The Cloud of the Unknowing, Cafeteria Catholics and Pope Francis

Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene--OlsenOne of my favorite spiritual works–I haven’t read it in its entirety but as I do with most of my God books I read bits and pieces and skip around—is The Cloud of the Unknowing.

The Cloud of Unknowing is an anonymous work of Christian mysticism written in Middle English in the 14th century. It is a spiritual guide on Catholic contemplative prayer. It proposes the only way to truly “know” God is to abandon all preconceived notions and beliefs or “knowledge” about God and be courageous enough to surrender your mind and ego to the realm of “unknowingness,” at which point, you begin to glimpse the true nature of God.

With the election of Pope Francis it seems a new era has swarmed into the Church. I am careful not to say a “better” era. I felt Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was a brilliant pope who left us beautiful epistles, wonderful homilies and made great strides in uniting certain facets of Christians with the Church.  Also, he held fast to supporting the Church’s moral truths which are under attack in the secular world, therefore our very Catholic selves are under attack.  I loved him, looked at him as a true shepherd of our Church, guided by God to shepherd the whole Church.

What I mean by this new era is how Pope Francis is able to appeal to the other Catholics, ex-Catholics and the ones who might be more cafeteria-style in their Catholic morality but who nonetheless want to know, love and serve God. Unable to grasp the importance of God’s moral truths in following Him, they still want to follow Him.

And Francis opens that door, without compromising on the Church’s moral truths. By his humility, his meekness, his imperative and primary call to serve the poor, these Catholics fall silent–in a good way, silent. They stop attacking temporarily. They perceive a pope they might actually be able to relate to. This is the God they know and love, the God who serves the poor and the God who loves all of us, even those of us who can’t—-by nature of our ignorance and pride, which we all have to some extent in different capacities—come to accept moral truths.

I’ve listened to the commentary and have been impressed with comments like “breath of fresh air in the Church,” and “guarded hopefulness.”  As for me, it’s funny because the Church has ALWAYS been about social justice–at least in my lifetime. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI were tremendous champions of the poor and the vulnerable.  So why couldn’t these other Catholics see it? And why do they see Pope Francis as a breath of fresh air?

I can only guess it’s because these types of Catholics abhor authority, hierarchy, pomp, Catholic morality?  I don’t have a problem with authority, hierarchy, pomp (beauty!) and theological morality. So, I saw the Church’s grand social justice network as part of a whole, not a separate thing.

Anyways, for those cafeteria and ex-Catholics who might entertain coming back to the fold because of Pope Francis, welcome! And yay! You don’t have to have a perfect understanding (I say “understanding” because if these Catholics truly understood Catholic morality they would embrace it) of morality in order to be welcomed in the Church.  Just come back. Your understanding of the necessity of her moral teachings will come more readily once you’re here for a while.  So come back and let the Church and the Holy Spirit transform you.

The most important moral teaching, the foundation of it all, is the Church teaching on the dignity of the human person. Thank God for her stubborn insistence on condemning abortion. Pro-life in all circumstances, it is my prayer that Catholics who support a “woman’s right to choose abortion” will come to understand the love behind the Church’s teaching on this.

I’ve been thinking about the things that appeal to more liberal Catholics–and in addition to social justice, to me they seem to be more existential in nature. I’m making a big generalization here but it’s also an invitation.

where-only-love-can-go-30-days-with-john-kirvan-paperback-cover-artCheck out the Cloud of the Unknowing. A contemplative myself, this is a great entry point for those looking for the softer side of the Faith. Softer as in—it’s all about “love”— and not morality.  But this spiritual classic is not for beginners who wish to dabble in spirituality and new ageness. This spirituality is deeply rooted in Jesus, in forgetting everything about the world and getting to know God without distraction.

The Cloud of the Unknowing is written in middle English and for me is very difficult to read. I have to read every sentence three times to get it. So books like the one by John Kirvan, “Where Only Love Can Go,” are excellent tools for me to embrace this spiritual classic.  Where Only Love Can Go is a thirty day trip through The Cloud of the Unknowing, in modern language.  Here is an excerpt:

My dear friend in the Spirit, up until now you have lived a good but ordinary Christian life, not very different from your friends. But apparently God is calling you to something more. Because of the love in his heart, which he has had for you from the moment of your creation, he is not going to leave you alone, not about to let you off so easily. You are beginning to experience in  a special way God’s everlasting love, which you were brought out of nothingness and redeemed at the price of his blood. You can no longer be content to live at a distance from God. In his great grace he has kindled a desire in your heart to be more closely united to him.”

Kirwan notes that the anonymous author of The Cloud of the Unknowing instructs its reader that this is a book and a journey, which requires serious attention. He goes on to say, “The Cloud of the Unknowing is not for those who are tempted to “dip into” spirituality, to play around the edges of contemplation, presuming that the journey to God is a trip into warm fuzziness and uninterrupted serenity.”

So, in conclusion here I’m excited that ex-Catholics and “cafeteria” Catholics are looking at Pope Francis fondly and therefore looking more fondly at our Church. If only they would stop criticizing her for a minute and simply experience her in all her beauty and complexity, they will come to love her as I do. The Cloud of the Unknowing, a very Catholic spiritual work, might be a good place to start. And eventually, their understanding of God’s moral truths will come—and they will see the moral truths are there not to punish or condemn us but to free us and perfect us to closer union with our Creator.

