the creation of freedom. This raises the question. It does not answer it.

It is remarkable that a critical review has engendered one of the most substantive and personal threads. George deserves some credit :-)

Belief can provide hope when all is dark, but it can also provide darkness. Why should truth and wishful thinking be opposed to one another? Food exists on its own but is also desired.The question is at a different level I think. Why do we desire God? How do we relate to the universe? Could some external reality provide answers to our deepest desires? Or does answering our deepest desires mean that the reality is not external? Those questions are hard to answer intellectually or emotionally. "I sought you outside, but you were within me" as St Augustine put it.That moves us even deeper into the questions. Who am I to desire God? And deeper than that. I like the Pope's description. When we go in search, we encounter Jesus there already, waiting for us. The search is always there, but Christ is as well.

In thinking about what Jim Pauwel wrote above, I'd say I think of Jesus as my patron and boss, and the saints as my friends. However, in trying to use language to describe our "relationship" with the Infinite--and certainly in our desire to connect with the Spirit--we learn how limited language is and how difficult it is to articulate what's going on. As for George Weigel deserving credit? I dunno. Seems to me the group here has turned a disagreement between two different types of Catholics into a catechetical opportunity. So yay us.

Jean: But wasn't it Weigel's point about having a relationship with Jesus that prompted much of this discussion? Knowing George fairly well, I think he would be pleased to see the matter discussed with such seriousness.Jim McK: Then there is Pascal: "Take comfort: you would not seek me if you had not already found me"And Augustine: "He sought you before you sought him, and he found you so that you might find him."Bernard Lonergan recounted that when a young Jesuit, he was asked by his spiritual director if he loved God. "I'd like to," Lonergan replied. "If you'd like to love God," the wise priest commented, "you do love God." That's worth thinking about.

Jean: But wasnt it Weigels point about having a relationship with Jesus that prompted much of this discussion? Knowing George fairly well, I think he would be pleased to see the matter discussed with such seriousness.Heck, I don't even remember now. Maybe. yay him.

There is a dryness and darkness about prayer and the way in which we communicate with God. St. John of the Cross and St. Theresa de Avila mention many stages of contemplative prayer where they have experienced both a dark night of the soul but also rapture. Few of us reach that point, but the issue is that just because we don't have an experience with Jesus as we have with our best friends, does not mean that he does not speak to us in various ways and transform us into the men or women he wishes us to be.Does describing our relationship with God as friendship really matter? Doubt and difficulty is part of our human existence and a good part of our striving and our prayer life based on faith. I often wonder how people of different faiths experience God. Doi they define it as a "friendship"? How do they pray and communicate with God? Does one have to practice silent contemplative prayer to grow closer to God and hear his voice within and outside of us, in others, in events, in tragedy and joy, in loneliness and confusion, in ignorance and wisdom? Certainly, a best friend will always look out for you, will give you his last dollar if you needed it, would shelter you and feed you if you asked for his help, and give you his best guidance on difficult matters. These attributes are part of human friendship and to describe God in terms of a friendship can at best only reflect part of what we feel and experience and the relationship we have with God. To come back to Weigel, what makes anyone think that a friendship with Jesus will transform us any differently than how people have been transformed throughout past centuries? In other words, there has always been profound disagreement and dissent to certain Church teachings in the past, and serious mistakes have been made by popes in the name of truth. All of them had a relationship with Jesus. We progress forward not backward as our knowledge of Scripture, philosophy, theology, science, our human condition, et al, increases. How we interpret the signs of the times and make moral decisions is in part based on our reason and guidance by God as part of our relationship with him. It is too simplistic to expect that yesteryear in any sense of the word, as in tribal Catholicism, and the blind obedience to every Church teachings is the answer for our divided Church today. I ask: Do we not rely of our relationship with God to guide us in both agreement and disagreement? If we disagree, why does this have to be the negative aspect of individualism, relativism or the ills of our secular culture?

Anne,I could just as well have written your last comment. I feel terribly lonely sometimes and I think that's a big part of why I haven't given up on prayer/relationship with God, even though it so often seems like I've reached the point of diminishing returns. Part of what keeps me interested in prayer as a relationship is that I know and know of people for whom it does seem to work and I wish I had what they do. And sometimes it does seem to work for me too - Jesus talking to me - in that Ignatin conversational prayer (colloquy). My spiritual director used to say it was like the movie Field of Dreams - build it (the prayer) and he will come - and so I keep trying to build it better :)At the end of the day, I guess that even with the uncertainty and the loneliness, my life it better now than it was before. I don't know if you'd be interested, but one place I like that's an example of Ignatian prayer is the Irish Jesuit site, Sacred Space ...

