Throughout his book, “Learning to Pray” (New York: HarperOne, 2021, pp. 386, $27.99), Father James Martin stresses the important role that sacred scripture can play as we approach God in prayer. This should not come as a surprise to Catholics since we believe that scripture is the inspired word of God.
The truth that we must die to self must frighten me. Though through faith I can handle my emotional reaction, it strikes me that I should examine my reaction, reflect on it to see if I can understand it better, and perhaps use it to grow.
Reflecting back on my experience of my years of teaching philosophy, especially teaching about the mystery of the human person, I am very aware of how much my views of what it means to be a human person have changed. Lately because of what I am reading and teaching I am very aware of how much my view of freedom has changed.
The late Father Andrew Greeley frequently expressed in print his view that beauty can draw us toward God. It can act like a sacrament revealing God to us and drawing us closer to the Infinite Beauty who God is. I never disagreed with Andy’s insight but I don’t think I ever gave it as much thought as I should have.
Anyone who has ever read St. John’s gospel probably recalls that the gospel has some beautiful statements about love. What I found so exciting about N.T. Wright’s reflections on love in his book Broken Signposts: How Christianity Makes Sense of the World (HarperOne, 2020, pp. 198, $27.99) is Wright’s insistence that John’s gospel not only contains some beautiful insights into love but that the entire gospel is about love, God’s love for creation and our love for God and other persons.
During the pandemic, I decided to try to get my room in some order — putting books into bookcases according to some pattern, getting clippings from newspapers and Catholic periodicals off the floor and into my filing cabinet.
I confess that I still get excited and inspired by Holy Week, and I hope I always will. This experience goes back to my days as a grammar school student. I do not know whether I should be most grateful to my family, the sisters who taught me in grammar school, or parish priests. Probably to all of them, for communicating that Holy Week is a special week for Catholics and indeed for all Christians.
During the pandemic, I not only spent a considerable amount of time praying, but I also thought a great deal about the nature of prayer, what it should mean in our lives, what we do when we pray.
I have no statistics, but I have no doubt that loneliness experiences multiplied significantly during the pandemic. A friend of mine, a psychological counselor, told me that after months of the pandemic, she thought it would take a long time for many to return to what their emotional lives were before the pandemic. If she had said that to me at the start of the pandemic, I wonder if I would have agreed with her.
Occasionally, while reading “Let Us Dream Together,” some of the Pope’s words and phrases seem to leap out at me. They seem almost to demand my attention. They often cause me to pause and reflect. That was my experience when I saw the expression “existential myopia.”