Sometimes I envy St. Thérèse of Lisieux, whose road to heaven came to a conclusion after only 24 years, nine of which she spent as a Carmelite nun. Others who shared that type of blessing include St. Agnes, who was martyred at the age of 13, and Aloysius Gonzaga, the Jesuit student who died at 23 on the very day he predicted he would.
Two sweethearts walked hand in hand on the riverwalk in downtown New Orleans. Both knew that their relationship was deepening and growing stronger day by day.
Considering the level of respect with which widows are customarily treated in most contemporary cultures, it might be difficult for us to appreciate the difficult lot of widows in the ancient world. Ordinarily, in today's world, a widow is a woman whose husband has died; not having remarried, she is in possession of her husband's estate and inheritance. Even though she may continue to mourn her life partner, she is not legally defenseless, nor has she lost any degree of her social status.
During the months of upheaval following the killing of Michael Brown by a policeman in Ferguson, Mo., in August 2014, protesters described their standoff with the authorities by chanting, "This is what democracy looks like!" Clergy and religious leaders added, "This is what theology looks like," as they marched or held street-side sit-downs.
"The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity" -- the very title sounds so heady that we might wonder if our feet are supposed to touch the ground this weekend. But today's opening prayer in the liturgy simplifies the point of the celebration. That prayer addresses and praises God as the Father who so wanted to be known that Jesus became human. It recognizes God who so desires that we share divine life that the Spirit continues to lure us into union with one another and with God. This process is called "sanctification."
We might think of Pentecost Sunday as something like the church's Fourth of July celebration. It's not just the attention-getting sound, the pyrotechnics and the excitement, but the here-comes-everybody reunion of a multinational crowd of folks who all heard a message and allowed themselves to get caught up in its power.
Stephen is remembered and celebrated by the church as its proto-martyr. Like him, Thomas More (1478-1535) was canonized a saint for his courage to speak out and resist the powers of his day. For Stephen, it was the Jewish authorities; for More, it was King Henry VIII, whose oath of supremacy More refused to sign.
During that period of church history when believers found the interim between Jesus' advents stretching into months, then years, then decades, they knew they had to deal with the facts. The apostolic eyewitnesses to Jesus were already dead, or soon would be. The movement was growing beyond Judah and Samaria unto the "ends of the earth." Heresies and false teachers threatened the unity of the community and the integrity of the deposit of the faith.
Of what are you afraid? It might be snakes, bankruptcy or things that go bump in the night. Whatever you name, it's ultimately a fear of death and her little sisters, pain and diminishment.
Even if we can't explain it, most of us are aware that Einstein's theory of relativity threw a monkey wrench into Newton's "modern" physics. What we may not have thought about is the devastating effect the theory has on the individualism that characterizes modern philosophy.