I'm coming late to a very interesting thread. I have to admit that for me the "personal friendship with Jesus" is largely rooted in the Mass. No, God does not talk to me in words, and praying does not usually arouse any particular emotion. But I remember that everything good comes from him, and there is no shortage of good things in my life, so in that way he is very present. It is rather amazing that I spend a fair amount of time alone, yet I am essentially never lonely. When it does happen that I have a touch of loneliness, all I have to do is think about Christ, and it makes me happy. It's so effective that, as Anne said, one wonders if it's all made up. I am aware of that possibility, but it does not shake that unreasonable confidence. In some ways I think that one may be more lonely when in the presence of family or friends. The connection with them is never perfect, and the glitches keep reminding you that there is a distance between them and yourself. They underline your loneliness in a way that Christ doesn't.

About talking with God -- It seems that the psychologists have recently discovered that people hallucinate a lot more than psychologists used to think. Apparently it is fairly common for people to think they hear voices without being schizophrenic. (It is typical of schizophrenics to hear real voices.) Many religious people think they have heard God speak to them. So if anyone is afraid of accepting words as actually real messages from Him, you are not alone, and maybe it wouldn't exactly be miraculous, since it is fairly common. And I say: why wouldn't God talk to His children individually from time to time? He made the whole wide world. Surely talking to us is not beyond His power.I don't think He's ever talked to me except for one word, once, many years ago. No, there's no way to prove it. On the other hand, given the particular circumstances when it happened, it would not be reasonable for me to assume that it came from my own unconscious. It just wasn't something that I would be inclined to say in such circumstances. I was in a fury at the time, and that one word was so hilarious in a grim sort of way I still laugh at it 20 years later. And believe me, I don't say funny things when I'm furious. I just get veeery nasty. So of the two hypothetical explanations, I go with the more likely one : the word wasn't from me, it was from Him.

Michael Barberi:Re: the command to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfectI heard from a sister at a parish talk years ago that the translation of "perfect" is not the true sense of the original. A more accurate reading was of "wholeness" not "perfection" (which is impossible anyway).It was helpful then, and is now as well.Ann and Barry Ulanov speak in their writings about encounters with God that are very particular as to time, place and circumstance. If memory serves, they recount Blaise Pascal writing about his experience and carrying it pinned to his coat for the rest of his life. Those glimpses of exchange, communication or presence can be very powerful, unmistakable in their imprint, and lingering in memory. Yes, Rita Ferrone: "Cant we afford to ignore Weigel? Really?" Absolutely! The arrogance is too much.

Here is Pascal's Memorial, found sewn inside his jacket on his death. I take it from

The year of grace 1654Monday, 23 November, feast of Saint Clement, Pope and Martyr, and of others in the Martyrology.Eve of Saint Chrysogonus, Martyr and others.From about half past ten in the evening until half past midnight.Fire'God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob,' not of philosophers and scholars.Certainty, certainty, heartfelt, joy, peace.God of Jesus Christ.God of Jesus Christ.My God and your God.'Thy God shall be my God.'The world forgotten, and everything except God.He can only be found by the ways taught in the Gospels.Greatness of the human soul.'O righteous Father, the world had not known thee, but I have known thee.'Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.I have cut myself off from him.They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters.'My God wilt thou forsake me?'Let me not be cut off from him for ever!And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.'Jesus Christ.Jesus Christ.I have cut myself off from him, shunned him, denied him, crucified him.Let me never be cut off from him!He can only be kept by the ways taught in the Gospel.Sweet and total renunciation.Total submission to Jesus Christ and my director.Everlasting joy in return for one day's effort on earth.I will not forget thy word. Amen.