Audio Resources for Catholic Alcoholics

7deadyI plan to invest in these CDs over time. I’ve purchased too many Nook books lately, so I need to wait a few weeks to make more money. After having read the book The Freedom to Love by Father Emmerich Vogt (which incorporates the 7 deadly sins into our experience of recovery), I am comfortable recommending his CDs because he teaches an authentic Faith and has 30 years of experience working with the 12 Steps.

Once I purchase and listen to these I will review here, but for now I wanted to share:

The Eleventh Step and the Spiritual Life
In this series of lectures and homilies, the eleventh step (Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God) is framed in terms of developing our catholic spiritual life through prayer, meditation and sacrifice. Father Emmerich uses clear and sometimes humorous examples of how to take disasters and change them into truly good, life changing and worthwhile experiences, both with others, and in our interior relationship with God. Set of 5 CDs, $35.00.

The Power of the Holy Spirit and the 12 Steps
A five CD set consisting of conferences and homilies given to a live congregation at CASA MARIA retreat house in Irondale, Alabama. 5 CD’s – $35.00.

The Spirituality of the 12 Steps
In this set of nine conferences Fr. Emmerich grounds each of the Steps in classical Gospel spirituality, and brings in the teachings of the saints. Each conference is about one hour-long. $65.00 for 9 CDs.

 

In Search of Hope and Transformation

butterflyI’ve been an annoying re-blogger the past few days.  I spent three intense days on a marketing proposal I had to present Tuesday, and in good old obsessive fashion I thought of nothing else until it was complete and behind me.  Then yesterday I was in recovery mode from this and spent my time reading other people’s work and re-blogging good stuff.

Now that I’ve recovered from my marketing obsession, I have so many ideas that I want to write about. The problem is determining which one to dive into first. And then I saw a simple post over at Tired of Thinking About Drinking that inspired me to write my own similar post listing the “search terms” people use to find my blog.  This at least has gotten me going and I expect I’ll have two or three posts to follow before the day is over. I hope y’all (yes, I’m from Georgia) don’t get tired of me today!

Search terms used to find my blog:

  • mother son intimacy
  • aa logo
  • catholic and alcoholism
  • catholic alcoholic
  • adopt a cardinal
  • sobriety blogs
  • different kinds of saints
  • is aa ok for catholic
  • lectio divina
  • blog catholic alcoholism
  • 4th step prayer
  • catholic coping mechanisms
  • catholic alcohol addiction
  • prayer book for catholic addicts
  • mother teresa
  • catholic healing for alcoholic parent
  • catholic alcoholics anonymous women
  • catholics and alcohol
  • catholic and being alcoholic
  • gods will regarding alcoholism catholic
  • bruce willis alcoholic
  • mindy mccready suicide
  • 12 steps for catholic priests book
  • hope
  • mary magdalen and the egg
  • pilgrimage florida
  • catholics love alcohol
  • catholic beer
  • calix
  • heather king magnificat
  • “celebrate recovery” catholic
  • king paw jaguar
  • catholic alcohol recovery
  • catholic help with alcoholism
  • pope benedict commentary
  • catechism views on alcoholics anonymous
  • cloud of witnesses

Pretty interesting–at least to me!  So there are people out there searching for the kind of experiences I write about. Dear God, please direct my thinking and my writing so that if ever someone comes across my blog they are left with Your hope. As your dear servant Pope Emeritus Benedict said,

“To be effective the proclamation of faith must begin with a heart that believes, hopes, loves; and a heart that loves Christ also believes in the transformative power of the Holy Spirit!”

So if it be Your will, God, let me be an example of this transformative power of the Holy Spirit.

Pray for the one I Hate

Hate is such a strong word, and I don’t even allow it in my home.  If my children say they hate someone or something, I immediately stop them in their tracks and have them re-phrase their feelings.  To me, hate is everything to do with satan and nothing to do with the light of God.

Yet, as I pondered the title of this post, that was the only word that fit.  I guess I “hate” this person.  I definitely resent the hell out of her and wish her pain and misery for the rest of her life!

Semantics aside, it was suggested to me through the sharing of another at a meeting to read page 552 of the Big Book if there is a resentment that I just can’t get past.  If there is anger I am holding on to, tightly and refuse to or am unable to let go, then do what it says on page 552.  I started this last night.  Can’t say that I feel any better but I will commit to it.  This is what it says:

Page 552, AA Big Book
He said, in effect: “If you have a resentment you want to be free of, if you will pray for the person that you resent, you will be free.  If you will ask in prayer for everything you want for yourself to be given to them, you will be free.  Ask for their health, their prosperity, their happiness, and you will be free.  Even when you don’t really want it for them and your prayers are only words and you don’t mean it, go ahead and do it anyway.  Do it every day for two weeks, and you will find you have come to mean it and to want it for them, and you will realize that where you used to feel bitterness and resentment and hatred, you now feel compassionate understanding and love.”

Last night I prayed that God give her, this woman, everything I want for myself.  This woman, who manipulated my husband (with his consent) back into her life while I was away in treatment. This woman who is also sober and part of the AA fellowship, who selfishly disregarded her friendship with me and who disregarded her program of honesty with herself and within her own marriage in order to capture the love and attention my husband had for her in college.  Yes, this woman.  Last night I prayed God give her continued sobriety, good health, happiness and a peaceful wonderful blessed family and marriage.

I’ll commit to pray for her for 2 weeks.  And if the resentment isn’t lifted by then, then I’ll continue the prayers until she doesn’t haunt my thoughts and steal my peace of mind anymore.