Crystal, thank you. I have long been familiar with Sacred Space, however, I used it as a preliminary for Centering Prayer primarily for several years. I would "talk" with Jesus , but not put myself in the scene from the gospel passage. I had not looked at the site in a while, however - it is quite updated and I intend to start looking at it again every day as a start to CP. This thread has convinced me that even though I have found it almost impossible to pray in the last few years, I should at least go through the motions and see what happens. I have carried on monologues with God most of my day for many years and still do, a habit I suppose. But they have always been monologues, I don't "hear" God speaking to me, I don't "feel' God's presence. Those of you who do, give thanks for this gift because it can be taken away, as I have discovered to my sadness. I do believe there is a God, but beyond that, I am now even more doubting than Thomas and no longer say "Lord, I believe,.... Just "help my unbelief" at this point. On Sundays, when I go with my husband to church and it's time for the creed, I can't get beyond "I believe in God....creator of heaven and earth and all that is seen and unseen". Re loneliness - Ronald Rolheiser's book, The Restless Heart, starts with this: "No person has ever walked our earth and been free from pains of loneliness....To be human is to be lonely." Augustine's famous statement , "You have made us for yourself Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you" is another expression of this existential loneliness. All of us seek God, whether or not we know it. As far as attaining a "friendship" goes, however, it is easier said than done. Rolheiser also quotes Karl Rahner " the torment of the insufficiency of everything attainable, we come to realize that, in this life, all symphonies must remain unfinished." Fr. K - your post of 2:16 provides some measure of comfort! Thank you. At 9:33 you wrote: "But the question remains: Is loneliness the same thing as aloneness?" No, at least I don't think so. I think that there is a big difference between being alone, or humanly lonely when not physically alone, and existential loneliness, which seems a loneliness that can only be assuaged by faith in a loving God. But, faith is not something that can be ordered up on demand.Jim P - "....we may well wonder if any of the relationships we experience are real or happen in our minds". This reminded me of a passage in Kathleen Norris's "The Cloister Walk". While living at St. John's Abbey and developing deep personal friendships with some of the monks, she reflected on her own marriage and wrote this - "Human relationships are by their nature incomplete--after twenty-one years my husband remains a mystery to me and I to him, and that is as it should be (Q - do you agree?). Only hope allows us to know and enjoy the depths of our intimacy."Jim P, you also wrote - "And it may even be that not all of my peers among the serfs are honored to be friends of the king;.... How fortunate, how undeservedly fortunate, I am to be the kings friend."Why would it be that the king would bestow friendship on selected serfs and not all of them? Finally, I am also reminded by this discussion of the famous lines of Rilke, written to a young poet. Is he right? Should we not "search" for answers? Or should we wait patiently while living the questions?".... have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Dont search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer".

Carolyn Disco,Thank you for pointing out that the word "perfect" meant wholesome. I did look up the meaning of this text and it has to do with maturity in terms of spiritual integrity. It has to do with the commandment to love as a complete love, as in loving our neighbor as ourselves. This means extending this love to those of our enemies and those who hate us. Of course, we can never attain such a level of maturity and completeness in this life. Thanks again for responding to my posting.My struggle is mostly with the concept of Grace and our "Relationship with God" which was the subject under consideration. Is Grace given to us based on our "spiritual relationship with God" or does God freely give us enough Grace to overcome the temptations of sins regardless of our state of spiritual condition and relationship with Him? Do we have to ask God for this Grace or does he look into our hearts and prayers and grant us enough Grace? If we don't "earn" this Grace by doing good works, but it is freely given to us by God, then how does the Church grant us special Graces, called 'indulgences' based on doing "various works" where we gain a plenary or partial remittance for the temporary punishment due to our sins? Lastly, if there is no certainly that we can enter heaven even after receiving a plenary indulgence (a Church teaching), but only by the Grace and Mercy of God, then what is the point about doing good works? Is more good works more pleasing to God than a few? Because we are all sinners, how do we atone for our sins in this life? Does this have anything to do with our 'relationship with God'? How so?If it is not God's Grace, but what I choose to do that causes me to sin, then this fuels both profound guilt and disappointment with myself when I sin, something that has both positive and negative consequences. After confession, the cycle starts over again. Praying, sacrament, good works, then at some point sin once again, confession etc. We keep striving and trying, but we are in the dark.

--- Yes, Rita Ferrone: Cant we afford to ignore Weigel? Really? Absolutely! The arrogance is too much. ---I had a similar comment about Ding Dong Donahue in another post and quite the opposite reaction was received.Who is more dangerous to the public's understanding of US Catholicism?

I know quite a few people who are alone ... single for whatever reason(s) ... and the smart ones overcome any tendency to loneliness by being active, reaching out to others, volunteering and generally refusing to feel sorry for themselves.A perfect example on this site is Ann Olivier. She has a very active mind and, I assume, that translates into a lack of loneliness in her personal life.

Michael,I think many of your questions about grace and good works are the kind that fueled the reformation. I feel the whole idea of indulgences makes no sense (and I'm not alone - many of those at V2 argued to do away with indulgences), and that if God does love us in a way even remotely like a human parent loves their child, then salvation isn't earned or bought but is an unconditional gift. I read this recently in a book by Rob Bell ..."Gospel isnt us getting it together so that we can have Gods favor; gospel is us finding God exactly in the moment of our greatest not-togetherness.Gospel is grace, and grace is a gift. You dont earn a gift; you simply receive it. You dont make it happen; you wake up to what has already happened.Gospel isnt doing enough good to be worthy; its your eyes being opened to your unworthiness and to Jesuss insistence that that was never the way it worked in the first place.Being a good person, then, naturally flows not from trying to get on Gods good side but from your realization that God has been on your side the whole time."

Michael,This is a subject I find really challenging and I don't understand it - why did God make imperfect creatures, why is God mad at us for being imperfect if we can't help it, what good does eternal punishment after the fact do and what kind of God would resort to this? And the idea of purgatory is a construct - it's nowhere in the bible. I don't know how most people make peace with this stuff.

PS - I vote for universalism :)

Jim M, I am not referring to the type of loneliness some experience by living alone or by being without close family or friends. That is a different matter entirely - I am referring to what I call existential loneliness - the loneliness experienced when one does not feel the presence of God.Crystal and Michael - I am with you. The teaching on indulgences should be disappeared - it is an example of the church claiming to have the power only God has, and the rights that only God enjoys, and it should be a huge embarrassment to the church that it is still around - the institutional church and its human head are NOT God. How dare they claim a power to grant "indulgences" Michael, your questions in your post of 6:28 are widely shared I think. It doesn't make sense to me either, unless God is not a God of love, but one of malice who likes to manipulate and trick human beings to entrap them in some kind of punishment. What kind of God would that be? Would anyone want to love and worship this kind of God?Jim P - I also agree with Kathleen Norris' observations. However, I do not understand how an all-loving, all-just God would give friendship to some but not others. I'm not convinced it's possible for someone to reject God with FULL knowledge. This thread discusses a range of experiences with God's friendship, with some claiming they do experience it in a very tangible way and others that they don't. It doesn't seem likely that once one truly experiences this gift of friendship - really feels it and not just understands it as an intellectual or theological concept - that they would willingly reject it. Those who may seem to reject God's gift of friendship most likely have never actually experienced it and are so not rejecting it at all.

Actually, it was Crystal's response to Michael's questions and comments that was posted at 6:28.

Crystal,I have the same thoughts, especially your last post. The other below does not answer my question:"the Kingdom of Heaven has a gate with two locks that need to be opened: one opens with the gold key, that is, with Gods grace; and the other opens with the silver key, that is, our response to it."Our response to it is imperfect. The issue is "reparation". I was taught that our sins are forgiven but there is this temporal punishment due to sin that must be accounted for. This is where the teaching about Grace, Purgatory, Good Works and Reparation come into play. The most compelling part of the NT relative to this issue is that on the Cross Jesus not only forgave the sins of the thief/murderer who accepted the punishment of the cross for his crimes, and asserted Jesus's innocence, he also washed away any purification and temporal punishment due to his sins when he said: I assure you on this very day, you will be with me in paradise.The second most relevant NT text is that fact that Jesus said; let the first be last and the last first. From these texts and the love that Jesus emphasizes in the NT, I agree with you when you said in paraphrase: What loving parent would not allow his/her child entrance into their house when the child said with a sincere heart that he/she was sorry for what he/she did? What loving parent would say, I forgive you but you must spend a certain amount of time outside the house, and be purified for the sin you committed? Clearly, if a child had no remorse for committing a horrible sin, such as murder, a certain punishment is due. However, what about Catholics who sincerely try to avoid sin, strive to love God and neighbor as he wills it, as best they can, and not for the blessings or the fears of hell/purgatory, pray and receive the sacraments? I find this concept of purgatory, temporal punishment and the fact that each of us is imperfect and will commit sin throughout of lives, are left this dilemma. I think most Catholics think about these things very much. Some might be invincibly ignorant, some minimize and not worry about such issues, some are more informed than I and perhaps are satisfied with the answers they have received to these questions, and some believe in indulgences.

Crystal,Sorry for the typo. The first sentence of the last paragraph should read "I think most Catholics don't think about these things very much".

Ann Chapman,Thanks for your kind comments and thoughts. Sometimes I think I am alone with these questions.

Thank you, Fr. K, for the Memorial, and the link.

I'm mostly out of my depth when people start talking about concepts like existential loneliness and whether we can truly know another soul or and whether that's the way it should be (frankly, after 30 years, I would be happy merely to know why Raber does not understand the health hazards of NOT PUTTING THE DAMN CAP ON THE TOOTHPASTE).But I increasingly dislike the notion that God's friends or serfs or whatever term we're using are "chosen." God made all of us and loves us all equally, everybody, everywhere, bar none, end of story. While I think it's true that some people "reject God," my sense is that they're rejecting a rather specific notion of God that someone has handed them, often with smug assurance, frightening threats, or freakouts a la "you don't believe THAT???" If those who give up seeking for God are going to have to answer for it in the Hereafter, it is my hope that those self-appointed mouthpieces for God will have to answer for their part of the equation.That would not, btw, include Fr. Rolheiser mentioned above, who manages to be thought-provoking without ever being discouraging. Bless him for his work!

Michael,I think it was Claire who wrote about the two kinds of keys.But yes, the whole idea that indulgences go toward paying for the full or partial remission of temporal punishment in Purgatory, due for sins which have already been forgiven, and gained through ritual prayers, the doing of certain acts, or in the past, money, is just creepy. I may be a cynic but it strikes me that a good way to keep people in control is to tell them first that they are doomed, and second that you have the only remedy to that doom. An interesting article ... ... and the Tablet had a past article on indulgences ... ... and I quote here what John O'Malley wrote in 'What Happened at Vatican II' about indulgences.

"But I increasingly dislike the notion that Gods friends or serfs or whatever term were using are chosen."Let's use friends. Being chosen by God means that it was God who did the choosing. None of us, on our own merits, is worthy of his friendship. That he chose to befriend us anyway is a great gift. We're the prodigal children, who see that we should be treated like one of the hired hands but instead have the ring put on our finger and the fatted calf slaughtered for us. And he ran out to meet us while we were still on the road to him - he couldn't wait to forgive us.I can't fully explain why it is that some of the seeds that are planted put down strong and deep roots and bear great fruit, while others grow in shallow soil and don't last, or get eaten by the birds, or get choked by thorns. I also think we are the heralds - it is as if the king has sent us out to all the highways and byways to announce the good news of his friendship. If we don't make the announcement, they will never know about it. It's a tremendous responsibility. I think most of us don't do a very good job of it. Pondering this is the kind of thing that makes one rather hope that there is something to the doctrine of indulgences.

"I am not referring to the type of loneliness some experience by living alone or by being without close family or friends. That is a different matter entirely I am referring to what I call existential loneliness the loneliness experienced when one does not feel the presence of God."Are those not related? Are others not a reflection of God, and is that not what attracts us to them? Is it not God who brings us close to family or friends through love? I am not completely sure how it is to "feel" the presence of God, but for me concretely his presence can be seen in everything that is good in the world, felt in the pleasure we derive from all those things. You can't literally touch him, but similarly one could also say that when you kiss a person, you're only touching their skin, their envelope, not the core of their being. How do you know God is there by you - well, how do you know that the person you're kissing is a real person and not some sort of zombie?

"Being chosen by God means that it was God who did the choosing. None of us, on our own merits, is worthy of his friendship. That he chose to befriend us anyway is a great gift."I know this is standard teaching, but, again, I dislike that notion of God "choosing," individuals or special clubs. I think it runs deeper. God made us in a vaster, more mysterious and intimate way than we made our own children. And, like our children, God has no choice but to love us. It's hard-wired into reality. Is it a symbiotic relationship between us and God? I don't know; friend, serf, herald, etc., are all facets of that relationship, but they don't represent the whole mystery."I cant fully explain why it is that some of the seeds that are planted put down strong and deep roots and bear great fruit, while others grow in shallow soil and dont last, or get eaten by the birds, or get choked by thorns."I don't either, but my guess is that those of us in the thorns find it hard to give up the notion that we are somehow in control of our successes and failures. If you believe you are the "master of your fate, the captain of your soul," in good times, you become arrogant, in bad times, you become ashamed and discouraged. "I also think we are the heralds it is as if the king has sent us out to all the highways and byways to announce the good news of his friendship. If we dont make the announcement, they will never know about it. Its a tremendous responsibility. I think most of us dont do a very good job of it. "Maybe because heralds so many heralds talk instead of do? I immediately switch off lists of "must nots" and checklists of "correct belief." It's predictable, depressing, smug--the equivalent of spiritual junk food. If the soil can be barren, so can the seed.

When I originally perused this blog stream, because George Weigel's name was attached, I easily moved on. Why waste your breath on Weigel, I figured. The only good that Weigel usually does is giving us the standard marker of what we all should be against.Yesterday, I was reading Paul Baumann's article in The Nation. Pretty good retort to all things Weigel. Good job.It still galls me that someone like Weigel has discovered a way to make a considerable career and money on opining about the Catholic Church.

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